Pulse Check

Rate vs. Rhythm!

Every time I go to the doctor, one of the first things they do is to take my pulse. Guess they still want to know whether I’m alive before they start!

Obviously I’m not a medical person, but from my understanding, the act of taking a pulse helps the doctor or nurse determine your heart rate, but also your heart rhythm. Some of you reading this will know a lot about these issues from personal experience. I’m not going to even get close to a medical discussion on these issues, but will use the medical practice of taking a pulse as an analogy for Part One of an issue that we see cropping up on a regular basis when families try to work with their aging parents.

Taking Momma’s Pulse

We’re not talking about a medical pulse such as taken by a doctor or nurse. We’re talking about having conversations with your mother when she starts to decline in health. Hopefully you have begun this “Momma Discussion” series before she loses the cognitive ability to have these discussions.

It’s important to find out things such as:

  1. Where she wants to be should she need some advanced care.
  2. Would she consider moving closer to one of the kids?
  3. Is assisted living or other facility care an option
  4. Are personal financial resources available to pay for this care?
  5. If resources are not available is government assistance available?

This conversation will most likely not be a one-off deal. It’s much more likely that you will have to slowly broach the subject and weave it into future conversations over a period of time. Still if done gently it may help Mom to see that you care and are trying to help her plan – if and when she needs more assistance in the future.

Taking the Families Pulse

Yes, everyone is very busy. They have their own families, family activities, and never ending job duties. After they come home from work they are exhausted but still have more tasks at home and/or family activities to do before collapsing in bed. When Mom starts to decline in health and more assistance is needed, this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

All of this begs the question as to whether siblings and other family members are able or willing to help. If they’re not available to provide full-time care during the day, would they be available to do certain specific tasks such as pick up groceries during the week? How many hours a week would they be available? Even if they live remotely, there are various tasks that remote caregivers can do.

Sometimes there are unresolved emotional issues with a parent that would keep a sibling from acting on Mom’s behalf. Are they willing to resolve old issues or set them aside and do needed work anyway? Would they consider doing specific tasks that don’t require personal involvement?

All of these issues are important to know when crafting a going forward plan. Families that are willing to provide substantial assistance can help to stretch assets for a much longer period of time.

On the other hand, in situations where family assistance is not available, outside caregivers often have to be brought in earlier or facility care may have to be realistically considered much earlier than would otherwise be anticipated.

Taking Your Pulse

How are you doing? Many times the one primary caregiver that is doing or assuming responsibility for most of the work is carrying most of the load. My guess (because you are reading this) is that this person is you!

We have talked in the past about doing a family assessment of Mom to determine specifically what she needs to allow her to continue at home. But this may be a good time for you to consider doing a self assessment of you. What do you need now? Can you continue the pace of helping your own family, keeping up the work at your job and helping Mom?

This may be a marathon. If you treat it like a sprint, you will likely burn out! What do you need to be able to provide critical assistance over the long haul? Likely this means that you need some more help. It’s almost impossible to do or be responsible for everything for a prolonged period of time. Those we see who attempt to do this often burn out.

Assistance Rate

To complete our analogy, you may want to look at your assistance rate. That is how many periods per week are you helping Mom. If you are the primary caregiver and the rate of assistance is every morning and every night for a few hours each time, I would refer you to the previous paragraph. Maybe it’s time to call in the reinforcements!

Assistance Rhythm

How often does Momma need assistance? Every day? Multiple times per day? Or just a few times every week? We see families (with the best of intentions) sometimes doing too much. Excess efforts can tax the caregivers’ stamina and can make Momma feel that the family is taking away her independence. Can Mom safely do some of these tasks herself? Where is help actually needed? Establishing a proper rhythm can help Mom get the care she needs without burning out her caregivers.
We wish you the best as you take the pulse of your family. Doing this can help get you started down the right planning path.

We want to be friends!

Ok. That might come off a little fast, considering we barely know each other. However, we fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver – including personal experiences with burnout.

In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community! There is nothing more cleansing for our situation than knowing that we are not alone!

We have since created Caregiver Connection. Caregiver Connection is a newsletter that we write personally and send to fellow Caregivers. It is full of tips, tricks, and even professional advice. If you would like to sign up, click the button below.

Please Invite Someone to Our Newsletter

Being an Adult Kid who is helping mom as she is declining can be a scary, frustrating and lonely place lacking stability. You feel like you are solely responsible for solving Mom’s problems while managing yours. Some occasional input and a community to plug into would help, especially when facing burnout! This is a way that all of us can be working together as caregivers!

Many others that you may personally know are having to figure it all out by themselves. Most of them have no community. Please take a minute and do them a favor. Copy this link – help.mom/cc – and send it to them in an email or private message. They can click on it and subscribe to our newsletter for free.

Then they can enjoy weekly tips and encouragement. They no longer have to feel so alone in their family caregiver journey. They will appreciate the favor! Thank you for thinking of them!

Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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