Again it is BlogapaloozHour here at ChicagoNow. Once a month, if we so-choose, we have an hour to create and publish a coherent post.
This month, we are to choose from amongst the 50+ topics that have been covered since the exercise’s September, 2013 inception.
I have been a writer here since September, 2015, and so chose a topic from before my time:
“Write about a great challenge faced by you or someone else.”
I chose this topic because I’m currently going through the most challenging phase in my life. I am my mother’s main caregiver. And I am failing the challenge.
Mom is 88 and has Parkinson’s Disease (PD). She was diagnosed over five years ago and her condition has remained static until recently.
I am no expert, but here is a short primer on Parkinson’s. It affects motor skills, muscle movement and can affect mental function. It is progressive and has no cure (although God knows, they are working on it). There is no clear-cut cause, but it involves a lack (or leeching) of dopamine in the brain.
Here is a link to more cohesive info on the disease, from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
Actor Michael J. Fox, himself a sufferer, also has a fine foundation for Parkinson’s research.
With proper medication, PD can remain static for years, but it always eventually progresses.
My mom was diagnosed with PD (shitty irony – those are also her initials) in her early 80’s, after my dad died, although we suspected it earlier, as she took a few unexplained falls while Dad was still alive. She eventually stopped driving, going out by herself and walking without aid of a walker. Last year we sold her house, and she now lives in assisted living near me.
In addition to her physical symptoms, she is beginning to experience Parkinson’s dementia, which is difficult for all involved.
So why do I say I am her main caretaker if she does not live with me? Because in her mind, I am. She counts on me for absolutely everything. Even with the scads of money she pays every month to assisted living, even with the in-house nurses and aides – I am still her go-to. It is as she wants it.
In her pre-PD life, Mom was pretty strong and not particularly needy. Certainly not a burden. But as her PD has progressed, things have changed. And I am alone – my only sibling and father are dead, and I’m single. And I work full-time. Every week it’s something else with Mom, through absolutely no fault of her own. But I’ve been taking care of her for nine years now, since Dad died. I have her healthcare and financial powers of attorney, I pay all her bills and make all of her decisions.
And I am losing it.
In the past three weeks, Mom broke her hip and then her wrist (two separate falls). Her arm is in a splint and she’ll probably have to undergo hip repair surgery in the coming week. I’ve been crying on and off for weeks. Surgery at 88! Scares the shit out of me. I hate seeing her in pain, with this shitty disease, when all I can be is a bumbling bystander.
Yet I also find myself angry and resentful. Mom’s care fell to me by default. It was just a given, expected. I’m alone, holding up the family flag of our own personal Iwo Jima, and letting it drop is not an option.
My own life has pretty much gone to hell, because the one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t live two lives simultaneously, you just can’t. And Mom’s takes precedence. Period. It’s all I can do to get to work and back again, then see Mom, she what she needs today, learn my next assignment.
I used to think I was a good person, but all I am now is a reluctant caretaker. The guilt is unbearable.
My Mom deserves so much better. She is such a brave soldier. She never complains. I do enough of that for the both of us.
I wish I was more calm, a better “soother,” a better person. But I’m not. This kind of thing just doesn’t come naturally to me. I work hard for her, I try like hell, and I don’t show negative emotion to Mom, because God knows, she’s got way too much crap to deal with every minute of every day.
But every minute of every day, I wish I didn’t have to do this.
It’s a challenge I have no way of winning.
To those of you in the same shoes, Godspeed.
Filed under: Life lessons