Care and maintenance of mom is a situation that never entered my mind when I was younger. Which of us thought about it? Now, it’s mandatory.
As many of you either know from the past, are experiencing now, or will soon begin, this task doesn’t end until your parents’ last breath. My dad passed away in the 1980s, and if my mom were not here, I would not be enjoying the blessing of her presence. It truly is a joy to have her in my life.
Helping mom began many years ago (too many to recall) when she said, in a pleading tone:
“I need a doctor.”
She wasn’t sick; she was attempting to maintain good health on her own. The clinic she visited was sub par in attentiveness. Once she told me about the situation, I asked my husband’s doctor, a well-respected physician, to be my mom’s doctor. He agreed.
That was perhaps 20 years ago, and since then, mom’s health has been stable but not without frequent appointments. That’s been the most trying for her and me.
If you have siblings that live close by, my hope is that each of you can share in the responsibility. That’s not always possible even if everyone is local. Some siblings, most often men (and this is true in many families), expect women to handle it all. As an exception I have a sister who lives with mom, but she is pursuing her own care which leaves mom in my hands.
In addition, if you work at any type of employment outside of your home, explaining senior care may be understandable but not agreeable. That puts another weight on your shoulders. Even working for yourself is strained because you have to make money. Traveling to and from a doctor’s office, waiting for the examination and results, doesn’t put one dollar in your pocket.
My mom has successfully battled a type of blood cancer, elected to receive a new hip, and broke her shoulder. All of that occurred this year. We visited doctors every week and sometimes every day. In two weeks this month, we saw 12 doctors in four days. I was so frustrated after the first week that I walked home (just one mile from her house) and cried out loud before reaching the end of the first block. I had to purge the stress, and since I don’t drink or smoke, crying is my default.
Frustration occasionally interrupts the daily fun you want. You twist your internal valve to let off steam in whatever way possible (as long as it’s not harmful to you or others). Crying, sleeping, exercising, walking – do what calms you, do what keeps your health intact so you don’t end up being a patient.
I felt better that evening and well rested the next day. There was another doctor’s visit in a few hours, but my own remedy let me recover.
Managing mom forces me to think about how I’ll handle my healthcare in later years. I’m keeping notes as best as possible so my daughter hopefully has an easier time if she’s involved. Here’s what I’m doing along with other tips.
Be ready complete lots of paperwork.
My ability to fill out doctors’ forms are, to mom, the biggest gift of all next to being with her. She frequently says that she is “allergic to writing down and reading all of that stuff.”
Bring your own pens rather than use the “community” writing instruments. Make sure you or mom bring all health cards and a list of current medications. Know her social security number. Also, give your phone number as the primary number for questions, follow ups, and appointment confirmations. You are now her daughter and manager.
Make appointments at times that are best for you.
Doctors have varying schedules. You do, too, so choose days and times that accommodate you. This probably won’t affect mom, but it can affect your ability to earn a living. Ask the assistant for every possible option (early in the morning, lunch time, late in the day) so appointments are at a time that fit around your schedule.
Arm yourself for good health.
You are touching lots of elevator buttons, doorknobs, countertops, armrests, and other items that the general population also touches. Wear gloves when possible.
Bring your own pens (as mentioned above) and hand sanitizer, cleaning up before you get in your car or open your house door. Your own health will thank you.
Complete a living will.
There are reputable websites, such as this one, with links to this document for every U.S. state. It notifies everyone about mom’s medical wishes in case she cannot speak for herself. Find it, print it, read it, and have you mom sign it after reviewing the document with her. Your doctor will help you with other necessary signatures.
Mom and I completed this form before her hip surgery, and I am relieved to have done it.
Stay active on the go.
I bring work with me because I will not allow the doctor’s waiting room time to shorten my personal or professional progress. I read my magazines and other papers, review what I’ve done and what else I’ll accomplish before day’s end, write articles or greeting cards, etc. Your work will be different. Bring it, get it done, use the time wisely.
Select a smartphone app for health documentation.
I’ve been using AnyList to write down all of the details (visits, treatments, medications, insurance). AnyList is great for shopping lists, but it’s not a true medical app. You may as well use the phone’s Notes app.
If smartphone apps aren’t for you, search for a medical-type diary book for writing notes or another item that you can customize. There’s no need for fancy; you simply want to create and maintain health documentation.
I’ll be toasting the New Year with mom on January 1. Had we not pursued necessary and elective care, she might not be here today or be in a not-so-great physical condition. We have been and will continue to be proactive. That makes all the difference.
Take care of mom, and learn from it so you have the knowledge to take care of you in the coming years.