Caregiver Island: My Family Won't Help Me Take Care of My Mother
I write this anonymously, but I have to confess: A lot of times I feel like I have no family support. I'm not talking about social services or the help from the family I live with. Their help is tremendous. No, I'm talking about my immediate family. Most days I feel alone out here on Caregiver Island.
Mom has three other children, although there’s a twenty-year difference between the first two children and the youngest two, me falling in the latter. All of Mom’s children are stationed in different parts of the country. So, Mom and I are here. Everyone else is there.
Keeping in touch creates the typical family dynamics like so many other families out there. Still, I don't think they take Mom's age or health concerns seriously. Maybe they're too far from us to see.
First Daughter never believes my claims about Mom’s health, like when I worry that Mom is having weird memory lapses: First Daughter will try to debate me, find reasons why I am wrong. She does this despite the fact that she lives hundreds of miles away and visits Mom several times a year.
First Son is hard to contact. Sharing health updates with him about Mom is … challenging.
Luckily, I am close to my youngest sister, Last Daughter, who is around my age. She’s the baby of the family. She believes me when I tell her things about Mom. But she is busy with her life, beginning her corporate career. She also lives hundreds of miles away.
Therefore, I know that there is no one else in the family that can do what I do. I am certain of it.
But that leaves me solamente on Caregiver Island. Most of the time our little makeshift family does just fine. But there are many times I wished I had another family member to help me with this caregiver thing. I daydream about it all the time. But ‘tis not the path, I suppose.
Like this morning. Mom wanted to go out for breakfast and lunch and dinner (ALL IN ONE DAY? No way. We don't even go out that much.). Sure, she rarely makes these odd requests. Still, I give in and tell her we could order in food in the evening.
She hangs her head low, goes, “oh,” and shuffles off. I sigh. It isn’t the restaurant suggestions that bother me, or even the passive-aggressiveness. It’s that she is absolutely oblivious to my needs. But maybe we're beyond all that.
I’m chasing around two small children all day and while trying to complete everything else on my to-do list. OH! And work from home. My pastimes include putting my feet up and challenging myself not to feel guilty if I watch another half-an-hour of television.
My mother’s priorities are entirely separate from mine. She’s an octogenarian. She lives to eat in restaurants just like a lot of older folks. Me? I’m in my thirties. I do not want to sit around all day ingesting saturated fat.
These are the times when the bitterness of solo caregiver path stings. I want to give Mom the best quality of life that I can. If I had help or support from other family members, one of them could take her out to a restaurant. They could sit there all day in the restaurant and refill the bread basket into oblivion.
Sure, it is a given that I want Last Daughter around. I ache for her. And First Son would be great to have around during the holidays. I daydream about arranging an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner, or even weekly Sunday dinners. And, it might be a blessing to have First Daughter move to where I live. She could take Mom out to eat sometimes, or to events or the library, maybe even to a few doctor appointments.
But I run a risk. If First Son or First Daughter were to move closer, I could become entangled in their lives and resort back to the caregiver role with them, too. I don’t want that. So I guess the lesser of two evils is to rely on Caregiver Me—myself—no matter how maddening it can be sometimes.
But the help, oh, the help would be great sometimes. I know this caregiver thing won't last forever. I'm trying to savor all of the positive moments while I can ... while trying not to caregiver burn out.
Bottles, Walkers & Crayons