Caring For My Parents

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IMG_0791.jpgI am reaching out to colleagues, families and friends to share my personal experience receiving the services of Home Instead Senior Care for my parents and to ask you to share this information with families you serve or know.  9 years ago Greg (my husband) and I were looking for a way to move our family back to Saskatchewan to be near to my parents to support them as they age.  We discovered a wonderful business, the leader in non-medical senior care, Home Instead Senior Care.  We moved our family to Saskatoon and opened our franchise office in 2008.  We were attracted to the simple yet powerful concept of matching compassionate, carefully trained local CAREGivers to seniors in the community to promote a high standard of independent living, preventing unnecessary decline, institutionalization and caregiver burnout.  This is so needed in Saskatchewan!

Shortly after we opened the business my Father was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  He underwent two surgeries and over a year of chemotherapy.  It was an eight-year long process of fighting cancer and fulfilling his last moments. During that time Mom & Dad celebrated their 50th anniversary, moved off the farm, had a farm auction, celebrated Mom’s 80th and Dad’s 85th birthdays and sold the farm land in 2016.  All of this was possible due to close teamwork with my siblings, a long process persuading our parents to invest in their care and finally, the one-on-one help of our Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers.  

During the first five years Mom and Dad were able to manage Dad’s surgeries with just a little help from their adult children.  After the second surgery the cancer metastasized to liver and lung and Dad opted to undergo IV chemotherapy every two weeks.  They live an hour away from the cancer centre so driving was a concern and we also wanted to have a family member at each medical appointment to support and convey the content of the appointment to the rest of the family.  My siblings are scattered throughout Saskatchewan and BC so it required teamwork and extra help.  I advised my parents to invest in their care but Dad pushed back hard, as most seniors do, saying he didn’t need help.  After a time, Mom, who had previously benefitted from the help of caregivers during her own prolonged episode of chronic pain quietly explained to him, “You deserve the best care we can get and you deserve to stay in our home.”  With those words he softened and accepted my recommendation.  At that point we became recipients of the care we had worked so hard to establish.  

Home Instead Senior Care found us a CAREGiver who visited Mom and Dad two times each week and gave them one-on-one care.  She bolstered their nutrition, helped with house projects and was their driver.  After an adjustment period, Mom and Dad quickly loved her and Mom had someone to lean on.

Following several months of chemotherapy, Dad’s 85 year-old body was wearing down and unable to absorb magnesium, resulting in fatigue and significantly impaired cognition.  This change increased our parents’ needs immensely as he grew more disoriented, confused and frequently agitated.  What really helped him was keeping his routines and continuing to do the things he was interested in.  It was our goal for the CAREGivers to enable Dad to keep as active and social as he desired - which was a lot!  Secondly, we wanted to give Mom one-on-one support to keep her sanity and strength.  

At that point our parents were intending to complete a last trip to their mobile home park in Yuma, AZ.  It was impossible for them to go alone, but Dad, who could not assess realistically, was determined to go.  We agreed as siblings to make it happen, in order to give them a break from winter, say goodbye to their Yuma friends and, at the same time, to assess how they were coping.  We learned that they were not coping.  Over a period of six weeks we took turns staying with them, in Yuma and after their return home we stayed with them, around the clock, until additional CAREGivers were oriented.  

They needed a daily care team and soon the CAREGivers replaced us siblings, assisting Mom and Dad with their daily routines, including Dad’s morning care needs, help with meals and light housekeeping.  Importantly the CAREGivers did the driving so Dad could get out and about wherever he wanted or needed to go.  McDonalds for coffee row, trips to Canadian Tire and the Coop for a few groceries were the usual stops.  Sunday was the trip to church and lunch and there were many drives into the country.  They sat for hours with him during magnesium transfusions.  There were jobs in the garden and yard that Dad wanted to continue dabbling in and the Caregivers enabled him to get those jobs done.  Mom could get out to coffee with a friend or invite a couple for dinner as often as she wanted, knowing she had support and help.  The CAREGivers each have their special talents:  sticky cinnamon buns, ironing/mending, managing IPADs and technology.  They extended our family talent pool by several notches.  

While our parents were unable to manage alone, they did not burden their children, nor did they move to a care home.  Family continued to visit and attend appointments, sometimes inviting them to special events and stays in our homes.  Our parents invested a small portion of their savings into private care to have CAREGivers help them continue their independent way of life.  I am so glad they understood this was necessary to maintain the active and social life they enjoyed together in the comfort of their home.  

Finally, Dad discontinued the chemotherapy and we prepared to keep him as comfortable as possible.  With a few mobility aids in the home and the assistance of the CAREGivers Dad continued his usual routine, just gradually slower.  Having kept active, he walked until a week before his passing and thankfully, he never fell.

It was shortly after the 2016 Christmas holidays that he finally declined.  Throughout the holidays we had the opportunity to plan individual visits for each of our families to see Dad and say goodbye.  Then he was ready to go.  In consultation with our palliative coordinator, we had supplies, including the hospital bed, ready to set up and we increased the Home Instead CAREGivers to 24 hour bedside care.  What a blessing that was.  My sister and I stayed with Mom during that time, to manage Dad’s end of life care and support the CAREGivers.  We were able to sleep at night in the comfort of their home.   

Dad stayed home until the day before he passed.  He remained peaceful and comfortable and I am grateful to say he lived a very good life including a good death.  

I am proud of us; we did it.  During the days of Dad’s last year of life, we had a phrase we would end conversations with, “We can do this.”  It was a necessary reminder for Mom, my siblings and our CAREGivers that with teamwork and willingness this was all very doable.  And when one was down or out we would take turns stepping in with an, “I got this”.  That was one of my favorite things to hear from our Caregivers.  There were times when we worried and fussed and they would reassure me, “Karen, I got this”.  We couldn’t have done it without the Home Instead CAREGivers.  

Dignified aging in place - it can be done.  Wherever a senior calls home, they need their family to encourage their usual daily activities and routines.  One-on-one care is essential to help our aging loved ones thrive as they age in place.  We can do this friends.  Please contact me to discuss your loved one’s care needs.  We are here to help.     

Karen Charyna, Co-Owner   Home Instead Senior Care

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