Monday, 23 September 2013

Between Elderly Parents and Grandchildren

Sandwiched!

In 2008 I decided to sell my house and move into the condo building were my mother resided. She was 84 years and in reasonably good health, but definitely not what she once was. On the day that I signed the final paper Mom had a stroke.
My sisters with Mama the day before her stroke


Initially I worried that I'd made this move for nothing, but after two months in hospital Mom was able to return home. Thus began my journey into being a caregiver for my mother. Thankfully, as one of ten kids, I never had to do it alone, though for several years I was her primary caregiver.

For both of us it was important that we each have our own place. Initially I made her breakfast and supper, but later only helped with supper. It was important for Mom to keep "doing" as much as possible. Thus for four years I ate boiled potatoes and carrots every evening. In preparing these vegetables she felt she was helping me as well as doing for herself. Though soon I took charge of the rest of the meal, jokes about potatoes and carrots abounded with friends and family.

My first grandchild was born in 2009 and moved in early 2010 to California. Thus began my twice yearly trips to that state. This meant that while I was away someone else had to take on the caregiving for Mom as she continued a slow decline.
Making cookies with Mina in California

In late 2011 my brother moved in with Mom. He was looking for a place to live and Mom was needing someone with her at night. When Mom got very ill in December 2012 we started 24/7 caregiving. That was only possible because there are a number of us who were able to spend varying amounts of time with her. But my going away for 10 days or more caused complications. Ultimately we couldn't keep it up and had to make the decision to "put her into a home."

Oh, how I dislike that term! And yet it is true. Mom was no longer able to make safe choices for herself, so we had to make them for her. This was not something she wanted. On the day before her move she said to me, "Dad was never sent away." (My father died at home after a year+ long fight with cancer; he need 24hr care for about 3 weeks.) Dad was able to die at home partly because Mom was there with him all the time. Oh how I ached for her! After a lifetime of caring for everyone else there was no one able to care for her.

Happily, Mom has made the transition to nursing home with the grace she has done everything else in her life. We, her kids, are amazed and grateful.
My sister and Mom at her new home

Even so, I find it difficult to leave Ontario to travel to California, where I feel my daughter and her family also need me (and I need them!), because it means not visiting Mom. I feel squashed sometime. However, I know it will not be forever so I continue to offer as much care in both directions as I can.

What about you? Are you sandwiched too?
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