I am back from my trip to the east coast to see my Mother, my sisters and their families. It is always bittersweet. My Mom is 94 years old and mentally sharp most of the time. She had a stroke 23 years ago which left her with some physical disability. Over the years these disabilities have gotten more and more pronounced to the point where Mom can’t take care of herself. She is unable to get to the bathroom, shower, prepare food or get herself in or out of bed.
There are 6 sisters in my family and we all try to do our part. There is really only one thing that Mom had ever really asked of us kids after my father died 36 years ago. She wanted to be able to live her life out in her own home and never have to go to a nursing home. We all made that promise willingly (when we were not in our 50’s and 60’s).
The reality is very difficult:
The sister who lives with my Mom puts her to bed and then answers her calls once or twice during the night and still has to get up early and go to work.
Another sister comes over every day before work to get my Mom out of bed and dressed, and then leaves work again in the middle of the afternoon to take my Mom to the bathroom.
An aide comes for 1 hour every day to make lunch for my Mom and help with cleaning.
The third sister who lives in the same city takes time off from work to help with doctor’s appointments and emergencies.
The three of us who do not live in the same city try to provide financial support and caregiver relief when we come to visit. Yet we still feel guilty that we live so far away.
We are a lucky family. There are a lot of us, we all get along pretty well and every one is on the same page as far as taking care of Mom.
When I go back home I stay with my Mother and my sister. I try to take over all the care for my Mom, plan the meals, buy the groceries and do the cleaning. But when I leave it is always a mix of emotion. My heart breaks a little knowing that this could be the last time I see my Mom. Sadness that I live so far from so many of my siblings. Guilt that my short stint is over and my sister is left with the exhausting and often thankless caregiving job. Guilty especially at the happiness I feel to be coming back home to my husband, sleeping in my own bed and relieved to know I will get an undisturbed night of sleep.
So far the promise to my Mother has been kept.