Kathleen Stuck has seen caregiving from a couple of perspectives. She and her husband operate a Home Instead Senior Care franchise in Maple Grove, a service that offers non-medical in-home care by paid professionals.
Meanwhile Stuck, 48, the youngest of five siblings and the only one still living in the area, also serves as primary caregiver for her 84-year-old mother.
"She's so sweet and she's so positive. At the same time, she has a lot of needs. She wants to be around me a lot."
Stuck's mother, Mary Sommers, is healthy enough to live on her own in a townhouse. But she suffers mild cognitive problems and doesn't drive. So she needs help with transportation. And she likes to get out every day for lunch, manicures, shopping or visiting friends.
"Her needs have changed — I find myself more and more involved," Stuck said. "I love her dearly; it's just another layer of life."
In addition to her job, Stuck has two kids, ages 12 and 16, still at their home in St. Cloud. She's the classic example of the so-called "sandwich generation," caring simultaneously for both older and younger people.
"As the family caregiver, you feel a never-ending guilt that you're not doing enough," she said. Her long-distance siblings feel the same way, she added. "We all feel so guilty."
Stuck understands why her siblings can't be there to help. But she has some advice for those who rely on a sibling to handle most of a parent's care.
"Say thank you," Stuck said. "All they have to do is look at me and say, 'Oh my gosh, I know how much you do for Mom and I wish I could do more. I really appreciate it.'"
Stuck knows firsthand how hard it can be to juggle caregiving with work and other family obligations. "Over time, it wears them down."
That's where Stuck's business comes in, giving family caregivers a chance to tend to their own needs. Paid caregivers can prepare meals, provide transportation, help with dressing and bathing, or even just keep someone company.
Some clients initially object to having a stranger come into their home, Stuck said.
"After the first week, they realize they're looking forward to the visit."