A Daughter, Not a Caregiver

When our family was told that my mother could no longer stay in her home without assistance we spent months talking about what to do. It was very important to mom that she stay in the home she had shared with my father and it was important to us – her adult children. All of us decided I would move to San Diego and live with mom. The relationship I had with my mom was loving and filled with laughter so how tough could it be?

The decision was made before we learned mom had cancer, but it didn’t change the master plan. After all, I was superwoman. I could help my mom around the house, prepare meals, take her to doctors’ appointments, make calls, etc. I could do EVERYTHING. I never once imagined the toll it would take physically and emotionally.

As the days, weeks, and months came and went and it became more difficult to keep up with my mother’s increasing needs. We took advantage of her long-term healthcare insurance and retained a caregiver from an agency. At first, the caregiver came 2 days a week for 3 hours a day. Then we added more hours and then more days, but I was still superwoman and continued to do almost everything. When I reached burnout, I relented and accepted the caregiver’s offer to do our grocery shopping, misc. errands and to even take my mom to a doctor’s appointment-but not the important appointments of course, only I could do that.

As the months went by and my mother was losing her hard fought battle, I remained stoic in the belief that I could still manage almost everything. Sometimes I even thought my round the clock care would bring about a miraculous recovery.

During the last week or so of my mother’s life, a dear friend told me that I had to become the daughter again. What was she talking about? Of course I was the daughter? No she said, you have become the CAREGIVER and no longer the DAUGHTER. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that was exactly what I had become. How could I change this? I asked for help. The agency’s caregiver came more often and so did the hospice staff. I asked for a lot of help from a lot of people. Instead of clearing away dishes, do yet another load of laundry, make calls, or send emails, I sat next to her in the hospital bed we brought in. Sometimes, I got in the bed with her. I held her hand, combed her hair, rubbed her forehead, and spoke to her without getting or needing a response. Throughout each day I stopped WHATEVER I was doing and was simply there – with my mom.

There are literally thousands of adult children who care for their parents. Their experiences were probably the same as mine or even more difficult. When asked if I would do this again my answer is always NO. I will forever be grateful for the time shared with my mother, yet I will always regret not being the DAUGHTER sooner. While I truly hope never to be in this type of position once more, if I am, I will push my pride aside, ask for more help sooner, and just be me, not superwoman.

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