I have been my 87-year old mother’s caregiver since last January. For most of that time, she was mobile enough to dress herself, take care of her toileting needs, and manage her own medications. Then, she had a fall and her situation changed drastically.
Now she is dependent on help for all her needs. Being her daily caregiver means managing her medication and assisting her with washing, dressing, going to the toilet, and moving about the house—pretty well helping her with everything. The last three months have been a challenge for me to adjust to her needs plus manage a multitude of tasks (such as organizing help from outside) and maintaining my own life.
This past week, Mom became ill with diarrhea and stomach problems. She ate very little and become weak and tired. Moving her became virtually impossible for one person and I was faced with the decision to hospitalize her. Once that was decided I had to pack her bag with clothing and toiletries, her medications and Personal Directive order, plus my own things for leaving the island. When it came time to call 911 for the ambulance, I found myself hesitating and questioning … Was this the right thing to do? I felt utterly alone as the hugeness of the responsibility began to weigh on me.
Mom was remarkably light-spirited, joking with everyone as she was transported first by ambulance and then by water taxi to the hospital on another island. I felt the heaviness lift as I drove the truck to the ferry to join her on the journey. Once she was safely in transit, I could breathe a little easier. I felt freed in that moment and gained some perspective on the responsibility of taking care of my mom these last three months.
My mother is currently being assessed and cared for in hospital. It’s good to have the labs and x-ray departments under one roof without having to figure things out from our islands with only a doctor’s office. Mom now receives the care needed; due to her weakness she’s became a “2-person assist.” A social worker will assess her suitability to an extended care facility or, if needed, to 24-hour home care if she returns home while awaiting placement to a facility. Our hospital system is overloaded and underfunded. I’m told that 600 seniors are currently waiting in hospital beds in our region for placement in care facilities.
I realize that caring for my mother, whether she lives with me or not, will continue until she passes on. She now needs a new level of care—beyond my capability—and will eventually move into an institution. I was relieved to hear the admitting ER nurse telling me not to feel bad as I can no longer care for mom at home.