The Strength to Give

My cousin cared for his wife, at home, for seven years as she slowly died from frontal temporal degeneration, an incurable neurological disease. He has Multiple Sclerosis himself. Instead of golden years of retirement together, he and his wife both faced incurable illnesses. During those long years before his wife's quiet death this past spring, I often wondered how he and other caregivers find the strength, patience and hope to care for a loved one with a terminal illness.

In addition to taking her to doctor's and therapy appointments, my cousin offered daily kindnesses I can hardly fathom. It took 90 minutes for him to feed her at each meal. In addition to bathing her every day, he washed and styled his wife's hair as she would have done herself. He went to Nordstrom's cosmetics counter to learn how to apply her makeup (and did a good job, too). He recorded Oprah and Ellen and watched them with her long after she stopped speaking. He took her to visit her only child, a daughter with a young baby, as often as possible. He would tell you that he did all this because he loved her, because he knew she would have done the same for him and because he couldn't bear to have her in a nursing home.

He was exemplary with her care, but it was far harder for him to help himself. He hired a certified nursing assistant to help a few hours a day, and friends from his church and hospice pitched in at times. It is only now, after her death, that he has been able to ask for help and support for himself.

My cousin recommends asking physicians and local hospitals what support services and networks are available to caregivers. As usual, AARP offers a slew of resources and information relevant to health care, financial management, and support services. My former employer, Johnson and Johnson, established a wonderful, free online support center to help caregivers facing similar challenges called Strength for Caring, supported by The Caregiver Initiative. The site offers information about common, debilitating health problems such as dementia, cancer, Alzheimer's, HIV, AIDS, and diabetes, a housing comparison chart, advice about legal, financial, insurance and end-of-life planning, as well as message boards and personal caregiver stories that help caregivers feel less alone each day.

My experience in caregiving is limited to raising three babies (now young children) -- lonely, frustrating and at times frightening work, but joyous, too. Although some will attack me for my honesty, the truth is I'm not sure I could care for my husband full-time by myself if he fell ill. I would need lots of help. I wouldn't hold it against him if he could not care for me, either. But we will face these issues one day -- and with an aging baby boomer population, more and more of us are tackling the tough questions of how to care for ill family members.

What about you? Have you cared for a seriously ill or terminally ill relative? What keeps you going? How do you find balance? What online or other support can you recommend? How can our communities, businesses and government help caregivers more?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  August 15, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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First, but I don't have anything to say on this. I was suprised that Leslie found child rearing "lonely".

My mother dealt with her mother's Parkinson's with 24 hour care. But not everyone can afford that support. Fortunately, she lives in a lower-income area. My grandmother became part of the caregivers' families too.

Posted by: WorkingDad | August 15, 2007 7:49 AM

"I'm not sure I could care for my husband full-time by myself if he fell ill. I would need lots of help. I wouldn't hold it against him if he could not care for me, either"

You will be surprised at your internal well of strength that will get you through these trials. Everyone needs help, but not everyone asks for it.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | August 15, 2007 7:52 AM

My two cents are about a generation later. My in laws and my grandmother mean the world to me and I would love to have them to our house for a holiday. They both care for special people though - my grandmother's last child has MS that has progressed so that my uncle can't speak or walk and lives in a home. Putting him in a home was a very difficult decision but she decided the 'give and take' would be that she would visit him every single day - and she does. My mother in law's mother has dementia and while she doesn't know what day it is my mother in law couldn't dream to not visit her on a holiday. My two cents are to visit, to love, and to celebrate all forms of life. I love my uncle and my husband's grandmother very much. In the effort to balance older family members with new remember that now and again the new family members would love to have you over as well. Of course we visit them for holidays and that is a joyous time. My extra half cent - it is ok to joke about it from time to time. Sometimes the weight of it all is great and every one needs to just relax and allow yourself to laugh.

Posted by: forsythej | August 15, 2007 8:12 AM

I am watching as this happens to my cousin, who is just beginning the long road of caring for my aunt who's been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. My aunt is 64. It is simply heartbreaking to watch the deterioration of this vibrant, adventurous woman. I don't know where my cousin gets the strength to handle it, but she seems to be doing okay. The most I can do is offer to help in any way possible and then go cry somewhere by myself.

I would hope that I would have the inner endurance to care for my husband in a situation similar to that of Leslie's cousin's. Like the previous poster, I think that you will be amazed by the abilities you possess when a crisis hits.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 15, 2007 8:14 AM

My maternal grandfather cared for my grandmother the last five years of her life, as she slowly died from emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses. When she became bed-ridden, he only left her twice a week: on Sunday morning, when he went to church; and on Wednesday morning, when he went shopping. Both times a neighbor came over and sat with her. (They lived in Denver; one child lived in California, one in Louisiana and one in North Carolina at the time so that wasn't an option.)

I once asked him how he managed to handle it, since they were both in their late 70's at the time. He said it was what he had learned growing up in Mexico: you take care of your family.

He said it was surprising to him how he always found the strength to do what was needed. He didn't really like doing a lot of the stuff he did, but he always managed to find the strength and keep a good attitude, because that's what marriage and family meant to him.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | August 15, 2007 8:14 AM

I have a close relative who was diagnosed with Parkinson's at @ 60 yrs old. Even though he is still doing well, it has already changed so much about their lives. He now MUST work until 65 to be eligible for lifetime health care, since he is uninsurable otherwise. And their whole view of the future, of what retirement will mean, has changed -- they love visiting an island in the Caribbean, dreamed about buying a little condo there someday, but now they can't plan on anything permanent, because they don't know how long they'll be able to enjoy it.

For them, they've had to replace the dreams about what they hoped to have with gratitude for what they do have. They now have family nearby, which wasn't always the case, and seeing the grandkids grow up right in front of him has brightened up his life immeasurably. They've always saved, so they don't have to worry about supporting themselves (although she will, anyway -- just her nature). And who knew going to work for the feds all those years ago was going to prove invaluable? There's a lot of stuff he doesn't like about his job, but where else could he have gotten a (reasonable) guarantee of post-retirement health coverage?

Posted by: laura33 | August 15, 2007 8:24 AM

I think (I hope?) you all are right that we can find new strength in this kind of crisis.

Posted by: leslie4 | August 15, 2007 8:29 AM

"Although some will attack me for my honesty, the truth is I'm not sure I could care for my husband full-time by myself if he fell ill."

Nothing wrong with your honest statement. My uncle had parkinson's disease. He was a big, tough man (steel worker and farmer) my aunt took care of him 24-7 with the help of some of her kids. Towards the end my mom would tell me to not call her because he may be napping and she may be sitting down for a rest. He died a few months ago at home with his family. We all miss him, but it is a relief that she is not so worn out anymore.

Posted by: Irishgirl74 | August 15, 2007 8:50 AM

The really tough balancing act I think is when all the attention is on one family member to the loss of other family members. While my grandmother cared for my grandfather during a long illness, she wasn't able to visit any of her children or grandchildren who lived across the country. The children and grandchildren came out once a year, but that was it. She really wanted to just escape for a weekend, buy a plane ticket and come out, but she felt she just couldn't do it because the risk her beloved would hurt himself or pass away while she was gone was too high. she and my mother didn't see each other at all while mom was pregnant with me. My grandfather passed away a month before I was born and I think it was a relief to much of the family that my grandmother was finally free to do as she pleased.

Posted by: baby-work | August 15, 2007 9:27 AM

Two words: Assisted Suicide. The fact that religious zealots have made it a crime for my family members to help me to die with dignity disgusts me to no end. My God, this is America. The land of individual rights. Give me the right to die in peace you religious crazies!!!! (I bet many readers of this blog would be more than happy to allow me to die.)

Posted by: bababooey666 | August 15, 2007 9:32 AM

Two words: Assisted Suicide.

If you know you have an incurable disease, can't you just do it yourself?

Posted by: Irishgirl74 | August 15, 2007 9:37 AM

Leslie, I would not attack you for admitting that you would find it hard to be a caregiver. It is a hard demanding job that few are up to, including me I think. I would not fear having the strength though because I know Jesus would give me that strength if I asked him. Hopefully few of us will be put in that position. My Dad is getting worse so this kind of strikes close to home.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 9:51 AM

Leslie:
Trust me.
I do not think I am a strong person.
But I saw enough so far to fill a couple of guest blogs.
Surgery and blindness of parents, deaths of close uncles and cousinns, serious medical problems of spouse and children.

Just ask for help (cleaning, cooking, running errands, or a sympathetic ear), and take it.

You may be asked to return the favor some day.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | August 15, 2007 9:54 AM

"Two words: Assisted Suicide. The fact that religious zealots have made it a crime for my family members to help me to die with dignity disgusts me to no end. My God, this is America. The land of individual rights. Give me the right to die in peace you religious crazies!!!! (I bet many readers of this blog would be more than happy to allow me to die.)"

Bababooey - I had to respond to this. My problem with assisted suicide is not so much that people who are terminally ill and in great suffering should not have the right to end their lives. I agree with you that it should be a choice that is available to them. But I worry that if the choice becomes widely and easily available, that people with debilitating diseases who require lots of caregiving may feel pressured to commit suicide in order not to burden their family with their care.

I know. It's a slippery slope, and I am not sure what the answer is. People should have the right to make this choice, but they should not feel pressured to make it. How do you get around that problem?

Posted by: Emily | August 15, 2007 9:59 AM

This topic is near and dear to my heart. My mother has just been deemed unfit to live independently and is being told today by the rehab facility she is in following lung cancer surgery. She had so looked forward to getting home to her condo.
My dad lived alone until he had a cardiac arrest during a procedure in the hospital. He went from the hospital to a rehab/skilled nursing facility in another state and was untimately moved to a facility in MD so I could see him. He only lived a month here.
Neither parent is or was in any condition to live with me.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 15, 2007 10:00 AM

This might be the best column Leslie's ever written.

All the comments have been valuable -- even bababooey's (Who knew this was possible?). I am particularly struck, though, by baby-work's statement regarding the imbalance that a family can experience when everything begins to revolve around one family member and his/her needs. Children and grandchildren can never get back the time and attention lost when a spouse is the sole, unrelieved, caregiver for an extended period of time. In the analysis of when nursing home care is appropriate for a spouse, perhaps sole caregivers should more often give themselves permission to consider the negative impact on other family members of their caregiving burden. Seeing the entire family as a unit might lessen the sole caregiver's feelings of guilt and abandonment toward one member of the family - even if that member is a beloved spouse.

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | August 15, 2007 10:02 AM

As I read the comments about people asking for help, remember as a friend or family member to offer. Partly because many people will feel that they are failures if they need help. And with those offers make it specific, not can I help, but can I stay with Grandpa so you can go get your hair done or just go to a movie or sit in the park and read. Or even remotely - Pay for a weekly cleaning service or even a one time special cleaning. And don't forget emotional help. For example when you call your dad to ask about your ill mother, don't forget to ask him about how he is doing and discuss what you normally discuss (i.e. how about those -fill in name of favorite sports team) this allows the caregiver to feel like a normal person, not just a caregiver - people sometimes get lost in the role.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | August 15, 2007 10:05 AM

"But I worry that if the choice becomes widely and easily available, that people with debilitating diseases who require lots of caregiving may feel pressured to commit suicide in order not to burden their family with their care."

Having a living will helps in come cases, although more in a "pulling the plug" situation rather than an assisted suicide situation. I guess these are issues that need to be talked about BEFORE a crisis happens. Put it in writing, let your family members know what you want. And don't wait. Any one of us could have a stroke at work today.

Posted by: bababooey666 | August 15, 2007 10:11 AM

Thank you Megan's Neighbor! I've gotten a thick skin due to repeat critiques but praise still gets through. Thank you.

Posted by: leslie4 | August 15, 2007 10:14 AM

KLB raises an important issue. While there's this warm fuzzy fantasy that love is all you need to be the best possible caregiver for a family member no matter how ill or handicapped they become -- the old smug "I'd never put MY loved one in a nursing home" mantra, with its corollary of laying a supersized guilt-trip on a caregiver charged with making this difficult decision -- reality is that it's not always possible for even a health professional, let alone an amateur, to provide sufficient home care for some patients, especially as their condition deteriorates.

And as others have already posted today, during the time when it is still possible for the ill person to be tended at home, the caregiver must take good care of him/herself physically and emotionally as well, lest there become yet another sick person in the household. Do accept help from trusted others, find a little respite time each day, in order to continue flourishing yourself, because caregiver martyrdom does not serve the patient's best interests.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 10:15 AM

Mom_of_1 is so right about making offers of help specific rather than general.

And health insurance needs to be restructured to provide more and better options for the most appropriate patient care -- rather than covering only some, while requiring others to be paid out-of-pocket.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 10:23 AM

I stayed in a loveless marriage for years "for the sake of the kids." I've done my time. If something happens to DH - he is on his own. Oh, except for his blood-sucking mother, if she is still alive (if the good die young, she'll probably live forever). Let the beyotch who had to be #1 at all times, start changing diapers again! She'll probably figure out a way to breast feed, so she can brag about THAT at the Junior League!

Posted by: newhere | August 15, 2007 10:24 AM

"You will be surprised at your internal well of strength that will get you through these trials."

Maybe, as you say, Leslie would be surprised. On the other hand, maybe we should let individuals off the hook of our expectations and acknowledge that we don't all have the same capacity, the same well from which to draw. Better to know you don't have it, or might not have it, then for your loved one not to get the healthcare he needs because you are too embarrassed to admit you are overwhelmed. Knowing your limits is a good thing.

Also, getting through a temporary -- say, 9 months -- trial is one thing. Caring for someone who lingers with Alzheimer's or other slow killers, which caretaking could take 7 - 12 years, must be an entirely different psychological and physical burden. How do you see the light at the end of the caregiving tunnel when death comes slowly?

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | August 15, 2007 10:30 AM

«Oh, except for his blood-sucking mother, if she is still alive (if the good die young, she'll probably live forever). Let the beyotch who had to be #1 at all times, start changing diapers again!»

«Posted by: newhere | August 15, 2007 10:24 AM»

Cannot we all just get along?

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | August 15, 2007 10:34 AM

Someone mentioned insurance, and I wanted to add that people should invest in long term care insurance if at all possible.

Posted by: Emily | August 15, 2007 10:36 AM

One item that might help with Altz' patients or dementia patients is to ask for the religious chaplain (pastor or priest) to visit them. My grandfather was very devout his whole life but when his memories left him his children were quite distraught and didn't think about calling in a chaplain or priest. After the priest came and prayed with my grandpa they said it helped. He had gone to church every Sunday for over 70 years - it made sense to try and continue this in his new capacity.

Posted by: forsythej | August 15, 2007 10:49 AM

Posted by: newhere | August 15, 2007 10:24 AM

I used to feel irritated by your posts. Now I will always just pity you.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 10:51 AM

My parents spent a GREAT deal of my childhood dealing with their aging parents -- and I can't help but think that the comment about how the fallout affects other family members is on target.

We made a three hour drive every single SUnday to visit my elderly grandmother and take her grocery shopping. Sometimes we would also take her for a Sunday drive, so most of my childhood weekends were spent in the car. Saturdays were reserved for visiting my mother's aging parents in a nursing home. As a young child (about six), I remember being extremely frightened of the nursing home visits -- the smell, the patients suffering from dementia, the fact that grandma didn't recognize us.

Somehow or other, there wasn't a lot of time to take us to the park, or on a regular family vacation. And sometimes we would fill up Grandma's freezer and then come home to a house where our own fridge was empty since my mom had no time to do our grocery shopping. I remember taking tests I hadn't studied for because there was never any time because of all the visits to grandma.

Ideally I guess my parents should have somehow forced their siblings to help out more -- but they were the only ones who were local. We're not a particularly close family now -- and I wonder if it would have been different if some of that energy could have been devoted to building our own family.

Posted by: justlurking | August 15, 2007 10:54 AM

I had a friend who always came out with that "I would never put my mother in a nursing home" bit. His mother had Alzeimhers (sp?) and he had her live at his home. Of course, it was his wife and kids who actually took care of her, but he could brag that he "never put her in a home". A**hole.

Posted by: Catwhowalked | August 15, 2007 11:09 AM

I also have long term care insurance - not cheap but worth it. I never, ever want to be a burden on anyone.

Posted by: Catwhowalked | August 15, 2007 11:12 AM

A friend's father is in this position. He's dying, inch-by-inch, while in a prone position. He's 6'4", diabetic, in a wheelchair, incontinent, Parkinson's, multiple mini-strokes, and the family is of very, very modest means. Nor did he and his wife plan/put aside money for their old age. His wife is 5'1" on her tip-toes. One grown child lives with them and helps take care of dad, but he really isn't up to it himself. The state does send a nurse over twice a week, but it's not the same.

He should be in a nursing home--but they can't afford it, or something. The care he's receiving is just *this* much better than sub-standard. But you can't tell his wife that (we've tried). She simply won't hear of it, despite his being taken to the hospital for what was thought to be a heart attack, that turned out to be his sugar out of whack and not eating enough anyway.

*sigh*

I suspect that having a conversation with loved ones, while healthy, is a good start. What is an individual's definition of "too much"? If there is a check list of some sort that people could refer to (mind you, what works for one probably wouldn't be right for another), that would still be a good place to start.

Megan's Neighbor raises a good issue:

"I am particularly struck, though, by baby-work's statement regarding the imbalance that a family can experience when everything begins to revolve around one family member and his/her needs. Children and grandchildren can never get back the time and attention lost when a spouse is the sole, unrelieved, caregiver for an extended period of time. In the analysis of when nursing home care is appropriate for a spouse, perhaps sole caregivers should more often give themselves permission to consider the negative impact on other family members of their caregiving burden."

A really good book that touches on this subject is "The Normal One". It's about normal siblings with a special needs child. It may help frame a conversation about this very issue.

I'm not saying there isn't value in caring for a relative at home, even for the youngsters, but there ARE losses in addition to gains. Determining when the burden is too great is important. Maybe this book will help draw attention to the fact that it's hard on kids too, and they often lack the vocabulary and "standing" to say anything about it.

Ask for help. Make time for yourself and the family. If you find yourself worrying away your every waking moment, it's time to think about other alternatives. Don't feel badly if it proves to be too much for you. We're ALL the "walking wounded", no one can really say that one person has capriciously ignored a family member or not. Only the individual making the decision knows that for certain.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 11:12 AM

"Thank you Megan's Neighbor! I've gotten a thick skin due to repeat critiques but praise still gets through. Thank you."

Repeat critiques!?!?!!? Who could possibly critique you Leslie??? I hope your "thick skin" is not a symptom of toenail fungus. I hate to think of my beloved Leslie having to take Lamisil every day.

Posted by: bababooey666 | August 15, 2007 11:14 AM

After my grandmother died my grandfather lived in the house he had lived in all his married life (60+years). My dad would drive to him twice a day to make sure he had food and was taken care of. He did this until grandpa fell and broke his hip. He made it thru surgery but died in rehab. My dad was truly selfless with his time which is one reason I felt so badly having him in a nursing home rather than with me but I have stairs and he would never have been able to maneuver them.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 15, 2007 11:18 AM

"I suspect that having a conversation with loved ones, while healthy, is a good start. What is an individual's definition of "too much"? If there is a check list of some sort that people could refer to (mind you, what works for one probably wouldn't be right for another), that would still be a good place to start."

Definitely agree....

Posted by: Catwhowalked | August 15, 2007 11:21 AM

I had a taste of this last year when my partner broke four ribs. I had to do everything myself (she could barely move for weeks, and is still too weak for some things, although it's much better at 13 months out than it was last year). I had to do a lot of 'personal care' things for her I never thought I'd do so soon - sponge baths, picking her up from the bed, even helping her with using the bathroom and dressing. The really hard part was knowing that she was mortified the entire time - she is proud and couldn't stand that I'd have to help her bathe.

Now that we're almost back to normal, I feel blessed to know that even though it was very hard for a few weeks, and difficult for a few months after that, that I could handle it. I feel a lot more confident in my ability to take care of her, and the rest of my family. It's been a blessing in disguise.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | August 15, 2007 11:22 AM

When it comes for caring for a family member it isn't just the time that is a consideration. Money and filling out forms becomes an issue depending on whether they are on medicare, medicaid or private insurance. It takes an enormous amount of time and patience to deal with these agencies.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 15, 2007 11:26 AM

"It takes an enormous amount of time and patience to deal with these agencies."

Not to mention ingenuity and low, peasant cunning! Plus keeping a phone log and trying to keep track of the revolving undertrained, underpaid staff.

Good times.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 11:30 AM

I definitely echo the comments to think this through before anything happens, and also to ASK FOR HELP even if the person you are caring for doesn't want you to. My sister was put in the awful position, at 15, of caring for my mother who was dying of breast cancer while my father was at work and I was at college--mostly because my mother didn't want anyone (including me) to know how sick she was and refused to let my father and sister ask anyone for help. It has been 13 years and my sister is still recovering from the trauma that caused her. There are so many resources that can help, be it Visiting Nurses or just FRIENDS, and my sister denied herself the benefit of all of that at my mother's insistence. Ask for help. Ask even if the person doesn't want you to--they don't have to know that someone else made dinner, that someone who is a friend and also a nurse stopped in to say a little more than just hello. Take care of yourself otherwise you cannot help your loved one, and you will bear the consequences, not them. Ask for help. Can't say it enough.

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | August 15, 2007 11:34 AM

I've been through this on a couple of fronts.

One important thing is not to let medical stuff overtake your life. It can quickly become the focus of everything you have to say -- which is isolating when trying to talk to people who aren't right in the middle of it all.

On-line support boards are good for finding others who are suffering or coping with something similar. Their enthusiasm for medical chatter can give you someone to talk to.

I have one book group where the rule is that we DON'T talk about aging parents -- because that quickly crowds out the book we're supposed to discuss!

Sometimes the conditions develops over a long period of time, so you catch a break on adjusting to it. If it's sudden it can be quite a shock.

Posted by: RedBird27 | August 15, 2007 11:38 AM

One of the hard things I think is the role reversal people find themselves in. Aging parents are somwhat like children. The adult finds themselves playing parent to their parents. My Dad is getting where my mom must keep an eye on what he does. Leaves front door open, then leaves, backs car into nearly everything, forgets where he is going etc.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 11:42 AM

As a younger caregiver myself, I'd love to hear more about caregivers who are not at retirement age caring for an elderly spouse or parent. I think people forget that they can be in the position of caregiver tomorrow. This is not something you will only deal with when you are older. I am in my twenties, husband is in his 30's and I spent about a year as my husband's caretaker. He is well now and in remission but this is a chronic illness and a day will come where I'll be his caretaker again. And I will do it gladly but it is never easy. It's shocking to see your husband, in his thirties and he can no longer eat or walk. Then there's dealing with the everyday business of being sick: doctors offices, insurance, bills, medication, ER visits, procedures, medication reactions, hoping he and I had enough sick leave, FMLA paperwork, it goes on forever and you've got to keep up with it or it will become a huge mess.

And as a young caretaker, you've gotta keep up a good attitude and keep working fulltime and help your spouse in every way needed. I fully admit, I didn't always have a good attitude. The hard part for me is that I'm already a worrier and now I'm a super-worrier. I guess I know how tough it can get. It's not something out in the distant future, it can be here any minute. It's a draining experience but my husband said thankyou at every chance he got and that really got me though it.

My advice if medical issues come up for you or a family member: as soon as a problem starts, get a 3 ring binder and 3 hole puncher, put all medical paperwork form doc visits, prescription info, bills, and insurance paperwork in it. As soon as something comes in the mail, stick it in there. Don't even worry about being neat just put it in there. You will be so happy when things are organized when problems come up and when that surprise ER trip comes up just grab it and go.

Posted by: susiem627 | August 15, 2007 11:42 AM

REgarding assisted suicide, it seems if there were anyone that would be in favor of it it would have been my grandfather. Complete atheist and he never wanted to be a burden to anyone-- but in the end, the will to live is INCREDIBLY strong. He struggled to live like you wouldn't believe, even though I know he HATED being a burden. But to keep going to see one more day, to dream one more dream at night-- it was a driving force to live that set aside all concerns that it was a burden to my grandmother.

The problem is that you can sign all sorts of papers saying that you would never want to be resusitated, etc. but the fact is that when you are actually in the situation, just as the strength to help you can be somehow found by your loved ones to care for you, so can you be overwhelmed by a will to live, regardless of your circumstances. All those beliefs you had that you could never live with x condition (unable to talk, to walk, incontinent, etc.) just go away in the face of your will to continue on, to see what else life has to offer. Even if assisted suicide were an option, I doubt that many people would want to use it. Just human nature. Better to focus on pallative care for the one who is dying and on providing relief to the caretakers.

Posted by: baby-work | August 15, 2007 11:43 AM

«My maternal grandfather cared for my grandmother the last five years of her life, as she slowly died from emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses. When she became bed-ridden, he only left her twice a week: on Sunday morning, when he went to church; and on Wednesday morning, when he went shopping.»
«He said it was what he had learned growing up in Mexico: you take care of your family.»
«Posted by: ArmyBrat | August 15, 2007 08:14 AM »

«While my grandmother cared for my grandfather during a long illness, she wasn't able to visit any of her children or grandchildren who lived across the country. The children and grandchildren came out once a year, but that was it. She really wanted to just escape for a weekend, buy a plane ticket and come out, but she felt she just couldn't do it because the risk her beloved would hurt himself or pass away while she was gone was too high.»
«Posted by: baby-work | August 15, 2007 09:27 AM »

Sundown, there is no sundown in Alaska, Finland, Greenland this time of year. Alzheimer's disease, people get sick with it, many times even in D. C. area, there is no sundown for them, they stay up all night, they have needs for care. Grandfather, not only he cannot leave her alone except for church and shopping, he must get up many times at night because Grandmother, she has no sundown. A rest, who will give it to Grandfather? Grandfather Mehmet, he is married to Grandmother Aisha and Grandmother Zainab, then Grandmother Aisha, she gets Alzheimer's disease, she has no sundown, Grandfather Mehmet can sleep days or shop or say prayers at masjid while Grandmother Zainab, she cares for Grandmother Aisha's needs, then after sundown, Grandfather Mehmet cares for Grandmother Aisha's needs while Grandmother Zainab can sleep. Grandmother Zainab, she is able to visit any of her children or grandchildren who live across the seas, because Grandfather Mehmet, he is there at home to care for Grandmother Aisha's needs. «One man, one woman»? When your spouse gets old and needs care around the clock, maybe you will wish there were a third spouse at home to give care, to give you a rest.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | August 15, 2007 11:54 AM

"it was a driving force to live that set aside all concerns that it was a burden to my grandmother."

Please ignore this. I totally misspoke (mis-wrote?). The will to live is VERY strong. The desire to not be a burden is also very strong-- the one doesn't cause the other to be "set aside"-- it just tips the balance. Although I suppose it was a hardship to our entire family that the will to live constantly outweighed the desire to not be a burden, I would not have wanted it any other way. who wants to go quietly into "that good night"?

Posted by: baby-work | August 15, 2007 11:54 AM

"When your spouse gets old and needs care around the clock, maybe you will wish there were a third spouse at home to give care, to give you a rest."

Not me, Abu. That's what nursing homes are for.

Posted by: hillary1 | August 15, 2007 11:58 AM

"As a younger caregiver myself, I'd love to hear more about caregivers who are not at retirement age caring for an elderly spouse or parent. I think people forget that they can be in the position of caregiver tomorrow."

Don't forget that many of the younger caretakers are also trying to raise their children, too. Isn't the term "the sandwich generation"? Or does that apply to people with grown kids?

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Don't forget that many of the younger caretakers are also trying to raise their children, too. Isn't the term "the sandwich generation"? Or does that apply to people with grown kids?

That is a good point. I may be flamed for this but I think your first priority has to be the kids. They need parents, they have their whole life ahead of them and elderly parents have options, where kids don't. I would NOT want my kids to have to arrange their lives to care for me at the expense of my grandkids. I will have lived my life and they deserve to live theirs.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 12:06 PM

"My sister was put in the awful position, at 15, of caring for my mother who was dying of breast cancer while my father was at work and I was at college--mostly because my mother didn't want anyone (including me) to know how sick she was and refused to let my father and sister ask anyone for help. It has been 13 years and my sister is still recovering from the trauma that caused her. There are so many resources that can help, be it Visiting Nurses or just FRIENDS, and my sister denied herself the benefit of all of that at my mother's insistence."

Teaspoon,

It sounds as though you are blaming your sister for this situation. She was 15. I think the person who should shoulder the burden of blame is your father. He was the adult, the parent, the spouse. He sounds irresponsible and she sounds traumatized.

Which may be a completely inaccurate interpretation on my part.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 12:13 PM

The Post ate my post.

"How do you see the light at the end of the caregiving tunnel when death comes slowly?"

You need to take care of yourself first to take care of others. If all you think about is the other's medical condition, you will isolate yourself from the rest of the world. Find what comforts you (prayer, walks, relief, etc.). Ask for help.

btw... individuals are only on the hook of their own expectations. Your best is good enough.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | August 15, 2007 12:15 PM

abu_ibrahim

What if all your wives get sick at once? Just wondering?

Posted by: Irishgirl74 | August 15, 2007 12:17 PM

young caregiver here again. We do not have kids. Maybe later depending on my husbands health. Now that he is well agian life is great and we are happy to enjoy our time together. I cannot even imagine what I'd do if I had a baby and a very ill husband at the same time. My family would always help out, I know that. Right now, I am thankful for what I have and I don't want to make it more complicated.

Posted by: susiem627 | August 15, 2007 12:17 PM

My husband, daughter and I have come through nine years of caregiving for parents/grandparents. These were hard years that tested our creativity. Two years ago, after losing two fathers who had been living under our roof, the time came when we no longer had enough skill to care at home for a grandma dying slowly from chronic lung disease. Initially, she went into assisted living but the last year of her life was spent in nursing care. The social life she had in both places -- and daily visits from family --made these years happy ones for her. The peace that comes from knowing that is worth all the effort. It's only fair to acknowledge, though, that friends, neighbors and a caring church family were the source of our perseverance. The job would have been impossible without their love and encouragement.

Posted by: carolmfrey | August 15, 2007 12:20 PM

So many good suggestions already on this topic. The best overarching action that my parents took was the preparation of the will, living will and power of attorney. It made their lives easier and it certainly made my life easier as the executor of the estate. Even though I am young (at 55 now) Frieda and I have these legal documents prepared and executed.

My sainted mother died peacefully in her sleep, very shocking to us but in the long run, much easier on us.

My father died a slow death from Alzheimer's and heart problems. I cannot conceive of any more relentless torture than to know you have this disease. In the early stage, he would be there sometimes and other times he was "checked out." On the lucid days, he would asked what happened to yesterday? We would tell him that the disease taken over him that day. This is from a man who helped put men on the moon. Can you imagine the anguish that he had on the good days knowing what was inevitable for him?

In the final stage, he was completely out of it. Can you imagine the pain that my SIL had when she told him it was bath time? He went into the shower, with all his clothes on and then asked her, "What should I do next?

I was very fortunate that my SIL wanted to take care of him. She also had enough experience as a nurse's assistant and a paramedic to do this. The biggest thing is that she had the desire and temperament to do so. Nonetheless, SIL and brother received help from the local Alzheimer's society, the local hospice and a very understanding family doctor.

To Leslie (and others out there) I understand that you say you don't know if you have the strength to deal with total health care of a spouse, child or parent. You do have the strength to do this. If you have to do this long term, you may also come to a point in which your strength tells you that you must pass the care onto others. Do this without guilt. Realize as I did, that you may not be best suited by temperament, training or desire to personally take care of your parents. But find someone who will.

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 12:21 PM

"I cannot even imagine what I'd do if I had a baby and a very ill husband at the same time. My family would always help out, I know that."

BTDT and it's still exhausting and you can burn out. My family was and is very helpful, but it can still wear you down. Even with limits in place you "enjoy" a lot of anger, aggression and guilt-tripping on the part of the ill person. (Fear, obligation and guilt [FOG] are powerful ways to control other people, but not HEALTHY ones.)

I'm glad you aren't in the midst of that, too! I also hope your husband continues to enjoy good health. And yourself, of course.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 12:23 PM

I may be flamed for this but I think your first priority has to be the kids. They need parents, they have their whole life ahead of them and elderly parents have options, where kids don't. I would NOT want my kids to have to arrange their lives to care for me at the expense of my grandkids. I will have lived my life and they deserve to live theirs.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 12:06 PM

pATRICK, I agree, in principal. Not to drop a pun into a serious conversation, but if balance is possible, it should be sought. There's no reason why a family who wants to do so can't make it a family priority to visit Grandma every Sunday, whether or not it's what an 8-year old wants to do. That's an entirely different burden than providing 24-7 care for Grandma in our house, swallowing up all other family needs and goals. In my opinion, and acknowledging that some parents commit acts that eradicate this duty, most of us have a duty to do the best we can by our parents as they age. That best should not come at the cost of our children, and that best should be determined by the scope of our capacity and capabilities. I seek to balance my duty to my parents with my duty to my children to the extent they can be balanced and can co-exist. If I had to choose, I agree that the kids' needs win hands-down.

On the policy front, it's equally a mistake to prioritize our elders over our children. When my WWII veteran dad initially expressed this viewpoint, I disagreed because it struck me as disrespectful to those who have given their all. But we prioritize the past over the future to our peril.

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | August 15, 2007 12:33 PM

"We made a three hour drive every single SUnday to visit my elderly grandmother and take her grocery shopping. Sometimes we would also take her for a Sunday drive, so most of my childhood weekends were spent in the car. Saturdays were reserved for visiting my mother's aging parents in a nursing home.

Somehow or other, there wasn't a lot of time to take us to the park, or on a regular family vacation. And sometimes we would fill up Grandma's freezer and then come home to a house where our own fridge was empty since my mom had no time to do our grocery shopping."

MN,

Did you have this posting by "justlurking" in mind when you were posting? I know it's one I thought of right away. That family sounds as though it got a bit wobbly. So to speak.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 12:45 PM

MN

"We made a three hour drive every single SUnday to visit my elderly grandmother and take her grocery shopping. Sometimes we would also take her for a Sunday drive, so most of my childhood weekends were spent in the car. Saturdays were reserved for visiting my mother's aging parents in a nursing home.

Somehow or other, there wasn't a lot of time to take us to the park, or on a regular family vacation. And sometimes we would fill up Grandma's freezer and then come home to a house where our own fridge was empty since my mom had no time to do our grocery shopping."

Sounds like heaven compared to my childhood. You had a mother AND a father AND a car??!!! And a friggin' fridge?!

Posted by: hillary1 | August 15, 2007 12:49 PM

I agree with those who say that sometimes caregivers give so much to the dependent person that those around them suffer from lack of attention and time with that person. I've found that in my life with my mother, who has been a caregiver since I was 5. Mom is currently caring for my grandmother, and by the time grandma is gone, I suspect my mother will be too old herself to travel with me as we have sometimes planned. I'm sad about this but in some ways I feel she has imprisoned herself in the caregiver mentality and it makes me angry.

Posted by: red_hawk1968 | August 15, 2007 1:06 PM

"We made a three hour drive every single SUnday to visit my elderly grandmother and take her grocery shopping. Sometimes we would also take her for a Sunday drive, so most of my childhood weekends were spent in the car. Saturdays were reserved for visiting my mother's aging parents in a nursing home.

Somehow or other, there wasn't a lot of time to take us to the park, or on a regular family vacation. And sometimes we would fill up Grandma's freezer and then come home to a house where our own fridge was empty since my mom had no time to do our grocery shopping."

MN,

Did you have this posting by "justlurking" in mind when you were posting? I know it's one I thought of right away. That family sounds as though it got a bit wobbly. So to speak.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 12:45 PM

I did. To me the problem with justlurking's story is the no vacations, no trips to the park, part of the story. A standing Sunday OR Saturday commitment, without other burdens, shouldn't have necessarily eliminated all other family activities. Even an every Saturday visit doesn't have to be a 6 hour commitment. Why didn't her dad go to the grocery store? I accept justlurking's story as her story, and wonder why her parents didn't seek better balance in the interest of their primary family. We don't know, of course.

On the other hand, I know many families who have a standing Sunday commitment to go over to grandparents' or aunts' homes after church for the afternoon. I also have two close friends who visited grandparents at nursing homes every single Sunday. They otherwise had full family lives. Raising your kids with a comfort level with the elderly, with a realistic view of what being old CAN mean, e.g., physical and mental limitations, with a sense of duty to ones' elders -- those are important values to me. I respect and understand that not everyone agrees, or has the resources, capacity or ability to make choices that accommodate the needs of both generations.

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | August 15, 2007 1:07 PM

I dread the day when my husband and I will have to care for our aging parents, but we will certainly do everything we can. I love them the way they are now. It's too bad they can't stay that way :)

I think that my husband and I will have to be the primary caregivers because our siblings plan on having kids. Which is fine. We'll have a lot more time and resources to contribute, and we will probably do a better job because of that.

Posted by: Meesh | August 15, 2007 1:09 PM

After my mother-in-law died, my father-in-law was really unable to care for himself. He was sharp as a tack, but after several hip and knee surgeries he was not very mobile at 88. Additionally, he had never cooked a meal for himself, done his own laundry, etc. We have a basement apartment in our home in Takoma Park and wanted him to come live with us. He refused. We drove to NY ever weekend to do his laundry, mow the grass, grocery shop, prepare a week of meals, etc. The neighbors, who checked in on him, called us constantly insisting he should not live alone. They were very rude and insinuated that we did not care about him enough to take care of him properly. We tried to hire a nurse, but he wouldn't hear of a "stranger" in his home. We did pay a car service to be available to take him to doctors' appointments or for errands during the week. That is all the help he would allow. We consulted his doctor for advice, who told us we would have to have him declared incompetent to make his own decisions about his health to force him into assisted living or to come live with us. It was a tough road. He passed away a few years ago, in his home. He was a really wonderful man, a decorated WWII veteran, and great father. But I wish, even now, that he had let us help him more. But in the end, he got his wish. He passed away in his own home.

Posted by: CAC2 | August 15, 2007 1:12 PM

Off-topic rant:

I do not EVER AGAIN want to walk into a restroom and hear a guy in one of the stalls having a conversation with his wife ON SPEAKER PHONE! Repeat after me: TOO MUCH INFORMATION! TMI! TMI!

Apologies for the off-topic rant, but I really did have to vent.

Having achieved some sort of balance, we now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | August 15, 2007 1:19 PM

Army Brat

Off-topic rant:

"I do not EVER AGAIN want to walk into a restroom and hear a guy in one of the stalls having a conversation with his wife ON SPEAKER PHONE! Repeat after me: TOO MUCH INFORMATION! TMI! TMI!"

You may find a married dude's conversation with his mistress a lot more interesting...

Posted by: hillary1 | August 15, 2007 1:24 PM

«What if all your wives get sick at once? Just wondering?»
»Posted by: Irishgirl74 | August 15, 2007 12:17 PM»

O Lady, this is a good question. The husband, if he has not the resources to provide enough to more than one wife, Islam does not allow him to marry more than one wife. The Qur'an, Sura 4, Verse 3, there it says,

«Marry such as you please, of other women, by twos, threes and fours; but if you apprehend that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then marry one only.»

If he has the resources, he still has to «deal justly with them», this means he must care for them equally, spend equal time with each wife. Old and sick, when they are old and sick he must care for all of them. Western system, «one man, one woman», means «one man one woman at a time». The man gets tired of her, he divorces her, serial monogamy, maybe he cares for his last (second or third or fourth) wife when they are both old, meanwhile his ex-wives get old alone, who will care for them? Especially, Western system, rubber prophylactics, pills, RU-486, few children or maybe just one «quality» child, children move far away from old, sick ex-wives, these ex-wives, their last days they spend watching television and eating gruel in a nursing home and waiting for their turn for the one attendant for 50 patients on the floor to change their diapers. It takes a family to care for old people, you make family unimportant, individual pleasure comes first, you get old and eat gruel. Your trophy wife, when you get old she will put you in the nursing home to eat gruel.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | August 15, 2007 1:25 PM

Off Topic
(Person who needs a Clue about Life Division)

WASHINGTON - A judge who lost a $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner over a missing pair of pants continues to press his suit.

Roy Pearson, a District of Columbia administrative law judge, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday.


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20269454/?GT1=10252

Pearson, you LOST, you had your day in court. GIVE it UP!

(I cannot believe this guy!)

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 1:31 PM

Your trophy wife, when you get old she will put you in the nursing home to eat gruel.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim |

It's worth it, Abu. If you ever had a trophy wife, you would understand.

But there are also many children who stick their aged parents in nursing homes to eat gruel and rarely visit.

Posted by: hillary1 | August 15, 2007 1:31 PM

CAC2 -- What a moving story.

It seems to me that just when you've lived long enough to get life kind of figured out, your body starts to fail you in completely unexpected ways and then that's your big challenge -- how to decline and fail and eventually die in your own way. Depressing and unfair. Makes life's challenges so far seem like a cake walk.

Posted by: leslie4 | August 15, 2007 1:42 PM

But there are also many children who stick their aged parents in nursing homes to eat gruel and rarely visit.

Posted by: hillary | August 15, 2007 01:31 PM

There are also many aged parents who outlive their children, ex-spouses, all other relatives and end up in nursing homes to eat gruel. If you are counting on someone else to take care of you, you are ignoring the risk that life happens and you might get screwed.

Purchase good long-term care insurance. Execute appropriate legal documents. Hope for the best. Don't assume someone else will be taking care of you, although it's nice if it happens.

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | August 15, 2007 1:45 PM

MN,

"There are also many aged parents who outlive their children, ex-spouses, all other relatives and end up in nursing homes to eat gruel. If you are counting on someone else to take care of you, you are ignoring the risk that life happens and you might get screwed.

Purchase good long-term care insurance. Execute appropriate legal documents. Hope for the best. Don't assume someone else will be taking care of you, although it's nice if it happens"

Too balanced. Knock it off!

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 2:10 PM

Relevant to today's discussion, there's an article on the NYTimes website about organizations of residents trying to make neighborhoods more livable for the elderly by finding ways to bring in services to help them with transportation, maintenance etc - it looked pretty interesting and also had information for a lot of resources on the topic.

I agree that this is a great column Leslie. My husband is older than I am and I thought about the issue of caring for him in old age when our relationship got serious. I can only hope that I will have the strength that you cousin did, or the wisdom to find help if I don't.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 2:18 PM

Here is another angle. People married to people older than themselves. My dad is 79 and my mom is 64, they are effectively in two generations, elderly and senior citizen. The difference in the two is quite remarkable.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 2:39 PM

LizaBean - I saw that article too and was inspired. Our baby boomers come up with so many innovations, they're even improving the experience of getting old and feeble.

Posted by: leslie4 | August 15, 2007 2:40 PM

Suicide = no insurance payout. You'll have to get assisted suicide added as OK to your policy. Ya, right.

I have an off-topic rant as well, but I'll keep it in my head and put this up. Very sad, very lame, very disappointing.
See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/15/AR2007081501240.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: atb2 | August 15, 2007 2:42 PM

Leslie, I thought it was really inspiring too - it's great to see people coming up with those sorts of solutions.

Patrick, how has that worked out for your parents? That's pretty much where my husband and I will be (assuming we live to those ripe old ages and don't get hit by the proverbial bus) - he is 15 years older than I am, which right now is not a big deal, but the difference between 65 and 80 seems much more pronounced.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 2:43 PM

Leslie wrote: "they're even improving the experience of getting old and feeble."

I read the NYT article too. But Leslie, your comment's the biggest load of ageism I've read in a long time. Next time make sure brain is engaged before putting typing fingers in gear.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 2:43 PM

Suicide = no insurance payout

not true, insurance pays for suicide aftwer 2 years of premium payments.

LIZABEAN, frankly it doesn't. They are at two different places, the age difference is pronounced on many levels, socially, physically, mentally and tempermentally. I hope it is different for you. It is similar to having a parent and grandparent as your parents.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 2:48 PM

"Suicide = no insurance payout

not true, insurance pays for suicide aftwer 2 years of premium payments."

Actually it depends on the policy. I know mine will pay after 2 years. (no i don't have my policy with me I just remember the salesman pointing it out)

Posted by: mom_of_1 | August 15, 2007 2:57 PM

Lizabean,

I understand--I am 18 years younger than my husband, and we've been married 19 years. We both have long-term care insurance.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 2:59 PM

mehitabel - i was being cynical about the old and feeble part.

but not about baby boomers making many things better for younger people.

what's your beef?

Posted by: leslie4 | August 15, 2007 3:13 PM

Leslie, my concern was that your choice of words was disrespectful.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:15 PM

The most popular TV show of nursing home residents (who are not gaga) is Murder, She Wrote:

Murder, She Wrote

In the first quarter of the show, we meet the cast of characters. These always include one "bad" person hated by many, and one friend (or relative or other acquaintance) of Jessica. At 8:14PM Jessica's friend says, very publicly, to the "bad" person, "I'm going to kill you."

The second quarter's events must be watched closely, because we all know that at 8:29PM the "bad" person will be found dead.

The third quarter has some potential for variation. Usually the cops dismiss Jessica as an old busybody, but occasionally they listen to her. Either way, by 8:44PM Jessica's friend has been arrested.

Now for the exciting conclusion. At 8:51PM Jessica suddenly realizes who the real killer is. At 8:55PM the killer has fallen for Jessica's trap and confesses everything. The real killer is the peripheral character that had about 53 seconds of screen time before being trapped. At 8:58PM Jessica has the final conversation with her friend.
_________________________________________
From IMDB

Posted by: hillary1 | August 15, 2007 3:19 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 03:15 PM

BTW How's Archy?

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 3:20 PM

archy's off having some flan, without us *sniff*

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:23 PM

For those of us who just missed the baby boom, the boomers will make inroads in elder care (both the caring of aged parents and being cared for themselves),that I think will benefit those of us after the boom.

We may be called Gen X-ers, but we don't lack personality, we're just overshadowed by the bigger generation. I think we'll also benefit from them, too.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 3:26 PM

Skybluescottie, thanks (love the handle). Long term care insurance is something we have been remiss about - we are still getting a lot of things in order that we should have done a long time ago, including our insurance. Are you two at the point where the age difference has become an issue (if you don't mind sharing)?

Patrick, sorry to hear about your parents' experience.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 3:28 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 03:23 PM

Darn that little roach.........

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 3:28 PM

Murder She Wrote and Matlock!

Sainted Mother never minded reading Agatha Christie (sp) again and again. She would say, I have probably read this one but I forgot the plot so I will read it again!

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 3:31 PM

Suicide = no insurance payout

not true, insurance pays for suicide aftwer 2 years of premium payments.

Varies from policy-to-policy. Ours will pay in the event of suicide.

Posted by: maryland_mother | August 15, 2007 3:32 PM

patrick, don marquis made me do it. signed, archy.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:32 PM

Cabot Cove, Maine: Murder capital of the US.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:34 PM

Hiya Lizabean,

Thanks for the kindwords.

No worries, glad to share.

Not yet--but I think I see clues of things to come--we don't keep up the pace we used to. We could go to Williamsburg (or even museums in downtown)that involve a lot of walking and go 4-5 hours without taking much of a break, but lately he'd like to rest after about 2. So we rest. It usually involves only half an hour or so, and then he's ready to go again. (By the way, I've never dragged him around, he's always been quite willing to go-go-go, but he's slowing a little these days). Some people might say that you don't have to be older to not want to keep the pace we used to keep!

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 3:36 PM

My mom used to love Murder, She Wrote too. I remember watching it with her as a kid. She is still an avid reader of mysteries but I do not believe she reads them more than once.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 3:36 PM

Cabot Cove, Maine: Percentage of murders solved: 100%

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 3:37 PM

Cabot Cove, Maine: Percentage of murder victims brought back to life: zero.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:43 PM

Cabot Cove, Maine: Percentage of murders solved: 100%.

But the real question is, Why didn't this lower the subsequent murder rate?

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 3:45 PM

Thanks for sharing Skyebloescottie - definitely true about having to be older to want to slow down! Do you guys have kids? My husband is an amazing father to our son (he's two now), but I think he worries it will be a problem later. He is fond of making jokes about needing a walker when he takes our son out fishing or tries to teach him to ride a bike.

I don't really think about it a lot right now, other than trying to keep us moving toward getting our insurance set up and our retirement in good shape but every now and then something like this will come along and make me wonder how it will all play out.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 3:46 PM

My mom had the complete paperback collection of Agatha Christie's mysteries. After I'd tired of Nancy Drew (at about age 10) she let me start her Agatha Christie collection.

The British Museum did the best exhibit about 4-5 years ago, that I've ever seen on Agatha Christie's life and marriage to Max Mallowan (he was her seond husband), the archeologist. The reason that she has so much local flavor in stories like "Murder in Mesopotamia" is because she was there with him on archeological digs. Check out the book "Agatha Christie and Archaeology" which I think was indeed published by the British Museum

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 3:46 PM

sorry, meant true about NOT having to be older. I find myself wanting to slow down some things right now just to enjoy the place where we are.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 3:50 PM

But the real question is, Why didn't this lower the subsequent murder rate?


Tourists! They will ruin a town anytime!

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 3:52 PM

Lizabean,

I do understand exactly his and your concerns. It's great that your husband is so good with your son!

I think, ultimately (and it's easy to be an armchair philosopher) that nothing is guaranteed (Megan's neighbor said this earlier in a different context), so you have to make do with what you have. If your husband has to slow down a little, that's okay!

No, we don't have any children, which slightly saddens us both. We are, I think, a super aunt and uncle to our nieces and nephews, though. By the time I'd finished grad school, had 2-3 years in my career field that I'd worked hard to learn, and was ready to have children, the age difference really did get to be too great. He is daunted by the idea of having a child graduate from college when he is 75-80.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 3:53 PM

Well, it's funny no one ever figured it out - the one thing all the murders had in common was:

Jessica.

Anyway, my grandmother loves the Golden Girls...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 15, 2007 4:00 PM

But the real question is, Why didn't this lower the subsequent murder rate?


Tourists! They will ruin a town anytime!

Posted by: Fred | August 15, 2007 03:52 PM

My mother was a huge fan of this show when it was on originally (I guess she watches the reruns). Did you notice that Jessica had to start traveling -- probably because there was nobody left to bump off in Cabot Cove?

Posted by: educmom_615 | August 15, 2007 4:02 PM

Anyway, my grandmother loves the Golden Girls...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 15, 2007 04:00 PM

This reminds me of the YANNI albums, "millions sold" but I never met anyone who would admit buying one............

Posted by: pATRICK | August 15, 2007 4:02 PM

Maybe Sherlock Holmes was actually Jack the Ripper.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 4:05 PM

Skyebluescottie, I agree with you wholeheartedly - appreciate what you have while you've got it. I understand about the kids too. While my husband is a fantastic father and glad to be one, I know he would not want to have another one now for similar reasons. I am sure that your neices and nephews are very lucky to have you two.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 4:08 PM

skyebluescottie wrote: "He is daunted by the idea of having a child graduate from college when he is 75-80."

I would never presume to say what's right for you and your husband. However, as a general life strategy one might want to proceed on the assumption that, barring untimely death, one will reach a certain age regardless of which path one takes in life -- then base your decision at least in part upon which outcome you'd rather have at that point. Such analysis is what led me to decide to return to school after many years, and now I'm so glad I did. YMMV.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 4:10 PM

Didn't someone recently (within the last few years) come up with a pretty plausible solution to the Jack the Ripper mystery? I think it was Patricia Cornwell.

Posted by: educmom_615 | August 15, 2007 4:12 PM

A relative of mine committed suicide after a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Some years later I can sympathize because it would have been a suffocating death. At the time it was awful. He just did it with hardly any goodbyes. Most things were in order, but he'd been caring for his own spouse in some ways that nobody knew about until she started having problems. It left a lot of things unsaid.

It's hard to know what is the easiest or best way.

I have a standing Sunday commitment to an aging parent that my teens don't always accompany me to. I've shuffled my schedule around a bit to accommodate it.

I had some Sunday things I was doing more out of duty than genuine like, and I've quit those for now because I think it's important to spend the time with my relative who is in a nursing home. I wasn't a SuperMom and I'm not going to be a SuperCareGiver either. So dropping things that aren't high priorities is something I do without regret.

One thing I'll say is that I have a commitment to monitoring my own health. When you watch someone suffer the effects of high blood pressure and blood lipids then you know why your physician is always harping on those things!

Posted by: RedBird27 | August 15, 2007 4:13 PM

However, as a general life strategy one might want to proceed on the assumption that, barring untimely death, one will reach a certain age regardless of which path one takes in life -- then base your decision at least in part upon which outcome you'd rather have at that point.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 04:10 PM

Or, as Dear Abby said, when someone wrote to her about how long it would take to go back to school, and how old she would be, answered with: Well, you'll be 40 in seven years if you DON'T go back to school!

Posted by: educmom_615 | August 15, 2007 4:17 PM

Yeah, my aunt is going through a lot caring for my grandmother (my mom passed away years ago, so she's the only child left to take care of her). And we have some issues (we finally put her in a nursing facility). And I know it's tough on my aunt. However, we discuss things such as how maybe as she ages, she will understand a little and hopefully (if she is capable) be a little more sympathetic to her children trying to help her.

We'll see how it goes. It's definitely tough.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 15, 2007 4:56 PM

Hi mehitabel, edcmom, and all--

Probably not any way to gently say this,especially on this blog, which I do follow, but....being a cancer survivor as my husband is,and being older, he is not certain how long he does have (he's in remission), and babies and diapers at this stage are not really his cup of tea right now.

I'm with educmom though on most points--you're going to be 40 (or 50 or 60) no matter what you do, so if you want to do something, do it, carpe diem,etc. etc.!

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 4:59 PM

While I agree with pATRICK (and others) who feel that the children should be the recipients of the majority of the care I think that they will learn a lot by seeing the love, concern and care you give an aging relative. Remember, they will be responsible for you someday :-)

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | August 15, 2007 5:11 PM

KLB_SS_MD

Without sounding trite, it's all about balance, isn't it?

We're looking after my parents a little more than we used to, and helping nieces/nephews, too. Not exactly the sandwich generation, but we're family. We try to help my parents, and alos contribute to college funds of the nieces and nephews.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | August 15, 2007 5:35 PM

Skyebluescottie,

Sounds like you and your husband know a thing or two both about balance and seizing the day - it's been great to have your contributions today.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 15, 2007 5:46 PM

Skyebluescottie,

Sorry I had to wander offline for a few hours. I second everything LizaBean said. My best wishes for good health and happiness to you and your husband, and the rest of your family.

Posted by: mehitabel | August 15, 2007 8:31 PM

If you want to kill yourself, why do you have to involve others.
Go buy a gun while you are moble, when the time is right, put it in your mouth and pull the trigger. You will not feel anything. The mess will be someone elses problem, but if you go outside first, they can use a hose.
Assisted just allows you to transfer the decision to someone else. If you want/need to die, just do it.

Posted by: harris_kern | August 16, 2007 1:05 PM

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