We call her Mother Holcomb—we call ourselves Team Holcomb. That’s because we’ve rallied a crew of 11 people who tend to our mother’s caregiving routine. Over the years, the team has grown to include Mother Holcomb’s six adult living children, a nurse, family friend, granddaughter, god daughter, and me—I’m married to her oldest son, Lawrence. The ages of our caregivers range from early twenties to mid-sixties.
After several family discussions, we decided to organize ourselves in a way that would best meet the demands of Mother Holcomb’s caregiving needs. That way, we could keep her home where she belongs.
Mother Holcomb was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the early 1990s. As time went on, her speech changed and she developed a tremor in one hand—which also moved into other parts of her body.
We really started to realize just how her Parkinson's was further progressing when we noticed changes in her speech. She would start a conversation and then stop mid-sentence. She literally froze up for about 15 seconds or she’d repeat herself several times.
As time went on, her thinking and mental state continued to decline. Some days were better than others, and gradually we started to see the unpredictable nature of her symptoms, like her speech pattern. Eventually, we realized we had to be more patient and wait for her to answer our questions—so that she could find the right words.
As Mother Holcomb’s health continually declined, we needed to provide round-the-clock care for her. As her Parkinson’s progressed, she developed muscle weakness in her body. By 2009, deterioration in her neck muscles interfered with her ability to swallow foods and liquids, which could increase her risk of choking.
At that point, we had a family meeting to discuss these concerns. We opted for Mother Holcomb to have a feeding tube implanted into her stomach. Once you make this kind of decision—it requires constant monitoring of the surgical site, which is where the tubing inserts into the stomach.
We’ve learned to use a suction machine to keep Mother Holcomb’s airway free. When mucous builds up, it can interfere with breathing. To keep her mouth clean, we use Sage Toothette Plus Swabs with Sodium bicarbonate
Mother Holcomb lives with her daughters, Linda and Mary Ann. Linda and Mary Ann keep tabs on their mother in case she wakes up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit -- or any kind of breathing issues. In that case, they would either reposition mother’s head or suction out her airway while the calm and reassure her.
Linda takes on most of the caregiving during the week, despite working a full time job at the local community college. A nurse helps out during the day. Mary Ann takes on the weekend shift. For this reason, we’ve built in some respite hours so both daughters can take breaks in between caregiving—or take a much needed vacation.
As you can see, our mother’s medical needs have grown in complexity over time. So we’ve made changes to our personal lives along the way. We’ve added more structure and organization to her caregiving routine. Because so many people help out, we’ve created a monthly schedule with shifts— similar to a nursing facility—except that we are family. Generally, shifts range from three to eight hours, or as needed.
Our mother’s caregiving needs change on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s quite intense. It takes a whole team of people to make sure our mother gets her needs met. We run our caregiving team like a business operation—and it works for us. We realize not every family has the resources to provide this level of care—but this is our choice and we’re committed to it because it allows us to keep Mother Holcomb right where she belongs—at home.
*Team Holcomb has been a Sage Products customer since 2009. The family uses Sage brand Toothette Plus Swabs with Sodium bicarbonate, Mouth Moisturizer, and Sage Rinse Free Shampoo Caps.
No individuals or organizations were compensated by Sage or Stryker for contributing to this article.