It's just the way it is. Some might say if dad, at 95, wants an entire lemon meringue pie for dinner, let him have it. I'd probably say that. Once. Maybe on his birthday. But when it becomes a daily meal, or there is an almost-fire in the kitchen, or like my aunt, a semi swipes the side mirror off their car, or dad starts using one set of clothing for an entire week, you will step in. How you step in is an art in itself.
My sister and I edged into mother's life more and more in countless ways. Over a five year period we progressed from the alert bracelet, to a driver, to a companion, to a cook, and on and on. We lost our sense of balance in our marriages and homes while we tried to be there in every way for mom...and meet her every need. We even moved in for six months, alternating every two weeks. "You mean you left your husbands, your life, your home to take care of your mother?" Yes, we did.
Looking back I am not sorry. It sounds noble to say it was a privilege, but it really was. It also led to resentment, some anger, loss of interests, and sometimes not even brushing my own teeth every day. I'm just being honest.
In November we made the decision, along with mother, for her to move to an assisted living community in her town. It was hard...but not as hard as I thought it would be.
Fast forward five months. My mother is as happy as she can be. That's not a Pollyanna statement. She really is "as happy as SHE can be right now". She has three healthy meals a day with her peers. They talk. They laugh. They watch after each other. She gets dressed every day and still has her hair done every week. One of the residents doesn't remember much...at all. But she does remember how to play the piano by ear and delights in playing every night after supper for whomever will listen and sing-a-long. Priceless.
My mother may fall again tomorrow. But there will be someone to assist her in 3 minutes. She is loved on, checked on, talked to, listened to, and hugged. We still visit all the time but we are daughters again, not caregivers. And that has made all the difference.
Scott Middleton of Agape' Senior spoke at a Parent Care conference I attended yesterday in Atlanta. I am so glad I heard him. Aside from his qualifications, he has a heart for the elderly. Immersed in their world, he walks his talk everyday. I just got his book yesterday and can't wait to read it and share it with my sister.
Parent Talk: The Nine Conversations To Have With Your Aging Loves One. Scott could have named it The Art Of Stepping In.
As long as I am in this elder care loop I want to be informed and on the cutting edge. It will help me, after all, when I am on the receiving end! Smile.
Enjoy the day!