Since writing Part 1 the other day, I had a conversation with someone who asked what I planned to do in the long run with respect to Kate’s care. I told him that was a good question and gave him the following answer.
My desire has been and still is to keep her at home. There are several things that have influenced me to feel that way. First and foremost is the fact that three of our four parents remained at home. After Kate’s father had a stroke, he required round-the-clock care. Kate’s mother learned of someone who could move into their home and provide that care. Her father only lived four months after the stroke. That arrangement worked well. Her mother had a series of TIAs that led to vascular dementia. That also led to the need for 24/7 care. Through their mother’s friends, Kate and her brother, located someone who moved in with her and supervised three shifts of people who provided the needed care. After a year or two, the friend who had moved in to serve as a supervisor had her own health issues. That is when Kate and I brought her to Knoxville to live with us. She lived with us five years and three months with round-the-clock care provided by shifts of CNAs we engaged through an agency.
During this same period of time, my mother was diagnosed with dementia. My dad did not have the same financial resources as Kate’s parents, nor did he have the inclination to have help in their apartment. My brother and I tried any number of times to engage in-home care or to move them to an assisted living facility. Dad tried in-home care but didn’t like it. He ended up caring for my mother at home the entire time. The only help he did accept was an adult day care center. He dropped Mom off every Wednesday morning so that he could attend his Kiwanis meeting and shop for groceries. I regularly brought in meals the last year or two. Before that Dad shopped and cooked on his own. I have a new-found respect for him now. He said next to nothing about any problems he had taking care of her. I was able, however, to observe the toll it took on him. I was quite relieved to discover that he bounced back after her death. He even had a significant other who developed vascular dementia and cared for her until her death. Dad lived 11 years after my mom died and 4 years after his significant other died. He was quite a man and caregiver.
With that background, I was naturally inclined to keep Kate at home. If Dad could do it, I could as well. Besides we have long-term health insurance that will cover a large portion of the financial costs. Dad didn’t.
Since Kate’s diagnosis, I have learned much more about dementia and caregiving. I’ve read a lot of books written by caregivers. I have also followed several different forums for caregivers of PWD. It has also been almost 7 years and 8 months since the diagnosis. I’ve had vastly more personal experience as a caregiver than I had with our parents. All of that gives me a better grasp of the challenges to be faced than I did before. For quite a few reasons I have mentioned previously, I’ve had the good fortune of having a load that is lighter than that of many people in my shoes.
That leads me to an important conclusion. I don’t believe there is one approach to caregiving that works for everyone. I believe that each caregiver has to assess the numerous ways to provide care. What are the pros and cons of care at home? Care at a facility of some type? Having a good idea of the options that are available will help the caregiver and family determine what is most desirable.
Then it is time to get practical. Do we have the financial resources available to have most or all of the options? (That rarely happens.) How well-suited am I to play the role of a hands-on caregiver? If I want to bring caregivers into the home, should I go through an agency or try to hire and manage caregivers? In either case, what kind of manager would I make? Am I ready to have people in the home 24 hours every day. What about my own family situation? What other responsibilities do I have? Am I employed now, or will I have to continue working to meet expenses?
Caregivers also need to be honest with themselves concerning their own personalities and those of the person needing care. Some people are natural caregivers. Others are not. Most of us fall somewhere in between. I continually ask myself the questions above. So where does that leave me? My desire has always been to keep Kate at home for the the entire time. Am I beginning to have reservations as she enters the final stages of her illness?
My current answer to those questions is that I am still optimistic about staying the course. Nothing new has happened to change my mind. On the other hand, I continue to keep all my options open. I do that because I don’t know what lies ahead. Kate has been very easy to care for up to now. Based on the experience with my mother and Kate’s mother who were also easy to care for, I believe Kate’s attitudes and behavior will continue to be very much like theirs. I should also add that I have never thought of providing all of her direct care myself. I have always intended to work through an agency who will provide 24/7 care. Thus, I am optimistic, but I believe I will always keep an open mind concerning what is best at the time.