Always the Caregiver, No Time to Visit with Mom

Spending All My Time on Mom, Yet No Time WITH Mom

My story might be familiar if you’re a caregiver. Mom started declining a bit in recent years. We noticed she couldn’t do much cleaning anymore with her bad back. She can’t reach up high or bend to do much laundry or dusting. In addition to the household tasks, I noticed she wasn’t bathing often due to her fear of slipping. Tasks like grocery shopping and errands take her forever. So she did them as infrequently as possible. Because she was exhausted (and maybe a bit forgetful) I realized she was missing a lot of her bill payments.

Slowly but surely, I took over various tasks. First, I began handling her bills and paperwork. Then, I would come over every week to do her laundry and shopping. When I realized she really shouldn’t be driving anymore, I took on even more tasks. Now, I rearrange my schedule to take her to all her appointments and errands. When I drop her back home, there’s always an endless list of tasks to accomplish. I’m still not keeping her house as tidy as I’d like. And, I don’t even want to think about what my house looks like.

I’m glad to help Mom. But, while it sounds like we’re spending a lot of time together, there’s never really any time to just visit and chat. I feel like I’m missing quality time with Mom, which makes me sad especially as she gets older. Often, I wonder how many years we’ll have together and if I’ll regret all the rushing around.

Finding a Solution

So, today I finally decided to make some changes. I called EasyLiving. They listened to me and we talked through solutions. I thought it was a great idea to hire caregivers for some tasks, but when I’d checked around before we couldn’t get a consistent caregiver. Mom would hate to constantly adjust to new people. EasyLiving reassured me and also explained how their care plan and supervisors help direct and manage the care. What a relief; I don’t want managing caregivers to be just one more task on the list.

Starting next week, an EasyLiving caregiver will help Mom a couple days/week with laundry, housekeeping and preparing some meals. We’ll also arrange the caregiver to drive to some appointments and do weekly shopping. I still plan to attend certain doctor’s appointments with Mom and help with her bills. But, this frees up so much time...so we can start being a family again. I know my husband will be thrilled, and I’m already picturing having a “girls’ day out” with Mom.

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Rushing In and Out: A Long-Distance Caregiver’s Story

I live about a two-hour flight away from my elderly mother. As she’s gotten older, we’ve discussed her moving closer but she hates the idea. She’s accustomed to her house, neighborhood, and friends. I used to get down for visits a few times/year and we always spent a longer time together at the holidays. As she’s started needing more help, I’ve been flying down more often.

The visits became all about getting stuff done. We try to squeeze in doctor’s appointments and other practical tasks. Many times, I could only fly down for a long weekend. We’ve been trying to organize her home a bit more and remove clutter. I felt like there was so much to do and I’d never get it done before a crisis hit.

Last time I visited, I noticed she hadn’t refilled one of her medications. That’s when I realized she wasn’t taking them properly. I raced around trying to figure out solutions. I set up a pill box and figured I’d just have to come back more often to refill it and see how she’s doing. It hit me then that I was spread too thin. My well-meaning efforts were hurting my career, family, and ME. Worse still, I was becoming short-tempered with Mom.

Time for Mom and Me Again

First, I found EasyLiving’s Long-Distance Caregiver Checklist. This was really helpful in organizing my visits. I soon realized how worthwhile it would be to hire a care manager. She helped me get organized and could handle things in between my visits. After she got to know Mom, she started attending most medical appointments. Our care manager set up an online care management system so we can easily access vital information. She thoroughly communicates to me and Mom’s providers.

Our care manager recommended home care for handling the pillbox refills. She even found a local pharmacy that delivers and bills Mom’s card. We changed to a TrueLink Card that the care manager recommended. It makes managing the bills so much easier for me and offers great protection. To get a handle on the clutter and check on Mom, we hired a caregiver a couple times/week. These services are reasonable when you consider what I’m saving in last minute flights (plus time, stress, and sanity). With the care manager’s help, we’re able to budget and use them most wisely.

I still visit Mom regularly, but this Christmas we actually had time to celebrate instead of rushing around. Mom and I cooked some family recipes together. My brother who lives overseas was even able to make it back. It was the first relaxed family visit in a while.

Guilt about Not Being Able To Visit Mom

I tried to get down to see Mom as often as I could. But, as she got older it never felt like enough. Then, I got a big promotion at work. It came with more responsibilities and travel. Suddenly, my anxiety went through the roof. I kept imagining a crisis call from Mom. My guilt was probably out of proportion to reality, but I couldn’t help it.

Releasing the Guilt (and Worry)

I went online in the middle of the night and contacted EasyLiving. A few days later, one of their care managers consulted with me by phone. Immediately, she normalized my feelings and made me feel better. She suggested a strategy to handle the situation. It began by talking to my employer. Having an open dialogue, we were able to develop a plan to ensure I could handle all my responsibilities but with more flexibility.

Next, we coordinated a companion to help Mom a few days per week. I noticed that my phone rang less often. Clearly, a combination of anxiety and loneliness spurred most of her calls. The companion uses her iPhone so Mom can Facetime with me, which she loves. Now, I’ve decided to get her an iPad. Her caregiver will help set it up and show her how to do some basic things on it. Being able to “see” each other makes a big difference.

I know Mom is taken care of and has someone checking on her. Now when I go for visits, she and her home look better. We have more time to spend together with day-to-day things handled. Our care manager is helping us get things in place to prevent future crises. We’ll be prepared when things change. Knowing I have a familiar team in place there relieves my anxiety when traveling far away.

Thanks to these families for being willing to share their experiences to help other caregivers! If you'd like to find out more or just discuss your situation, set up a time to talk or give us a call anytime at 727-447-5845.