Caring For an Aging Loved One?

Source: 
Woman's World
Published: 
11/26/2007

 

Woman's World

Caring for an aging loved one? "What do I do about Mom and Dad?" so many of us agonize as our parents age. But the answer was easier and happier than Jeannette Burnam ever dreamed.

Most of us dread Mondays. But for Wilmington, Delaware, mother of three Jeannette Burnam, the worst day of the week was Wednesday. Visiting day. The day when she agonized more than any other: What do I do about Mom?

Every grown child wonders what will happen when Mom and Dad get older. But even after losing two husbands to cancer, Jeannette's mom was strong all through her 70s. At a retirement community hours away, she could drive shop, meet friends for lunch.

Then, slowly, her health declined. Although she could still care for herself, she couldn't get around as much. And suddenly, every call to Jeannette was a plaintive: "I need you ..."

For ages, Jeannette hadn't let a week go by without visiting which wasn't easy with two jobs.

But now. Mom was so needy, it was almost midnight before Jeannette could go home. And whenever she called, Mom wouldn't let her off the phone!

So 24/7, Jeannette felt guilty. Typical for millions of "sandwich generation" baby boomers working and caring for their own families and aging parents at the same time.

And Jeannette was so stressed-out, it was hard to feel close to her husband Jack, anymore.

Maybe we should move Mom closer, they debated. But that would uproot her from her church and friends. And she'd still be lonely, since no one would be home with her during the day! But I have to do something! Jeannette thought desperately. "The best advice ever!"

Then her daughter heard about a book: Elder Care Made Easier. And author Marion Somers, Ph.D.—a.k.a. "Doctor Marion” coached by phone!

In their hour-long call, she had ideas Jeannette had never thought of. "Ask friends near Mom to visit her," Dr. Marion suggested. And start calls with: "I only have a minute, but I wanted to hear your voice, because I love you." Another must, to prevent burnout: "Take care of ourselves Dr. Marion urged. Get your hair done, go shopping and the guilt? "Let it go," she soothed. "It doesn't do any good."

She's right, Jeannette realized. And when she followed the advice, her mom's sadness lifted! And Jeannette felt better, too, so their Wednesday visits made them both smile.

It was all so simple, but it worked magic! "Now, Mom and I are both so much happier!" Jeannette says, "Those tips were a lifesaver!"

If someone you love is lonely:

1. Snip 'n send cartoons. I look for cartoons that remind me of a loved one, and pop them in the mail." says Dr. Marion (www. drmarion.com). "It lets them know you're thinking of them."

2. Make a quick phone call. Just hearing your voice can remind someone they're not alone. To make the call even more meaningful. "I sometimes sing a silly song," says Dr. Marion. "It'll give you both a laugh."

3. Do an errand together. Sharing a trip to the grocery store lets you chat and can make the errand more fun.

4. Bring over an old cartoon. "You can instantly cheer someone up with whatever made them laugh way back when and humor is a great way to overcome loneliness,” explains Dr. Marion. Too far to bring a movie? Find a clip on www.youtube.com and e-mail it over!

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