All my life, my mother has been a rock: strong, independent, opinionated, and fearless. She was the woman who raised 5 children by herself in the 60’s and 70’s when it was difficult for a woman to accomplish most anything. Putting herself through LVN school, she worked long hours and studied even longer. My mother’s example inspired me to become more than what a woman is expected to be.
Now, her 80th birthday has come and gone, and I find myself in a position of being a parent to her. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4 years ago, and while those years have been relatively uneventful, the disease has progressed over the past 2 years to the point where her cognitive faculties have been affected. Confusion, depression, paranoia, forgetfulness, inability to express herself, both verbal and written communication…these have become prevalent in day-to-day activities.
At this point, the kicker is that I’m mentally unable to place her in a full-time care home. Just the thought of it brings about a crushing guilt that suffocates me. What’s worse is that out of 5 children, I’m the only one either willing or able to care for her. I’ve moved my mother into my house. I drive her to every doctor’s appointment. I take her shopping. My husband, bless his heart, cooks for her and our family virtually every day.
I’ve seen and experienced the effects of Alzheimer’s as a caregiver, and I can tell you that the burden it brings surpasses anything I’ve ever experienced as a parent of three children or as a wife of a U.S. Veteran who is affected by PTSD. I find that I’m in emotional distress most days, and my stress levels are so high that I’ve been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue.
Not to mention the wide array of emotions that I experience almost daily: guilt, grief, anger, anxiety, frustration, and even a sense of profound loss. What heightens these emotional states is the fact that I must continue to be strong, not only for my husband and adult children, but for my mother as well. After all, I love her. But I miss the days of sitting down with her, chatting over a latte or razzing each other in playful banter. I miss the relationship I had with her, and fear that relationship will completely disintegrate in the coming years.
Whatever the future holds, raising a parent is difficult. My advice, take a deep breath, hug your mom or dad often, and relish the time you have with them. My heart goes out to those in the same situation that I am. Be strong. What you’ve undertaken speaks to your character, compassion, and love.