Jackie Haugh: Daughter, writer, caregiver

November 2012

When Jackie Haugh decided to move her physically infirm but mentally acute 96-year-old father in with her in Los Altos, she was confident she could handle the new living situation.

“I thought I was completely ready to take this on,” she recalls of her decision a year ago. What she’s learned about herself and her dad since then, and what her commitment to his care has really meant has become the topic for a number of columns she’s written for the Los Altos Town Crier newspaper. The columns also are being incorporated into a book about her experiences.

“What I hear from readers over and over is they’re so grateful I’m writing because they’re feeling the same things I do,” she said. “It’s not just about physical care either. I’ve had to have some difficult conversations with Dad.”

Haugh, a realtor with Alain Pinel Realtors, said she’d always written in her journal, but didn’t take up writing for other people to read until she went through a painful divorce 11 years ago. The funny stories she told about the divorce resulted in writing her memoir, “My Life in a Tutu,” which she self-published. A second book, “Tipsy in a Tutu” about single life, is on hold while she works on the book about her dad.

Before the year 2000, she said it was relatively rare for family members to go into care facilities.

“Now it’s the norm. People today often assume they can’t take care of the elderly themselves, but the one thing I’ve learned from all this is that it’s more do-able than many people realize.”

She allows that she probably wouldn’t have been able to take in her father, retired CPA and US Navy captain John “Jack” Madden, if he had severe dementia or if the family couldn’t afford a daily caregiver. Haugh takes care of her father from the time the Mission Hospice & Home Care caregiver leaves in the evening until the next morning. They also receive hospice services.

“I called Mission Hospice for short-term assistance and the care was so excellent, I said, ‘Dad, we need to hang on to this,’” she said. “At first, when Dad heard the word ‘hospice,’ he was shocked. I said, ‘Dad, this isn’t about you. It’s about me. I want to provide the best care for you and this is the way to do it.”

She and Madden live in the home where she has resided for the past 30 years. The mother of four adults, she said one reason she is caring for her father at home is to demystify the situation for her children, although she doesn’t particularly want to live with them in her later years.

“I want to show my children that they don’t need to be afraid of what I’ll be like when I get old,” she said. “The aging process is natural progress and I want them to know they will have options.”

Jackie Haugh’s columns can be found on her Web site at http://www.jackiemaddenhaugh.com