Here’s What Happened When I Spent 24 Hours as Mom’s Fulltime Caregiver

Being Mom’s Fulltime Caregiver After Surgery

My Mom had to have surgery and her doctor advised she would need help at home. So, I became her fulltime caregiver temporarily. Mom was weak post-surgery, so I provided safety and support. But, I also made sure she took her medicines and monitored for any post-surgical issues. I fixed her bland foods that she could eat and made sure she drank plenty.

It was quite a bit of coordination leaving the hospital and being sure everything was set up for her. The doctor ordered a few new medicines, which she needed right away. However, since I was supposed to stay with her at all times this became a bit difficult. I ended up running out when she was resting, but I might have arranged it differently next time. I worried that she might get up and fall while I was gone. Because I had been spending time with her at the hospital, I didn’t have everything prepared at home.

Discoveries as a Fulltime Caregiver

One thing I didn’t expect that came out of being Mom’s full-time caregiver for that period was making a number of discoveries. Mom always seemed well put together and always told me she was doing “fine”. But, I quickly found out she was having trouble managing the household. The pantry and fridge were full of expired food. And, she had one room that she had just filled with items and sort of blocked from use. It seemed she was trying to reduce the areas she needed to clean. But, she had not gotten around to cleaning or organizing much of the home in a while.

Additionally, in looking at her bathroom and bedroom, it became clear that she was not able to handle her self-care as before. It seemed she was rarely bathing. Mom used to enjoy wearing blouses, but she had relegated them to the back of the closet. Clearly, ironing wasn’t feasible for her. And, she seemed to struggle with laundry in general. Her sheets had a strong odor.

I stayed on with Mom a bit longer than planned once I noticed these issues. I worked on cleaning and organizing. But, I also realized we had to make some changes. It was obvious how easy it had been for me not to see what was really happening. Mom needed some assistance to keep her safe and comfortable at home. And, I needed to have some eyes and ears on her for my peace of mind.

Assessment and Planning

I discussed my concerns with Mom and she reluctantly admitted she was having difficulties. I assured her that I wanted to support her to stay at home (her desire). Then, I called around and ended up speaking to EasyLiving. They offer a range of home care support, but they suggested the best starting point may be a comprehensive assessment.

They were indeed right, as that gave us a straightforward plan for what needed to be done and priorities. I did some things and hired the care manager to help organize others. She made many helpful suggestions. Some were simple changes in the home that made things safer and easier for Mom. She also assessed where Mom could use help the most so it would work for her budget. In addition, she made some suggestions regarding Mom’s insurance which saved her money every month.

Additionally, when I stepped in to help, I realized I didn’t have any of Mom’s medical history or current information. Mom didn’t have it organized either, which made pre-surgery appointments challenging. When we had to set up follow up, it was clear there had been little coordination of her medical care in the past. Our care manager was amazing in tracking everything down and pulling it all together. She set up Mom’s MyMedicare profile and created a health file. Mom didn’t even have her living will and healthcare surrogate paperwork accessible. Now, we have all this at the ready whenever it’s needed. And, we can communicate vital information to Mom’s doctors.

Subbing for Mom’s Usual Fulltime Caregiver

My Mom and sister live in the same town. But, I live a few hours away by plane. Therefore, my sister has been the primary caregiver. I’ve taken on the duties of helping with the finances and research. I try to handle Mom’s Medicare stuff and recently started paying her bills. But, my sister is the fulltime caregiver who now has Mom living with her.

So, I had offered to provide some respite care so she could get a break. Though she didn’t take me up on it for a while, she finally did when one of her kids moved to a new city. She decided to go spend some time with him and take a brief break. My sister and I talked regularly and I thought I had a pretty good idea about what was involved with Mom’s care. Sometimes we disagreed on aspects of Mom’s care and I tend to think my sister overreacts. From what I could see, Mom was doing pretty well and I had even questioned the need to move in with my sister.

However, becoming Mom’s fulltime caregiver temporarily gave me a new perspective. I could tell my sister hadn’t been overreacting. In fact, she had probably downplayed Mom’s issues. Clearly, she had not been sharing the full extent of what she was dealing with as fulltime caregiver. I was exhausted after one day as Mom’s fulltime caregiver. To think my sister had been doing this for months without a break!

What Changed?

This experience showed me what it took on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, I realized my sister probably resented my well-meaning suggestions given her daily experience with Mom. I gained a newfound respect for everything she was doing for our family. Though we have different personalities and might have handled some things differently, I would no longer say anything critical (or even that could be seen that way).

Additionally, I truly understood my sister needed more respite. Being Mom’s fulltime caregiver was a round-the-clock job. So, we arranged a couple additional respite breaks where I would come in to help. But, I also asked my sister if she might like someone to come in weekly to care for Mom while she could run errands and take care of personal things. At first, she was reluctant, but we eventually scheduled a caregiver to visit three times/week. Therefore, my sister could take care of personal business but also get back to her yoga class she loved so much. Moreover, she could actually take care of her own medical appointments. My sister needed more support and rest if she were to continue being Mom's fulltime caregiver and staying healthy.

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