Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caregiving at one degree of separation

My neighborhood has a women’s book club that includes about a dozen of us who live within 2 blocks of each other. Some of us have lived on the same street for more than 20 years. We’ve watched our children grow up together. We’ve celebrated birthdays, graduations, weddings and births of precious, new grandchildren together. When one neighbor’s home burned to the ground in the wee hours of the morning, the rest of us were there, almost before the fire trucks arrived.

We come together once a month to talk about our kids, our neighbors and – almost always – our book. We have laughed, cried and argued with each other.

Last night, someone asked, “How many of us are dealing with an aging parent?” All but two raised their hands. One neighbor has spent the last month with her mother who lives over 1,000 miles away, finally convincing her to move into a care facility for people with memory loss. Next month, she’ll return to actually make the move with her mom.

Several of us have lost parents over the past few years. We’ve spent hours at their bedsides, in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities. We’ve shared our anger at “the system” and our frustrations at being classically squeezed between the needs of our children and our parents.

While we don’t see each other much outside of our monthly book club meeting, we do know this: when it comes to being a caregiver to an aged loved one, we’re all doing it. We do it alone, often, but we know we’re together in facing the challenges of family caregivers everywhere.

Last night when we took a count, it was clear that it’s something we are all doing today. And those that aren’t personally caring for an elderly parent know someone – first hand – that is providing this care. It’s a small comfort, but perhaps, ultimately, a large movement toward increased resources, improved quality of care and better options for our aged loved ones.

After all, we’re all at the frontline of this effort today.

No comments: