Me and My Aging Mom

My 96 Year Old MomMy mom is 96 years old.

Several years ago she stopped driving after one too many accidents.

A couple of years ago she broke her hip. Now she needs the support of a walker for her stability.

She has macular degeneration. So she can’t see or read very easily any more. Instead she has the trusty company of her radio for connection with the outside world, and she has a caregiver, I’ll call Sally, who lives with her and provides for her in many ways.

Mom has experienced loss in a number of ways in recent years. She often spryly tells me that she’s going to get better and throw her walker away, to go back to the way it was.

She’s lost her former independence and sense of purpose. Sometimes she fights with her caregiver when Sally turns on a light switch that Mom wanted to turn on herself. Simple acts of independence have become important to Mom.

Lately Mom’s been forgetting words and beginning to lose her memory. When this happens she gets scared. She’s always valued her competence as a resource for her well-being, sense of self esteem, and even survival. Mom’s fear looks like frustration and anger.

I get calls from Mom once or twice a week whenever there’s conflict between her and Sally. I listen to Mom and to Sally, soothing them with empathy.

Sometimes I facilitate a conversation between them – helping them to hear one another – calming them both.

Often times it boils down to 2 things for my Mom. One, she’s frustrated at her loss of independence. Two, she’s wanting to be held and cared for – to know she’s loved, safe, and not alone – in this vulnerable and scary period of her life.

Sometimes I feel tired with the intensity of her desperation, frustration, and anger as it spirals around again and again.

Sometimes I wonder about the next twist or turn along our way. Will Mom’s suffering become overwhelming for me? That part of me is wanting to prepare for what’s ahead.

Sometimes I see my mom as an old, frail woman who is on a challenging end-of-life journey, doing the best she can, as am I for her. With occasional moments of angelic innocence and joy.

I’m grateful for the skills I have to contribute to Mom and to Sally – to help to comfort them. I am touched to see them transform.

I’m grateful to be open-hearted with my mom, with Sally, and with myself. To take all of our needs into account. That we all matter.

I’m grateful to share this process of Mom aging with my brother. Our collaboration has been a sweet gift for me. To know that I’m not alone and totally responsible, as I once imagined.

As I’m writing these words, I’m aware that not only am I not alone in this process with my mom because of my brother’s support and because of my connection with myself, I am also not alone in the global sense. That many others have aging parents with whom they are having difficult and amazing experiences.

I’d love to hear about your own very personal stories. Are you caring for your mom or dad? What has touched you about your process with them?

Blessings to us all, young and old alike.  🙂

4 thoughts on “Me and My Aging Mom

  1. Teresa,

    My mother died nearly 10 years ago. The last several years of her life she had severe Alzheimers and couldn’t walk due to strokes. Through the experience of keeping her company in the nursing home and hospitals, I felt a great deal of love for her, and also learned how to ‘be’ with someone when there is no hope for improvement: just being with her and putting a cool washcloth on her forehead or holding her hand, for instance.

    Near the end, the nurses and doctors told me she could die at any second. I was alone in the hospital with no other family. I wondered how I could bear that experience, and looked out the window. I noticed a large dove sitting on my mother’s window ledge. Prior to that, I had not noticed any birds at all in the days that she had been in the hospital room, although this dove was intently looking into the room for a few minutes.
    With that beautiful dove as company, I knew I was not alone.

    My mother made it through that crisis, and I had the opportunity to befriend the family of my mom’s roommate in the hospital; so when I had none of my own family at my mom’s bedside with me, their support was comforting. Many of the nurses were kind as well.

    Help is all around.

    Lois

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    1. Dear Lois,

      Thank you for telling us the beautiful story of you and your mom at the end of her life.

      What a gift to simply be with her and love her! How precious for you both.

      Sweet to have the support all around you and to take that support in – to really feel it.

      Warmly, Teresa

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  2. What a powerful blog post, Teresa. I think about these issues often. So far, I have experienced them only secondhand, via my parents’ experiences caring for their parents and via my mother’s work as a hospice worker. I feel lucky for their (and now your) example in this. I think it is so important that we talk more openly and more often about the experience of aging from all angles. Because then it will be clearer that help is all around and that the experience is a shared one.

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    1. Dear Mary,

      I’m happy this post was meaningful to you.

      Yes, let’s continue to talk about our experiences with our aging parents.

      How comforting for us to know we’re not alone in it and that help is all around!

      Warmly, Teresa

      Like

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