Diane Baer, an Illinois native, moved her mother from Chicago to Seattle when she was in her 80’s. When her mom arrived, Diane’s life was very full – career, children and many community involvements, including Temple Beth Am and JFS. Diane talked with us about caring for a loved one through their later years.
Tell us a little about your mom.
She was a dynamo. She was given the name Golda at birth but changed it to Geraldine. Geraldine transformed to Gerry, and finally, she settled on Geri. It suited her. I would say that she was kind and compassionate but could be disarmingly frank at times, too. She wasn’t afraid to tell you what was on her mind. She was always independent – so much so, that she never had a stock broker, but instead stored all her stock certificates in a safety deposit box and managed her “portfolio” herself. In her 80’s and 90’s she looked to her children and others for help, and it took time for her to adjust to the loss of independence.
What advice would you give to someone caring for an elderly parent?
To the best of your capacity, don’t take on total responsibly for the well-being and care of the parent. One needs to be strong and healthy, both physically and mentally, in order to provide loving care for another person. Sometimes caregiving becomes defined as giving totally of yourself to another person, and that can be counter-productive.
We were lucky to have the resources for JFS home care services to augment my mom’s assisted living staff. To the best of your ability, find others to supplement what you are able to do yourself. If your own children are old enough, don’t hesitate to ask them to visit grandma or grandpa. Or, reach out to friends for help in visiting with your parent.
There may be multiple caregivers in your parent’s life, so there needs to be an advocate, a go-to person who is the CEO of the whole thing. You as the adult child may be that person, but that doesn’t mean you need to be doing everything yourself. Delegation is a component of making things work.
What reflections did your mother have towards the end of her life?
As the aging process took its course, my mother never expressed anger or asked ‘why did this happen to me?’ She always said she was patiently waiting to be with my dad, who had passed away when she was 72. She used to tell a story about Shangri-la, a timeless, ageless place where no one was young and no one was old, and everyone lived forever. She would say, ‘You know, I would never go to Shangri-la. I’m glad I lived my life the way I did.” She said that at 90. I loved her spirit.
Learn more about JFS home care services.