8.22.2012

Some Caretaker Thoughts

Most people who check in at the Ballpark once in a while know I help my elderly parents who live in an assisted living facility a mile away.   Between my husband, our daughter and me, we check on them daily.

They seem to decline a little more every month.  They are 89 and 92 (it surprises me to write that every time) and are currently stable.  But, any day things could change.

We all get along pretty well, but on occasion, one of my parents becomes discouraged about or frustrated with their own limitations.   Dad wears his heart on his sleeve, so it's easy to decipher his concerns.  Mom is pretty emotionally restrained.  She's simply wired differently, and it's often difficult to determine what's on her mind. 

This week, she became upset because she was out of some eye drops.  I bought her a new box, but she claimed it was not the right type.  I went into the store twice to make sure I had it right.  She began to cry and imply that I was in too big a hurry to help her.  This flare-up came out of nowhere.

This is the third time in the past two years Mom has had a bit of a meltdown over, what seems to me, an issue that is easily resolvable.   It always catches me off guard, and it's always upsetting to both of us.  I do my best to help my folks, and it makes me sad to think Mom might not feel safe in my care of her.  I'm not the perfect caretaker, for sure, but I do believe God equips me to be the best imperfect caretaker I can be.   

My parents were both recently diagnosed with levels of dementia, and I know as the brain deteriorates, there are personality changes.  I'm seeing this in both of my parents, and it's very difficult to accept.  Just like Dad keeps thinking the perfect drug will make him 25 again, I keep thinking, things can't get any worse - we're both delusional.

Mom and Dad have repeatedly said they didn't think getting older would be like this.  I didn't think helping my parents would be like this.  I don't know what we were all thinking, but my daughter is getting a more realistic view of what getting older entails.

She helped Dad with his catheter when he needed one, she can maneuver his weighty wheel chair in and out of the car, and she plays Bingo with Dad and his buddies once a week or so.  Every young person should regularly visit the land of the elderly and become comfortable with their own future.


Helping my folks draws me closer to God, because on my own, I run out of resources.  Every level of decline - Dad's stroke, Mom's shoulder surgery, their many falls, etc. - brings with it another layer of sadness.  The realization that they are not going to get better.   (They stabilize between episodes, but there's always something else coming.)

My fleshy heart shies away from adjusting to more disabilities, but God keeps moving me forward, whispering don't be afraid; for I am your strength, song, and salvation.

My parents are people of faith, and I know they will find peace in physical death.  What is hard to live with is that they don't really have peace now.  They have pains and weaknesses and deficits and limitations that make them weary.

We try to laugh often and celebrate the things we can.  I know God is sovereign, and the aging process doesn't lessen His intimacy with us.  I know this in my head.  But, because I love my parents, my heart still aches.

I know there are millions of people who help their aging parents and certainly people who manage it better than I do.  I'm not the first child to have these thoughts and feelings, and I won't be the last.  But, it often feels like a solitary journey, and it helps to share it with at least 144 people. 

Thanks for listening.



29 comments:

Stacy said...

I'm not there yet, my mom is only 68. That's 20 years to the day older than me. With not so many years between us we "joke" about one day being in a nursing home together. Still, this past year I'm noticing little things with mom. Her driving speed has slowed to that of a snail, her memory that has always remembered the smallest detail is slipping, her speaking voice is getting louder (not always a good thing), she's more opinionated, and she is really grumpy with her husband. I admit I am dreading the day when I have to step in as a care-taker.

Retired Knitter said...

Oh yes, you and I are sisters under the flesh! My own journey with my mom (now 86 years old and in Assisted Living for 8 months) is chronicled in my own blog (because I had to get those thoughts, frustrations, joys and sadness out somewhere). And it did help immensely to write about it.

If you ever want to feel like you are not alone - I am at http://mynext20yearsoflving.blogspot.com. The series of posts are called Through My Caregiver Eyes. It tells the story of my caregiving for mom from the time I suspected she could not live independently any more until present. And the story continues for me just as it is for you.

Take care dear daughter! Your parents are blessed to have your support.

Elaine
Retired Knitter

Retired Knitter said...

I miss typed my blog name. Here is the correction.

http://mynext20yearsofliving.blogspot.com

Jen Forbes said...

There is something humbling almost scary about taking care of the people who gave birth to you.

To look at the people who you looked up to for their strength and see them as so fragile and weak. I hear and understand what your writing about here Mare.

But you know what? With that strength is so much love and thank God that never changes.

Although my Mother is still living independently we see and are concerned about her decline as well.

We had to go next door just the other night and pick her up when she fell in her closet. No injury thank goodness.

I'm not sure why worry for our love ones feels so isolating..I wish I knew. Hugs!

Tamera Brose said...

Caregiving is not easy. You are a wonderful daughter and caregiver. You aren't alone. There are many in your shoes and as you observed, God is there with you always. It still isn't easy.

KarenG said...

As I scrolled quickly through my dashboard today finding nothing of real interest to me I was just about to give up blog-hopping for the day until I came to your post. And now I sit and take deep deep breaths, wondering where my husband and I'll be at this stage of our lives. Both sets of parents died fairly quickly-- his dad in early 60's, his mom 10 years later, and my parents lived to be 84 and 93. So we are orphans lol. My mom was terribly worried she'd get dementia and be a "burden" to her daughters. What scares me is that my time is coming, and it's always sooner than one might think. God bless you, Mare, you and your sister are doing a wonderful work. Your parents raised you right.

Carri said...

Mare,
You touch my heart once again with your post. As I think you probably know..my husband and I moved from NE Ohio to SW (Cincy) Ohio and bought the house we are in now because it had a walk out basement and we could turn it into a separate apartment for my parents so they could live with us and we could care for them since my Dad has Alzheimer's and Congenital Heart Disease, Diabetes and a whole host of ailments and my Mom has Heart Disease and Diabetes as well... they are 75-79... They have been living with us now for 4 years... I know all too well of the calm before the storm of health issues and the frustration of trying to do the best I can for them and feeling at times it's never enough. My 2 younger sisters felt this was something they could not do... so being the eldest I really prayed about it and knew that this was something God wanted me to do.. Knowing the Lord has my back is peaceful on a calm day.. but honestly.. it doesn't make this journey easier for me to watch. My Father has gotten to the point where he's now forgetting close family members, my mothers having a very difficult time coping with the reality of Dads disease.. I could go on and on... and at least my sisters are there for me in that way.. I can 'vent' once in awhile about the frustrations of seeing your parents decline and have so little power to do anything that makes any real difference. You have my prayers... I have no doubt you are doing everything you can and should for your parents.. it's so easy for us to be hard on ourselves in these situations... So easy to feel cut off and alone. I totally understand your Mom's feeling of not ever thinking old age would be like this... I never thought it would be either... it's been a real lesson for me as well and my grown children. You are not alone.. you are doing the best you can... and someday we will understand so much of this that doesn't make sense... I know God will explain it to me someday... I have to trust he has a plan ...

Carri

Chatty Crone said...

Hugs to you - I am so sorry. My mother had the same thing - but I did not have two parents at the same time - I am so sorry. sandie

Jaime said...

It is people like you who I really admire. Your courage, authenticity, compassion and faith. I feel like God is calling me to move closer to family. I think that He is directing me on this path so that I can begin building a foundation of support for when my mom & step-dad will need a caregiver. I have 15-20 years but I am grateful for people like you who share their fears along with their love. Reading this post reminds me of what is important. I hope that I can be as giving as you.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Oh, Mare, what a beautiful post. I can tell just from reading your words that you are managing your situation with grace, as best you can. That's really all any of us can hope for.

My Dad just turned 70, Mom is 68. I see my future being similar to yours.

Marianne said...

Your post and that beautiful picture brought tears to my eyes. My parents are just starting to require some assistance and aid from their children. I have a lot of fear about my abilities and pray to find patience and kindness to treat them the way they deserve to be treated. My husband lost his mother when she was 55 and his father at 65 to stroke & dementia. The road ahead looks scary, but you're right. Faith is everything.

Misha Gericke said...

In a way, I know what you mean.

My grandmother moved in with my family almost ten years ago after my grandfather died. She's turning 70 on the September 10.

I always have loved her dearly and still do, but sometimes, things that come with her aging really put a strain on the family.

That said, I couldn't life without her.

Kenya G. Johnson said...

Love the picture Mare. And thank you for your story. This isn't something I like to think about. Especially since neither my brother or I live in the state that my parents live. We will joke about what to do with them when they get this age and what daddy will be like, but one day it will likely be a reality I have to face. I'm hoping that making light of it is sort of an acknowledging that won't be such a blow in the future. I've been toying around with visiting the elderly. I think they would get a kick out of the conversation they could have with Christopher. I just haven't made the move because it is something that I would be the one who is uncomfortable.

Emmy said...

One set of my grandparents passed away when I was pretty young, and the others lived far away so I didn't really see this-- but I did witness the deterioration of my husband's grandma, and it really is such a hard process.

My FIL was there with her daily (it was his MIL) and would help take care of her and then when it came time to decide where she should be moved, etc they pretty much left him out of the process. It was a very difficult time.

SweetMarie said...

Sweet photo! Your parents are so blessed to have such a wonderful daughter...you. :) My parents are in their early and mid sixties, so we're in good shape for a while. I now help care for my grandma, she's 83.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Dana said...

This is a lovely post, and the picture is really touching. Thanks for sharing this story.

Amberr Meadows said...

I can only imagine what you are going through. My mother and grandmother are both deceased, so I was never put in this position, but my prayers go out to you for strength and fortification. Getting old has no glamour, and I think that is why God made it clear we should never be too enamored with the flesh. Coincidentally, I've been considering volunteer work at a local nursing home just to keep some of the lonely elderly people company. I'm sure it would be well-received (I hope). God bless you and yours!

Rita said...

I'm lucky my folks are 91 and 83 and are still driving back and forth from Florida to Minnesota every year. Sadly, I am in worse shape than they are in a few respects. Life may be a crap shoot, but love is what gets you through. Sounds like there's a lot of love in your family. :):)

Jerralea said...

Blessings on you, Mare! I think like you sound like the best daughter you could be.

The great thing is that God will enable you to do what He has called you to do!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thanks for sharing, Mare. This came at an opportune time for me. My mom lives in CA, we live in IL. She has been alone for a year and a half, and does not want to move near us, since all her friends are there. Yet she's fallen several times, and really should not be driving. She is 85. I don't want to force her to move against her will, but I hate the thouhgt of her getting hurt or sick and we not being there to help her....

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, forgot to say: It sounds to me like you're doing a bang-up job helping your folks. Don't let Satan tell you otherwise! And, I admire your daughter for pitching in; that's so wonderful! Grace to you both,
Jen

Annmarie Pipa said...

thank you for your example of kindness to others...God bless you...and how blessed you are too to have your daughter to help. hang in there...God knows.

robyn said...

I feel for you - I worked in assisted living for years, and you're doing a wonderful job. It's a difficult thing to deal with, especially since the situation is always changing. The fact that your family is so involved in their lives, I can tell you for sure, makes a world of difference.

Robyn Ivy Proctor said...

it seems to me that you are very hands on---that is a gift you have--because everyone is not able to give like you are---i know i was not prepared for my mom's decline and i was surprised at my feelings i had as she declined---one of the things i sometimes think, is maybe God makes it so unpleasant as we reach old age, so we will want to go home and not feel such a longing to stay here---i pray for you and your parents mare--you are truly special<3

Lynn Proctor said...

hey mare--that comment that seemed to be from robyn proctor was really me--sorry--i was commenting- not realizing she was logged in to her account :)

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

Mare, caring for someone, or someones, is a tiring - and rewarding - job. As you know, it is very much appreciated, but challenging. Blessings to you and your family for doing the right thing.

Elizabeth said...

Your parents are in a hard place and so are you. It is difficult to handle some of the changes age brings with grace. My mom died last year at 86. She suffered with dementia for about the last decade. It was heartbreaking to watch and almost a relief when she passed. Loving and appreciating our beloved ones is so critical because the years pass so swiftly. I pray you will have unending patience to handle the changes that are happening. What a blessing to be able to share burdens.

Aneta said...

Thanks for sharing that, Mare. My parents are in their mid seventies and my dad is battling prostate cancer (doing well right now,thankfully). I can't imagine life without them. Reading your blog really helps prepare me for what's to come down the road. You are a great role model!

Janice's footsteps said...

Having owned an assisted living home I know what the children of aging parents go thru first hand it is a very difficult thing to live at times but it does help to talk, write, & share your journey. Everyones experience is unique and some how trouble being in the spot you and your family are right now but the rewards are endless, your daughter will have patience and understanding that will carry over into her life forever!!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend <3