Amy Goyer: Pat, know that you are already doing a great thing for your friend by talking on the phone! Caregivers need someone to listen — and sometimes it's only a 5-minute conversation but the fact that she has you there when she needs to call is worth millions! Other things you might do are:
Send cards and letters regularly — getting good mail is a surprise these days and can really lift the mood!
Send her a gift certificate for getting her nails done, or a massage.
Send flowers, and in general just keep reinforcing what she is doing and that you think she is amazing — we all need some validation!
Comment from Rosemary: Amy, so glad you're doing this live chat! Can you give me the pros and cons of taking care of your parents at home? My mother is in an excellent assisted living home but she has deteriorated physically and mentally over the past summer. I'm spending so much time going over and overseeing her care that I figure I might as well take care of her at home. And the facility has just upped their monthly fees. Nearly $100,000 per year! At this rate, Mom will run out of money and I'm not sure that they will keep her, although she's been on the continuing care campus for 15 years.
Amy Goyer: Rosemary, every situation is unique, so assisted living might be the perfect option for some people and not so much for others. On one hand, when our loved ones are living in a protected environment it can be a stress reducer for us as caregivers. We may not feel like we have to be with them all the time and can rely on others for some of their care. They may get socialization and activities there and not be so isolated — and they may maintain a level of independence that is positive for them.
On the other hand, managing their care, making sure what's promised is actually being done and constantly going back and forth to see and care for them can be very stressful and exhausting. Add the costs in, and some caregivers do decide caring for loved ones in the same home is more effective, less costly and less stressful.
I can share with you my personal situation. I can honestly say that since I moved my parents in with me five months ago, I actually think my stress levels are down some. The financial worries were huge when they were in the senior living community. And coordinating their paid care, not being there to oversee the professional caregivers and driving back and forth was mentally and physically exhausting for me. For months I was even spending every night at their place. I also didn't get as much quality time with them as I'd like. Now that we live together we can afford a wonderful professional live-in caregiver, Danielle, to help me. I can spend downtime with my parents in between doing my own housework and finances, etc. I know how they eat, sleep and take their medicines because I either do it or Danielle does. I know their living environment is clean because I do it or oversee it! I am not constantly in the car. We are all happier and more rested. It feels like natural family living and I like that.
Yes there are downsides too — loss of privacy, some sleepless nights, less control over my home atmosphere — but for me it's worth it. Again — every situation is unique though — it's not for everyone. Find great information on choosing housing options in our AARP Caregiving Resource Center. Keep me posted on what you decide, Rosemary!
Comment from Rebekah: How do you handle the guilty feeling of wanting a minute to yourself?