As is the case with my husband and I with Annie, my brother and I used a tag team approach to caring for Katie, but with a couple of key differences, which change the dynamic. With Annie, both her son and I live in the upstairs part of the house in which Annie lives in a separate part, allowing us to hear most of what’s going on in her world, but not living together with her. In the case of Katie, (my dearly departed mother), she lived with my brother in a city about 100 kilometres, or 60 Miles away from me.
As you can imagine, I’m sure, many telephone calls were made in both directions. Whereas with my caregiving commitment to my mother-in-law, I could connect with my husband, her son, immediately in person or, and by phone if necessary. Even if we did have to talk through a problem by phone, we could do so by covering the basics, and then fill in all the blanks face to face once we both were back at home. But when something was erupting in my mother and brother’s world, I most often received an emergency phone call, with my brother blurting out “ Fayzie, here’s the scoop. Please talk to Mom”. I then was left to get Mom’s side of the story and then try to smooth things over in a way that appeased both parties. In some cases I would get back in telephone contact with my brother to clarify the state of affairs and, when applicable, to make suggested as to how to handle similar situations in the future. Most often he was receptive to my comments, but when bad stuff was coming down fast, he often felt that I didn’t understand what it was like on the front lines, so couldn’t possibly know the complete scoop.
As time progressed and Mom had to travel the hour or so into Victoria for tests, assessments, and consultation, my brother and I would meet part way between our two locations to transfer Mom back and forth. I would get her to her appointments, attempt to understand everything the doctors said, and then synthesize my notes so Dave would get the whole story, at least as far as I could provide it. Eventually, I would make weekly treks to my brother’s and mother’s home to spend time with Mom while giving Dave time to be on his own and simply get out of the house. On the bright side of things, I managed to spend extra time with my young nephew while I was helping Mom. However, the extra time spent with my family during that time drastically reduced my income earning time, which made my financial picture less than rosy.
I write my story in some detail to illustrate the rigors of caregiving, along with samples of the type of flexibility required to make these situations work for all parties concerned. In turn, I’m sure you will understand that anticipating, and ideally pre-planning, your caregiving arrangement can help everyone get through a usually stressful time. My call to action for you is to take a close look at the reality of the situation of your own parents or others close to you, and keep in mind that The Essential Family Caregiving Agreement is a good starting point for making such arrangements to fit your needs. And, as always, feel free to add your comments to this blog and contact me directly.
Yours in Caregiving …