April 2, 2010

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

While taking care of loved ones, take care of yourself

Shirley Vogler MeisterRecently, my husband, Paul, and I attended a program at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis to hear author Heydon Buchanan speak about caregiving.

He wrote Taking Care of Mother, Taking Care of Me: The Story of a Son’s Caregiving for a Loving Mother with Alzheimer’s Disease.

We understood the challenges of caregiving. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s, and Paul’s mother had dementia. No matter what it is called, the family members must cope with it.

After trying to keep them safe in family homes, we faced other serious responsibilities and eventually had to find what we expected to be “good” nursing homes for them.

We were shocked by the reality of poor nursing home care. Both mothers suffered various forms of abuse and indignities.

That’s when my sister, Beverley, and I became advocates for the elderly. I made countless trips to my hometown so Bev and I could resolve issues with Mom’s care.

During my sporadic absences, Paul monitored his mother’s nursing home care in Indianapolis.

Paul and I joined a support group, which somewhat calmed our stress and distress. A friend, Janie—whose daughter, Susie, was a patient in the same facility as Paul’s mother—and I began speaking regularly to members of the medical staff there. We tried to make a difference.

Meanwhile, The Indianapolis Star launched a series of articles on insufficient nursing home care and possible solutions. Coincidentally, The Star recently launched another nursing home series, proving that inadequacies and actual abuse still exist.

Janie and Susie eventually became residents at St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, which is operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Janie and Susie are now deceased, but the wonderful medical care for the residents at St. Augustine Home still excels, according to The Star.

As a volunteer there, I can attest to that. I have witnessed godly care there for many years. During his talk, Buchanan also shared his deep respect for both St. Augustine Home for the Aged and St. Paul Hermitage, which is operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

My “Faithful Lines” headline mimics Buchanan’s gentle and instructive book title. It shares both his father’s and mother’s deaths as well as the family dynamics that can make or break one’s caregiving years.

If, during our caregiving years, my husband and I had known the practical and Christian advice that Buchanan shares so abundantly in his book, we could have coped with all the challenges so much better. I guarantee that readers of his book will be grateful for what they learn through his experience and wisdom. I plan to give his book to each of our daughters.

Buchanan’s book, which costs $21 including shipping and handling, is available online at www.takingcareofmother.com or by sending orders with checks to Clarior Press, P.O. Box 26606, Indianapolis, IN 46226. Credit card purchases can be made through www.amazon.com.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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