By Marsha Kay Seff
As a caregiver, having a big mouth is an asset. If you don’t already have one, you might want to develop one. Because opening your mouth — shouting until someone hears what you’re saying — is one of the biggest parts of being a caregiver.
You are your parents’ advocate now. When they begin having trouble speaking for themselves, you need to do the talking. When they’re too ill to speak or can’t recall what they wanted to say, you need to speak up.
That doesn’t mean you ignore their wishes. Understanding what they want is the first step in getting what they need. Unfortunately, too many people, including their own doctors, write off all older folks as being daffy. When the world ignores your loved ones, you need to remind people that older folks need to be treated with respect.
Once, when I accompanied my late mom on a doctor’s visit, her doctor began ignoring her and talking to me. I pointed out that he needed to include her in the conversation, that her brain was probably working better than my stressed-out gray matter.
After years of talking to another one of her doctors on the phone — I even finagled his home phone number — I finally had an occasion to meet him in person. He walked into the office, shook my hand and looked perplexed. “After talking with you so much,” he said, “I thought you were much taller.”
Yes, I speak a lot louder than my 4-foot-11 stature.
As a dutiful daughter, it seemed I was always advocating for my aging parents. They weren’t even off the plane from their home in Miami Beach to San Diego, where I’d found them a retirement home, when I had to put on my advocate’s hat.
After waiting more than an hour for their plane to pull up to the gate (that was before airport security was tightened), I asked someone what the delay was. He said my parents’ plane couldn’t get in until another plane pulled out. So I trooped over to the gate agent and informed him that there were two sick people on the inbound plane, that he would have to tell the other plane to pull back from the gate to make room. He did. When I climbed aboard to retrieve my parents, the captain asked if I’d had anything to do with the arrangements — and thanked me.
I’m sure I drove the staff at my mother’s retirement home crazy looking out for her. But when I asked the administrator about it, he said the staff naturally tended to take better care of residents whose families were involved in their lives. I asked what happened to the rest of the residents, but I already knew the answer.
When a woman at mom’s health insurance company refused to talk to me on the phone about my mother’s bill, which I’d always paid, I hung up and promptly redialed — and introduced myself as my mother. I got what I needed.
I did the same thing with many businesses and government agencies. It was harder with dad — my voice is too high — but I learned to work around that.
I learned to work around a lot of things during the 12 years I was my parents’ dutiful daughter, their best friend and their liaison with a not-always-receptive and sympathetic world.
Sponsored by Right at Home In-Home Care & Assistance, www.rahencinitas.com, 619-200-2110, firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Marsha Kay Seff at email@example.com.