Elizabeth knows what it’s like to be busy. She raises two teenagers with her husband and works full time in IT product management. On top of this, she authors the Savvy Sandwicher, a blog dedicated to helping caretakers take care of themselves while sandwiched between different generations of family members in need of care. Her sandwich was relatively open-faced until 2014. Up to that point, her elderly parents had been chronically ill for the past decade, but still lived independently in Florida. Elizabeth’s caring responsibilities were mainly focused on her two children, while occasionally making the six-hour drive to visit her parents.
Caring for MomThen, in the spring, her mother, Carole, was hospitalized with pneumonia. Carole spent weeks in the hospital and a rehab facility before returning home to finish her recovery. Elizabeth and her siblings took turns visiting her parents during Carole’s illness, but her dad, Larry, remained the main caregiver. He made all the appointments, paid the bills, invested their money and kept them moving in the right direction.
“In the case of my parents, my dad was considered healthier than my mom,” said Elizabeth. “He definitely was the primary caregiver for my mom and my 51-year-old developmentally disabled brother who lived with them.”
Caring for Dad, TooThis, too, changed suddenly when Larry contracted an infection after having a few teeth pulled. Carole had only been home a few weeks when Larry was hospitalized for complications in his lungs, kidneys and heart. Elizabeth and her family had used CaringBridge during her mother’s illness, and created a separate CaringBridge website for her father when he went into the hospital. This time, the site didn’t just connect the family with the outside world. Due to Carole’s weakened condition, she couldn’t visit the hospital every day, so she relied on CaringBridge to remain close to her husband. Elizabeth referred to CaringBridge as her mom’s ‘lifeline.’ Carole saw the support he received through the posts and photos that loved ones left on Larry’s site. She also used the site to message Larry directly when her hearing trouble made phone calls with him difficult.
“Mom was cute,” said Elizabeth. “She would write lengthy letters to dad letting him know how much she needed him.”As Larry’s condition worsened, Elizabeth and her siblings would read CaringBridge posts to him in his hospice center. Hearing the words of support and love raised his spirits during his final days. When the end was near, the family held a celebration of life service for Larry, sharing stories about him and the impression he had left on everyone’s lives. Larry passed away in August 2014, just days after his celebration service. Shortly thereafter, Carole moved to an assisted living facility not far from Elizabeth. Elizabeth visits her once a week and often finds the CaringBridge app open on her mom’s iPad.
Even with Larry gone, Carole finds comfort in seeing the photos and reading the posts from all the people who loved him.