I did not take care of my own aging parents.
We were very lucky. Had a team of the most wonderful women, who took 24/7 shifts for years in my parents' home. Linda was in charge. She ran a tight ship. She is a CNA, and made sure things were done right.
One of my brothers went by every day. I visited as much as I could since I lived in another city.
My parents had the financial means for this to occur.
Neither of my parents had significant dementia.
Most families have to count on each other. If that's not possible, assisted living accommodations or nursing homes.
The first book I remember reading about caring for someone with dementia was "The 36 Hour Day." Originally written in 1981, it is still hailed as the best book for people who are choosing to take care of their loved ones with Alzheimer's.
Now there is another.
Several years ago, author Cathy Sikorski volunteered to help her mother out. Her mom needed a break from caring for Cathy's beloved grandmother, Nana, who was suffering with Alzheimer's. The disease was not severe enough that Nana did not know anyone. But bad enough to need daily care and attention.
I met Cathy for the first time recently at a conference. We were talking books. A new book that I was writing the epilogue for was stressing the importance of laughter in dealing with mental illness. And she had written a book about her first few months caring for her grandmother. "Showering With Nana: Confessions Of A Serial (killer) Caregiver". A loving book. A funny book. A book that is brutally honest about what is really involved. A brass tacks kind of book. It was being published very soon.
That's when she asked me to do a "blurb".
I tried not to look confused. I agreed (it seemed to be something I should agree to...) and asked her to send the book to me.
I had to look up what a blurb was. "A brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket".
Ah! Lights came on. I had never been asked to do that before.
Then I realized.... Horror, what had I done? What if I didn't like the book?
Well, not only did I like the book, I loved the book. I couldn't sleep one night and literally, read it from cover to cover. From 2:00 am to 4:00 am. Laughing. Misting up from time to time.
Being 60 and reading a book like this is very different that when I was 30 and read "The 36 Hour Day". Because now I can put myself in all three places. In Cathy's. In her mother's. And in Nana's. All their difficulties hit very close to home. It was a little disconcerting to realize in such a real way what can happen.
The book is divided into descriptions of different days. The routine. The near catastrophic. The poignant. And how her then 2-year-old daughter and her grandmother established a strange bond.
Nana would at times have what we shall call severe gastrointestinal issues. Which Ms. Sikorski bluntly lets us know is no walk in the park when you are the caregiver. Here's a quote which describes when a doctor comes to the house to offer Nana medication.
"What seems to be the problem?", he asked.
I thought, "What? You can't smell the problem?"
However, I maintained my composure, in light of the miracle that there was a doctor in my house.
"I believe it might be her diverticulitis."
"Well, let's go see the patient."
"Hello, Margaret. I'm Dr. Keene. How are you?"
"I beshit myself".
By the way, I really hate when doctors call themselves "Dr. So-and-So" and believe they can refer to a 92-year-old lady by her first name. What happened to respect?.... This guy wasn't even born when my grandmother, MRS. REPKO, was working her tail off during the Depression to keep food in the mouths of her four children. So what the hell, nana, talk "shit" with this doctor all you want.
There are scenes delightfully depicted just like this one on every page. The book is a moving tribute to watching someone you love grow older and less "like themselves", while at the same time gently urging us all to consider that, although difficult, being their caregiver is more than worthwhile.
Note: Dr. Rutherford has not been paid or solicited for this post.
You can read more of Dr. Margaret at http://drmargaretrutherford.com. Also available for free by subscribing, her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on how to choose a potential therapist or evaluate your current one.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began blogging in 2012 after her only son left for college, coining the term "NestAche" for her empty nest experience. Not only here on Boomeon, she has been featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, BlogHer, Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet and ArkansasWomenBloggers. Her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on choosing a therapist or evaluating your current therapy, is available for free on her website. You can find her at DrMargaretRutherford.com or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.
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