Mistakes in caregiving…


caregiver guilt

No truer words…I’m glad I took care my mom while she was alive, but I wish I knew what I now know.

Being able to look back at the experience, I had many mistakes, failures, regrets I wish I could have avoided some and yes, I learned the hard way from others.

How do we get out from under the idea that we can’t make mistakes?

Mistakes are the very things that bring us to look in the mirror and to learn more about ourselves. More importantly they give us the pain we need to reach out to others who can help us guide us.

No one said life is going to be easy. And no one said that the end of life is going to be easier.

But we live with the hopes and dreams that everything will be okay. We do our best.

And that’s enough.

We can choose to look to our past with fond memories or disappointments.

We can choose to look toward our future with hope or apprehension.

It’s a choice we make…

I remember several regrets I’ve had, and they weren’t about winning or losing. They weren’t about disagreements with people. My regrets left me wondering how I could have done something differently, off the grid from who I was.

My father always thought I would follow in his footsteps and go to medical school.  But at the young and immature age of 21, I told Dad he worked too hard and I didn’t want to do that.  I would rather become a teacher like Mom. So off to college I went to become a high school science teacher.

Twenty-nine years later, my students asked me what I would have done if not a teacher. I immediately answered “medical school”. 

So, they challenged me and off to physician assistant school I went.  At 50 years old, I was not about to start 12 years of medical school…3 years of PA school was enough…

Is this a regret or a failure? To me, regret is something I wished I could have changed or done or maybe not done at all and it carries me forward, but failure is just a one-time ordeal.

I failed miserably with Mom‘s caregiving…

Let’s look at a failure I had. I failed to place my mother in the right independent living facility. During the first 30 days she was in there she had “failure to thrive”. This is a diagnosis where she stopped eating completely. She lost 30 pounds in one month.

I finally admitted her to the hospital and discovered she was not only depressed, but she was overdosing on hydrocodone for pain for her arthritis and her stomach was hurting her because of the side effects.  I saw her 3 times a week and she hid this from me.

I felt like a total failure. I immediately moved into action and got her into another independent living place where I thought she would do much better. She started out well, then she found she didn’t have any friends and she didn’t like anybody there and she started to isolate herself and again failure to thrive and started losing more weight.

Two failures in a row. The reason I could not get my mom into a place she wanted to be was because she wanted to be home with me. I felt guilty and I felt like a failure (again).

But then my sister came to the rescue. She had a place for Mom that wasn’t far from her and she felt pretty sure our mom could thrive there. She was correct. Mom needed a certain type of person to befriend. She needed people around her with certain backgrounds that she could relate to who grew up where she grew up, who traveled where she had travelled, who had lived a life equally as exciting as her life,  who had hobbies such as reading and writing and research and history and medicine. She loved these topics and above all as an ordained Presbyterian minister she loved the Lord. All these people lived in this place from all walks of life and all parts of the world and they shared their histories and stories which she would have never known otherwise. She thrived.

What did I learn from such an experience? I truly failed. I don’t have regrets that I put her in these places. I tried the best I could, but I failed miserably. Fortunately, I had somebody I could reach out to, my sister who understood mom’s needs better than me.

I learned a valuable lesson: to keep asking for help...

So I say to you…there are regrets and there are failures.

You don’t know whose path you are going to cross today. Who is going to change the way you work with your mom and dad?

When you feel guilty, when you feel there’s no one else in the world who understands what you’re going through, that very person is going to be standing in front of you. All you have to do is ask them a question…

…and the question starts like this, “Hey, let me ask you a question. Have you ever had a problem or situation with…?” 

Human beings are willing to help. Just keep asking until somebody says something that makes sense to you. 

And keep trying until the solution works for you.  Others have found it.  Now it’s your turn...

About the Author

Do you feel frustrated with your medical care? Do doctors spend 5 minutes with you, push you out of the office, with you wondering what's going to happen? Does your insurance deny paying? You're not alone. I'm frustrated, too. This is a growing trend in healthcare. Having seen pre-insurance medicine (yes, my dad was an old country doctor), I grew up watching him spend time with his patients, giving them the best care he had to offer. I saw families trust him to help them through hospitalizations and the next crisis. As a patient advocate, my job is to see that you get the right diagnosis, the right treatment plans, and the right supplies and education to make good decisions about your health. More importantly, I will teach you the tricks of the healthcare trade. We need more healthcare consumer protection, especially for chronic illnesses like diabetes. This is what I am passionate about. I make it happen every day with thousands of patients who now know what I know about beating the healthcare system and getting the best patient care...Patient Best.

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