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Director's Message

A Personal Perspective on Caregiving July/August 2009

Directors Message July-August 2009: A Personal Perspective on Caregiving

Many of you have asked me how my in-laws are doing, and told me that you were touched by my message a year ago when I was caring for them. The journey continues.
Sometimes it is hard to know when caregiving begins. It is often easy to miss the first signs that help is needed, especially when visits are infrequent. Parents deny and children don’t want to see diminished capacity. It is challenging to navigate the path in a way that addresses concerns, reduces dangers and preserves dignity and self-determination. There was the year of the car crash when we thought they should stop driving (she did, he didn’t). Then the years of medication errors, health crises and turning over bill-paying, then our taking the keys, making the appointments, doing the shopping, cleaning and cooking, and this year adding personal care, as frailty and confusion have grown. Somewhere along the way, the roles changed.
My sister-in-law (L) has been committed to keeping her parents at home (in Oregon), as they wished. About four years ago she moved them back home from the continuing care community when the staff started encouraging them to consider assisted living. At first, the four children visited during the summer and holidays (all from significant distance), but the emergency trips for health crises increased and it became clear that they could not manage independently. Attempts to find a suitable caregiver and a move to a retirement community failed after a significant health event, and L. found herself staying for longer stretches.   Last summer we tag-teamed turns, and L. took over on Labor Day. In November she took them home with her to Hawaii after caregiving took a toll on her mental and physical health and we all encouraged her to go home.
Until this year, my in-laws insisted that they live in their home community and that they could manage on their own. Our presence was viewed as “visiting” not caregiving. Offers to live with daughters or other retirement communities were rejected. The children respected this as long as they could. When we visited in March, we helped L. explain that they could not return home in the Spring.
Caregiving on this journey has not been without challenges. All four siblings live at a distance, and three are teachers and parents. One is a pragmatic westerner in her treatment approach, while another has an eastern orientation to life. Ancient forgotten parent and sibling issues and resentments have resurfaced. These issues become more prominent as the years go by and the care needs grow. Last summer I was able to leave the house to shop or walk on the beach. Now someone must be present 24/7, so siblings are taking turns again this summer helping L and making plans for the fall. April is there now and my husband just arrived for his turn.
Lessons learned:
  • Even when you deal with caregiving issues professionally, sometimes there are no clear “right” answers. 
  • Paid caregivers rarely give the same level of care as family members, but are invaluable help.
  • Residential care is not a panacea. It helps to have a family advocate nearby.
  • Not all communities are blessed with abundant services and helping organizations.
  • At some point safety, health and nutrition have to trump self-determination.
  • The day may come when the parent cannot competently make decisions, pass along the family history, or convey their end-of-life wishes so don’t postpone opportunities.
  • It is increasingly difficult to provide care from a distance, and to balance it with work and family.
  • A successful family care plan requires accommodations from all sides throughout the journey.
  • Good communication is essential throughout the journey.
  • Build a care network of family, friends, faith community, neighbors and professionals. 
  • Attend caregiver support groups. Having all family members read the same caregiving book, such as How to Care for Aging Parents can provide a common knowledge base and “portable” support group. Don’t try to go it alone.
  • It is a blessing to have family and friends who care deeply and keep trying to do the very best.
Many of you may relate to these reflections—or have your own--from your personal experience. I am grateful for the things I have learned from all of you that I apply to my family, and to the things I have learned from them that I apply to my work. How can we all use our caregiving experience to inform how we become good care recipients?
Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW

Previous Messages

October 2017: HomeFriends Celebrates 30 Years!

September 2017: Annual Report

July/August 2017: Preferred Caregivers: Daughters

June 2017: Cues & Clues

May 2017: Recharging

April 2017: GrandPals Celebrate 20 Years!

March 2017: Multi-generational Households

February 2017: No One Ages Well Alone

January 2017: Help at Home

December 2016: Gratitude

November 2016: Family Caregiving

October 2016: Annual Report

September 2016: Corporate Healthcare

July/ August 2016: Strategic Planning

June 2016: Is Your Home Age- Friendly?

May 2016 Part 2 : We Need Your Help

May 2016 Part 1: Going Solo

April 2016: Volunteering

March 2016: Partners In Caring

February 2016: PSRC's Strategic Plan

January 2016: Hope

December 2015: Gratitude

November 2015: Helicopter Children

October 2015: Is Princeton An Age Friendly Community?

September 2015: Annual Report

July & August 2015: Family and Community

June 2015: A Gift that Keeps Giving

May 2015: Is 60 the New 40

April 2015: Spring

March 2015: On Being Mortal

February 2015: Mentoring

January 2015: Winter Blues

December 2014 - Leaving A Legacy

October 2014 An Age Friendly Future

September 2014 Annual Report

July - August 2014

June 2014 - Romance After 50

May 2014 - Your Virtual Estate

April 2014 - Memory and Forgetting

March 2014 - Aging in Community

Observational Stay

February 2014 - Family Caregiving

January 2014: Attitudes about Aging

December 2013 - Giving

November 2013 - Healthcare Marketplace

October 2013 - Annual Report 2013

September 2013 - Total Brain Health® Fair

July - August 2013 My cat, My Father and Me

June 2013 - Age Friendly Communities

May 2013 - Navigating a Changing HealthCare Landscape

April 2013 - Becoming Visible

March 2013 - Navigating Life’s Transitions

February 2013 - Partners in Caring Princeton

January 2013 - Men as Caregivers

December 2012 - The Safety Net

November 2012 - Going Solo

October 2012 - Documenting Your History

September 2012 - A Journey of Transformation

July - August 2012 - Gratitude & Moving

June 2012 - Diversity

May 2012- Aging in America


March 2012 - Patient-centered Care

February 2012 - Can you Spare an Hour?

January 2012 - Challenges & Opportunities

December - Are you Prepared for Emergencies?

November - We need YOU!

October - Chocolate for Memory

September- Looking Back and Looking Forward

July - August 2011; Ageism

June 2011 - Accessibility

May 2011 - Paper retention

Knit Wits, April 2011

Lessons and Legacies, March 2011

Independent Living February 2011

Home Safety January 2011

Witness to my Life December 2010

Elections, benefits and open enrollment November 2010

Retire in 3D!

Strategic Planning September 2010

Am I Old? July 2010

Memory Clutter June 2010

Aging In America May 2010

Volunteering April 2010

Spirituality March 2010

Estate Planning February 2010

Encore Careers January 2010

Hiring Home Care December 2009

Annual Giving by Sharon Naeole November 2009

Flu Pandemic 2009 October 2009

Healthy Memory, Healthy Mind September 2009

A Personal Perspective on Caregiving July/August 2009


Wei Ji: Crisis, Danger and Opportunity April 2009

Write your own obituary March 2009

Hobbies February 2009

Hope and Vision in Challenging Times
January 2009

Medicare Changes 2008: Take A Look! December 2008

Scams, Frauds and Rip-offs November 2008

Engaged Retirement: Beyond Financial Planning October 2008

September 2008 Caregiver Dilemmas

Finding Rhythm and Purpose July/August 2008

Spring Cleaning II June 2008

V + OA = ER (Volunteering + Older Americans=Engaged Retirement)May 2008

Spring Cleaning April 2008

Have You Had the Talk Yet? March 2008

Get Moving with FitRhythms™! February 2008

My Condolences January 2008

Advocacy December 2007

What Are Social Services? November 2007

Sensitive Topics October 2007

Plan for the Future September 2007

The Up-side of Aging Summer 2007

Volunteering June 2007

Strategic Plan May 2007

National Conference on Aging: Let's ReThink Aging April 2007

Brain Health March 2007

Resiliency February 2007

Transportation January 2007

Season of Giving December 2006

Medicare Part D November 2006

April Hill McElroy October 2006

Civic Engagement September 2006

Change June 2006

White House Conference on Aging May 2006

Hearing Loss April 2006

GrandPals March 2006

Lets Talk February 2006

Eldertopia January 2006

Hoarding December 2005

Annual Report: November 2005

Are You Prepared? October 2005

Planning Ahead October 2005

Watch Your Language September 2005

Medicare Part D Summer 2005

Sue Tillett June 2005

The End of the Journey May 2005

Clutter March 2005

New Dietary Guidelines February 2005

Transitions January 2005

Funding December 2004

Caregiving November 2004

Civic Engagement with GrandPals October 2004

A New Look September 2004

Safe Driving Summer 2004

Food Safety June 2004

Communication June 2004

The Challenge of Giving Care May 2004

Seniors On The Move April 2004

Depression March 2004

McGreevey February 2004

Medications January 2004

Random Acts of Kindness December 2003

Civic Engagement November 2003

Reverse Mortgages Oct 2003

Emergency Preparedness, Jan 2003

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