Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some Things I Learned While Raising My Parents

A few weeks ago I had a customer come in the shop to buy a chest, a lift chair and a few odd pieces to "brighten up her room." 
From the conversation that the two ladies were having about "mother," I knew they were facing decisions that I had faced only a couple of years ago.
Since blogging, I am finding more and more friends my age who are struggling with the decisions and difficulties of "raising" their parents.
I tell everyone, my children kept me young.  My parents aged me. 

Some things I learned in "Raising my Parents..."

1.  Never forget the sacrifices they made for you.  When you are frustrated and feel "I wish I had some time for myself", "I wish he/she would quit saying the same thing over and over again; I've heard his story a hundred times before," "When will this end?"  Remember how it felt when you were raising your children.  As parents, we never had time for ourselves.  We thought, "If I hear 'Mom' again, I'm going to scream."  We thought, "I wish they'd grow up."  But oh, how sad when they were grown and gone.  Our parents made the same sacrifices for us.  It's our turn to give back. 

When incontinence began and there were accidents everyday, I thought about how many times mama had changed my diapers and wiped my bottom. When I had to clean her face because she didn't realize she had gook on it, I thought of all the times mama had wiped my snotty nose.  It was truly time to repay her for the years that she had taken care of me.

Looking back, just as with my children, those days were gone too quickly.

2.  Find humor in the moment.  My mama was such a fun person.  She fell in the closet one day.  I couldn't get her up and we just sat in the floor and laughed.  Remember the old saying, "Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying."  Cancer claimed her life, but dementia claimed her mind.  Now, mama was a spunky-speak-her-mind kind of person on a given day anyway.  She just used discretion when she needed to remain quiet.  At this point, she had lost all disciplines. 

  Physicians who have studied this dreaded disease believe that sensations in the mouth are comforting to the person with Alzheimer's.  Some hum, some sing, some yell for no reason.  In the home where she resided, there was a resident who hummed all the time and I mean ALL the time.  She never was quiet unless she was asleep.  A precious dear heart who loved me. Mama kept looking at me and looking at the lady.  I thought, "Oh, no, what is she going to say?"  Before I could get the thought out of my mind she said, "I wish she would shut up."  One of the other residents picked it up, "Mrs. Lindsey says she wishes you would shut your mouth." And before long everyone chimed in.  I had to leave and laugh. Honestly she said what we all were thinking.

3.  Do not let guilt consume you.  Mama always said, "If I get where I can't take care of myself, put me in a nursing home.  No matter what I say, remember what I am telling you now."  You know if you are a hundred miles away and can't be there.  You know that you have children who need you and responsibilities that are necessary just to make it through a day.  Don't beat yourself over the head with a mental 2x4.

4.  Take care of yourself.  For the first two weeks of placement, don't go everyday.  They will adjust better if you are not there to remind them of home.  It takes about from 6 weeks to 3 months.  Be good to yourself.  Have some "me" time.  Read, pray and meditate.  Go out with friends.  When everything was caving in around me, I went to see my children.  When I felt like I had done everything wrong, they reminded me of all I had done right.  Join a support group.  You will find out who your true friends are. Go junking.  Dig in the dirt.  Do whatever makes you happy.

5. Hold tightly to every precious moment.  Hug them often.  Say, "I love you and thank you."  Be careful not to speak words now that you will regret later.  There are some things I said out of desperation that I will never get over. 

6.  Give them freedom to make some choices and have some dignity.  So much has been taken away. They have experienced so much loss...loss of home...loss of the familiar...loss of belonging..loss of dignity (One thing I hated as much as anything was the way the home labeled mama's clothes with a Sharpie.  My mama would have died!)  Allow them to continue to do some of the things they've always done.  Mama couldn't remember alot of things.  I wasn't sure she could still pray.  One day I was facing a surgical consultation after an abnormal mamo and I was afraid.  I asked her to pray for me.  I was so surprised when she prayed the sweetest prayer.  If mama said, "Everything is going to be okay," it was going to be okay.  When she finished she said, "Everything is going to be okay."  Of course, I cried. 

This time in my life was more difficult than I ever imagined.

Some days all you can do is just get through the day.  Some days all you can do is get through the moment.  Some days all you can do is just pick up one foot at a time-one second at a time.

For all you hurting children who are raising your parents, your children, your grandchildren, your spouse, You are stronger than you think and you will make it!

My Love and Prayers to Those Who Hurt,


1 comment:

  1. What a sweet, moving post. Words of wisdom to those of us who will eventually deal with the same decisions and stresses. I often think about how detached the young are in society from the elderly. It makes me sad. I have vowed to take care of my parents...and made my little girls promise to take care of me! LOL



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