Friday, August 12, 2011

Aging Gracefully and with Dignity

Eight years ago as my father was dying, he asked me to move in with my mother and help take care of her. She didn’t need much caring for at the time, but I believe he was thinking long term, probably thinking forward to the point where we are now. I’m happy to do it – my parents have done everything for me and spoiled me rotten my entire life so this is the least I can do.


Taking care of my mom is not always easy, but I consider it an honor and an adventure in making her life as happy as possible. As I have learned in my caregiver support group, I have two jobs when it comes to Mom – make sure she feels loved and that she feels safe.

Mom is 83, blind in one eye, has early stage Alzheimer’s (or “Old Timers” as she calls it),
dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and arthritis.
I know. All things considered she’s doing really well, in my opinion, and I like to think that I’ve helped her maintain a quality life. We get along really well and enjoy each other’s company. I have assumed the authority role as the mother figure and she is more like my child now and that works just fine. We have developed a daily routine that flows very nicely, always concluding with a Shirley Temple movie before she goes to bed. She's relaxed, knowing that I’m there to take care of her needs and trusting my decisions.

However, there are well-meaning friends and relatives who panic every time she says something odd (which is all the time) and they feel the need to “fix it”. I hear the weird things she says all day every day and it’s nothing to get worked up about. Mom picks up on the vibes of everyone around her and my aim is to make sure she feels relaxed and happy, so I just point out what’s real and correct her without getting upset over something she’s said or done. (OK sometimes I get impatient and frustrated when I’m tired and my tolerance level is very low…but I’m entitled once in a while, right?)

At this stage, I see no point in stressing over what she’s saying. She just needs to be happy, not feeling the need to “perform” to appear OK to everyone. Her only job at this point is to be a sweet old lady, enjoy her knitting, and visit with friends. She goes to senior day care twice a week and has become the welcoming committee and advisor to new participants who are feeling unsure about the situation. This particular day care is paired with a children’s day care, so Mom gets a dose of the little ones (she was a pre-school teacher for 33 years and suffers from child withdrawl, to which I say, “Don’t look at me!”) so this satisfies her innate desire to teach. Kids love her. I know, I used to be one. She is incredibly loving and generous (to a fault – good thing I handle the finances now…)

I like to make sure she still feels like “Mom” as often as possible. I ask her to mend my clothes, make her special tuna salad, kiss my boo-boos and I ask her for her opinion and advice when I need some motherly guidance. She’s still there in her heart, it just doesn’t always make it from her brain to her mouth.

And oh yes – and I am married. I only see my husband on the weekends. I see your raised eyebrows at our unconventional situation….and then I see the thoughtful look come across your face as you think…”Hmmm, that sounds like it might work well…” It does. We have our “golden time” on the weekends while neighbors and family check on Mom while I'm away. In our marriage, we never get sick of each other, that’s for sure! He is so good to my mom and totally supportive of me in my role of caring for her.

Yes there are times when it’s very difficult but as I appreciate my role more and more, I just focus on Mom and the fact that I think she’s got a pretty good life. I feel like I've made a difference.

I never thought this is what I would be doing in my life at this point, but it all works out the way it's supposed to and I'm happy. This is a great example of going with the flow of where life takes you, making the most of what comes your way and enjoying the journey. I am enjoying my journey with Mom, knowing my Daddy is watching over saying, “Thank you, Little Girl. You’re doing a good job.”

May we all age gracefully and have a nice, cushy life where we are well cared for every step of the way.
With love,
Tanna

Living Peacefully ™ is written by Tanna Marshall, Author, Holistic Consultant and Personal Coach.
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2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post. I helped take care of my grandparents in their declining years; for all its frustrations, it can also be beautiful if done in a spirit of willing service. Thanks for sharing, Tanna.

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  2. Oops. Forgot to sign my name to the comment I just made---it's me, Lisa De Lao :-)

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