When it came to caring for her elderly mother Doris, Shirley Roberts thought she had everything under control.
She would make the drive from Toronto to her mom's house in Cobourg every second Saturday and do whatever needed doing from cutting the grass to shoveling snow and basic household chores. She made sure that the neighbours would look in on her mother every so often and recruited a volunteer named Susan to take her mother to her medical appointments and grocery shopping, while coming over for tea and helping with the gardening.
Roberts thought she had all her bases covered, but then, on one of her Saturday visits, she found unopened mail, a burnt out hallway lightbulb, tea stains on her mother's blouse and expired milk and yogurt in her mother's fridge. Soon it became apparent that her mother had Alzheimer's Disease and Roberts had missed the signs and dropped the ball.
What she calls her "Solo Firefighter Approach" to caregiving, that had allowed her mother to live a semblance of an independent life for a year, wasn't working. She was simply putting out the biggest fires of the week. Her infrequent visits paled in comparison to the level of attention her mom really needed, but what could she do? Roberts had a full-time job running a marketing company in Toronto and a new man in her life, she quickly realized she could not devote the amount of time and energy she wanted to for her mother's care without sacrificing something very significant in her own life.
It was a harrowing dilemma that many adult children with elderly parents face.
"There's a tremendous need for a better approach to caregiving," says Roberts If you talk to the people in the healthcare field, the doctors, the nurses, the lawyers, they will all tell you this is an increasing need because families go into crisis, they don't plan ahead, they don't realize what's coming. We plan for having children, but we don't plan to take care of our parents and none of us are ready to die."
That's why she wrote Doris Inc: A Business Approach to Caring for Your Elderly Parents.
It details how Roberts, a marketing executive, and her brother David, a chartered accountant, united their business expertise to manage their mother's care like a corporation.