Dr. Dana Taylor has plenty of experience helping others through life’s challenges, but none of it could completely prepare her for becoming a caregiver to her 87 – year – old mother.
A little over a year ago, the psychotherapist and American Sign Language translator saw that her mother, Ms. C. Lee Jefferson, who had exhibited symptoms of dementia for years, could no longer live independently. Dr. Dana, an only child, made the decision to move her down from their native Pittsburg, PA, to Savannah into her home. It was a difficult transition for her mother, a strong, successful woman used to doing everything on her own.
“She was very much ahead of her time, progressive when women were just finding their way in the workplace,” says her daughter wistfully, describing her mother’s career in television and speechwriting. “She was always witty and charming, and she never went without her lipstick. She still doesn’t!”
While Lee has remained mostly cheerful through her disease, dementia can bring confusion and frustration to everyone involved. Dana knew she needed help to remain patient and compassionate when her mother became upset or asked the same question again and again.
“Even though I knew what to expect, even with a background in psychotherapy, experiencing it personally is difficult,” sighs Dana.
“You can intellectually and cognitively know something, but emotionally, it can still be so hard.”
She sought out The Edel Caregiving Institute at Hospice Savannah, which offers stress reduction classes, community resources and a social network that give family members caring for loved ones a web of support.
“I have recommended Hospice to many of my clients for grief counseling, and I knew the Edel Institute would have that same caliber of loving, professional care,” says Dana, who attends a monthly support group at the center and calls upon its counselors for an extra ear.
“The best part is being able to express how I felt to people who understood and find real tools to make our everyday lives better.”
She shares the caregiving burden with her husband of 17 years, storyteller J’Miah Radhi-Nabawi, who she also credits with making her mother as comfortable as possible through the long twilight of dementia.
“He is so wonderful to her, making sure she climbs the stairs for exercise and playing music for her,” she laughs.
“Oh, does she love to dance!”
Through the support of the Edel Institute, the therapist has been able to maintain her own career as the Chief Academic Office at the University of Phoenix as well as a a private practice and a busy schedule translating for ASL students at several nearby universities.
With two grown sons, Dana finds herself in the growing “sandwich generation” that has barely had time to see their little ones fly the nest before an elderly parent needs loving assistance. While no one plans to become a full-time caregiver, she’s grateful for the broad net of professional resources provided by that Edel Institute that have enabled her to keep her mother content, her lipstick always fresh.
“Everyone is so loving at Edel and in the entire Hospice community,” she says with a smile.
“When the end comes, I know they’ll be right there.”