It never occurred to me that there could be more to being a mother than nurturing and caring for my children. I loved having little children around, toys about, someone always in need of something. Amidst all that growing up, it never crossed my mind that someone else would come to need me.
My mother was just embracing her independence after my dad died and, and without any warning, had a stroke. Her limitations at that time were less significant, but it was evident that she would need care. I had a full time job, two kids, a husband and our house. We had to make some decisions.
Our choice to move in with her was emotional for the kids, as moving is to any child. But it was also emotional for me. This wasn’t in my plan – my vision of happily-ever-after. I thought my husband and I would see the kids off to colleges, have our second honeymoon and take up golf. Who shuffled those cards, anyway??
Not everyone would have made the choice we did, and I will say right up front that it is not the right choice for everyone. If Mom was in Nevada and we were in New Hampshire, sure this would have been a different scenario. However, this was feasible, logical, and deep in my heart, was right for us. We certainly have had our issues and disagreements. The good, however, has outweighed the bad and this journey has brought me to an awareness that those cards were shuffled this way for a reason.
Eighteen years later, we still have Mom with us, and in those years our roles have certainly changed. Here was a vibrant, feisty adult in her “day” who now is reliant on a wheelchair and Depends. Here is a mother whose hand was quick to grab mine when crossing a street and now is holding mine to help her get dressed. Here is a woman who defied her own mother to marry my father, and now will defy me on occasion because she is not ready for me to lift her off the commode. As my children changed from those little people into independent adults, this woman changed from my authoritarian to my ward.
My thoughts may hit home to many of you, and may linger for others who may come to this point in your future. I no longer work outside our house so my work and daily routine revolves around what Mom needs. I have to keep this in mind, though, that this is a finite time in our lives. I know Mom is content in her home, content to have her family around her, and with people in and out all the time, keeping her mind stimulated. We, too, are rewarded with the joys of a multi-generational family sharing life.
Being a caregiver sure is a balancing act. A caregiver needs to remember that while we are missing our original plan in life, this elder is very much missing their old life and independence. You find things to laugh about, things to reminisce about, and savor moments that will be fond memories in your heart.
• Remember that an elder needs to maintain as much independence as they can while keeping them safe. Work out daily routines and keep them “in the loop” of their care as much as possible.
• Help your family member stay in touch with others, by phone, email, sending pictures, etc. They need to feel they are still a part of life.
• Find something in your life that keeps you renewed. For me it is being involved in Girl Scouts, albeit an administrative role. Kids are refreshing. I find time to get to church every week because it’s my one hour to reboot my soul.
• Utilize resources when you need to, either through your state, what insurance will provide, or resources that are pertinent to your elder’s affliction. (for example, Alzheimer’s care).
• The web is filled with resources and support. (www.caring.com is one example) If you need help, find support. Your family will be the better for it.
• Become a partner with your elder’s physician or medical team. You will work with them to make this time as enriching as possible for your elder.
• Share a recreation with them – jigsaw puzzles, crafts, etc., and share feelings. Say I love you.
Whatever your decision may be if you find yourself having this choice, carefully explore your options, and explore your inner self. Find the right path for your family and literally make the very best of it.
Cards anyone? My deal.
Robin Boyd is a graphic artist, business owner, and radio host on the Toginet.com network. Robin’s work and point of view can be found through Robin Boyd Desktop Publishing and Motherhood Incorporated.