Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Topic: Caregivers: Are You Unofficial or Official

The topic today comes from a conversation I had with a dear friend. The goal of caregiving is to help loved ones reach their final goal. For many years, the space she called home was no more. She continued to age gracefully while living alone; however, health challenges created the raw reality that living on her own was no longer safe. She relocated to live with family, and the adjustments and readjustments began.

I recall when my mother came to live with us. As an independent person, her movements and way of life centered on her world. Because we lived miles apart, how she managed her world and the things within were not my physical view. Phone calls over the years do not tell the entire story. I did have some sense of her movements because she raised me. What was most noticeable was her independence.

For many years, her way of life was her capacity to get into her car and go wherever and whenever she wanted. No permission was given or needed to drive to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments. She was living her best life; on her own.

When the decision was made for mother to move in with us, hubby and I became unofficial caregiver observers. We paid attention to mother’s movements without her having actual knowledge of our nosiness. As long as she operated in a safe, noticeable decision-making mode, we let her be. Over time, when health challenges and safety concerns were compounding living alone, we became official caregivers with legitimate obligations and responsibilities in the caregiving space.

Caregiver Obligations

Family members who take on the role of caregiving need to understand this important point. I have said it many times before, “If they could, they would.” One of the most challenging realities of my caregiving journey occurred when I watched my mother go from independent to dependent. In my first book, “From The Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor,” I talk about the time when mommy said, just throw me away. She was reacting to her awareness of not being independent and the help she needed on a daily basis. While I did it with duty and honor, it did not erase her feelings of helplessness. When our parents have to move in with us, it may have started unofficial, but we become official caregivers over time. There is an understanding that must be gleaned in this essential role. Let me share a few nuggets that must be considered as an unofficial and official caregiver:

1. We must be the eyes and ears of our loved ones. That is why they are with us.

2. We must learn as much as we can about health conditions.

3. Know what is important to maintain chronic conditions and physical ailments.

4. We must monitor nutritional health, especially if chronic health conditions are present.

5. Rearranging your home for walking and rolling aids need to occur.

6. Going, not taking, to medical appointments is vital.

7. Ensure all life-saving medical equipment is serviced(e.i. oxygen, sleep apnea, any monitoring devices.

8. Daily observation check of the person(head to toe).

9. Acknowledge and investigate when our loved ones describe feelings of not feeling well.

As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, remember, if they could, they would. I never wanted to be my mother’s mother. It became my reality. If it becomes your reality, please know that our loved ones do not want to burden us. We should do all we can to keep them from feeling like burdens. Be well! Be safe!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is author and speaker. Her book: From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor shares caregiving tips.