Hi, readers, and happy weekend! An elder-care advocate and lawyer, Jane Allison
Austin, has a guest post below. It touched my heart as I have two elderly parents.
It is perfect for Father's Day weekend, too. Please pay Ms. Allison Austin a visit at
Love Your Parents and tell her Val sent you. Thanks!! Sending joy... Val =)
Joy in the Rain. I love that title -- it describes beautifully what loving Mom or Dad
to the end can be -- where you cherish the joyous moments among the tears. My
father died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother took great care of him every day, even
when he didn’t recognize her. "He may not know me, but I know him," she’d say.
When she began declining several years later, my husband and I invited her to come
live with us in Virginia. She said she didn’t like the cold (she’d come from New
York) and that she wanted to stay in her home in California, where I’d been raised,
and not to worry about her, she’d be fine.
You can guess, it didn’t quite turn out that way. I visited as frequently as I could,
noticing her declining each time, and one Valentine’s Day came for a two-week visit
and ended up staying and caring for her for two years. She had a terrible cough,
which she said the doctor said was a side effect of a medication. After two nights
of hearing her cough, like a smoker’s cough and she never smoked, my husband
wisely said we needed a chest X-Ray. I had to fight to get the X-Ray, but I got it,
and it turned out she had a lung abscess, much worse than pneumonia. With my
husband’s blessing, I stayed in California and became her caregiver and advocate,
an only child with no prior experience. Practicing law hadn’t taught me what to do,
but it did teach me how to ask questions, and be pushy, and figure things out, and
that’s what I did!
If you have an aging parent, and get that call in the middle of the night that Mom or
Dad has fallen or had a stroke, and is in the hospital, you’re whole world turns
upside down. Unless you’ve been in the medical field, you literally feel like you’re
crashing into a system you know nothing about. My goal is to help you learn all you
can before you get to that point so you can love your parents, and deal with the
emotional side, while already being prepared to handle the challenges of hospitals,
discharge planners, case managers, skilled nursing facilities, home health care, and
doctors, who, no matter how capable and caring, you have to stalk for the
information you need to make the best decisions for your parent.
Remember, no one can be a better advocate than you for your Mom or Dad, and that
includes all the medical personnel. Learn all you can, trust your instincts, hold your
parents’ hands and love them. They can be scared, too. Look for the happy
moments, and cherish them. Joy in the Rain.
My mother passed away this spring, but we had nine wonderful months living
together. I’d go into her room and say, "Good morning, Beautiful" as I opened the
curtains. And whenever she would see me (she, too, suffered from dementia in the
end), she would say, "You have the most beautiful teeth."
Every time she said it, I thought it was the funniest thing to say. She had spent a
fortune on dentists and orthodontists, so maybe, I thought, that’s what she was
thinking of. Now, months later, I can still hear her saying it very clearly, and now
I’m thinking, maybe that was my loving Mama, reminding me to keep going to the
dentist -- which I have to admit I neglected while caring for her. So, I’ve got my
Joy in the Rain. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the pain now is part of the joy then. To
miss today’s pain would have meant to miss yesterday’s joy.
Blessings, Jane Allison
Jane Allison Austin is an elder care advocate and attorney. She is also the founder