Mom turned 90 this past Saturday, and the birthday party was a successful celebration of aging, of family, of friendships, and with a host of fabulous caregivers.
I wanted to share some of the tender moments from the gathering. I think the most significant was the glimmer in my mother’s heart when I made her feel extra special by welcoming all the guests and helping her enjoy the flavor filled cheesecake. It would have been easy to feel guilty about celebrating your mother’s birthday in a nursing home, after all, she is also a guest and not at her home. But the love shown to her by her friends and the nursing staff overshadowed any guilt I might have been made to feel.
So, how did we get here.
The message I want to convey to my BoomerGals and Guys out there facing the same circumstances is that, although this situation is unique to me, it is incredibly common in the caregiving journey. It all began roughly seven years ago when the first hint of dementia began to show in my father. My mother was crying out for help in her own way, never admitting that she and my father were hopelessly falling down this slippery slope of becoming helpless or negligent. So my BoomerGuy and I went to stay with them for several weeks to monitor and evaluate the situation. What we found was startling, and something that we didn’t discover on just daily or weekend visits. All of the warning signs that your parents need help were clear and present. My father was suffering from progressive dementia and my mother was so frail she could barely get around on her own.
Because we were living out of the area, we hired a team of in-home caregivers, who would provide cleaning, cooking and other service needs throughout the week. It soon became clear this was merely a band aid for what was really needed.
With that information in hand, my BoomerGuy and I went to their primary care physician and presented him with our findings. Everything was well-documented and mostly non-emotional, and then we asked the very tough question of how quickly my father could be placed in a skilled nursing facility. The day we drove up to the front door of the nursing home was one of the most emotional in my life. Then, three weeks later, my mother who suffers from macular degeneration fell and broke her hip and has never regained the ability to walk. That pretty much sealed the deal for both of them. If you have gone through this or going through this now or in the near future, it’s probably going to be up there with one of the most emotional times in your life, and trust me when I say we’ve had our share.
That’s been several years ago now and frankly, they are getting along quite well. They both recognize this nursing home is their best and only option, and that is where they will spend the remainder of their days. They are looked after 7 x 24 by some of the kindest and most loving people one can imagine, making this part of the journey tolerable, to help minimize my concerns. Nonetheless, it takes a village to care for my parents.
We are going to cover more of this journey in our e-Book coming out in late April. While it will touch on some of the financial issues surrounding this responsibility, it will be designed more as a guidepost for all you Boomers for what we found to do and not to do in this process.
So, with that as a backdrop, it’s onto the celebration.