Becoming my mother’s caregiver didn’t happen overnight. I was slowly initiated into the role as her health and care needs gradually changed. That didn’t make it any easier. But one of the best lessons I learned was that caregiving can bring joy and challenges.
My mother was the oldest daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who, like many, came to this country for a better life. Mom was raised to be independent and resourceful. She was also smart. If mom had been born into a later generation, she would have been a writer or a lawyer. Instead, she was a homemaker raising seven children, and her kitchen was the center of our universe. Around her kitchen table is where we all ate, studied, prayed, resolved conflicts, and learned life-long lessons. When my dad died, mom went to work to support her three children still at home – the youngest was just 12 years old.
In her later years, mom spent time visiting her children and grandchildren scattered around the country. In her early 80s, she could no longer drive due to failing eyesight, and taking care of her home was becoming a challenge. For a few years, I would visit, take her shopping, help clean the house, and provide some companionship. Then everything changed. After several minor falls, she was no longer safe at home and it was time for her to make a transition. So, once again, we gathered around the kitchen table to discuss her moving in with me.
Making the transition from living independently to living with me and my family was not easy for any of us. Caring for my mom, and my family and working full-time became very stressful. And mom had difficulty adjusting to the loss of her independence, unfamiliar surroundings, and a new routine. She became angry and depressed, which increased the stress level of everyone. Thankfully, a friend told me about Boston Senior Home Care’s Caregiver Solutions program and put me in touch with a Caregiver Advisor who explained that while caregiving can be overwhelming at times, there were services and supports available to make it more manageable. And there was no charge to participate.
After enrolling in Caregiver Solutions, they assessed our caregiving situation and provided information and guidance on reducing stress. They arranged for a fall prevention home assessment and coordinated the installation of grab bars in mom’s bathroom. And they referred us to an Adult Day Health program in our area so that mom could get much-needed companionship and I would have time to myself. I also began attending Boston Senior Home Care’s online support group, which provided guidance and caregiving tips from other caregivers. Today, mom is safe and more content, and with ongoing support, I’ll be able to care for her at home for as long as possible.