Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jumping in

I have spent nearly 7 years living with my parents as an adult child/caregiver in the home I grew up in many years ago. In this blog I will attempt to relay some of the joys and heartbreaks of those years of caregiving, as well as offer encouragement to those who are also in the place I find myself. As an adult child, the only daughter and youngest of four, when it came time to care for my parents, the task fell to me. They had always said they wanted to remain in the home they had built themselves (literally) and I was willing to support that desire. My parents did not ask for help; however, on my visits twice a year from my home in Kansas to their home in California, I found that my mother was slowly fading into some sort of dementia and needed compassionate care that my father could not provide despite his deep love for his wife of nearly 68 years. Each trip it was harder to leave them and eventually, during my summer visit in 2004, I made the decision to return to California and help them. My father, the stubborn self-reliant person he's always been, said he didn't need my help--he had everything under control and could handle mom just fine, but if I wanted to move home I could always come back. When I drove away that final time before my move, my mother was confused, but still quite functional--walking, talking, eating meals at the table with Dad or the family, visiting on the phone with friends. Two weeks before my move I received a phone call from my eldest brother telling me that Mom was in the hospital. She had become dehydrated and Dad had called 911. Mom spent two weeks in the hospital, malnourished and morbidly dehydrated. October 1, 2004, I arrived home the day she was transferred to a convalescent/rehabilitation facility, an invalid with a feeding tube. It was here she first got her diagnosis of Lewy Body dementia; however, her doctor continued to insist she had Alzheimer's Disease, prescribing medications that worsened or accelerated her condition. My parents needed all the love and compassion I could give, working along side my father so he didn't feel like I was taking away his sense of control, while stepping up to meet Mom's needs. That was the beginning of a life-changing commitment that I continue in today. This blog will grow with current reflections of life today with Dad, now 95, and memories of those early days of my life as a 50-year-old with my mid-80s parents, one stubbornly independent and the other fading into Lewy Body dementia.