Sunday, November 9, 2008

November is Caregivers Month

We write frequently about caregiving in this blog. Everyday we meet the generous, hard working and dedicated caregivers who find in themselves the patience, strength and commitment to keep on giving and caring for those in their lives. There are over 50 milion caregivers in this country; we are honored to play an important role in your lives.

Just this week, I spoke with dozens of caregivers facing very different challenges, yet all of them similar insofar as they are all looking for solutions to the complexities of the everyday.

Take, for example, Chris, who called to ask what might be out there to help make her home safe for her mom whose Alzheimer's has progressed now to a new level. Chris wants to live in her home comfortably, and yet she now knows that same home is a potential danger zone for her mother. We talked about some of the obvious "child proofing" products and tactics that exist. What Chris wants, though, is something that allows her to "lock up" after mom has gone to bed. During the day, Chris and her mother manage fairly well, negotiating the kitchen, bathroom and the outdoors. It's nightime that scares Chris. Her mother gets up and wanders, opening, fidgeting, turning and, possibly harming herself. We are on the hunt with Chris for something more innovative than locks that keep Chris out of her own home during the day. Inventors, take your cues!

On the other hand, we had just the right product for Doris, who wanted a hearing aid compatible phone for her dad with a large print display on it so he could identify callers and see more easily the numbers as he dials. Caregivers like Doris, who work a full time job during the day and check on aging parents after work and on weekends, need to find products when they can. And, they need to rely on people like us who have done the research and can easily explain the differences among so many choices. This is what we live for at Capabilities.

The caregiving story often ends in sorrow for so many. We heard this week about deaths in two of the families we have grown close to over the past months as they moved through the caregiving process with their loved ones. In one family, the loss of a son in his 30s who fought the hard fight against a number of disabilities that have caused him great physical pain throughout his young life. Another family lost its matriarch to cancer. In each case, loving family members provided the most exquisite types of caregiving imaginable. I only hope for such tenderness in the hours when I will most need it.

Sometimes our relationships change dramatically with a caregiver when the person they have been caring for passes. In some cases, the caregiver moves on, trying to reintegrate into so many of the parts of their lives they have given up or missed. The need to focus on equipment and comfort for another takes a back seat, hopefully for a long time. In other cases, we continue to work with caregivers in a number of ways as they look to donate or find another home for some of the tools and equipment they purchased. Our reach into the community is deep and we often can recommend places where they can go to discuss their used equipment. Occasionally, we look at something like a power wheelchair and buy it back for our rental fleet. In all cases, we invite you to contact us for more conversation on this delicate subject.

We have enduring relationships with many caregivers who turn to Capabilities for their own comfort. Tom comes by regularly to buy our foot soak crystals so after a long day he can relax and take care of himself. Margaret loves the Caren cucumber lotion for comfort. And, Amy and Todd each bought Book Peeramids to be sure they take a moment before conking out at night to enjoy some of their favorite books.

We also learn so much from our work. Caregivers and others in the midst of these pressing challenges often find solutions and tools we have not yet come upon. Gretchen led us to discovering the gas cap wrench as she faced her limitations battling ALS. Ed's need for something to help with his snoring and sleep apnea caused us to find the anti-snore pillow, now a popular product for so many. Fronsie, a motivated senior determined to stay involved in the reading and writing pleasures of her life despite advancing macular degeneration, helped us find the Extreme Reader/Scanner with a choice of voices that sound more like the human voice. Working with her, experimenting with different brands, brought us all a lot of insight. Together we found this option, which is making all the difference for her.

Tell us about the tools and resources you have found as a caregiver or as an individual facing the physical and emotional challenges of illness, injury or the aging process. We love your stories and always learn from them. You can post your comments to this blog below.

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