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caring for my mom

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This post was written by Dawne Cressman on Mayne Island.

mom200481I’m a baby boomer, in my early sixties and presently caring for my 86 year-old mother. My generation wasn’t raised with the expectation that we would look after our parents  – in fact, mom always said that she didn‘t want to live with her children. My mother first came to live with me after finding it difficult to adjust to an assisted living facility. During this period, she was mobile with a walker and able to take care of most things by herself. She flourished in the family atmosphere and spent her time producing beautiful watercolour paintings, and regained her strength.  

kitchen20windowCaring for elderly parents does not come with a manual: it’s a trial and error process. Some things work and some don’t. After returning to her hometown, mom had a fall and went to a transition centre where she was placed in a wheelchair, thus loosing her independence. Seeing her sink into depression, I decided to bring her to my home on the coast. I was shocked to see how far she had regressed. She now needs fulltime nursing care, including help to the toilet, dressing, transfers in and out of bed and chairs. She can use her walker with assistance—which we encourage as much as possible—but she tires easily and sleeps a lot. Perhaps a stroke caused the sudden decline, we don’t know. 

commodeMy life has changed completely. The first weeks were busy and intense as we established house routines and set up some external home-care services. Occasionally I think that I’ve made a mistake—for her and myself, that I can’t do this. But I’m learning day by day, some better than others. My house is now equipped with walkers, wheelchairs, toilet commodes, bath seats, bedpans, and stacks of incontinence pads. I do laundry daily. I make sure mom takes her medication but often can’t remember whether I’ve taken my own. Some days I feel housebound as I can’t get out for my customary walks in the fresh air. Getting to the island store requires extra effort and planning and any thoughts of travelling–which I love to do–have been put on hold indefinitely. 

How do I cope with all of this?  Through a meditative practice I started a few months ago, I feel like I’m now travelling inwardly. Support of friends helps immensely. With a conscious commitment to serve my mom I’m beginning to see her as my teacher in many ways. She requires more effort physically, her mind is much lighter, almost childlike, and I enjoy being with her more than ever.  She is helping me see the cycle of life, how birth and death are linked. I feel thankful to her.

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2 responses »

  1. What a beautiful learning and teaching this article is Dawne. You seem to be finding your way. In sharing your experience, I am able to glimpse a possible experience as a daughter and also as a woman who will – maybe – live to be old and need the support of my daughter and other caregivers. I hope I can have the insight to face what is asked of me when the time comes – like you are sharing here with us. Terrill

    Reply
  2. dawne cressman

    This article was written just after my mom returned to my home. As time goes along, I am finding her needs and abilities changing, to the point, where I am now realizing I may not be able to indefinitely continue to care for her. Facing this decision has been emotionally difficult to make; and time will tell how it will play out. Waiting lists for seniors homes can be long, and once a spot becomes available, then the final decision will have to be made. In the meantime, I continue to provide care, along with the home support workers. With so many different people coming to the house, sometimes I feel like I’m living in a commune, sharing my space and finding things get moved around/ teaching me to be more open and flexible. I’m also finding that limits I didn’t know existed in me are being tested; it’s not all fun and games, but it is very real. And I know i will look back on this experience as a time of amazing learning, but in the meantime, I have many days where I’m struggling…..
    If anyone going through something similar would like to share experiences with me, I would be happy to reply. Dawne

    Reply

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