A Caregiver’s Repreive

Photo Credit: Cole Bransford

My siblings are wonderful. I know from many of you that I’m lucky to have engaged siblings who will and can help. As we rolled into Christmas, my siblings came to town to visit with my Mom so I could spend time with my husband’s family who would be visiting us.

Initially, I still got a few calls from Mom when she was confused by a call and didn’t know how to reach my brother or sister, but for nearly three days, I did not get one phone call. On the third day — I started to ignore my mobile phone (it was Christmas Day) since my kids and husband were all with me and I knew my Mom was in the company of my sister.  As soon as my sister’s flight left, the calls began.

I believe my Mom calls me when she is lonely, which only reignites concern over her well-being. I’m thankful she is in an Assisted Living facility, but can’t imagine anyone being in one without a family that visits, calls or advocates for their loved one. The fact that she is already in a place prepared to support her and that it is one she choose makes my caregiver duties much lighter, but it does add a level of complication. There are things that happen that we learn of second-hand, can’t control and don’t like.

However, I recognize the toll of my constant concern as the only local family member as well as the guilt that I’m not visiting her daily are taking on me and know that I need to give myself more breaks. I can’t make up for my Mom’s lack of short-term memory by calling more, I can’t feel guilty that I don’t visit more, but I can love her and be mindful of her needs.

One of the best tools I found to manage was using Google Calendar for my family scheduling. When I started to feel overwhelmed by raising my children well, caring for my parents and work, I worked with a life coach. She helped me develop my priority system. I use that to determine what goes on my schedule and review it quarterly to ensure I’m not neglecting key elements of my life. My husband and children all use the calendar to stay in synch. It works well for us.

A change in the routine of life can be eye-opening. Helping my Mom is such a daily part of my life, I didn’t recognize until I stepped away for a few days how much mental time I spent on the topic. It was nice to have the mental break. Recognized. 

Related Articles:

Ten Ways to Deal with Caregiver Stress (AARP)

Respite Care: A Break for the Caregiver (AARP)

Thank you to my siblings — and all of those friends and caring individuals who continue to pay visits and write letters to my Mom.

Pushing Us Away

While my dad handed over his car keys to my sister following their doctor’s recommendation they not drive, it was a matter of hours before my parents worked to unravel any real progress. Our mom and dad have had years to manage through their issues together and the teamwork kicks in to push us away when help is offered.

During her visit, my sister was staying with my parents at their retirement community. They said their good-nights and retreated to their bedrooms. My sister was in her room when my mom barges in claiming they need to drive back to their townhouse right now. She tells my sister they had not picked up their mail from today and they had not checked their answering machine for messages. My sister points out that it’s a Friday night and they would be going to the townhouse in the morning anyway, so that could wait until then. Mom seems to accept this and retreats. She returns within a few minutes with a new reason:  Dad forgot one of his medications – this is an emergency.

My sister is a little dumbfounded. She takes my mom at her word when she says they are just going to drive there, get the medicine and then come back to the retirement community. My sister drives them there and waits in the car for 10 minutes. Then my mom returns to the car and instead of getting in announces that they aren’t returning to their retirement home tonight.

My sister left everything at the other home – medicine, toothbrush, PJs. It seems like a cruel joke.

She calls me and is angry. She feels like she just got punked, which she did. My parents have done these cruel little exercises to me often. I figured it was their subconscious protection trying to push us away by punishing us for trying to help them.

I remind her they have head injuries and don’t really recognize or understand how awful their behavior has become.

This trip I get to share with her the art of disappearing – it’s how I cope when I get too worn down by my parents’ behavior. I tell her the guest room is ready for her. I have PJs and a toothbrush waiting, come on over.

The silver lining was that we got to spend the rest of the weekend with my sister. Appreciated.