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What I Wish I Knew: The Importance Of Having A Trusted Resource While Being A Caregiver

It’s been nearly two years since my father died, and I ceased being an active caregiver. When I look back on my own caregiving experience, there are still things that make me very sad. Yet I’ve never been able to pinpoint what it is that disturbs me so.

Until now, that is. Recently Lisa Huening of the The Shifting Path, a company in Northern California that provides guidance and coaching to caregivers, asked me to participate in an audio series she was preparing called “Things I wish I Knew.” It forced me to rethink some of the missteps I made. There were little ones in the beginning, like hiring a home health company that was not licensed to do the tasks we needed done, and a little more significant later on, such as having a bookkeeper that we knew lacked integrity but not having the courage to rock the boat, and fire her and not understanding that being angry at my father for behaviors he couldn’t help was detrimental to his health --- and mine. Even as I got smarter I still did not recognize subtle signs of both dementia progression and his body shutting down.  I wish I had.

What I realized I needed, and didn’t have, was a trusted resource--someone who could tell me if I was headed in the right---- or wrong direction, and could answer my concerns, and keep me on track, both emotionally and intellectually.  What follows is my edited recorded response to "What I Wish I Knew."

There’s no formula as to who that person can be but it should be someone who can provide some objectivity. If you’re a caregiver and live nearby and see your parents regularly- then it may be a friend who’s been through this journey, a social worker or other therapist who sees geriatric patients, or a senior advocate, who can help you plan and prepare for caregiving and navigate you to resources.  If you live far away from your parent, perhaps you can consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager, who can not only serve as an advocate but also as your eyes and ears when you cannot be there.  Perhaps is could be your parent’s physician, and if they have too many, perhaps you can find a family practitioner or a concierge physician who can serve as their quarterback with the other physicians. 

Do you have a trusted resource---someone who you can turn to for advice or as a sounding board?  Please tell us by commenting below.