As a caregiver, I had a rough evening with Mom this week.
She’s 94 and has some dementia, and I help her shower. Tonight, she wasn’t very happy. She didn’t like something I bought her, she was impatient with the fact that I’ve not connected with her physical therapist yet (we keep missing each other), she kept at me about helping her with a letter she’s been writing, and she didn’t like the towel I used to help her dry off.
On the mile-drive home from my parents’ ALF, I felt the pressure of tears. I’ve been a caregiver for my parents (Dad is 91) for five years, and I’ve watched them gradually decline. Every month or so, they have a medical issue, or a further slip in mental acuity.
Overall, as a caregiver, I’m able to cope, but once in a while…it hits me that these are not the parents I grew up with.
Their lives have become very small. Their memories are short, their complaints are close to the surface. They are adamant that they can do everything they used to do, but they really can’t. I am usually the bad guy, the one who sets the boundaries, says no, but behind the scenes, makes sure they are OK.
I am a caregiver. I never thought I’d be doing this, but here I am. I love my parents, and God sustains me, so I’m not complaining. I’m just realizing that as we age and our awareness/abilities disappear, we are left with what seems to be simply the flesh, and the flesh is weak and tired and grumpy.
My parents were never like this before. They are dedicated Christians who raised four children and buried a son when he was 23. They worked in the church tirelessly all of their adult lives. They opened their home to friends and strangers alike. Any loving kindness I have ever extended, I learned from them.
The Mom I helped a few nights ago is not the Mom who raised me and became a friend/spiritual guide to me. I know it’s not her intention to be testy; her brain is simply deteriorating. It’s wearing down and wearing out, and frequently, misfiring. This is what the flesh does.
The flesh was never meant to be permanent. It’s here for a while, and then it turns to dust.
It helps to remember this.
I will meet the spirit of my Mom again one day, when we are both gone from this life. I believe we will be reunited in heaven, whatever form that takes. The flesh will be a thing of the past, and we will be at peace.
It helps to remember this too.
It is so difficult to watch anyone you love deteriorate and not be who they used to be. Change is the only thing we can count on in this life. Roles we play are altered over time. The only constant is the love. 🙂
Great post, Mare. I could really relate to how our parents' worlds become so much smaller as they get older. And there is usually physical pain to go along with the deterioration of aging bodies. I have been fighting the flu this past week and this time around there is a lot of muscle pain, which has made me so much more empathetic towards others (including my mom) who experience this chronically. I want to be more patient and caring towards those who are "weak, tired, and grumpy". Thanks for the reminder!
What a great post! Caretaking is tough, and watching your parents decline and change and being their caretaker is even harder. So thankful that we have the promise of heaven with perfect minds and bodies.
Chatty Crone says
You know I had one thought – now I went thru the exact same thing – with my mother – my sister had dad. But when we were little – didn't we think we could do everything ourselves – we didn't want help – got mad if they helped us. I think we all fight for independence and it is so hard to get it and hard to give it up. I BELIEVE IN HEAVEN and everything will be wonderful and no broken bodies.
Chatty Crone says
PS I do understand your pain and frustration and there is nothing wrong with it. It comes with the care taking you are doing. It is okay to be a little mad and a little sad.
Care giving/care taking is hard work. And you have been at it for a long time! It is hard to see those we love, like our parents, age and to struggle with the "simple" things they could do so easier in their younger years. You have a good attitude to remember they are not the parents of your "youth" and it is their bodies failing that is making them act like they might these days. Take those memories of their younger days with you when they are no longer around and preserve them.
Barbara In Caneyhead says
Amen. Good you posted. You need a release. You need physical and emotional support for what you are doing.
I'm mostly known as 'MA' says
Your mom is blessed to have a wonderful daughter like you to help out. I know from past experience that care giving is a thankless task. Try to enjoy those moments you do have left with them. Too soon they are gone. The old saying Grin and bear it, takes on new meaning when you have loved ones to care for.
Michael Ann says
Beautifully written…. thank you. You are a wonderful daughter.
Creations By Cindy says
I know how your heart feels about caregiving. I always say that it's not the ones being cared for that necessarily needs the prayers! It's the caregivers. Praying for your spirit this morning. Hugs and blessings, Cindy
As much as I wish I didn't read this, it's a good thing I did. In two days I'm heading home to help my 90 year old grandma pack up her house to move into an independent living home. I am taking it so much harder than I expected. We are so blessed that she is still healthy (for a 90 year old) and still with us mentally. But for me, this really forces me to face the fact that my dear grandma won't be here forever.
I'll pray for you. That you continue to keep these things in mind. I'll be praying for myself, too. Thank you for writing this.
I think that it is great that you can be there for your parents. My sister is the one one that will be the caretaker when the time comes because she lives where they are.
They took care of you. Now you take care of them. Full circle.
you're such a strong woman. my mom says very similar things about my grandma. my grandma gets frustrated, for good reasons, and she takes it out on my mom in strange ways like not liking a towel.:) I constantly remind my mom it's because they are so close and the unconditional love between the two. I feel so bad for the elderly people out there don't have any family that help or visit.
Jo-Anne Meadows says
Caring for someone with dementia is a task and a half and I think all those who do it are bloody amazing