My sister’s caregiving journey—starts and ends with compassion

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We live about 5000 miles apart. My sister Tommie cares for our 80 year-old mom and 84 year-old dad in New Orleans; I reside in Hawaii. It’s hard to live so far apart.

My sister takes on the brunt of caregiving for our parents, so I try to be a sounding board when she needs to talk or work through a difficult situation. We talk almost everyday.

I remind Tommie that she’s a blessing to my parents—and they are lucky to have her as a caregiver. I don’t think you can ever really express enough gratitude to someone who provides such loving care everyday. I help out financially, but it’s my sister who takes on the hard work and makes so many sacrifices.

Our mom Ja’net, was diagnosed with lymphoma several years ago. And she went through an intense regimen of chemotherapy. That’s when Tommie first started caring for Mom, sometime in 2010. The chemotherapy worked—Mom’s cancer is in remission. But it left her with serious stomach problems and a weakened immune system.

Now our mom is in the early stages of dementia. Every morning, my brother’s wife Karen goes to our parents’ home to check in on them and give mom her morning medications.

My dad, the sweet man that he is, cooks breakfast for mom everyday—sometimes scrambled eggs and bacon—but he changes it up. That’s because he’s constantly racking his brain trying think of new foods mom would enjoy, because he wants to show how much he loves and cares about her.

With the current caregiving set-up, Karen takes the early morning shift. That works well because it gives Tommie a little downtime. Those few hours in the morning gives Tommie some time to run errands, fold her own laundry, or just relax with a cup of tea before she heads to Mom and Dad’s place.

But it wasn’t always like that. Before Tommie stepped into the current full time caregiving role, she worked as an administrator at a senior day care facility. So it was no small task to manage her full time career and provide care for our parents. But she did it.

At the time, Tommie hired an additional caregiver who helped from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, while she was at work. After work, Tommie drove straight to our parents’ place, prepared dinner, cleaned up the dishes, and kept my parents company. Later in the evening, she’d get them ready for bed before heading back home. The next day, she’d do it all over again.

No doubt, those were long days for Tommie as she tirelessly balanced two demanding jobs. Although, I’m sure she’d say she was plenty tired.

Now that Tommie provides full time care for my parents, my mom’s health is markedly improved—something I credit Tommie for. I’m happy my sister decided to take on a full time caregiving role. It really shows the selfless nature of my sister’s personality and how much she values our family.

But there were certainly plenty of bumps along that caregiving journey—and I imagine that will continue to some degree. Like that mystery illness that left our mom with horrendous stomach problems.

While we never fully understood the cause of mom’s stomach pain after that yearlong round of chemotherapy, Mom’s stomach condition had worsened to the point that required hospitalization. Keep in mind, Mom had been dealing with incontinence and severe diarrhea for several months. Unfortunately, it left the skin on her bottom cracked and bleeding. It got to the point that it was hard to imagine whether her skin would ever heal.

While mom was hospitalized, we discovered Sage brand Comfort Shield® Barrier Cream Cloths—and those were a godsend because Mom’s skin finally healed up.

Now that Mom’s stomach condition is under control, she has fewer incontinent episodes so we don’t use nearly as many Sage brand Barrier Cream Cloths, but still use them regularly. I’m glad to know we can rely on this product because it has made a positive difference in our mom’s health.

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