Anatomy of a caregiver - what makes me tick
Well, there's more to me than being a caregiver but..
There's much more to being a caregiver - there's blood, sweat, tears and joy:
Sitting with a cup of coffee this morning, I decided to create this article to introduce myself to my loyal (? - are you out there?) readers. Not at all sure I'm that interesting, this article is also filled with my all time favorite things.
At the moment, my main job (since I gave up my day job of being a Data Manager for Clinical Trials) is being daughter and caregiver to my delightful 94 year old Mom, Gertie. I've been blessed to have her live with me since April 7, 2007, the day the love of her life, my Dad Joe, died. Although my folks had relocated to Arizona in 1981, Mom and Dad had lived with me in my old farmhouse in Maryland every summer for years so it was just like she was coming home this one last time. And, here she remains.
I am the youngest of 4 children and the only surviving daughter - my sister, Stephanie, died in a car accident December 3, 1989 (a night I will never forget). She was only 36 when she was taken from us; way too young to be gone. So, as the only daughter, I suppose it was a natural progression that I'd be the caregiver - a job that is both immensely satisfying, rewarding, scary, and difficult.
I had no children (by choice) deciding very early that I was more meant to bring up dogs than kids. So, when I became a caregiver to Mom, I was really starting at ground zero and have been learning every since. I'm assisted by a bevy of wonderful friends and family who help out when they can but, the real gem in my life is Carina, our full-time caregiver. She saves my life on a daily basis. More can be read about my travels (or lack thereof) with 94 year old Gertie on my blog - Gertie's Galavants.
Update Sept 6, 2012: Mom died Feb 15, 2012 in my arms. She had a successful life and a peaceful death. I was proud and privileged to be her caregiver for the past 5 years. I did my best and she loved me for it.
My beautiful Mother is as gorgeous inside as out
A few of my Mom's caregivers... - ...and my support friendsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some of my favorite items for use in my caregiving for Mom
This product helps me keep my sanity as poor Gert doesn't hear too well any longer. I can only listen to so many "Who's the baby's daddy" shows - that's what Mom calls the Judge shows....
A wonderful book, this daughter's tale is very close to my caregiving path.
I wish I'd had this book when I first started caregiving. It has some wonderful tips. I've read it front to back....and back to front....
A heated throw allows me (a perimenopausal woman) to keep the house cooler while keeping Mom warmer.
I don't know what my life would be like wtihout this coffee machine. I have this exact model and, although I had to stick a crow bar in my wallet to buy it, it brings Mom joy every morning as she sips her coffee.
My parents had a 65.5 year love affair
And then love entered my life...
In 2007, after Dad died, my marriage dissolved, to each of our satisfactions. There was no large fights (except for the daily grumblings), the marriage had been over almost since it started years before. So, here I was with a Mother, 3 dogs (at that time), a decent job and a new life. I was excited to get going again and a little frightened, but not for long.
After a bit of a "wild" trip to Key West for Fantasy Fest, I was off and running. I'm one of the few success stories about internet dating as I met the love of my life, my companion and the only true partner I've ever had, on Craigslist - yes, you read that right. I was understandably guarded for quite a while, particularly when the word "cougar" was introduced into my life as there's a 12 year age difference between us. But, I couldn't be happier and wouldn't have dreamed that I'd be this happy to begin with.
My very significant other, John, has so enriched our lives that it's difficult to find the words to express what he means to both Mom and me. He is my first true partner (I know he has my back) and even willingly fills in with basic caregiving duties when I need some time off. One of the nicest gifts n the world for a caregiver is the gift of time and John sometimes will stay up later in the evening to put Mom to bed while I wallow in my own bed with a book for a few hours. What a joy it is to have a partner.
John and I spend a lot of time laughing as can be evidenced in the photo attached to this module. This picture, and the ones that follow, were taken on a cruise last year - our 4th or 5th cruise in a little over 3 year. Yes, we're cruisin' type of people.
John and I are truly in loveClick thumbnail to view full-size
Here's some of my favorite articles
While I was caring for Mom, she and I spent a lot of time writing articles - well, I wrote and she added in. She was a lot of fun to work with. We spent many happy days constructing some of my caregiving articles. The below are my favorites:
- Senior Citizen Gift Ideas
If you're looking for a good gift for an elderly loved one, look no more. Mom and I received some nice stuff and this article has most of the coolest of the items.
- Practical gifts for the very elderly senior citizen
There's not many romantic gifts in this article but there are things that will make life easier for your favorite senior citizen - like dressing aids, pill cutters, etc.
- Death and dying - dealing with the restless patient
My Mom was generally very easy to care for but, as she approached the final weeks of her life, my caregiving skills were really put to the test.
- Things I wish I had known when I became a caregiver
I learned caregiving on the fly and here's the things I learned. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
- Preparing for the death of a loved one
Toward the end of life, there's things that need to be done proactively. Some of these things are documented in this article.
Yes (sigh) there's 6 dogs in this photo...
And then there's the dogs... - ...a whole pack o' em!
Those who know me well would tell you that I'm a bleeding heart for any animal in need, and I've found six in need currently. I'm a fan of rescuing dogs and put my money where my mouth is. All six of our dogs are unique, wonderful beings in their own rights. My life would not be complete if there wasn't dog hair in it.
- Barley. My very first rescue dog, Barley, is my basset-wanna-be. I always had a basset when I was growing up so it was natural for me to choose Basset Rescue as my first adult rescue mission. Barley was given up 4 times to the local kill shelter before he was 11 months old. I received a frantic call right before Christmas 13 years ago - he was headed for the chamber of no return if I didn't take him. So I did. With no takers for adoption after 6 months, I knew he needed my home as his final home. And, here he remains.
- Hops. Hops is my 3-legged Spitz/Australian Cattle dog mix and the sweetest dog on earth. I live for his one (exactly one) kiss every morning. He's also 13 and slowing up a bit, but he's still much cherished.
Hops was given to a no-kill shelter in Southern Md when his master died, and the widow just left him outside to starve. The minute I found him on the internet at handicappedpets.com, he was mine.
More can be read about Hops on my lens Hops, the 3-legged wonder dog.
- Killian. Are you seeing a theme to the names here? First off, my family owns a liquor store and bar in College Park, MD so the liquor names were natural. Second off, Hops, well, hopped so his name started the theme off.
Killian is my 62 lb full bred Australian Shepherd. Killian was given to a local vet to be euthanized as he was an 11 month untrained Aussie (never a good thing) and a nipper. Killian literally flew into my arms from across the vet's room when released from a crate. I was a bit frightened of him at first as I've never had a "thinking" dog and he was way ahead of me in ignoring my obedience lessons. But, with some structured training, Killian has become a big help around the house as he goes about his own jobs. To date, Killian can put clothes in the washer, pick up anything my Mom drops, shuffle the TV remote between us, close the refrigerator door, retrieve items under beds, and put items in the trash (we're working on this one).
More can be read about Killian in my lens How to calm down an energetic dog.
Barley, Hops and KillianClick thumbnail to view full-size
3 more dogs...
- Margarita. "Rita" came to me from a local rescue that brings in about 6 dogs a year from St. Croix. She's my blond island girl and quite the shy one, despite my urgings to be more social. She is very leery of strangers (men in particular frighten her) and she's a hoarder. Her chair in the living room is frequently stuffed with her "babies" - soft toys of any type. She hides them in the corners of the chair. Too cute.
More can be read about wee Rita in my lens Introducing Golden Margarita - my island girl.
- Gizmo. Gizmo (aka BoBo) wandered into my life while I was minding my own business, drinking a beer at the local watering hole. She was an adoptee at a petstore next door and was just walking by on a leash when her gaze pierced my own. It was clear that this dog was looking for me so, that day, she came home. Gizmo is just a delightful character who captures everyone's heart. I've had many many offers to sell her - a ridiculous notion.
More can be read about Gizmo on my lens Introducing my dog Gizmo, born to ride.
- Matee. Matee is actually John's pug but is pretty much in my charge when John's off on his boat. Weighing only 14 lbs, Matee is a beautiful little pug and as fully bonded to her human (John) as any dog I've ever seen. When John isn't here, Matee can always be found warming my Mom's lap (when there's room).
Rita, Gizmo and MateeClick thumbnail to view full-size
With all those dogs, there's got to be some grooming tools
The below are grooming tool that I use sometimes twice a day on my hairy hairy mutts.
Some of my favorite pictures of all timeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Let's not forget J.B.
J.B. (aka Jim Beam) is my rescue cat. He was a 5 year survivor of living in the woods until a kind woman, Amy, took him in after he'd been mauled by a couple of dogs. JB entered my life when I realized that my old farmhouse would never be free of mice until nature took over. So, here came this wonderful cat who is really much more dog than cat. JB follows me around, alerts me with loud meows when my Mom gets up in the morning, and is a generally great cat. He has feline aids which is a bit sad (and expensive...) but, hey, that must be what money's for...
JB walked into my house and integrated his furry self into our lives seamlessly. I was concerned about adding a cat to a pack of dogs but needn't have worried. JB has all of the dogs scared silly - and rightfully so.