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Caring for Your Sick Parent While Raising Young Children: Guest Post from Kristi D.

by Dawn on March 3, 2009
category: Guest Posts,Practical Tips

March is a big month for your contributors at The Mom Crowd: Amanda, our founder, is about to have her second child, and McKenna is going to Eastern Europe for the first time to meet her new daughter (for the first time!)  When Amanda asked for guest posters to step in and share their wisdom, the response was phenomenal.  Keep coming back to The Mom Crowd every day for fabulous information, tips, stories, and inspiration! 

tmckristi-d.JPG Our first guest poster is Kristi, the mom of three wonderful children and a personal trainer to strong, beautiful women and one reluctant husband.  We are happy to have her!  Her story is bound to touch your heart.  Be sure to leave a comment to offer encouragement or advice!  

I never thought I would be caring for a parent before reaching thirty.  I figured by the time my parents experienced health problems, my kids would be grown.  My father was recently diagnosed with stage four brain cancer.  He had a tumor removed from his brain but there is a two-thirds chance of the cancer returning.  He was perfectly healthy before the diagnosis.  Unfortunately, my parents have split up, so my mom doesn’t play a big role when it comes to my dad’s health.  My children are seven, five, and two months.  Caring for them is a full time job in itself, so add the time it takes to care for my dad and it seems like I’m working overtime! momcrowd-illl-parent.bmp

He has to go to treatment for radiation Monday through Friday.  He has several doctors appointments throughout the month.  He has numerous medications that require strict instructions and need frequent refills.  Due to the location of the brain tumor, his speech center was severely damaged.  He cannot think of the words he wants to say which means he needs a translator to assist him at all of his appointments.  His eyesight was also damaged and he currently has no peripheral vision in the right vision field.  Obviously he cannot drive in this condition and needs to be driven to all appointments and errands.  Caring for my dad often feels like a burden to our family, but it is a responsibility that I made a commitment to.

If you are currently caring for your parents or grandparents while raising young children, I have some ideas that may help get you through it:

  • Delegate your responsibilities.  You can’t expect to do everything yourself.  You will burn out and be too overwhelmed to think clearly and make important decisions.  Have other family members help you by taking your parent to appointments, watching your children, or whatever you may need at the time.  My dad stays with my oldest brother and his wife.  This is a huge help to our family because we don’t have the space for one more in our home.  Also, my children are noisy (whose aren’t?) and my dad needs rest and quiet.  If you don’t have family members in town, you can enlist the help of friends and neighbors.  Another option is to attend a support group for caregivers of cancer patients or whatever type of illness your parent has.
  • Prepare for the unknown.  Often a simple surgery can cause complications and unexpected outcomes.  It is a good idea to make sure your parent or grandparent has a living will and power of attorney documents available to family members.  It was awkward speaking to my dad about his will, but I came to find out he didn’t have a will or an appointed power of attorney.  These days, you can create both documents online.  When you plan ahead and have these papers in place, it reduces stress and family conflict.  If your loved one is on life support, you need to know what their wishes are.  Do they want to be sustained on life support or would they prefer not to have any interventions?  [Editor's note: Amanda has posted helpful tips on this topic; check it out!]
  • Be patient with your children.  This one is so difficult for me.  I was gone one day for eight hours rushing around to consultations and errands for my dad.  I can’t expect my five year old to sit still and be good the whole time.  I tried to remember to praise her for the times she was being good.  There will be crazy days where you will be out with your kids and parent, trying to care for both.  Try bringing a special bag full of new coloring books and toys for your children.  Use this bag only when taking grandpa or grandma to the doctor.  Talk to your children about what you expect before they go into the office: “We have to be quiet when the doctor is talking.”  Cut your kids some slack.  This is difficult on them too.
  • Communicate.  Taking care of your ill parent is similar for caring for your children. You are responsible for their health.  Talk to their doctor just like you would at your own children’s appointments. You wouldn’t expect your child to ask his or her doctor what their treatment plan is.  Don’t expect your parent to know what to ask either.  Jump into the conversation and encourage other family members to ask questions.  We have a nurse in the family who gave me a helpful list of questions to ask the surgeon.  Write down the answers to those questions and share them with friends and family who need to know.
  • Talk to your parent about doctor visits.  Did they understand what the doctor said?  Do they have any questions for you?  My dad has a difficult time understanding and piecing together information.  I have to repeat myself several times until he is no longer confused.  Try to be positive and encourage your parent during recovery.  Let them know you are always available to talk to.

I am continuing to learn how to manage everything daily.  I know that I need to rely on God’s grace to get me through each day.  What are some of the things you have learned while caring for your parents or grandparents? Do you have any tips or advice to share?

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