I prayed that God would make it possible for me to spend more time with my mother during her waning years. God answered my prayer, and I now live about 5 miles from her home. I’m not a full-time caregiver, but I share some responsibilities with my brother by helping with cleaning the house, baking, laundry, and grocery shopping, things she used to enjoy but cannot do any more. I’m grateful that I can help her. But it’s hard!
No matter what your relationship to the person you care for, parent, child, friend, you either feel as though you can’t do enough or there’s too much to do. My heart goes out to full-time caregivers.
My mother (and my father) raised a family of seven. Even after my dad passed away, Mom continued to be active. She maintained her home, had a garden, sewed, did her own yard work, traveled, attended church and Grange meetings, and offered us hospitality when we returned home for a visit. And she was an avid reader.
I’ve known people who avoid visiting an elderly person because they find it difficult to accept the changes and limitations of that person compared to the vital person they knew. How many people are put in nursing homes and left there without visitors? Yes, they have someone to look after them and see to their basic needs, but my observation is that they need a relative or friend to be there for them, to love them and advocate for them.
Here are some of my thoughts about caring for my mother.
- Mom is sad when she can’t do the things that used to be second nature to her. She wants to bake cookies, clean her own house, buy her own groceries at the grocery store. She never wanted to become dependent on other people to do these things. She doesn’t like to have to sit and wait for someone else to do for her.
- She has trouble hearing. I have to repeat the same things over and over, louder and louder, because she can’t hear me, even though she wears hearing aids. To be honest, I don’t like yelling at my mother, even if I have to so she can hear me. She hears other people, but she has trouble hearing me, probably because my voice is soft.
- She asks me the same questions over and over, or she wants to repeat a task that has already been done. I think she knows she’s getting forgetful, and it frustrates her.
- She enjoys company, even though it’s hard to carry on a conversation with her. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her that most of her friends have passed away, or they’re too old or infirm to visit. She enjoys receiving cards, being remembered.
- She especially loves to have time with family members. Being included in a family gathering gives her joy. It makes her feel loved and wanted. She still likes to have her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and great-great grandkids stop in for a visit. A few of us live close by, but so many others are scattered around the country. She has a large collection of photos.
- Her mind and body don’t move as quickly as they used to. Don’t overwhelm her by a sudden change of subject, by talking too fast, or by forcing her to make a quick decision. There are still things she insists on doing for herself, and I try to find ways she can help with simple tasks. I could probably accomplish them in ¼ the time, but it’s important for her to do the things she can do. It gives her a sense of accomplishment and keeps her from giving up. My mother used to be a fast walker. Now she uses a walker.
- She isn’t a couch potato or a vegetable. She’ s a living, breathing human being. She has faced life with courage and stamina. Her determination has kept her going. She’s an inspiration to family members.
- She loves watching the birds, the squirrels, the turkeys, and the deer that come into her yard, mostly because she keeps seed in her bird feeder most of the year. I don’t remember a time when she hasn’t put out a bird feeder. She still enjoys short walks outdoors when the weather allows and feels shut in during the cold winters. She has a collection of houseplants that I help her care for.
Mom spent many hours caring for me and was always there for me during my growing up years and after. It’s not always easy accepting her limitations, and I have to pray for patience and understanding. I’m thankful that I can invest my time and effort in providing for her care as she remains at home. I treasure the many “extra” years I’ve had with her.
But it’s still hard.