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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When Did I Become...?

This week’s post is on a subject that nobody ever thinks will happen to them until one day they wake up and realize that it has indeed happened. I am talking about becoming the caregiver to your elderly parent. I had that wake up a few years ago, when I realized my Mom’s memory was getting really bad and she was forgetting how to find her way home while driving. Let me tell you that is not a fun call to get, you hear on the other end this- Mom: Rita, I need you to come get me. I forgot where I was supposed to be going and I am somewhere I have never been. Then you spend an hour trying to figure out exactly where she is at.

 That was when I had to make the tough decision and convince my Mom to give up her license. The time had come when I had to take a good look at my Mom’s life and her health. I actually had to stop looking at my Mom as my Mom, but as a stranger. I had to take a really hard look at the woman before me and see that she just couldn’t do it all anymore.

I found out around the same time that my mother had liver disease to add to her already long list of ailments. Diabetes being a major one. I was told she would not get better, only get worse. She just wasn’t a good candidate for transplant. That she would most likely die from it. Yeah, not good news to be sure. It was because of the liver disease combined with her other ailments, that she would become confused. So that is when it happened.

I became my Mother's caregiver. Somewhere along the way, I became the parent of my parent. I know many that can attest to the feeling of panic in that statement. I had just reached the time of my life when I should have been enjoying my own life, and I was left caring for the needs of an adult who resented the fact that I had to help her. 

She hated having her freedom curtailed by the loss of her license. She had to sell a car she had worked hard to get after divorcing my Dad. She had to make appointments with me to go do what she needed to do. She eventually had to hand over her finances because she kept overdrawing her bank account. She would forget to put a check in the registry or she would forget to pay a bill. Every step of the way was a battle with her, me trying to convince her that she needed the help, her thinking I had it in for her and wanted just to steal her money.

Every visit seemed a fresh new battle, at least to her. For me, it was the same one we had the last time I had been there. Her memory continues to deteriorate; I have just begun to feel that it may be more than just dementia. Some days I wake up and wonder “why me?” When did I draw the short straw? I was never her favorite child, and Lord knows I was never a Mommy’s girl. I was Daddy and Grandma’s girl. Yet here I find myself, the one doing it.

I go each day wondering what new incident will occur involving my Mom. Will this be a good day, where her memory is good and she can socialize with her friends? Or will I get the confused call asking where something is, or when are we doing something, or God forbid, that she has fallen and needs me to come help her off the floor. This is the life of an adult care giver. You become so engrossed in their life that somewhere along the way, you own life gets put on hold. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to run errands, take her to the doctor, clean her house, do her laundry, go grocery shopping, the list never seems to get smaller. Stuff just gets added as each new thing she can’t do becomes your job. You go home and you are just too tired to participate in your own life.

It finally got bad enough that I had to take a step back. When my own health began taking a turn for the worse. I kept going, ignoring the signs until I did myself injury by not getting treatment and resting. That is when I found that I wasn’t the only “parent of a parent”. There were others, who like me had to take a step back and realize we do have our own lives. I found out there are agencies out there with the sole purpose of helping adult caregivers. I found there are support groups that I can join so I can talk to others like myself who feel overwhelmed at times and don’t know what to do next
I found there have been books written by others just like me. I could actually take a breath and think again.

Since I have found the Department of Aging and Disability, my mom now has a chore girl, who comes in to clean her house and do her laundry. I still act as her taxi to the doctor’s and I do her shopping and handle her finances. And yes, she still fights me on that from time to time. But we are finding our groove, and I am slowly taking back my life. I live each day on a positive note, hoping that this is another day I don’t have to take that next step, which is 24-hour care as she has entered end stage with her liver disease. I know that there is help out there for me and where to look for it. If you are perchance just finding yourself in this situation, stop and take a breath. It isn’t going to be easy, and it will be emotional, but you can do it.

Here are some the sites I found helpful. I hope you will too.

Elder Care:  Supports and assists families and caregivers of adults with debilitating health conditions. Offers programs and consultation on care-giving issues and free publications and support online.  Educate, support, empower, and advocate for those who care for their ill, aged, or disabled loved ones.  Online support community for caregivers.   Websites to connect family and friends during serious health event.

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