Meet the Families

In CARING FOR MOM & DAD, viewers meet families experiencing the challenges and joys of caregiving. These are intimate portraits of struggling caregivers like Breanna Olson, a millennial who was forced to choose between a promising political career and moving back home to care for her parents, and Alicia Zepeda-Cervantes, a daughter thrust, almost overnight, into caregiving, who now must learn how to provide medical services that would traditionally be taken on by a nurse.

Meet each caregiver and explore their experiences.

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Anthony, Rochelle & Odester

Minneapolis, MN

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Alisa & Janet

New York, NY

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Breanna, Shanna, Chris & Brent

Minneapolis, MN


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Anthony, Rochelle & Odester

When Odester Robinson started showing signs of Alzheimer's, her middle child Anthony came to her aid. Anthony relied on his wife to care for his mother, asking her to quit her job while he increased his hours at work to make up for the lost income. His marriage strained under the pressure of caregiving, and Anthony's sister, Rochelle, stepped up to take over the care of their mother. Not long into caring for Odester, tensions escalated between Rochelle and Anthony over finances. The siblings enrolled in an a mediation program which includes assessments, education and family counseling sessions.

Rochelle PQ 1

“It’s those treasured times that outweigh those challenging moments. There is a rainbow where that storm and peace collide.”

—Rochelle

Q&A with Anthony

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Anthony

For the love of my mother. She did a wonderful job of rising her children. I feel it's my duty and responsibility to make sure she is taken care of.


CFM&D

How long have you been taking care of your mother?

Anthony

I have been doing this for the last five years.


CFM&D

What is your caregiving schedule like?

Anthony

It becomes 80 percent of your life. They become your first priority. It's like taking care of a child. The main thing is that let my mother know I love her.

“To see her go from a strong woman to a childlike mind, it was devastating to me.”

—Anthony

CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Anthony

My sister helps. We have had an issue with me wanting to control everything, but we are wonderful now and closer than ever.


CFM&D

Has caregiving affected your life?

Anthony

Yes. It takes total control of your life. Your whole being. It destroyed my family life.That's why it is so important to seek help from support groups, but it differs from person to person.


CFM&D

What is the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Anthony

The hardest part is watching a love one change from being strong to not understanding life anymore.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed your relationship with your mom?

Anthony

No. Me and my mother has always had a wonderful relationship. She tells me all the time, "Mommy knew if something ever happened to her, you would be there." I give everything in me to watch, protect, cherish, love, and honor her.

Anthony: No Longer Alone profile

Anthony: No Longer Alone

Anthony recounts how he learned to accept help after his mother's diagnosis.

Rochelle: My Little Ladies profile

Rochelle: My Little Ladies

Rochelle relies on a support group of women to help her through the challenges of caring for her mother.



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Alisa & Janet

At 100 years of age, Janet Wolfe lives alone at home in her New York City apartment. The former actress has until recently been very independent. When she took a fall at age 97, she resisted help from her two daughters, one of whom lives with her own family in the building. Alisa relies on geriatric care managers to mediate the situation between her and her mother to relieve some of the stresses of caregiving.

“I can't imagine looking back on my life not having given this to her.”

—Alisa

Q&A with Alisa

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Alisa

I don’t take care of her on my own. My sister and I have brought in aides to do mom’s day to day care, but we all work as a team. For example, my sister—who lives across the hall from Mom—will heat up and serve Mom the dinner that has been prepared by one of the aides. Or my nephews will come by and watch TV with her.


CFM&D

How long have you been taking care of your mother?

Alisa

We have had personal aides come in for several years, starting out with just a few hours a week when she was in her late 90s to now, when she is 101 and has help about 50 hours per week.


CFM&D

What is your caregiving schedule like?

Alisa

The main things I do are to supervise the caregivers, make doctor appointments, and arrange for things like new telephones and special lighting to help her read. My sister and I are still trying to get into a good schedule with regard to paying my mom’s bills, but she wants to sign all the checks and puts up a fight sometimes, so that is a bit of a challenge.


CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Alisa

Most of the actual caregiving is done by two aides. They do much of the hands on work, like helping my mom with bathing and cooking and shopping. We are looking to bring in a third aide for nighttimes.

Alisa PQ 2

“I feel guilty every time she goes to the doctor and I’m not with her. I feel guilty every time she asks me to come in and spend the night and I don’t.”

—Alisa

CFM&D

How has caregiving affected your life?

Alisa

There is always a faint worry that never goes away when you have an elderly parent. Every time the phone rings from my sister or my mother’s apartment I get nervous. Keeping on top of mom’s needs and increasing fragility is tough emotionally and also just in terms of the time and attention it requires. And for the time being I am not even considering leaving the New York City area for a new job or anything. I don’t even really feel comfortable leaving town for more than a few days at a time.


CFM&D

What is the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Alisa

The hardest part is having to fight my mom to allow us to provide the care. Everything is always a struggle with her.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed you or your mom in any way?

Alisa

Caregiving hasn’t changed my mom. Age has.


CFM&D

How do your parents respond to receiving help?

Alisa

My mother hates having lost so much of her autonomy. She hates having “strangers” in her home. Once she knows someone and decides she feels safe with them, then she’s okay. But it’s hell getting her to accept new help.


CFM&D

Do you have any advice for caregivers who are just starting out?

Alisa

I absolutely recommend working with a case manager. Deb Ratner, our case manager, has been an absolute godsend. It is so important to have someone to talk to who has experience in the field.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since we filmed?

Alisa

We have increased the number of hours we have help. My mom has become more frail and a bit less active. She spends a lot of time sleeping.



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Breanna, Shanna, Chris & Brent

Within the span of a month, Chris Olson was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her husband Brent was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Soon after, Chris lost her job, which added to the Olson's financial burdens.

At the time, their daughter Breanna was in her twenties and just beginning her career in politics. She and her sister Shanna—a working mother of two—decided to put their careers on hold and move back home to take care of their parents.

Since the filming of this documentary, Brent Olson has passed away. His daughters Breanna and Shanna reflect on their experiences caring for their parents in the interview that follows.

“My mom has Alzheimer's disease and I don't know where it's gonna go and I don't know how quickly it's gonna happen. But I know I need to be there for her.”

—Breanna

Q&A with Breanna and Shanna

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Breanna

My mom gave me life, kept me safe and made sure every day was the best it could possibly be. While this disease brings so many difficult things with it, I get to give my mom some of the very same things she did me in a very literal way. Not many people can say that. I’m one of several caregivers. My dad is her primary caregiver, while me, my sister and her husband help support them both through this journey. Alzheimer’s is a family disease—we all pitch in and do the best we can.

Shanna

My dad Brent, my sister Breanna, my husband Jon, my great-grandfather Bob and I all work as a team to care for my mom, Chris. My parents had taught me at a very young age that we are all in this life together and we should always support each other with whatever challenges or joys come our way. There is no place that I would rather be than right next to the rest of my family caring for my mom, Chris.


CFM&D

How long have you been taking care of your mother?

Shanna

My mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. At that time, my husband and our newborn daughter, Marissa, were living in Madison, Wisconsin. While I like to think we have all been caring for each other for longer than her diagnosis, the true caregiver role didn’t take effect until her diagnosis. At that time, our family rallied behind my mom to make sure she knew how much we love her and how important she is in our lives. My family, husband and 2 daughters, moved to Minnesota to be closer to our families. It is the best decision we have made for our family and my parents.

Breanna

I was living in New York City at the time [that my mom was diagnosed] and moved to Washington, D.C. the following year to pursue my career goals. I moved back home to Minnesota in 2012 to better help care for her, but even more importantly, to get more time with her.


CFM&D

What is your caregiving schedule like?

Breanna

My mom is still doing very well. She lives at home with my dad and is only beginning to move into mid-stages of the disease that will begin requiring greater care. Our schedule isn’t yet dictated by the disease, though our family is bracing for the time when it is.

Shanna

I believe my family is caring for my mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While my mom doesn’t need 24-hour supervision type care yet, she does need to know that we support her and appreciate the person that she is! At this time, I feel my main thing to do as a caregiver for my mom is to make sure she continues to feel needed as a member of our family and that her input into life matters to all of us.

Shanna PQ 1

“There is no place that I would rather be than right next to the rest of my family caring for my mom, Chris.”

—Shanna

CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Shanna

Alzheimer’s disease is not one that only affects the person diagnosed with the disease; it affects all the people that are in that person’s life. That is the reason why my family works together to support and care for my mom. While my dad and mom still live in their home of 38 years, my sister and my family live nearby and my dad knows that he can call on us at any time and we will be there.

Breanna

Many say that Alzheimer’s is a family disease, meaning it directly and substantially impacts the lives of more than just the patient. My older sister moved her family—including two young daughters—from Madison, Wisconsin to Minnesota during the fall of 2014 for the same reasons I moved home two years earlier. She and I always talk about how we can best support my mom and dad through this journey. I was more mobile, having moved back on my thirtieth birthday without any kids of my own. I don’t know what I’d do without her support. Right now we help each other cope emotionally and are continually discussing ways we can be there for our mom—and also our dad as her primary caregiver.


CFM&D

How has caregiving directly affected your life?

Breanna

Having a mom with Alzheimer’s changes every aspect of my life. I view my decisions from a completely new lens. For example, I love to travel, but haven’t since 2010 so I can spend my time off with my family instead. When my mom was diagnosed in 2007, I was working in politics in New York City and had to decide my next career move. Would I move home now or did I have some time to continue pursuing my career elsewhere? What would my mom want for me? Those were serious questions I asked myself until I decided to move home five years later. Where I once stepped through an open door without hesitation, I had a new reality that closed doors.

I was offered a job at Target headquarters in Minnesota in government affairs that still allowed me to pursue career goals while also being closer to my mom. I know I’m lucky. Target and my leaders at Target offer me support and flexibility that allow me to be my best at work because I know I have options for being with my mom when she needs greater care. Without this, I’m confident I would need to make different career decisions and close another door.
I have a busy work schedule (you can tell career is a priority), which also means I have limited social time. Between career and family, I know my friendships are strained. Luckily, I have some incredible friends who are volunteering alongside me for the Alzheimer’s Association. I’m a co-chair of Blondes vs. Brunettes Twin Cities, a women’s flag football fundraiser that raises money and awareness for the disease. I’ve chosen to spend my social time in a way that marries my friendships with physical activity, and volunteerism. I have a full life and am truly blessed, but it’s fair to say that I approach anything important to me through the perspective of a caregiver.

Shanna

In every aspect of my life, caring for my mom is always present. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I think about how my mom is doing that day. When my mom was diagnosed, my husband asked when I wanted to move back to Minnesota. Hearing that from him has meant the world to me. I am very lucky to have that support behind me because in turn that supports my mom. When working with patients and their families, as their social worker, I am thinking about how my family will react if or when we are dealing with a similar situation. I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t have the love and guidance from my mom.


CFM&D

What is the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Breanna

The hardest part of caregiving, at the stage my mom is in now, is the emotional toll it takes on her and our family. I can’t imagine what she’s thinking and feeling no matter how hard I try. To be robbed of your own thoughts… I can’t imagine. I wish I could do something to change the progression of her disease.

Shanna

The hardest aspect of being a caregiver is knowing that today might be the best day I have with my mom. I know that this disease is going to take away the loving, caring, outgoing and best mom a girl could ever ask for.


CFM&D

What is the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of caregiving?

Shanna

The most fulfilling aspect of caregiving is being able to support my parents. Watching my mom with my daughters brings a smile to my face. I cherish every conversation I have with my mom and am still learning from her everyday. To this day, I rely on my mom, who was a nurse, to help me for motherly advice.

Breanna

The most rewarding part is seeing her smile on her good days. She has always smiled from her soul. That smile has inspired me to be better my entire life. When I provide her with the support she needs and see that smile, it’s everything.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed you or your mom in any way?

Breanna

This is a hard question for me because I don’t know what I would be like today if my situation were different. How could it not change her or me? When I think of qualities that define me, I’d say positivity (hopefully not to a fault) and drive. When I think about how those became my signature characteristics, my mom’s encouraging voice comes straight to mind. While I feel those remain my strengths, I see this disease taking them from her.

Shanna

I would like to believe that my family was close prior to my mom’s diagnosis; however I would have to say we are even closer now. I talk with my mom or dad every single day. I hope that in my work as a social worker, I have gained the ability to empathize with the families that I work with in difficult times. Our family is very connected with the Alzheimer’s Association and work hard to promote awareness and advocacy for those with the disease.

This disease has not taken away the person that she is, it has only robbed her of the person she wants to be. It has stolen her identity, freedom and sense of self-worth. I only hope that she knows how much I value her friendship and love for me and my family.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed your relationship with your mom?

Shanna

As I sit on the couch, typing out these answers, I have tears running down my face because talking about this is difficult. I didn’t realize at my age—mid 30s—that I would be caring for my mom. I knew that at some point in time that would be necessary, however not when I was just beginning to have a family of my own. My mom has been and will always be my inspiration. My mom strongly dislikes being the center of attention and cause for concern because she knows it’s due to her disease. I try very hard to do activities with her that I know we enjoyed when growing up.

Breanna

My sister and I have always had a close relationship with my mom. We are with her as caregivers because we wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else. Does she always accept this help? Not always. My mom can get frustrated when we offer to help her with things that she once did well and thinks she still can do at the same level. Simple tasks like cooking and cleaning can turn into moments of tension.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your mom?

Breanna

This is a double-edged sword for me. I wish I had known how much support I would receive from new friends who are facing similar caregiving situations, yet I wish none of us had this commonality. I still wish I knew how to solve for the financial questions that will soon impact a new set of decisions and how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with those conversations. I’ll never understand why dementia carries the taboo it does, but if I could recommend anything to other caregivers, it would be to talk about it. Even strangers will come forward to support you. It’s okay to talk about the disease and the hard things that come with it. You can seek support from places like the Alzheimer’s Association (in my case). They’ve been in invaluable resource for our family as we plan through the stages of the disease.

Shanna

I wish I would have known that my mom would be so isolated so early in the disease. I wish I knew how to help her continue to feel needed.

My advice for other caregivers is to remember to not make everything in your life about why you began caring for your family member. As my mom says, “I am still here!” Even though your family member may need extra support, continue to make them feel valued for the person they are and will continue to be. Take the time to research the different agencies that have resources and support groups to help you.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since we filmed you?

Breanna

I was recently promoted to my boss’s former job, and he was also promoted to lead our full team. I remain grateful to have found an employer and leader who allow me to be my career-driven, family-loving self. I also moved away from downtown Minneapolis so I can save more money that will go toward caregiving. I rent from my best friend who continues to support me and my family in the most incredible ways. My nieces are settled into Minnesota life, and I see them much more than before!

Shanna

Being 300 miles away from my parents for so long, allowed me and my husband not to realize how the disease has truly progressed. Now that I have been here for almost a year, I can see how the disease has taken a toll on my mom and dad. I don’t think I appreciated how devastating it has already been on them. That is something that I can honestly say I was not prepared for. I now feel like I am playing catch up and scrambling to try and find supports for our family to make my mom’s request of staying at home until she dies happen. That is a daunting task.


CFM&D

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Shanna

As we are caring for my mom, we are also talking to our dad on ways that he needs to care for himself. I think that it can be easily forgotten how caregivers need to take care of themselves, for example going to doctor appointments. It is important that we have people outside of our family, like our friends to help us cope with the inevitable.

Breanna

I want to thank PBS, Meryl Streep, and anyone who is taking an interest in this film. The cost of caregiving is only going up. The cost to all payers for the care of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total an estimated $226 billion in 2015. Given the current trajectory, that will crease to $1.1 trillion by 2050. Similarly, out-of-pocket costs for affected individuals and families will crease about 350% by 2050. Our aging population and the care needed to support them deserves national attention. Thank you!

Shanna: Family is Family profile

Shanna: Family is Family

Shanna talks about her decision to move home following Chris's diagnosis.

Why We Caregive profile

Why We Caregive

Breanna and other family caregivers discuss the joys and challenges of caring for their aging parents.


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Mary Ellen & Anita

LaCrosse, WI

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Alicia, Carissa, Estella & Ana

St. Paul, MN

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Don & Rita

LaCrosse, WI


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Mary Ellen & Anita

Mary Ellen McCartney has twice found herself in the role of caregiver—first caring for her father and now for her mother who has developed dementia and lives in a nursing home. Trying to fit everything in has been a steady challenge for Mary Ellen, whose caregiving responsibilities have at times consumed more than 25 hours of her week and required her to wake up at 4 A.M. to keep up with her own children's activities. By her calculation, she has devoted more time to caring for her parents than raising her children.

“When you're able to orchestrate an end of life that they wanted... grief can be just about the sadness of the life gone and not about regret. And that's a real relief.”

—Mary Ellen

Q&A with Mary Ellen

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Mary Ellen

Simply put, we are family. I grew up with parents who always impressed upon us, in words and actions that we are family and are there for each other. They took care of my paternal grandparents at times when they were in need and cared for my great aunt and uncle. I don’t do this alone. The assisted living now does the lion share of hands on care


CFM&D

How long have you been taking care of your parents?

Mary Ellen

My parents moved to the community I live in ten years ago. They knew their health was declining and wanted to be near family. Caretaking duties began gradually and increased over time. Initially it was helping with household tasks and managing their complex health conditions. As time went on, medication monitoring became a large focus, along with shopping, finances, moves, etcetera.


CFM&D

What is your caregiving schedule like?

Mary Ellen

Most every day, I stop to see my mom. On those visits I do some of her personal hygiene cares, make sure she gets a long walk, pick up her mail, and socialize with her. In addition, I shop for her personal items, do her finances, pay her bills, make healthcare appointments and transport her to the appointments. I serve as her healthcare proxy so I confer with her providers in terms of her care. Since moving to the assisted living, the direct caregiving responsibilities have lessoned.


CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Mary Ellen

I have a brother who lives in the area and travels extensively for business. He visits my mom regularly when he is in town. I have two other siblings who live out of the area and come to visit Mom when they can.

Mary Ellen PQ 2

“Caregiving has showed me how short life is and how important it is to live life now because the future is uncertain.”

—Mary Ellen

CFM&D

How has caregiving directly affected your life?

Mary Ellen

Caregiving responsibilities need to be prioritized and time allocated to them. For me, that means I have less flexibility and discretionary free time. For example, when my parents were living on their own and I needed to leave town, I would arrange a nurse to come in. This added a layer of work to an already busy calendar.
I have been very fortunate as my employer has allows me to flex my schedule when needed. I most often opt out of evening commitments for work.
Caregiving is a family affair. That’s one of the good things about it. My children have to see beyond their needs to the broader family. I remember once when my then-teenage son needed to pick up my dad from dialysis. He had recently gotten a subwoofer installed in his car and was thoroughly enjoying it. I remember setting a timer on my phone to text him to remind him to turn off the music when he picked up grandpa! That’s when I knew I was in the sandwich generation.


CFM&D

Has caregiving affected your social life?

Mary Ellen

What social life?! Taking time for myself is often put on the back burner. The list of things to do is always long. There are times when I really want to join a group or committee but don’t do it.


CFM&D

What is the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Mary Ellen

The responsibility of it all. I am the emotional anchor for my mom now. When I don’t visit daily, she is distressed. Last week I was ill and didn’t visit for two days. When I came in, she started crying and said, “I thought you lost me.” Heartbreaking.


CFM&D

What is the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of caregiving?

Mary Ellen

The sweetness of it. Lots of laughter and joy in simple things. I love when she is having a clear day.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed you in any way?

Mary Ellen

I am not sure about changing me. I do know caregiving has showed me how short life is and how important it is to live life now because the future is uncertain. I am still trying to work on that though.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed your relationship with your mom?

Mary Ellen

Role reversal is an interesting experience. I try really hard stay in the daughter role to preserve her dignity. For example, when I was visiting a few weeks back, I dropped something and broke it. I swore and—like in the old days—she scolded me. I loved that experience because it reminded me that some things won’t change. But her dementia has changed the way we relate. I adapt our conversation and activities to accommodate her.


CFM&D

How do your parents respond to receiving your help?

Mary Ellen

Both my parents have been receptive and have appreciated the support. We made decisions together based on all of our needs. For example, my father wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving into assisted living, but knew the support he and my mom could receive would alleviate some of the strain. Their willingness to accept help makes it much easier. I know that is not true for many caregivers.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your parents?

Mary Ellen

Caregiving is often a gradual thing and seems pretty doable at the onset. Had I tracked what I was doing and watched the increase of time, I might have gotten support services sooner.


CFM&D

Do you have any advice for caregivers who are just starting out?

Mary Ellen

1. Make sure to know your parents’ wishes. Have them complete an advanced directive when they can clearly express what is important to them. Make sure to modify it as things change. Knowing I am doing what they want has been a great comfort.
2. Coordination of care is a must. Receiving care in an integrated delivery system where specialists and primary care doctors collaborate has not only made the system much easier for us to navigate, it has made the care safer and of higher quality because the care providers know us.
3. By far the biggest challenge for me was medication management. Ask a pharmacist what is available to you in your community. If the medications aren’t being taken appropriately it is really hard to know what their baseline is or what they can and can’t do.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since filming?

Mary Ellen

The assisted living has helped manage the progression of Mom’s condition.

Laney profile

Laney: Her Wingwoman

Mary Ellen's daughter Laney supports her mom through the challenges for caring for Laney's grandmother Anita.

Why We Caregive profile

Why We Caregive

Caregivers discuss the joys and challenges of caring for their aging parents.



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Alicia, Carissa, Estella & Ana

Four years ago, Estella went into the hospital for heart surgery. Within 24 hours, she suffered a massive stroke which left her partially paralyzed, incontinent, and unable to speak or eat. Almost overnight, her daughter Alicia was thrust into caring for her mother full-time. Over the years, Alicia has found resources that relieve some of the burdens of caregiving. She received support from Ana Diaz, who works with Latino caregivers in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.

“We've been in this house for 20 years. And we're together, we're family. She's home.”

—Alicia

Q&A with Alicia

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Alicia

She is my mom, she took good care of me when I was a kid (and as an adult!) and she helped take care of my daughter, Carissa, when I worked full-time.

The massive stroke left my mom non-verbal and even though we visited my mom every day for 3-4 hours each time, she was not able to communicate to us the quality of her care from day to day. If she needed assistance from staff she was not be able to communicate that to anyone.


CFM&D

How long have you been caring for your mom?

Alicia

It will be 5 years June 1st of this year (2015) since we have been caring for my mom at home.

Carissa PQ 1

“I'm doing what I need to do for my family. This is the responsibility that I should have.”

—Carissa

CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Alicia

Yes. My dad, brother, and daughter share in the caregiving along with four PCAs.

A hoyer lift is needed to get my mom in and out of bed. My dad is one of the two people needed to help put my mom in and out of the wheelchair and then back to bed. He is also the main person that stays with my mom while she is in the wheelchair (for approximately two hours) each day. Her time in the wheelchair usually consists of watching their favorite Spanish novelas on TV.

My brother is one of the two people needed to help put my mom in and out of bed using the hoyer lift. He is also responsible for setting up the overnight tube feeding each night.

My daughter is the messenger, another set of eyes watching over her grandma. She is the best person to track me down by phone or in person. She is also the lucky one that gets to wake me up from any state of sleep I might be in any time of day or night whenever needed.

The PCAs help me do more of the one-on-one skilled care my mom needs throughout the day: regular diaper changing, water feeding 4 times a day in the G/J tubes, monitoring skin, re-positioning her, dressing her, laundry, washing up, oral care, being one of the two people needed to put her in and out of bed and in the wheelchair.

Carissa: Make Them Proud profile

Carissa: Make Them Proud

Carissa remains close to her grandmother despite Estella's declining health.

Why We Caregive profile

Why We Caregive

Caregivers discuss the joys and challenges of caring for their aging parents.



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Don & Rita

Don Weber is the CEO of Logistics Health, one of the largest companies in La Crosse, Wisconsin. When his mother's health began to fail, he and his siblings when through a process of advance care planning. The experience was so beneficial to his family that he decided to offer his employees the same benefit he'd given himself.

Since the filming of this documentary, Rita Weber has passed away. In the interview that follows, Don reflects on his experience caring for Rita.

“She's at peace because we've had this time together.”

—Don

Q&A with Don

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why did you do it?

Don

There is nothing quite like a mother’s love. I came into this world through my Mom, and now that she is gone from this world I feel like a part of me is gone. For me, there was never a question that we would provide care for our mother. I believe people at an advanced stage of life deserve to pass on peacefully. My mother deserved that. So when doctors told her in January of last year that her heart was failing and she might live a few hours, maybe a few days or weeks, but a couple of months at the most, she made it clear that when her time came she wanted to pass peacefully, in her own home, surrounded by her children as they prayed for her. God blessed us, and she got to stay with us for eight more months. And for me and my brothers and sisters, my wife and our children—her grandchildren, it was such a blessing. To accompany someone you love in that sacred walk toward infinity—there is no greater honor. Watching her pass on without fear, with total peace, in her own home, surrounded by those she loved, that was the very embodiment of Divine grace.


CFM&D

How long were you providing care for your mother?

Don

We cared for her through her passing in August of last year. My wife, Roxie spent a great deal of time with my mother, as much as possible, and as a family we came together to care for her, including my brothers and sisters. We shared that time, and it was never a burden for anyone, nor did we ever think of it as a burden. We decided we wanted to be there for her. It was the right thing to do, the normal thing to do. It wasn’t a chore, or an inconvenience in any way. Of course we declined other obligations, events and business trips, because the truth is, none of those things mattered.

My mother always looked at the positives in life, even in her final days. I would not be the person I am today if I had not had this wonderful lady as a mother. She always said, “Look, this may not be a good thing, but we’re going to learn and it will make us stronger, and it will make us better people.” So in our family, even the challenges were gifts. Because of her I always knew I was learning something in the tough times, something that would make me a better person, or help me change so that in the future I could change the outcomes of similar experiences.

So when I look back on her transition to her final days, I see it through that lesson she taught us, right up until the end. You learn so much by coming together as a family to provide end of life care for your loved ones. Roxie, my wife, was a rock. And my sister Carol and my brother Jim were all just as solid, as well as my sister-in-law, Debbie. The time was also a gift for the grandkids. One of my sons traveled from Denver to be with her—and told me later it was the best weekend of his life, because they had the chance to talk about things they never would have heard. Another of my sons was sitting with Mom in her little living room, and out of the blue, asked, “Grandma, did Grandpa propose to you?” I didn’t say anything at the time, but was wondering where this question came from. She would just rock in her recliner—and she wasn’t the type to come out with the whole history. So she responded simply, “Of course he did.” After a period of silence, my son asked, “Where were you?”

Every time I think about this, I chuckle. I had never asked her this question. She said, “We were in a car.” And I thought, “Oh, boy…”

And my son asked, “Well, was Grandpa driving?”

My mom—88 years old—was so relaxed, and she kept rocking in her chair, and responded, “No, we were in the backseat.” I didn’t want to step in, and my son fell silent, not knowing what to say.

Mom stopped rocking, and she said, “I want you to understand, his brother was driving the car. He was taking your Grandpa and I to a movie. It was December 23 and I believe your Grandpa wanted to propose to me on Christmas, he just couldn’t wait.”

To have that opportunity for grandchildren to ask those questions is invaluable. So we, as a family provided care to her for eight beautiful months, each with its own gifts, and on August 30 we said goodbye. But the gifts, the lessons, remain.


CFM&D

What was your caregiving schedule like?

Don

As a family we were with her 24/7, at her house where she’s lived for 30 years of her life. We didn’t have to be there, but we wanted to be. And my mom was so at peace. It would be wonderful if everyone could pass on like my mom did, with peace of mind, having lived such a rich, full life—not material in any way. My wife Roxie deserves a lot of credit; she spent a great deal of time with my mother and wanted to be with her as much as possible, and my sisters and brothers shared that time. We shared the responsibilities. She was bright and alert, and she was fully mobile, so we provided a lot of comfort care. We shared stories, we were present for her. And we helped her around the house, with whatever she needed. Roxie loved being there; she’d spend three days a week with her. She loved putting clean sheets on her bed, rubbing her feet down with lotion. And at the end of the day, she’d tuck her in to bed. We were there as much as we could be, providing whatever caregiving support she needed.


CFM&D

How did caregiving affect your life?

Don

For eight months we had the incredible gift of being by my mother’s side as she prepared for her reward. My father has been gone for nearly twenty years now, and I remember her saying, “I’m ready to get back, and I miss your dad. I really miss your dad.” And if you can accept it like my mom did, it really takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. I’ll be looking forward to seeing Mom and Dad again.

It affected our lives in so many ways. It solidified for me the importance of finding that peace that my mother had, the stillness that comes with knowing you’ve lived your life well—not materially, but in the ways that really matter. It taught me what’s really important, and how easy it is to let go of the things that don’t matter when you’re faced with the chance to share the end of life journey with someone you care about. So of course there were things that fell to the wayside, career-related things and social invitations, but in the end we were where we wanted to be, with mom.

Those eight months have had a bigger impact on my life than most. As a young boy on the farm, growing up, my time in the Marine Corps and particularly Vietnam were life-changing events for me. But during that time with my mom I learned that what matters most to me now is that I want that same peaceful passing for myself and for my family—my wife, my children and my grandchildren hopefully; for all of us to be able to pass on like my mother did. Knowing that your time is near can be the most exciting part of your life, if you’re prepared to move on, like my mother was. To have the peace of mind to know that the things you acquire in life—the material things, the brick and mortar—none of those things really matter. Mom knew what really mattered, and that was how she lived her life. It allowed her to pass with grace. It was so graceful that the morning she died, on Saturday at 7:20, my brothers and sisters were at the foot of the bed praying for her, just as she had wanted. And my younger brother, Jim was on one knee, with tears running down his cheeks. And she met his eyes and said, “Jim, what’s the matter?” She was still being a mother. For her, there was no fear, no worry, and even in those final moments she still had limitless capacity for love and compassion for what those around her were going through. How graceful. I learned so much from spending that time with her; the things we talked about, the problems in the world, how ugly some of those things are. She just felt that we’re all here because God created us, and some of us are more fortunate than others. She never had material wealth, but she was among the most spiritually rich people I know.


CFM&D

What was the hardest aspect of being a caregiver? What was the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect?

Don

I think probably the hardest aspect of being a caregiver is realizing the fact that this can be very rewarding. It’s not a job you have to do, or a responsibility you’d rather not have; it’s a gift.


CFM&D

Did caregiving change you in any way? Did it change your mother in any way?

Don

It didn’t change my mother in any way. She was totally prepared. Had we said that we were unable to care for her, she would have accepted that with the same grace that she accepted her passing. We were fortunate that we were able to help her be where she belonged—so she could live out her last days in her humble home, sitting outside on the deck on sunny days, watching the birds in her backyard.

Because of Mom, the experience did change me. It is because of her perspective that I am able to see the lessons in our experience. So I know in my heart what I want for my end of life care, and that is because of the gift of being able to serve as caregiver to my mother.


CFM&D

Did caregiving change your relationship with your mom? How did she respond to receiving your help?

Don

You cannot be a caregiver for a parent without a shift in the relationship. But it is a beautiful shift—it is a chance to repay her in some small way for the incredible gift of life. It is a chance to thank her for always being there. What a powerful choice it is to surrender to that experience; to trust that your needs as a person will be met by your caregiver, and to trust as a caregiver that you have the strength, the love and the compassion to view the experience as a gift.

I always had such an admiration for my mother—mothers are so special. In spending more quality time with her near the end I learned so much about how important peace of mind is and accepting the fact that we all pass on. And if you can accept that, like my mom did, it helps those left behind – so they know what decisions to make on your behalf, and they know what to do for the right reasons.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your mother? Do you have any advice or resources you’d recommend for other caregivers who are just starting out?

Don

I feel like mom was so prepared for the eventuality of her passing that she was at peace enough for all of us. And we, as a result, felt that same peace. My advice and hope for others is that their loved ones will do the soul-deep work necessary to feel that same peace when it is their time to go, and then communicate their needs and desires with their loved ones.


CFM&D

How has this experience affected the way you lead your company?

Don

We are beginning to offer caregiving resources to our employees; it’s something that we have to work on more. But it’s important to us to provide this because we picture it as part of our focus on whole-person wellness. It’s about education and preparing our employees, and it’s the right thing to do. It’s sometimes hard to think about it—especially for our employees, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s and not ready to think about their mom or dad passing on. But the truth is being prepared is important; you can find yourself serving in the role of caregiver for a spouse at a young age, and knowing where to get the help you need and the resources to assist you is very important. Getting our young people to start thinking about these questions, and preparing for the future is as important for them personally as it is for our future as a company. Our employees are our greatest resource, and providing caregiving resources is just one way we can ensure they are able to find work/life balance and continue to be fulfilled. It’s a cultural change, and one we’re proud to embrace.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since we filmed you?

Don

Much has changed since the filming. Mom passed away on August 30 of last year. What she has taught us through this experience will never change.


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Jane

New York, NY

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Kathi & Edwin

Cincinnati, OH

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Nicole & Billy

Atlanta, GA


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Jane

Journalist Jane Gross's odyssey of caring for her mother Estelle spanned four years. When Estelle's health began to fail, she left her home in Florida and moved back to New York City. At the time, Jane and her mother were not close, but the process of caregiving reunited them towards the end of Estelle's life. Jane captured her story in A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents – and Ourselves, a book that explores the crisis of caregiving.

List to an interview with Jane on ON BEING with Krista Tippett.

“There are many scenarios in which by the time this is over, Mom and Dad are broke and so are you.”

—Jane

Q&A with Jane

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why did you do it?

Jane

I'm not proud of this but it's true: we were not close and had never had what I'd describe as a "loving'' relationship. So as I saw it then, I was caught between a rock and a hard place: behave as a daughter should, knowing it would be a terrible time for me but finite, or cut and run and feel guilty for the rest of my life. The rest of my life was a long time, I carry guilt heavily and so, I gulped, and did the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.


CFM&D

How long did you provide care for your mother?

Jane

She spent a long time in an independent living place in Florida, having sold her home for the usual reasons (upkeep, driving in winter, isolation) by her own choice. During those years, after the rigors of the move itself, she needed little but a phone call once a week and a visit every few months. I would not count myself a "caregiver'' until she returned to New York, where both my brother and I lived, after a health event that we all decided together was the right moment to reunite as a family. In New York she lived for a year in a dreadful assisted living facility that could not provide for her needs, did not explain that properly nor did we ask, assuming it would be like the place in Florida. At that point, again by her own choice, she moved to a fabulous skilled nursing facility nearby. I'd consider those final four years (she died in 2003) the caregiving time and thus used that period to bracket my book.

Jane PQ 2

“If I’m reacting this way to being forced to be her mother, imagine how she’s reacting to being forced to obey her daughter.”

—Jane

CFM&D

What was your caregiving schedule like during that time?

Jane

Since she never lived with me (a mutual decision), my primary job was to be her advocate, pay close attention to what was going on in the places where she lived and intervene as needed. Even in the best facilities, this isn't paradise, and it took measured intervention to resolve various problems: how to make it possible for her to take a writing class when she could no longer hold a pencil and could barely speak, what kind of assisted speaking devise she was able to use, that the first few hours of the day set the tone, and thus hiring private help for her in the morning to be sure she was clean, dressed and had a hot cup of coffee, and later during shift changes so she could be put back to bed without a long wait.
I generally saw her a few times a week and talked to her twice a day. "Chores'' included shopping for her when she was still in a small apartment with a kitchen, taking her clothes to the dry cleaner, keeping her stocked with books, etcetera.
In the nursing home, professionals provided most of her hands on care, so our time together was mostly getting to know and love each other. When she concluded that she no longer considered her life worth living, we researched together what her legal options were and I supported her in her decision to stop eating and drinking.


CFM&D

Did you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Jane

My younger brother. While we fought often about small things—who would go away for a weekend so she wasn't without one of us—we were always on the same page about big stuff. By and large, our tasks broke down on typical gender lines: he took care of matters legal and financial and I more intimate things (like buying diapers when she admitted she needed them). I was also with her alone for ten of the thirteen days after she stopped food and hydration, and again alone with her in the hours after her death. Their relationship was much different—more emotional—and in retrospect it's clear to me that the "end'' would have been way too hard for him and also way too hard for her.

CFM&D

How did caregiving affect your life?

Jane

Until she was in a nursing home, the constant emergencies and decisions made me feel like I'd been hit by a truck. Just flattened, stupid, overwhelmed. My responsibility to her, and sometimes the time consuming telephone collaboration with my brother, was very disruptive to my work, but being a journalist made that easier because as long as I did what was expected of me, I had plenty of latitude to leave the office for an emergency, and I probably felt more guilty about it than I needed to. I am single and childless so there was no "family life'' to disrupt, but exhaustion and my general frame of mind made social life all but impossible, not in reality but because I simply had no desire or capacity. Again, I did that to myself, and my brother did far better at doing what needed to be done for her and also living his own life.


CFM&D

What was the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Jane

Navigating the role reversal. Because she was cognitively intact, I was never truly my mother's mother. But neither was I her daughter anymore. That is a very delicate dance that changes over time.


CFM&D

What was the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect?

Jane

Getting to know and value her in a way I never had before and vice versa. And, having done the right thing, I had absolutely no regrets when it was over, not to this day.

CFM&D

Did caregiving change your relationship with your mom?

Jane

Totally. The mother I miss and love is the mother of those last few years not the mother of childhood. She was fiercely independent and hated receiving my help until the point where it was clear she could not manage without it. Then she was both grateful and gracious.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your mother?

Jane

I wish I had known that most "emergencies'' aren't really that and do not need to be taken care of ASAP. Most mistakes we made were from the collision of panic, ignorance and moving too fast. This is related to the larger issue of thinking that all the decisions we made actually mattered, when many did not. Very old people die, and regardless of what I did, that was going to be the end point. I'd advise others to admit that to themselves and spend more time just "being'' with a dying parent not trying to "fix'' everything.
I also wished I'd been able to set aside the lifetime baggage that most families have. In certain ways we all assumed our roles from long ago. Also, I was not as appreciative as I should have been to my brother (in part because I resented the gendered roles, which is a huge waste of energy), wanted him to do everything my way and did not realize until much later that I was trying to win the share of my mother's love that I hadn't had before.

Jane profile

Jane: Finding Peace with My Mom

Jane discusses how her relationship with her mother improved towards the end of her mother's life.

Why We Caregive profile

Why We Caregive

Caregivers discuss the joys and challenges of caring for their aging parents.



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Kathi & Edwin

At the time of filming, Edwin Hendel was living alone in his farmhouse. His daughter Kathi had provided care for her mother who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease twenty years ago, and had passed away two years prior to filming. When Edwin's health began to fail, Kathi assumed the role of providing his care as well. The high school teacher and mother of two soon found the responsibilities to be overwhelming and sought relief in the form of an elderly service program that provides at-home daytime caregiving services.

Since the filming of this documentary, Edwin Hendel has passed away. In the interview that follows, Kathi reflects on her experience caring for Edwin.

“We are all going to be there someday. If we are blessed with long life, we are all going to be at that point.”

—Kathi

Q&A with Kathi

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why did you do it?

Kathi

My dad had worked hard all of his life, providing for his family, making sound decisions so that the family farm would be a reliable shelter for his family, and he and my mother gave me a wonderful and loving childhood. Even as young adults, they loved and nurtured their children. Therefore, when the time came for my parents to need support, it came naturally. They invested in me and my family, therefore, I wanted to invest in them.


CFM&D

How long were you providing care for your parents?

Kathi

My mother was stricken with Parkinson's disease over 20 years ago, therefore my caregiving began with her. My dad enjoyed good health up until about 5 years ago and since I was there taking care of mom, it just seemed natural to began taking care of dad's needs as they developed.


CFM&D

What was your caregiving schedule like?

Kathi

I probably spent at least 3 hours per day dealing with my parent's care. I was in charge of scheduling care workers, paying them, groceries, paying bills, working out insurance issues, making sure the medications were in the house and then preparing weekly pill boxes. I also had to keep their old farmhouse in working order so they were safe, warm, and had their needs met.


CFM&D

Did you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Kathi

One of my brothers helped out on weekends when agency care didn't provide coverage. He would do the morning duty of helping them with breakfast, clean them up as needed, help with dentures (for my mom), medications, and setting their television for the day. There were many family members who visited regularly and brought my parents special food dishes prepared just for them. These visits meant the world to them. Also, we made sure that Mom and Dad were included in as many family functions as possible so they could still enjoy their holidays and visit with family.


CFM&D

How did caregiving affect your life?

Kathi

The care I gave my parents blessed my life in many ways and allowed me a closeness that often adult children and their parents don't have the chance to share. I will admit that many times it was difficult to cover all the bases because during this time I was working full time and managing my own family and home. I often felt like I was running a three-ring circus and many times I felt overwhelmed. However, my parents' only wish was to stay together in the farmhouse where they raised their family so I felt I must do all I could to honor that wish. Often, my husband and I would be entertaining at our home, and I'd have to leave guests to do the evening duty with my parents, then run back to my guests and get on with my plans. Vacations were difficult because I had to have every detail of their care worked out before I could leave and often was called while on vacation to work out an issue. My parents were older when I was born so most of my friend's parents were still active and independent. I had many people advise me to place my parents into a nursing facility so that I could have my life back. That plan is easier said than done and it wasn't an option for our situation.


CFM&D

What was the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Kathi

The most difficult aspect of being a caregiver was the amount of time it took to cover all the details and considering I filled this need for a number of years, it often was overwhelming. Also, caring for people who are never going to get well and only decline as the days pass can be depressing, too.


CFM&D

What was the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect?

Kathi

The most rewarding aspect was my parent's appreciation. They each would often say, "I just don't know what we'd do without you, thanks so much for what you do for us." I knew I was doing the right thing. Also, my children learned lessons watching me and what you do for family that they could never learn any other way.


CFM&D

Did caregiving change you in any way?

Kathi

I think caregiving changed me in understanding how short life is. How sad it was for each of my parents to once be vibrant, hardworking people and then to see their bodies begin to fail them even though they would have loved to been active and independent again. Caregiving changed my dad by making him come face to face with his limitations. It seemed that he was always losing something like, the permission to drive, to handle his finances, to cook on the stove, to go outside alone, etcetera.


CFM&D

Did caregiving change your relationship with your parents?

Kathi

While caring for Mom, Dad and I became a team. He was doing his best for her and I'd help him out until he couldn't do it anymore. Then, I covered everything. My dad was always working while I was a child and the time we spent together later in life allowed us to really get to know each other. At first, Dad wanted to remain independent as possible and didn't want the help. Later, he realized his limitations and appreciated the care. After Mom passed away, the caretakers and family visits were priceless because he was so lonely.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your parents?

Kathi

I guess, I wish I'd realized how much work would be involved. I underestimated the time it all would take and the physical and emotional toll it would take on me. I advise others who are considering this journey to realize the elderly wouldn't be in this position if they could change their circumstances. Also if you're going to take on the responsibility, do it with a happy heart. Don't make them feel like a burden. That's not fair.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since we filmed you?

Kathi

I have a huge amount of time that I am not sure how to fill. Even though, the caretaking responsibilities weren't especially enjoyable, they did constitute a large part of my life so now, I'm in search of positive things to fill that void.


CFM&D

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Kathi

I'm pleased that our elder generation is getting the attention they deserve through efforts like this production. It's been said,"Care for the young, the infirm, and the elderly because if you live, you will have been all of these people before your life comes to an end and you would expect the most dignified and loving care possible."



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Nicole & Billy

Nicole's father Billy was absent from her life for many years, but when his health began to decline, Nicole, a single working mother, took on the responsibility of providing his care. At first, she struggled to understand how he could move from moments of clarity to moments where his memory failed him. After using a program that provides online support through virtual face-to-face interaction with caregiving experts and other caregivers, she learned to recognize the symptoms of her father's dementia and is now better able to manage the challenges she faces as a caregiver.

“My mother has always told me to honor thy mother and thy father that their days may be long upon this earth. And even though he really wasn't a father to me, he's still my father.”

—Nicole

Q&A with Nicole

Caring for Mom & Dad

Why do you do it?

Nicole

I take care of my father because of the way my mother raised me. My mother never made my father do anything so he didn't and thus is the reason for meeting him for the very first time when I was 11 and then never seeing him again until I found him when I was 19 when my mother died. When I was 38, he decided to find me and establish a relationship. Thus it was a combination of my raising and him finally making a decision to reach out that help guide that decision, but ultimately it was my faith in God and the scriptures that say,"Honor thy mother and thy father that thy days may be long upon the earth." So, my dad may not have wanted me but it doesn't change the fact that he is indeed my dad.


CFM&D

How long have you been taking care of your father?

Nicole

I've been taking care of my dad for over 4 years now.


CFM&D

What is your caregiving schedule like?

Nicole

My giving schedule has changed and evolved over these years. Initially I gave 24/7 care, which was exhausting. Then I was given two hours a day for 5 days a week respite which didn't provide much help. Then they increased it to four hours for 7 days and that was awesome. The greatest thing that helped me was when they provided day care several months ago. I now can hold down a full-time job and take care of myself which is a great deal for me. So my caregiving schedule is to get him ready for daycare, ensure that he has a breakfast and dinner meal during the week and all meals on the weekend. I ensure that he goes to doctor and that he has clothing. I do everything for him that he would do for himself if he was able to.


CFM&D

Do you share caregiving responsibilities with other members of your family?

Nicole

No, I don't share duties with anyone. I use to try to count on my two youngest daughters but they proved not dependable so I just have to do things myself. It boils down to that everyone doesn't share your same level of care and thus can't be expected to treat your dad as you would.


CFM&D

How has caregiving affected your life?

Nicole

Caregiving has completely changed my life. It's like you have a young child. You have to get someone to watch him if you want to go somewhere; you have to pack pull-ups and a change of clothing when going out; you have to answer the same questions over and over again. I can't date, I have to work jobs that afford me the ability to leave and take my dad on doctors appointments, etcetera. I even had to stop working for almost a year. My life revolves around my dad. I'm not complaining because I signed up for this, but i must say that it has consumed my life and it is something you most definitely want to do or you would not last.


CFM&D

What is the hardest aspect of being a caregiver?

Nicole

The hardest thing about taking care of my dad is that fact that he is so rude. He curses, he's defiant, he's oppositional, and due to his memory lost and other issues he doesn't think anything is wrong with his behavior.


CFM&D

What is the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of caregiving?

Nicole

The most rewarding thing would be the fact that I know that my father is being taken care of in a manner that I can sleep at night. I believe we reap what we sow and thus I can only hope that if I'm ever in a place in which I need someone to care for me that they care for me as I care for him.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed you or your dad in any way?

Nicole

Caregiving has changed me to the point that I am more boisterous and I now recognize my limits. It has also pointed out the need to take care of myself. As far as my dad goes, since I didn't know him, I don't know if he has changed or not.


CFM&D

Has caregiving changed your relationship with your dad?

Nicole

My dad and I have never had a relationship so this hasn't changed anything. My dad seems resentful of me helping him because he feels that he doesn't need it and thus he lashes out every time he is given the opportunity.


CFM&D

What do you wish you'd known when you first started caring for your dad?

Nicole

I wish I had known how limited or hard to access resources are for people in these circumstances. I would have gotten a DPOA so that I could have the power to make the decisions that I need to make on my father's behalf.


CFM&D

Do you have any advice for caregivers who are just starting out?

Nicole

I would tell people about all the community services, VA services, and other things, like food stamps, medicaid, etcetera that are available to help with the financial hardship this places on the caregiver. I would tell them to ensure that you count up the cost and discuss it with those close to you so that they understand the change that is about to occur. Mainly, don't lose you, and take time to take care of you.


CFM&D

Has anything changed for you since we filmed you?

Nicole

I have more knowledge but I'm also more frustrated with the process. I'm also very thankful that my dad is a veteran and that I now have the know as to the benefits afforded to him.


CFM&D

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Nicole

I thank you for letting me see that what I am doing is something big and not just an everyday thing. I went into this thinking that this is just what everyone does. I've learned that this is something extraordinary.

Nicole telesavvy profile

Nicole: VA Telesavvy Eases the Emotional Ride

Nicole uses online resources like VA Telesavvy to assist her in providing care for her father.

Nicole overnight profile

Overnight Solutions

Overnight care can support working caregivers like Nicole, whose father developed dementia.


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