I suppose it safe to say that that the finishing stages of life are not unlike the beginning stages of life, but opposite. With both, the stages are taking the person on a journey that is not always in a straight line, which can knock the caregivers off kilter. With little ones, they might seem to have caught on to something like crawling or potty training one day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that from that point on they will do that specific thing, always. In fact, they might go back and forth for a while, until they’ve grasped their lessons. With ailing elderly people, out of the blue your care recipient might get up in the night and get ready for a doctor’s appointment, for which she leaves the house in the middle of the night. So, as a caregiver, you brace yourself that this type of behaviour will keep happening, when that situation might not happen for a long time, but can you risk it happening ever again? What we noticed with Katie was that we always seemed to be over reacting, in that we would put in place new safeguards that were disruptive for everyone, including Katie, when perhaps they were not needed, or at least not to that extent. But, then again, how were we to know, in advance, what to do?
There is a term used quite often these days to describe a mother who is over protective and always hovering over her child, rather than letting her child learn valuable lessons by taking some chances and perhaps event getting hurt. That moniker is “helicopter mom”, and often my brother and I referred to one another in this manner. But I suggest that the reason so many family caregivers do hover over our care recipients is because our charges are not learning valuable life lessons by wandering around in the streets, perhaps in their night clothes, to get to the doctors’ offices in the middle of the night. In fact, it would appear that it is the caregiver who needs to learn the lesson, which is that the care recipient has reached the point where they need to be protected from themselves.
Yours in caregiving,
* Blue Rodeo, Lost Together