Susan Baida: eCareDiary, Building Community, and Sex in the Workplace

ecarediarylogoWe at WVFC were thrilled to discover an essential new resource and “neighbor” on the World Wide Web:  eCareDiary.com, an online community formed in late 2008 for those of us caring for elders in our families. In some ways, this is the challenge of our generation: balancing, sometimes, multiple dimensions of caregiving for several generations, each with its attendant financial and emotional roadblocks.

Prior to this venture, Baida  was Vice President of Brand Marketing at Starwood Hotels and held key marketing positions with Estee Lauder Companies, Avon Products and Del Laboratories. She and her husband, John Mills, created the site based on Mills’ experience as a caregiver for his father, who had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. Having spent over 20 years working in the health care system, Mills  found coordinating long-term care to be difficult because of the lack of good information.

In addition to comprehensive information, tools and resources for those seeking and providing long-term care — including a comprehensive database of nursing home and home care services, guides on long-term care financing, and information on important health care documents everyone should have — the site includes a singular Care Diary, a set of online tools designed to make coordination of care and sharing of information easy among family members and other caregivers. The post below comes from one of the ongoing blogs on the site, which lets readers know they are far from alone. (Ed.)

Susie Papa Pic!Sex in the Workplace: A Caregiver’s Story

The David Letterman scandal has motivated me to share a painful story about sex in the workplace. involving a caregiver and my grandfather.  As my grandfather gets older (he’s 90 years old) and nearing the end of his life, forgiveness has been on my conscience.

My grandmother was young in her fifties when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative disease that causes inflammation of tissues around the joints. Before it really debilitated her, I used to visit her after work and on the weekends to help.  I’d run errands, take her for walks, give her baths, do her hair and put on her makeup.  I did all of these things with great love and pleasure.

I am so grateful for these bonding moments with her because they are seared in my memory and my heart.
In retrospect, I wish I could have been her full-time caregiver when the disease got worse.  She was living with my grandfather.  Their 50 year marriage had very deep bonds, but was very bitter because of past jealousies, infidelities and separations.  In spite of all this, they stayed together because that’s what people of their generation did.

When she became fully debilitated by rheumatoid arthritis, my grandmother requested that an old girlfriend from Ecuador come to live with her and my grandfather to care for her.  The woman was more than happy to come live in the U.S. and earn a living.

While they lived together, my grandfather was not able to serve as my grandmother’s caregiver for a number of reasons.  First, they had a dysfunctional relationship with frequent verbal exchanges.  Secondly, my grandmother didn’t trust that my grandfather could handle bathing her, feeding her and doing whatever she needed done even though he was quite robust and strong in his 70’s.

My grandmother’s girlfriend moved in with them in 1992. Everything worked out beautifully in the beginning. The woman and my grandmother were very compatible, and she got along well with the rest of the family.

My grandfather liked her too.  And that’s where the problems began.  I didn’t notice it for a long time during my evening and weekend visits, but the relationship between my grandfather and my grandmother’s caregiver blossomed.  Meanwhile, my grandfather’s and grandmother’s relationship progressively worsened.

One Sunday afternoon while we were having lunch altogether, my grandmother and her caregiver started to bicker.  To my surprise, my grandfather came to the caregiver’s defense.  I felt quite strongly that my grandfather and the caregiver, who was 23 years younger than my grandparents, were out of line.

My grandmother was no angel, but she was 79 years old and could be very irritable at times from the discomfort and pain of rheumatoid arthritis.  She deserved respect and understanding, not to be ganged up on by her husband and caregiver.

There were more of these incidents that transpired as my grandmother would report to me.  She was very unhappy and wanted to spend time in California with my aunt.  I quickly booked flights and we left New York.

My grandfather was not pleased but he was used to this over the history of their marriage.  The pattern was usually the same.  He would miss her after a few months, apologize and ask her to return which she always did.

It was very different this time.  My grandmother spent a longer than usual time with my aunt and after a year suffered from a stroke.  She was hospitalized, became progressively weaker and fell into a coma.

To read the rest of the story, click here.