My name is Vicki Paul and I am a Client Care Manager at Reliable Caregivers. This position allows me to help manage the care of our clients and supervise the caregivers in our clients’ homes. Having been in home care since 1982, I can carry out my duties with one hand tied behind my back. I love what I do and I take pride in my work.
My 86 year old mother has Alzheimer’s disease. She lives near my hometown in Smithfield, North Carolina; I help manage her care long distance. You would think that this would come as easy to me as my job does. Instead, managing care for my mother from across the country is the hardest job I have ever undertaken. I have it easy: my two younger brothers and my sister-in-law must deal with Mom’s issues on a daily basis. Living so far away, I do my best to support them and guide them in the everyday issues that arise.
Generally speaking, Mom does well. She lives in her home with caregivers who live-in. She goes to family functions, out to dinner and church on Sunday. She is never alone. In many ways, we are fortunate. She does not wander, has fair bowel and bladder control, usually gets along with everyone, and still remembers family members. Of course there are times…like the day she went flying out the back door to meet my brothers on the driveway to tell them, “Did you know that your dad sold the house to ‘that woman’ for one dollar?!!” My Dad died 6 years ago and “that woman” is the caregiver. Mom’s disease prevents her from understanding reasoning. My brothers had to go along with her and attempt to redirect her. They were there to take her out to dinner, so changing the subject and taking her away from the house was successful in defusing the situation. I was left to support my brothers in the fact that their actions were appropriate, despite their difficulty in agreeing that Daddy sold the house.
When dealing with Mom, we must always remember to live in her moment. The most difficult part is agreeing with her when we know in our heart that it is the disease talking, not the Mom we grew up with. Guilt seems to be the emotion of choice for all of us. Professionally, I tell families to be proud of the fact that their loved one is safe and comfortable in their own home; be proud that you and your family have facilitated the necessary care. Enjoy the time you spend with them and find joy in whatever mood presents itself. I tell families that their role is to be a supportive family member and leave the caregiving to the professionals. Role reversal is a typical event when a family member needs care for any reason.
My brothers and I now have our own lives to deal with, in addition to the time it takes to care for Mom. Every day I miss my Mom and am sad that I live so far away. I visit as often as I can and support my brothers and sister-in-law by phone and email to the best of my ability. I am so grateful that they are willing to directly oversee her care and participate in her life. Long distance care management is the most difficult job I will ever have. However, having Mom safe and sound in her own home and participating in social and family activities makes every moment worth it.