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Aging Well: My Journey with Mom, My Changing Role

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Reading, Pennsylvania.

By Wendy Kerschner on Reading Eagle [Aug 11. 2019]

The first time that I remember my role as a daughter had changed was when Mom was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.

While my fiercely independent Mom could manage her own care, my new role was to help Mom when she needed the support as she led the way.

The scary diagnosis pulled my brother and me into being a part of her journey as she navigated through the health care system with our support from the sideline.

After the shock of the diagnosis, we needed to get to work and being in the senior care business I knew we needed to be informed. We asked a lot of questions. I knew being present during the countless doctor visits, treatments and surgeries was vital.

My brother and I were her second pair of ears, listening to understand. We took notes to refer to when she was trying to remember all the details and being present when scheduling future appointments allowed us to coordinate our schedules to ensure one or both of us could attend the next appointment with her.

Recently, the cancer returned and this time it caused cognitive deficits. My brother and I now needed to lead the way and make decisions. We were no longer on the sideline; my role had changed again. Following brain surgery and an extended stay in the hospital, we now needed to plan for Mom's care when she returned home.

We were blindsided by her cognitive deficits; however, some things we already had in place helped: having a signed consent to speak with her doctors, being signatory on her bank accounts to pay bills and knowing Mom's wishes for her own care. Being in the industry, I knew at some point I may need to speak directly with her doctors, or that we may need to pay her bills and we accomplished what seem to be trivial tasks many years ago. It certainly payed off during the sudden change in Mom's health.

With all the treatments and doctor's visits over the past several years, we spent a lot of time together as a family. We conversed often with Mom about the “what ifs” and had heart-to-heart talks about her wishes involving care. My Mom completed some tough tasks with our support. She reviewed and updated her will, and she planned her funeral.

Looking back and thinking how emotional those conversations and meetings were, I remember asking: “Mom, are you sure you want to do this now?” and she replied: “I need to do this now!”

I am appreciative these hard conversations took place, and Mom made her plans, because it allowed my brother and me to focus on Mom's care and the goal of getting her home. During the discharge planning, my brother and I spoke frequently to make sure we were on the same page and tackled the to-do list together. We asked a lot of questions from each member of her health care team, we took notes and looked for recommendations from people we trusted.

Bringing Mom home wasn't without challenges, and my new role is still, at times, overwhelming; however, it is manageable. I am grateful to have an amazing Mom who led the way, and I know that, with my ever-changing role, I need to take a deep breath and whisper to myself: “You got this!”