Each month, I have a one-on-one interview with a Caregiver in the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel encouraged by others.
I’m excited to introduce you to my wonderful sister Susie!
Susie lives in Pennsylvania and is the amazing primary caregiver to our 78 year old mother and 53 year old brother with Asperger’s.
On top of this, she manages a household of four very active children ranging in age from 17-22 and she is a marvelous oil painter! For my entire family, the past few years have been crazy! Not only did we lose our father and move mom four times but Susie also went through a divorce.
Caregiving is a Two-way Gift
Susie calls 2014 a ‘zinger year’, one of the worst of her life. Not only did she go through all the life changes that I did that year but she also was grieving the unraveling of her marriage start of her divorce process.
After Susie’s divorce was finalized, Susie had more options and more desire to provide hands-on care for our brother and our mother.
Susie first started caregiving for our brother Tom who has Aspergers in the fall of 2015 to help get his health back on track. Since dad’s death and Tom was living with my other brother Tim, Tom’s health had declined greatly and with Tim working full-time, Tom needed a healthier routine with accountability and consistency.
Susie offered to take this on.
As a family, we felt we had exhausted our options with Mom living in Assisted Living Facilities.
Susie was ready to add caring for Mom to her routine. In April 2016, we moved mom out of her second Assisted Living Community in Georgia and relocated her to be under Susie’s primary care in Pennsylvania.
I asked Susie how she does it. How does she face each day knowing she has a load of new caregiving responsibilities? Her answer exemplifies her giving nature (click triangle to play):
Susie and Mom are finding their groove in their new normal. At first Susie says she was doing way to much to assist mom and a visiting Physical Therapist shared that mom needs to do as much as she can for herself since her routine is part of her daily exercise.
Mom is thriving as best she can in Susie’s care. We are so grateful that this arrangement is working out.
Staying Organized as a Caregiver is Vital
Susie is a master organizer, particularly of financial and medical paperwork! I’ve known of her binder systems for a few months but now I’m excited to share her system with all of you. She explains her system and why it is better than a traditional stationary file cabinet system:
Steps to create your own Caregiver Binders
- Purchase the following materials:
- 4 inch binders (one for Health and one for Finances for each person you care for)
- a 3 ring hole puncher
- a set of 32 index tab dividers for each binder
- three hole punched loose leaf lined paper for additional note taking
- a pack of 3 hole punch sheet protectors
- Organize your existing paperwork by subject/theme into piles (toss what you don’t need to keep)
- Take each pile and either 3 hole punch the paperwork you are keeping or slip it into a sheet protector
- Separate the piles into two areas – Health and Financial.
- Label each number in your binder’s table of contents according to the piles you have (For example your Health Binder may include #1 – medications, #2 – primary care physician, #3-cardiologist, #4-August hospital visit, etc.)
- Label the spine and cover of each binder
Susie’s dedicated organization has not only uncovered ways to save mom money but she also has a complete portable picture of mom’s health and finances to take wherever she goes. This allows her to take a health binder with her to a doctor or ER visit or to easily transport information while traveling.
This Caregiver binder system (we need a better name for this!) is so impressive and yet doable! I can’t wait to hear how it works for you all.
Other Caregiving and Self-care Topics We Covered
Susie’s practical and heart-felt full conversation can be found in the private Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. We discussed several other topics that aren’t touched on in this post, such as:
- Her memories of 2014 and all that was going on
- How our brother Tom came to stay with her
- How Susie prepared to have mom move in with her
- How having Mom and Tom in the house has impacted her children
- How Tom has pitched in with the caregiving
- Where she is able to carve in her ME time and how she can escape for a few hours or days to recharge
- Traveling with Mom and Tom
- Where painting fits into her life
- How she’s able to get help with caregiving to give her some peace of mind
- What we love about Sister’s Weekend!
- Her thoughts on dating while caregiving
- Her immediate answers to my lightening round of questions
What Susie is Gaining from the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community
Susie is an active member of the private Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. In her own words, here is what Susie loves about the HHC Community and what topic and resources she’d like to see included:
I love gaining new suggestions from my members. It helps me create and organize the content that they need most when they need it.
How are you getting the caregiver support you need to not feel isolated and overwhelmed? If you are looking for a place to connect and gain support, click the image below to find out more about how you can join the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community.