At Easter I realized that one year ago my sisters and I were sitting in my mother’s hospital room eating Easter dinner from the cafeteria while she recovered from surgery. It was that Easter Day operation that marked the beginning of her rapid decline and the most intense three-month period of care we needed to provide until her death in July.
About the same time I had this realization, I came across a newspaper article and a website that reinforced two of the main insights from my eldercare experience that I’d blogged about here and for the New York Times. First, is plan! The second is that eldercare is incredibly hard and you need support.
First, planning. The article entitled, “Facing aging: Families avoid crucial conversations,” was from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and talked about the “40-70 Rule.” The rule is that you need to have an honest conversation with your parents about how they want to be cared for, and what their financial situation is when you are at least 40 years old and your parent is 70 years old.
Even though I am over 40, my father and stepmother aren’t yet 70 years old. However, that has not stopped me over the past year from starting to talk with them about what they want. Knock on wood, they are both healthy. But as I know too well, that can change overnight. And when you are in crisis is not the time to have those important discussions. DON’T WAIT…Talk to your aging parents now.
Second, in my experience, eldercare was harder than anything I faced caring for my children (Note: my kids are healthy and still little so I qualify my statement with those facts). Recently a website called Making Perfect Sense, “a community about healthcare and aging for the elderly, their relatives and caregivers,” linked to the blog I’d written for the New York Times. When I went to the site and reviewed the information it offered, I was reminded how important it is to get support. But, I was also remembering how hard it was to find the time to seek out the best resources for support when I was knee-deep in providing care.
Therefore, in addition to planning with my father and stepmother today, I am also identifying resources, like Making Perfect Sense, that I can refer to in the future.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the worst period of my mom’s illness and the most intense period of care began. It’s important not to forget the hardwon wisdom so that I am prepared for the next time, and it’s fitting on this sad anniversary to repeat and reinforce these insights one more time in the hope that others won’t struggle as much as we did. Spread the word.
(Check out my Fast Company Blog: 24 Communities and 129 Companies Can’t Be Wrong–When Work Works)