The Caregiver's Journey: Remembering the Good Times

By Marsha Kay Seff

"The Caregivers' Journey" appears 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

How do you cope when your aging parents are experiencing increasingly more health issues and it looks like the end isn’t as far off as you’d hoped?

One of the best things you can do is build more memories.

As soon as my parents moved to San Diego, they landed in the hospital for hip-replacement surgery. Picture them in the matching wheelchairs they couldn’t negotiate. So I’d put Mom’s chair in front of my dad’s and ask him to push her while I pushed him.

I took Mom out Wednesdays, while Dad usually opted to remain behind. One Wednesday when I picked her up, it was pouring and I was afraid to let her out of the car. That’s when we spotted a beautiful rainbow and decided to follow it to find the pot of gold.

Another rainy day, I pulled up to the entrance of the mall and asked a complete stranger if he’d walk Mom inside while I parked the car. When I joined her, she introduced me to the kind man, explaining that he was in charge of making disabled shoppers comfortable.

Then, there are the false-teeth memories. Those teeth never did stay in her mouth, and during one restaurant visit, Mom dropped them and our waitress got down on all fours to retrieve them from under the table.

After dinner, my mother asked if I had gas. I said the food was great and so was my stomach. She said she only wanted to tell me we’d passed a low-cost gas station.

When Mom moved from her assisted facility to skilled nursing and still couldn’t maneuver her wheelchair, I gave her "driving" lessons around chairs in the courtyard. She never got the knack, but we had some good laughs.

There are two favorite memories from my mother’s last days.

Once, I asked how difficult it was to exist in a world confined to bed. She pointed out that she spent her days enjoying the sunshine and the birds outside her sliding-glass door. That was an important lesson for me.

On another visit, Mom called me by her name. "No Mom, that’s you; I’m Marsha."

Her answer: "I don’t think so; Marsha is much heavier than you are."

Yes, I’d lost weight and she noticed, even though she wasn’t convinced who I was.

I won’t pretend that caregiving was easy. But it did give me a chance to view my parents in a whole new light and make some great memories. Yes, I think we found that pot of gold.

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


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