Monday, January 22, 2018
As I type this, it is 5 in the morning and I'm thinking about my "to do" list for the day. I've already baked cinnamon rolls, the kind my mom likes best. My list includes talking to my mother's accountant about a problem with W-2 tax forms for 2 of the 4 caregivers who help mom in her home. It includes setting an appointment wih the latest addition to the team, a physical therapist. I also need to get the forms from my mom's long-term care insurance company, to start the paperwork for an assessment. And, that leads into another item on my list, stopping at two residential living communities to drop off "deposits" to hold spots, while my sister and I work towards the possibility -- no, the probability -- of that difficult decision.
As I think about these small tasks, all of which I need to complete before I head to the airport for another red-eye flight between Arizona and Pennsylvania, I'm also thinking about how important friendships are in later life. Not just my mother's friends, but my own. Over the weekend, I spent lots of time talking with a long-time friend. We grew up together and used to ride horses. As I type this blog post, I can see a funny, faded, framed photo on the wall of my childhood bedroom showing the two of us, plus two more friends, competing as a team in a "4s" class, a riding event that probably no longer even exists. We look so serious as we tried to keep our three chestnut horses plus one palomino in step (and from kicking each other).
Our elder care interests and careers now overlap as she operates a small personal care home, licensed to provide assisted living. We sometimes joke that we started learning about caregiving in 4-H, although back then our charges were more likely to be critters. How I wish my friend's care center was an option for my mother, but unfortunately it is too far from my sister's home and job to be practical.
Instead, we talked strategies and other options. She had great advice about switching my mother over to electronic cigarettes, to make a transition to a "no smoking home" a bit easier. Her mother, who's close to my mother's age, is also struggling with staying in her own home. Ironic, isn't it, that my friend runs one of the best care homes in the city, but her mother won't even visit? Sort of like the elder law professor whose parents resisted making plans?
But, as my friend said this weekend, caregiving decisions somehow "seem" different when you are talking about your own parent. The same is true for elder law advice. Even as she and I were giving each other "great" advice, we knew it was hard to follow that advice for our own mothers as they resist major changes.
It was great to have her to talk with this weekend. My friend understood.
That wasn't the only important friendship over the weekend. One of my sister's long time friends interrupted a grocery shopping expedition and joined us on a car ride with our mother. Her lively, funny conversation kept the tone light and upbeat, even as we did our first drive-by with mom, to look at the outside -- just the outside -- of one care center option that is nearby. That friend, too, is caring for her mother and sometimes it is our turn to join them to create an "evening out "
Another friend this weekend is the gal who I came to know so well as the director of the wonderful place where my father lived for many months. She interrupted her "off duty" weekend to talk to me as a friend about choices.
A cherished neighbor and friend of my mother's also texted me early today, to ask about mom's weekend, even as she is juggling duties to help her husband in a rehab facility, where he is recovering from a broken hip.
I heard from a friend in Florida who lives in a terrific CCRC and she always offers a great ear and sage advice (along with lots of good leads for this Blog).
Another friend actually offered to fly out to Arizona to help -- and she lives in the Virgin Islands. She, too, is helping an aging parent in the states.
I know that when I return to my classrooms in Pennsylvania later this week, individual students will ask, "how did it go?" And they will undoubtedly surprise me with their patience with our interrupted syllabus and make-up classes.
Friends who understand.
I could keep typing for a long time to describe our many friends and the important roles we play in each other's lives. I know -- and hope -- that many of our readers are supported in their caregiving journeys by such wonderful "late-in-life" friendships. Thank you all,