Journey Stop #1 is what we sometimes refer to as the “frequent visits stage”. What follows is an account of one child/Family Caregiver who tells of his caregiver journey through Journey Stop #1. Take a moment to see if this description fits your situation.
The way it WAS
Before this point in time, Mom lived independently and has done pretty well. Although retired, she has maintained a busy lifestyle. Dad died several years ago, but Mom didn’t let this slow her down. As a matter of fact, it seems that she has been in perpetual motion since his death. I don’t know whether it was to keep her distracted, or whether she just had a lot to do. She not only took care of all of her own needs, but also helped with the grandkids and various family outings.
I typically go to work early, and have traditionally stopped by Mom’s for a cup of coffee two or three times per week. A few months ago, I’ve noticed that something was off. I don’t know whether all of this happened suddenly – or maybe it’s been going on for a while and I just wasn’t paying attention (something my wife tells me constantly!).
The way it IS NOW
Mom always was an early riser – much earlier than me. However, in recent months, I’ve actually woken her up on several occasions when I stopped by. At first, I just dismissed this as “she is retired so she is entitled!”
I started noticing several other things as well. For example, I noticed that the food in the refrigerator was pretty much the same from day to day. Either she is not shopping or she is not eating. She has been driving all over town until recently, but lately she says that she just doesn’t like to get out as much. But that’s not all – she wears the same clothes from day to day and her personal hygiene has slipped (a lot).
Another concern is her medications. Mom has taken a few prescription drugs for years. Lately it looks as if she is not taking her meds. When I asked her about this, she says that she just forgot. I’m not a doctor, but I know that missing a shower or two usually won’t hurt anything – but missing your meds for a few days could be dangerous!
My time with Mom was precious. During our “coffee talks”, Mom never gave advice or lectured, but she had a way of saying things that made me see daily obstacles in a different light. I honestly enjoyed our brief visits. These times empowered me to tackle the rest of the week.
Now I stop by for a different purpose. The little talks are a thing of the past (I miss them!), I now know that if I didn’t stop by that Mom (1) may not get out of bed at all; (2) probably wouldn’t eat breakfast (or lunch); (3) probably wouldn’t take a shower; and (4) probably wouldn’t take her meds; (5) She also is increasingly unsteady on her feet. I’m concerned that she is a fall risk – and to speak the unspeakable, I’m concerned about dementia or something even worse.
In Short – I’m Worried
With all of these changes, I’m worried. At first, I thought that Mom was just “not herself today”. But then “today” turned into an unbroken string of days; I knew that something had changed and I didn’t know what. I really don’t know what to do or where to start.
A few months ago, I realized that Mom needed a little help and that stopping by on the way to work was a nice thing to do. Now, I know that I’ve got to stop by on the way to work and on the way home from work. If I don’t do this, some things just won’t get taken care of.
I love my Mom, but I have a busy active family plus a demanding job. It’s now taking about 3 hours of my time every day. I need help!
We’re here to HELP
If you can relate to this description, you may have a parent at Journey Stop #1. This is a point in time where you start to see some noticeable slip. That is, Mom starts to slip cognitively to the point that you become concerned. Mom is still okay for the most part but you don’t feel comfortable not checking in. Your routine changes – you stop by in the morning to visit to make sure she is okay and to make sure that she is eating breakfast and has taken her meds. You may ask your neighbor to stop by at noon to make sure everything is okay. You stop by on the way home from work to do what you did that morning. At this stage you may be able to do everything and keep your job and family intact, but it’s an emotional load.
If this describes your current situation, click on our Tip Sheet entitled “5 Things to Do at Journey Stop #1”. Just click on the link to download this free worksheet that will help you manage this situation a little easier.
Sometimes Mom doesn’t need help with everything – she just needs help with one or two things – at least for now. With some appropriate help, she may be able to successfully stay at home (and stay out of a Nursing Home) for a much longer period of time.
Best wishes as you help your loved one successfully navigate the waters of Journey Stop #1. If your Loved One has moved on to the next stage – stay tuned. Next time we’ll discuss Journey Stop #2.