Linda Abbit is the author and founder of the Tender Loving Eldercare Blog http://tenderlovingeldercare.com/about and a classic example of the Sandwich Generation.
Linda lives in California with her husband, has a son in college and has actively cared for aging parents. Linda has been the sole caregiver for her parents since 2000. She lost her father in 2005 and in May 2009, she lost her mom as well.
I was delighted when she agreed to an interview.
The loss of anyone is never easy. How are you doing and do you have any advice to share with others for coping with these losses?
Linda: Thank you for your sympathy, Mary. Losing a parent is never easy, no matter how long they live – and my parents both lived to nearly 100 years old! I think everyone grieves differently and processes their loss uniquely. It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve found this adage to be accurate -- time truly helps in the healing process. In my experience, at first the loss was intense but as time went on, the sadness moved more to the background and the love and happier memories dominate now. You never stop missing your parents, but you do learn to bear the loss and go on.
Mary: Can you tell us a bit about your role as your parents’ caregiver?
Linda: My role changed from long-distance caregiver initially to then living in close proximity. My parents chose to move to assisted living and then as needed a board and care residence, so I never had the totally hands-on physical work. However, there is still plenty of caregiving to be done. As an only child, I was in charge of all financial, legal and medical issues and decisions, not to mention the emotional worries. Plus no matter how good the care facility was, I constantly monitored their care and advocated for their needs when necessary.
Mary: What was the biggest challenge you have faced as a caregiver?
Linda: This is a very hard question! Two things come to mind. Moving my parents cross-country in 2000 (at ages 93 and 90, when my mom already had Alzheimer’s disease) took a lot of time and coordination. I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s and son’s 100% support. The other challenge was learning not to beat myself up about decisions I’d made that, in hindsight, may not have been the best course of action. I had to learn to accept I made the best decisions I could for my parents given the information I had at the time.
Mary: What did you find the most rewarding about caregiving?
Linda: In the book, Designated Daughter, author D.G. Fulford calls her caregiving years “bonus years” with her mom and I totally agree! While difficult to endure at times, I am so thankful I could care for my parents in this way. It’s all about giving back to them after they had provided such a wonderful life for me.
Mary: When and why did you decide to create Tender Loving Eldercare?
Linda: As I was on my caregiving journey, I realized as a baby boomer my friends were starting to ask me questions about caregiving that I had answers to. So I thought if my immediate friends had questions, many others did too. The site was created to share my knowledge, resources, experience and insight into family caregiving with as many people worldwide as possible. I also want to increase awareness of, and empathy for, families in this stage of their lives — both for the seniors (or Golden Oldies as I call them) and the younger generations caring for them.
Mary: What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a caregiver?
Linda: The only constant in caregiving is that things will change! Your parents’ or care recipients’ physical or mental conditions will likely change and a new stage of caregiving begins. So try your best to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible for what may come.