To our wonderful Suddenly Senior Family…
My name is John Kaiser. I am the middle son of Frank and Carolyn, founders of Suddenly Senior. I have been here in Clearwater, Florida, for almost a year now attempting to take care of them. I live in Milwaukee with my wife and three children. (See Our First Family Reunion.)
I write this for all you Suddenly Senior caregivers out there trying to cope with a loved one’s life and the natural end of it.
When my dad called me last September asking for help caring for my mother, I thought, "Hey! A few weeks of care then Florida sun and fun wouldn’t be all bad."
September 4th I put down the phone and told my wife I have to go. Four hours later I am on a plane to Clearwater.
I get to the house and learn Mom’s situation is really bad. She has pneumonia. She can’t even swallow. So we call an ambulance, and get her to the hospital again.
Most of you know the story of Carolyn’s recent ventures with death. This was more of the same. So instead of taking the sun, I was ferrying both mom and dad — for medical reasons, neither is allowed to drive anymore — to doctors’ appointments/tests/medical prods and pokes almost daily.
Soon after Mom writes the column, “Carolyn Beats the Reaper...” she is back in the hospital with the same symptoms: she digresses into a manic state where she can’t walk or talk, doesn’t know who she is or where she is. Often she doesn’t recognize family and friends.
It’s been like this, more or less, since her stem cell transplant (for multiple myeloma cancer) in 2007.
What’s Wrong With Her?
December 15 It is now the middle of December. Mom is back in the hospital and rehab again. (I return to Milwaukee for a few days over Christmas.)
January 18 Mom is back home, only to once again return to the doctors for more test probes and pokes. Still no answer from her dozen or so doctors on what is wrong with her. They’ve tested for Alzheimer’s, strokes, brain seizures, bipolar, you name it.
January 25 Doctors keep telling me that they will figure it out, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, they change her meds again. (Picking up the twenty drugs every month for mom and twenty or so for dad puts me on first name basis with everyone at the pharmacy.)
February 20 As usual, her current drugs won’t work. Mom‘s back in the hospital to start all over with different drugs. And on and on it goes. Hospital, rehab and home. Hospital, rehab, home.
March — June Again more doctors changing meds, some with strange aftereffects. Back to the hospital to start all over.
June 9 Mom remains in rehab. She will be there for a few weeks. Dad tells me that it’s time to revisit my family. I check the schedule for doctors’ appointments; I have a total of six days (June 21 —26) that I can be home to see my wife and kids. (If they still know who I am!)
Once home, I feel out of place. I don’t know what to do with my time. It is the first in months that I can take time for myself and be with my family. (Still worrying about Mom and Dad, calling five, six times a day.)
June 26 Back in Florida to start it all over again. We get mom out of rehab and see what the doctors are going to do this time. (I don’t have confidence anymore that they know what they are doing.)
Again I have to get into the swing of things again. Just like all so many of you, trying to take care of housework, shopping, setting doctors’ appointments, running around, never seeming to have enough time.
So this is my question to you: HOW DO YOU COPE with life or lack of?
How do you cope ……… PHYSICALLY?
How do you cope ……… EMOTIONALLY?
How do you cope ……… SPIRITUALLY?
How do you cope ……… FINANCIALLY?
How do you cope ……… WITH EXTENDED FAMILY?
To all those questions, I have no answer. Here is how I feel about things right now.
Physically, too tired. Emotionally, I don’t laugh. Spiritually, He will be there.
Thank you for reading my story. (Go to The Kaiser's Journey Through Cancer to read my parent’s stories.) Drop me a line, too. I’m soon taking over Suddenly Senior and need all the help I can get.
Send me an e-mail with your tips and experience for caring for Frank and Carolyn. We’ll include as many responses as possible in our upcoming Pats ‘n’ Pans. It could take me weeks to read but I will read them all, and thank you now for your help and love.
SHARE YOUR MEMORIES AT THE SUDDENLY SENIOR FORUM http://forum.suddenlysenior.comA few weeks back, after many requests, we added a new section to Suddenly Senior - a place for readers to interact, to exchange ideas, share information, and have fun. Maybe find a penpal, or even a mate? It's called The Suddenly Senior Forum. Comment on this week's article, tell others about YOUR hobby. Post your questions for others to answer. Share book and movie reviews. Post travel Q&A.
We have put the forum online. Now it's your turn. PLEASE PARTICIPATE. You can read posts without joining. But in order to post yourself, you must sign up as a new member. See the pic on left showing where to join. It's free and quick. The arrow shows you where to register. And — very important, 'cos we respect your privacy — we promise we will not use your name and email for any marketing purpose, and will not sell your information to anyone else. If you need assistance, write to me [Doug Noble, Editor] Click here to visit the forum
Frank and Carolyn Kaiser have been to hell and back this last year, healthwise. But you can't keep a good man - or woman - down, as they say. They're very much alive and kicking - just kicking a little more slowly and carefully. [Ed]