The Caregivers' Journey: Go Ahead, Toot Your Horn

By Marsha Kay Seff

"The Caregivers' Journey" will appear here monthly. Marsha Kay Seff wrote and edited the San Diego Eldercare Directory for 10 years. She knows first-hand about the ups and downs of caregiving, as she brought her aging parents to San Diego from Miami Beach in order to look after them. Her column will discuss the challenges faced by adults in caring for their aging parents. Direct email inquiries or responses to

As a caregiver, having a big mouth is an asset. If you don’t already have one, you might want to develop one. Because opening your mouth – shouting until someone hears what you’re saying – is one of the biggest parts of being a caregiver.

You are your parents’ advocate now. When they’re too ill to speak for themselves or can’t recall what they wanted to say, you need to speak up.

That doesn’t mean you ignore their wishes. Understanding what they want is the first step in getting what they need. Unfortunately, too many people, including their own doctors, write off all older folks as being daffy. When the world ignores your loved ones, you need to remind people that older folks need to be treated with respect.

After years of talking to one of my mother’s doctors on the phone, I finally met him in person. He walked into the office, shook my hand and looked perplexed. "I thought you were much taller," he said.

Yes, I speak a lot louder than my 4-foot-11 stature.

As a dutiful daughter, it seemed I was always advocating for my aging parents. They weren’t even off the plane from their home in Miami Beach to San Diego, where I’d found them a retirement home, when I had to put on my advocate’s hat.

After waiting more than an hour for their plane to pull up to the gate (that was before airport security was tightened), I asked someone what the delay was. He said my parents’ plane couldn’t get in until another plane pulled out. So I simply informed the gate agent that there were two sick people on the inbound plane, that he would have to tell the other plane to pull back. He did. When I climbed aboard to retrieve my parents, the captain asked if I’d had anything to do with the arrangements – and thanked me.

When someone at mom’s health insurance company refused to talk to me on the phone about my mother’s bill, which I’d always paid, I hung up and redialed – and introduced myself as my mother. I got what I needed.

I learned to work around a lot of things during the 12 years I was my parents’ dutiful daughter, their best friend and their liaison with a not-always-receptive world.

Sponsored by Right at Home, In-Home Care & Assistance,, (951) 506-9628, Contact Marsha Kay Seff at


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