What do you do when it’s your turn to be the caregiver to your parents? Connie, from the iFamily Mom & Dad Squad shares what it means to care for your parents in times of need.
Taking Care of Your Parents in Times of Need
July is always my favorite month of the year because, during that particular month, summer is in full swing, fireworks are exploding, my birthday is the 5th, with my son and my mother’s following later in the month. It’s something I look forward to every year. This year was no exception. I had birthday week plans, and 4th of July plans, and my son’s birthday plans, and ideas for my mother’s birthday as well. There were tons of items left on my kids’ summer fun list that I had planned on getting checked off. We were so ready for July.
What I wasn’t ready for was spending 8 days in the hospital when my mother got so sick she almost died.
I am one of those weirdos who has always been close with my mother. Even in those moody, yucky, I hate everyone teenage years, she and I were best friends. My friends loved her, many of them preferring to hang out at our house, rather than their own. She always has my back, no matter what the situation. And I always knew, no matter what, my mother would take care of me. Not in the “I don’t want to grow up and deal with adult responsibilities” type of take care of me, but in the “I just need my mom right now” type of way.
She was there.
She was there for our 2 am chats when I cried with my head in her lap over my latest break up, there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, there to coach and then watch every volleyball game I played until I landed a college scholarship. My mom would bring me soup to work when I wasn’t feeling well. She came to the hospital immediately when I was there waiting on a scan of my swollen leg when I was pregnant.
Whatever direction life took me I could always go confidently, knowing she was going to be there to help me get through it.
I feel like I returned the favor. When my grandmother passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer I was there with my mom . I flew with her to Virginia when my uncle died. I had seen my mother when she was weak and vulnerable emotionally and we got through it together. But I had never been faced with my mother needing me to take care of her physically. I had never had to help make medical decisions, or be there to talk her through the latest round of tests, or help her talk to the multiple specialists who paraded through her hospital room that week.
My mother almost died.
I still have a hard time admitting that to myself. Looking back on it now, it still makes me shudder. My strong, funny, young, vibrant mother almost died. And my entire world was rocked. If we hadn’t gotten to the hospital when we did, this would be an entirely different post.
I found myself dealing with every emotion I had. Mad because she didn’t tell me how bad she felt before we went to the hospital and scared to death of losing her. So much so that I was shaking. I was confused by what was happening and the multiple diagnoses that kept coming in. I was stressed because I had two kids at home that I was supposed to be taking care of, but I knew she needed me there.
And I was overwhelmed. I was completely overwhelmed by her needing me.
She needed me there to keep her calm, she needed me there to help her keep track of all the treatments and issues and tests, she needed me there to comfort her and tell her everything was going to be okay. The person who had always helped me deal with life when it got overwhelming was now the person who was causing me to feel overwhelmed. It was time for me to take over that caregiver role and do what she needed me to do.
I became the parent.
I took care of her. Holding her hand. Sleeping on the loudest, most uncomfortable cot on the planet because nights were the hardest for her. Swallowing every fear, every worry, every doubt and I put on a brave face. Because I knew, if the roles were reversed she would do it for me. I vented to my husband and fell apart in the car or in my brief breaks from the hospital, counted on my friends to help me with the kids and to be there if I needed anything. Always reminding myself that the time spent with her at the hospital was extra time we got to spend together. We managed to laugh through the chaos and rejoice in the small victories and improvements.
Once she left the hospital, my mother came and lived with us for 5 weeks. She needed some extra help to get through the day. She needed me and my little family to keep her motivated and focused on getting better.
Usually, as an adult, your parent moving in sounds like a nightmare.
For us it was such a blessing.
My kids loved waking up knowing that Grandma was there. She cooked some of my favorite meals for us when she was feeling good enough to be up and around. She would make sure the kids stayed quiet and entertained so that my husband and I could sleep in. And I got to watch her get better. I got to see her get stronger and healthier and happier every day. I got to slowly switch back to just being her daughter and not constantly worrying about every ache and pain she had. And she got to see that she is stronger than she gives herself credit for.
As awful as that time in the hospital was, and as overwhelmed as I felt, I wouldn’t change it. She taught me everything I know, and I got to show her just a fraction of the strength and care she has shown me in my life. I hope to not have to face another illness with her for a long time, but getting through this one showed me that I can do it and I like to think it showed her that she can too. It made me appreciate her even more and caused us to become closer than ever. I still panic just a bit when she calls sometimes, and we’re still adjusting to time without her here, but I’m excited for the new normal with my healthier, stronger mom.
From iFamily to Yours,