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A caregiver oops moment


While I was thrown into caregiving with zero experience and even less confidence, I was proud how over time, I became even good at some aspects of caregiving. Changing a colostomy bag, for example. I give myself a gold star for becoming a pro in that area.

However, I recently realized that I let some basic things slip. It didn’t cause any damage but I did feel like a big dummy.

My mother got sick in 2012 and I spent the entire fall and part of winter with her at her condo. In that time, and in subsequent visits, both before and since she died, never did I stop to consider changing the furnace filter.

I didn’t even know where the darn thing was located.

At my townhouse, I change out the filters every 2-3 months, because we have pets and the dust and dander builds up fast. Never did it remind me to check out the filter at my parents’ condo.

The only thing that alerted me to my dereliction of household maintenance duties was when I was finally able to open the outdoor storage room connected to my mom’s condo. It can stick with the weather changes and become near impossible to open. After a few tugs it popped open this time, and the first thing that jumped out at me was a bag of blue furnace filters, which Mom had neatly labeled.

That’s when my heart skipped a few beats. Uh-oh, when was the last time that was changed?

I figured out where it was and had to pry off a vent cover to get to it. I was afraid to pick up the filter, figuring it might disintegrate before my eyes into a cloud of dust. Well, it was pretty bad, but since Mom didn’t have pets, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Also, there is no air conditioning at my parents’ condo, so the filter only saw use in the winter months. I could make out a faint outline of the original filter under the years of dust accumulation.

If I had to guess, it’s probably been at least five years since it was changed.

Of course, I had some moments of guilt, but a dusty air filter isn’t what took Mom’s life, cancer was. And because I was so focused on taking care of her, I let some maintenance duties slip. I’m OK with that.

But if you do find yourself caring for a loved one and you are not familiar with the home, it is wise to learn where things are: the furnace, water heater, breaker, in case you need to access it. For example, you’ll never guess where the water heater is at my parents’ condo. I’ll save that for another post.

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