My Grandmother Was My Inspiration
My interest in working with elders started with my grandmother, whom everyone called Mimi. She lived to be 93. Mimi aged well and taught me a great deal. She inspired me to go into nursing, which was her field, and she always encouraged me to understand other people. She also modeled successful aging, with a full life. Mimi aged in place and lived out her years in her own home, with family and a home caregiver to help. She passed away in her own bed, surrounded by family, and without intrusion of unnecessary treatment. It looked like a good model to me.
I was drawn to nursing because I enjoyed caring for others. When I changed careers to law, it was not surprising that my cases involved 100% injured people. I felt very capable of understanding their pain and struggles. After I retired from litigation, I developed a consulting and mediation practice with my husband, Mikol Davis. Here, I am able to put my two other professions together to fill the needs of clients in a unique way.
My Early Experience As a Caregiver
I grew up with a mentally ill mother who needed caregiving for as long as I can remember. As she aged, her needs increased. Managing her illness and placing her in the right living situation was a challenge. Some of my siblings helped with this, and some did not. I have experienced dealing with family issues among siblings for a very long time.
Growing up in my home involved taking care of my 3 younger brothers. While my 2 older sisters were at home, they did their share. By the time I turned 16, they had both left for college, and I had full responsibility for running our household. My Dad trusted me and expected a lot. He traveled for business, and I was sometimes the only one in charge at home. I learned a how to keep a full school schedule, make sure the boys were fed and properly clothed and deal with my mother’s frequent hospitalizations. It was a lot for a young person to handle, but it helped me mature and appreciate what I had.
Some Siblings Just Weren’t Going to Help With Our Ill Mother
I had to elicit the cooperation of others on a daily basis. That skill serves me now as I help my clients with family conflicts. While growing up, I had to accept that some siblings just weren’t going to help with an ill mother, and that was something I had to live with. I still live with a kind of unequal burden. One sibling is disabled, and it takes contributions from family members to keep him housed and safe. Some of my siblings cooperate, and some do not. I handle all of his legal and financial business, attend to his housing and nutritional needs and serve as his distance caregiver. I know from my teen years what it is like to feel pulled in a lot of different directions at once. That was my life every day. All of this helps me better understand the pain of everyone I serve in the work we do at AgingParents.com.
My Mom and End of Life Decisions
By age 84, my mother had had numerous small strokes. She couldn’t talk for long periods, often gaining and losing her ability to speak. She lived in a board and care home and was happy there, but she was in failing health. At one point, she couldn’t swallow, and the doctor wanted to put in a feeding tube. My brother was her conservator. He always called me about medical decisions, since I am the only nurse in the family.
My mother was very clear that she was not afraid of death, and she did not want to be kept alive by anything artificial. But, at that time, she was conscious, not in imminent danger of death, and she was able to communicate that she was hungry. A feeding tube is definitely artificial. I struggled with this, wanting to follow her wishes. I spoke with her doctor about it.
I made the decision to go ahead and insert the tube for the sake of her comfort, so she would not feel hungry, and I am glad I did. She lived on for a couple more months. She was alert and knew what was happening. Yes, it was an artificial way of maintaining her, but under those specific circumstances, I am sure it was the right thing to do. I know she met her end of life in peace and comfort.