We must do what we think we cannot.
Caring for aging parents is like crossing a rushing river in a rainstorm. I have no idea why the man above wants to do that. I suspect, however, that he has a choice and doesn't have to cross the river. Caregivers, on the other hand, MUST keep trying to cross the river, no matter how many times they fall in. Eleanor Roosevelt's words aren't so much inspirational, in this context, as they are factual. We must do what we think we cannot because there is no one else to do it.
The demands of caregiving are daunting at the best of times. Coping with the cognitive and behavioral changes of aging parents adds to the burden. My father and mother both have some cognitive decline. Sometimes, my dad doesn't understand what I'm asking him/telling him and gets angry if I try and explain things. My mom is anxious, has poor short term memory, and repeats herself. Mom can be annoying, however, she is rarely hostile or angry.
Dad is another story. He is determined to control the things he can control. Unfortunately, he thinks that I'm on that list because I am staying in his house. Just a few days ago, for example he got angry because I accidentally bumped into him and told me in no uncertain terms that this was HIS HOUSE and no one had a right to bump into him. I tried to apologize and explain it was an accident, but Dad was having none of it. "No one has the right to say they're sorry here!" he yelled and that was that. Being treated unkindly and as if I am a small child, is a bitter pill to swallow. Intentional or not, Dad's behavior is exhausting. Coping isn't easy and, sometimes, I really want to throw in the towel.
Take time for yourself, everyone says. Today, I was doing just that when my dad arrived home from visiting Mom. "Are you ready to go?" he asked, expectantly, after calling out hello. I was upstairs at the time, working on this post. "Ready to go?" I repeated stupidly, as I made my way down the stairs.
Mom had phoned earlier, telling me Dad was coming home.; however, I just thought she was informing me. I didn't realize that she meant that he was COMING HOME TO GET ME. Sigh. I wasn't up for another misunderstanding, so I reluctantly got my stuff together and jumped in the car. When we got to the center, Dad dropped me off and said he'd see me later. So, Mom and I had several quiet hours to chat and watch a movie before Dad came back. And, even though strictly speaking it wasn't "me time," it worked. Mom didn't have too much to say and I had some time to think while she alternated between dozing and watching the movie.
What did I think about? I thought that I had reached my limit staying here. I also thought about how much I'd miss my mother, who due to her fractured hip is at risk for more falls. Every time I leave, these days, I'm never sure I'll see her alive again. At age 79, the same is true of Dad, even though he is in better health than Mom. I also thought about the fact that I have a 17-year-old-son at home, an overworked husband, and a lonely cat. I miss them and they miss me. I am also not making much money while I'm here. Well, to be honest almost no money. All in all, I need to go home. (Cat, Photo: Ernst Vikne)
But it's hard. The truth is that there is no simple solution; there are only tough decisions. Meanwhile, I need to get through the next 10 days or so, until I can (hopefully) go home. Going home depends upon the results of my mom's next x-ray on the 27th, my mother's mental and physical health, and whether or not my parents have enough money to get Mom the care she needs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though, and trying not to beat up on myself about not being able to stay longer. I arrived in Michigan on January 9 and hope to leave on March 1st or 2nd. 50 days plus change is nothing to be ashamed of.
Have you had to make difficult choices between caring for aging parents and your "own" family? If so, what did you do?