Andrea is a Fortune 50 company employee who has utilized the basic elder care benefits provided by the company. She found it yielded no more than her own internet searches and did not come close to the guidance and expertise that she desperately needed at the time!
It was November 2010 and I was meeting friends for dinner. I was saddened to learn that everyone at the table was caring for a sick parent. The next day when I saw my mother I hugged her and said “I am so glad you are so young (just 60 at the time) and so healthy”. One month later my Mom had her first brain surgery. Apparently she wasn’t as healthy as we thought. This began the start of a two-year battle with brain cancer that eventually took her away from us.
My mother was divorced and I was her primary caregiver. I had an amazing support team in my brother, husband, Mom’s sisters, extended family and friends. I had a lot of people I could rely on which is not the case for so many out there in similar situations.
I also had an amazing employer who supported my time away from the office for appointments. I always made up my time which usually meant working late hours. They had services for “elderly care”. Which always annoyed me because my Mom was not “elderly”, she was sick. I called them once, the very nice women on the line provided me the same information I found in my internet searches.
What I needed was someone with experience to better prepare and guide me for what was coming next. As a caregiver I immediately took on everything there was to do. I didn’t realize how much more was coming and how much harder it would get. Had I known I would have delegated certain tasks to others who were so willing to help.
For example, in the beginning I was cleaning my house and my mother’s. Let’s be honest, are you going to ask someone to scrub your toilets? The answer is Yes; it is perfectly OK for someone who is willing to help to clean the house or pay for a service. I needed someone early on to tell me that eventually there would be no time in my life to prioritize this task.
My biggest regret during my time as a caregiver was that I excelled in the role and I never got to just be the person who was losing their Mom. I never got the time to just sit with her, I was too busy doing the next thing that needed to be done. Caregivers need a lifeline. They need someone who can help them assess where they are and help them put together a game plan for a path forward. A game plan that allows them to look back and know they did all that they could do.