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. 🙂