Statistics tell us that the “typical caregiver” is a woman in her late 40s caring for her mother who is in her 60s and not living with her daughter. But who is she? Or he? Or they? Whatever the age of the caregiver or their loved, or their illness or specific financial or communication challenges, there are many similarities between all caregivers.
Kathy Munson is one such typical caregiver and this profile of her family is sure to resonate with other caregivers out there, regardless of their age, gender, geographical proximity to their loved one, or professional background.
Mrs. Munson is a 55-year old business owner who lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona—a long way from her parents in Dubuque, Iowa. “We are blessed to have both of our parents living well into their 80’s, but the last year both have had medical challenges non-stop,” she said.
Jack Schmid, Mrs. Munson’s brother, does the bulk of the caregiving and had their parents moved to his town in Iowa to ease the caregiving burden of driving back and forth. “Having my parents close by, I believe they are getting a better quality of life,” he said. However, that 70-mile move meant uprooting the couple from surroundings and friends they had known for decades.
“My parents do appreciate the enormous time and effort it takes from my brother and sister-in-law who are in contact with them every single day now,” Mrs. Munson said.
In addition to Jack Schmid, his wife Mantea in Davenport, and Mrs. Munson in Arizona, two other siblings in New York and Minnesota also contribute to the caregiving of their parents, John and Bette Schmid.
Mrs. Munson said that the most frustrating elements of caring for her parents is researching the best facilities without knowing exactly what her parents needs are or will be. For example, her father quickly losing the ability to use his legs drastically changed his care needs. “We did not anticipate it happening and the amount of extra work entailed in getting him to appointments,” she said. “It takes more time and patience on both our part and our parents.”
For a time, her parents were in two different facilities and the family struggled to research all the options. “Companies that came to the home and did in-depth questioning and assessments helped us very much,” she said. Both Mrs. Munson and her brother Jack said that they also have had to learn a great deal about Medicare rules and regulations.
Yet in the midst of all of the caregiving, Mrs. Munson is able to enjoy moments where they are just a family again. She recalls a get together for her father’s 89th birthday on a Super Bowl Sunday, with lots of family, decorations and a festive mood. “It amazed me that just a little simple planning made such a difference in his mood and to his recovery overall,” she said.
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