Having my mother with me for several months before she passed away opened me up to a cast of characters who never would have seen the light of day or the dark of night in my home. For someone who values her privacy and safety, it was hard to come to terms with how transparent I’d become.
This worried my mother a lot, too, but she was living alone and already elderly and it was becoming more frightening to both of us to have all this activity happening in her home.
First, the random medical equipment delivery men who bring oxygen tanks, hospital beds, wheelchairs, nebulizer machines and other supplies at any time of day or night were coming and going. Next, there was an array of “nurses,” male and female, who I’ve come to discover may or may not have been nurses (RN’s) at all. Social workers, physical therapists, chaplains, random home health care workers, all had access to my home through the services we employed.
When any of these people was off or on vacation, a substitute might appear without pre-warning. If a substitute worker comes to your home out of uniform or driving a nondescript vehicle, ask for identification before you let them in. If a service worker arrives with a companion, don’t allow them to bring the unidentified person into your home. Once, when our homemaker was training a new employee my mother expressed discomfort with that. So, I didn’t allow the homemaker to bring the other woman with her.
Later, when my mom went on hospice care, the pharmacy would deliver meds and supplies at any time of the night or day and it was always a different man or woman ringing the doorbell.This was something I had to deal with because in most cases they were coming from as far away as Elgin and my mother would need that medicine urgently.
My mom had a morning routine, and I didn’t allow service people to disrupt it. She had become acclimated to routines since that was the one thing she could still control. I had to set firm rules and parameters because service people don’t focus on how a break in scheduling can interrupt our lives.
Say no to deliverymen’s requests for drinking water, pop, or the restroom. These people aren’t your friends and they are getting paid for what they’re doing. Don’t allow them to call you if they are ahead of schedule and want to “pop in” at their convenience. If my mom was watching “Jeopardy” or “Wheel of Fortune”, I wasn’t stopping her pleasure for someone else’s convenience.
Once I was candid about what we expected, most of the service people tried to comply. For those who couldn’t, I asked the service provider for new people or different schedules.
The last point I’ll make is that I encouraged my grown children to share in this experience. I explained what I was doing and why, every step of the way. The time will come when they will have to walk in these same shoes and if they’ve never seen it or done it, taking care of an elderly loved one can be a shock.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, Boomers, get ready. We’re being yanked out of our comfort zones in ways that we always knew we could possibly be, but if you can stay in control, you will be able to weather the storm.