The Fearless Cregiver

Gary Barg - Editor-in-Chief, Today's Caregiver Magazine

Treasure Hunts and Yellow Pads


Last weekend, I, along with a thousand of my fellow townsfolk, won an online lottery enabling us to cart our personal treasures to the local convention center for the taping of the Antiques Roadshow television program.  We all shared the same hope of being able to look into the camera and act surprised when the experts revealed the value of that tribal mask our great grandparents brought home from a trip to the African continent early in the last century or our great aunt’s cherished broach.  But most of us only found out (as I did) that “One person’s treasure is just another’s kindling.”

The experience did get me thinking about another treasure hunt I participated in recently when we helped Mom pack up her stuff to move to a new apartment.  In a plastic chest, she had saved a huge stack of legal-sized yellow lined notepads from fifteen years ago.  Each notepad was dated at the top and corresponded to that time in her life when she had been caring for her parents.  On each pad, carefully written out in longhand, were the countless doctors’ appointments and shopping lists that she had needed as their family caregiver.

For me, it was like looking back at a diary of my time as a caregiver’s caregiver, helping her cope with the caregiving challenges as best as I could.  The notes ranged from the times that she asked me to go to the pharmacy or to the grocery store to detailed notes about the disputes she had with various insurance companies. There were notes on the long-term care facilities she was reviewing for Gramp and the many questions she had readied to ask during doctors’ visits, as well as messages to distant family members about how Gramp and Grandma Helen were doing. The entire history of Mom’s years as a family caregiver could be reconstructed from those yellow lined pages.

I had always wondered how she kept all of the elements of caregiving organized in her head.  We didn’t realize it then, but Mom was really running a small but tremendously important informal organization dedicated to caring for her parents. Yet, in those early days of the Internet, there were little or no tools available to help a family caregiver structure their work as the CEO of such an organization. These days, thankfully, Mom would be able to replace her mountain of yellow lined legal pads for a keyboard and get so much more done. Maybe she would even find a few minutes to make herself a note about taking some much needed time off.  She would certainly deserve it.      



  Care Diary

Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine
Thursday July 15 2010
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