With aging relatives, there is hopefully one person who will take on the responsibility of being a caregiver. It's a tough job, and I've been witnessing the strains of this between my grandmother, my aunt and my mother. I've got a spunky, almost 90 year old grandmother. At nearly nine decades old, she's certainly healthy enough for her age. But, that's just it - she's well enough for a 90 year old. She forgets what day it is, or if a bill was paid, or even needs a reminder that it's time for a shower or to eat. Nothing major, but still, signs of aging.
As of last Fall, she's been living with my aunt rather than 2 hours away at her own shore home. My mother would love to have her stay with her as well, but I suppose there is something to being the younger vs. older daughter and it appears that my grandmother feels more secure with the older sibling rather than the "baby". I am not sure I can fully understand how difficult that must be for both my grandmother and my aunt. For my grandmother, she's essentially living out of a suitcase (she always hopes that she gets to 'go home soon') and for my aunt she's constantly responsible for another person (only this one you can't sit in an exersaucer while you shower). During the past few months it's become evident that she really needs a caregiver with her 24/7. It's either meals-on-wheels and a visiting nurse at her home, or living with my aunt and/or mother permanently. There is also discussion about a possible assisted living scenario, but I've been told that my family feels that they can still give her the level of care she needs and they are not at this point yet. My opinion on that is not so solid, and I think some discussions need to be had (even on a weekly basis if not daily) about the fact that that time will soon come.
Enter an interesting book by Leeza Gibbons, James Huysman and Rosemary DeAngelis Laird titled, "Take Your Oxygen First". What a relevant title, considering how on airplanes they always instruct you to take your own oxygen first before caring for your child, loved one, friend. It makes perfect sense too - how can you care for someone else if you're own safety/health is in peril. It's a good reminder to stop, take a deep breath and assess the situation. The book is written with Leeza's experience with her own mother who was suffering from memory loss but also delves into the biological and genetic backgrounds for such diseases. While it gives you the medical-ese it's not overwhelming and easily readable. The real life stories also make it such a touching and personal book - something that had me shaking my head and turning the page because I could see parallels between Leeza's story and what my family is currently experiencing.
If you are a full time caregiver or, like so many families, have a baby boomer parent you may eventually care for, it's a great read. You can also visit the Take Your Oxygen First website to connect with other caregivers via the discussion board, and sign up for caregiver news tips!
*Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of Take Your Oxygen First in exchange for this post.