My purpose for this blog is to guide and support you in your journey as a caregiver to an elderly family member. By sharing with you my own story of having cared for my elderly parents over the last 7 years and all that I've experienced along the way, you'll hopefully see similarities in your own caregiving journey and more importantly, see that there are ways to better manage the decisions around the care of your elderly loved ones and yourselves that will provide you with confidence and peace of mind during what is no doubt an emotional and challenging life transition.
But first, a bit of explanation of this blog's title. "Rocky" was the nickname of my maternal grandmother. While I have no memory of her as she passed when I was only two, the stories of this woman's positive outlook on life, her generous sense of humour and her strong commitment to family are qualities I not only greatly admire, but I feel have contributed to my efforts today to help support my fellow caregivers through the ups and downs of caring for themselves as well as their loved ones. So, in this small way, I wanted to honour her.
I'm a big believer in the saying that there's really no such thing as coincidence - something that has finally been confirmed to me as I reflect back on the very different paths I've taken in my professional life. I've been an eager student and practitioner in such diverse fields as the performing arts, business administration, marketing, sales, events coordination, biomedical science, financial planning, residential organizing and downsizing, and yes, even professional gardening.
Whew! That's a lot, and for the longest time, I thought it was just me not being able to settle on one thing. Now I realize that I needed to learn and experience each and every one of these topics so that they could, in time, beautifully mesh together in a way that allows me to best mentor and support others going through the same challenges and opportunities that I have.
On top of the sometimes emotional roller coaster ride in my own caregiver's journey, I've experienced a lot of frustration at a practical level. While I've managed to cobble together the resources and information I needed for my parents, I found most of it time-consuming and coming from very different sources - after doing A LOT of digging, research and reading. There is plenty of good information out there - that's part of the challenge - so much information that you don't know where to start first, what questions to ask, and to whom.
One thing that kept coming up for me was a sense of overwhelm as there were so many different aspects of my parents' care that needed to be addressed but couldn't be done through one "official" source.
Granted, part of this is due to the practical challenge that each elder person's situation is unique and therefore difficult for them and their family to put together a fully personalized and comprehensive plan to meet their needs. Along with this is that both we as caregivers and care receivers alike, are often ill-equipped to cope with the ever-increasing information we must sort through as our elderly loved ones' health and independence challenges increase in scope and complexity.
We can't ignore the fact that our caregiver challenges are set against a broader social backdrop of our various institutions scrambling to cope with the ever-increasing demands placed on them by an aging society, as this plays an important role in our decision making surrounding the type and quality of care we want our elderly loved ones to receive. We read in the news of concerns around insufficient funding for senior housing and complex care facilities, and we've seen funding cuts from a wide variety of community programs.
As a result, more of the responsibilities of caring for aging family members are being shifted to spouses, other family members, friends, and even neighbours.
Since most of us are not formally trained (nor often emotionally prepared) for the ever-expanding caregiver roles we must fill, quality of care can be insufficient and impractical for both their and our needs - given that not only community and other institutional programs are often distributed unevenly, we are not aware of what is available.
In my experience, this isn't exactly what I'd call a fully proactive and integrative approach to the complexity of eldercare!
I decided then that there had to be a better way of addressing the concerns and challenges of caregivers like me. In other words, I became my own ideal client by simply asking myself "What would I want in the way of support in my role as a caregiver?" From my personal experience, there are gaps in providing that support - so I decided to create a business service to fill in those gaps as best as possible.
The result is "Aging with Grace - Family Caregiver Mentoring and Support". It is a program-based service that identifies and prioritizes what information needs to be put in place and what resources to access, by creating a personalized Caregiver Action Plan that guides you step-by-step through a process that helps give you greater control and choice over your caregiver decisions.
In later blog posts, my intention is to relay what I have found to be helpful information, tips and resources, as well as share my caregiver musings of the things - both challenging and rewarding - that both you and I as caregivers experience on an on-going basis.
The overall theme is around the notion of providing support for you - the caregiver - to provide you with a space where you can catch your breath and feel more confidence and peace around the decisions you will need to make around the care of your elderly loved ones.
On the more day-to-day side of things, there are so many levels of practical support to consider. I've put them into four broad categories: Financial, Legal, Home and Community, and Personal Support. Each of these areas is considerable in scope, so my plan is to look at each in turn and over time, delve into them in more detail. And always, with the purpose of providing you with valuable information, you can take and apply to your own situation.
If you're still here with me at this point in my introductory blog, I suspect something I've said has resonated with you. If so, please check back in from time to time to get more information and insight. And feel free to leave a comment.
I wish both you and I peace and clarity as we move forward in our caregiving journey.
Let's just remember to breathe.