We are all going to be cared for whether you like it or not – when we reach a certain age. But who? I did not grow up with my mom and in 1995 she moved in with me in California while I was in the Navy. But then I got married so I need to find her a home in 2005, alone and a year later I moved 3,000 miles to Connecticut. It affected her health, dementia and other age-related issues.
Two winters ago, she moved back with me with her diapers and walker like a year-old baby at 88. I remember when I changed my son’s diaper 14 years ago – it was that grim but she’s my mom. For months, we contacted various agencies to find her a home, but we thought she would be better off with us health-wise. My goal was to have my teenager experience having a grandparent. Both his grandfathers died 3 years ago, and her mom’s mother is in the Philippines.
At 630, I wake up mom to get ready and she always greets me in the morning “pengeng cape” or can I have a coffee? In her first few months with us, I dress her up, comb her hair but lately, I have trained her to do it herself and she managed every day – including changing her own disposable pants. For almost six months now, she has been going to a daycare center from 730-330 where she is taken care of. Fortunately, my son is home by 3pm so every day, my son picks up his grandma from the bus and assists her walking all the way to the second floor. It’s a great blessing.
Here are 5 moral & practical things I have learned as I care for my mom from whom I was separated for half of my life – GO ASK: Get, Offer, Accept, Seek, Keep:
1. Get a Power of Attorney. At her age and condition, she needs full support in making big decisions. It is like taking care of a “baby” – a cycle of life.
2. Offer her challenge & responsibility or keep her busy. My wife noticed that she is still able in many ways including picking up her own food from the kitchen and cleaning up the table after dinner. I have also given her the task of sweeping the hallways daily and folding and sorting our laundry.
3. Accept the challenge; it is not that hard. No matter how difficult a task is for someone (diaper, walking), caring for mom comes very naturally. Just don’t overburden yourself and have a good sense of humor. I always tease her and it makes her smile by asking this question because she is bilingual: “Ma, do you like bread, pan or tinapay” and she will say “bread” - bread is also tinapay in Tagalog or pan is Spanish. And I keep asking, “why not bread or pan?” them even though she has no choice – just to get a conversation going - by teasing her & make her say "that is the same".
4. Seek Help. Contact the local Human Services department of your city or non-profit organization that assists the aging community. Provide them the information or assistance you need and build a relationship.
5. Keep her five senses active. I always turn on music she liked when she was young (Elvis Presley and worship songs) and let her dance. I put movies and tv shows like “I Love Lucy” while she also cuts magazines or coupons or something menial like folding plastic bags for her diaper trash.
Lately, I realized that this words from Bernice Johnson Reagon fit right in “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Besides affecting my time in our business & focus on my career, many of my friends know that with my wife and son together have many adventures and trips but that dynamic has changed since mom moved in, we no longer go on weekends for long travel or short trips, I just thought “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Said G. K. Chesterton. This is our adventure - a family adventure, besides, actor Michael J. Fox said "Family is not an important thing. It's everything." Go figure, GO ASK: taking care of mom.