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Alumni

Taking care of mother, taking care of self

February 6, 2009

Many people enter retirement anxious to focus on the things they've been putting off for years. Gwynne Hallock ('76) is recently retired from the Office of Conference Services at Colorado State University, and while she spends her time discovering new hobbies, she also spends a lot of time caring for her mother.

Gwynne Hallock and her mother Amie BranomCaring for others

Amie Branom is 78 years old and has severe hearing loss, a colostomy, spinal fractures, chronic infections, and other physical ailments.

Hallock and her brothers discussed who would be the best person to provide care. “This is nothing against my brothers, but I felt she would get the best care from me. Plus, there’s a special bond between a mother and daughter,” Hallock says.

At first, Hallock worked at getting her mom healed. It wasn’t until later that Hallock realized it wasn’t about getting better, but about pain management and maintenance. Because of Amie’s severe hearing loss, which can’t be helped with hearing aids, she can’t understand what the doctors tell her, she hears things wrong, and ultimately, can’t make any friends at her new apartment because she just can’t understand them. Hallock attends medical appointments with her mom, orders her medications, and helps her navigate anything out of the ordinary from insurance advertisements to a gnat infestation in her house plants.

Caring for self

Hallock has been proactive about getting assistance for herself. She has attended a monthly caregiver support group. She attended a six-week class with her mother that covered self management of chronic conditions. Through the Larimer County Office on Aging, Hallock received a medical supply grant which she used to purchase a laptop for her mother to use to communicate with e-mail. She also hired a companion service to take her mother shopping once a week, but it’s not necessarily a relief for Hallock. “Mom complains about the respite care providers. I’ve spoiled her,” she says with a smile.

The greatest challenge for Hallock is the constancy of caregiving: “Every day you can’t fully relax because some days it’s just five minutes of care, and other days it’s hours.” The relationship walks the line between being a responsibility, a friendship, and on rare occasions, role reversal where Hallock is the parent and her mother the child.

Rewards

But the rewards of caregiving also exist for Hallock. She believes her mother’s life is better because of what she does for her. “The first two years I spent wanting to make her well. Recently I’ve focused on her quality of life and making sure she isn’t lacking anything,” she says.

Hallock’s advice for others is to get family or community to help you and to separate yourself from your loved one’s problems. “Through the class I took on self management of chronic pain, I learned to see myself separate from my mom. She isn’t handling her hearing loss well. She won’t ask people to repeat things or to talk louder. I can’t always intervene for her. I have to let her handle her hearing loss the way that she chooses to,” she says.


Contact: Beth Etter
Phone: (970) 491-6533