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Archive for the ‘stay at home mom’ Category

Thanksgiving is the time of year we gather those we love under one roof. Pass the stuffing, hold the sarcastic remarks. If you’ve ever had your mother, your teenagers, and your toddlers all at one table, you know it can get dicey. No iPods at the table, yes you have to eat two bites of broccoli, and thank you, mother–I have gained a few pounds lately–glad you noticed and thought it worth commenting on!  Multigenerational households are petri dishes for family issues. The best way to combat the exhaustion and stress is with a splash of humor.

Your mother might not “get” the challenges of raising a teenager in today’s world of texting and Youtube. She might have a comment or two about your toddler pitching a fit at Target and even state emphatically that you and your siblings never acted out in public (although you distinctly remember a few incidents). You can either laugh it off and not let it get to you, or…take it personal. It’s best to act like a duck and let the water roll off your feathers.

Change the subject or stand your ground, whichever the situation calls for. Remind yourself that you’re a “good enough” parent. You know how to prioritize and you give your heart and time to those you love. That’s good enough.

The only person who can give you that inner resolve to choose to not let your kids or your mom get to you–is you. For me, it took some alone time first thing in the morning and then a few times during the day. I’d sit in the car and give myself a pep talk. I’d walk back to my room to get something, look at myself in the mirror and give myself a smile. When one of those arrows struck me good and hard, I’d go cry, yell, or punch my pillow a couple of times. What was worse was when I didn’t take the high road and I was the one having to go and apologize. It comes with having too much to do and letting the pressure get to you.

Being mom to two generations–one on each side–is exhausting, frustrating, and at times you question yourself. It’s also rewarding. There’s something pretty cool about being the axis at the center of the wheel. Even though I got my fair share of scowls since I was caregiving and raising kids, (my mother had Alzheimer’s) at the same time. It felt like I was the bad guy all the time. I remember one day when I was arguing with my mom (who also had Parkinson’s) that she couldn’t drive in busy traffic, and then turning right around and giving my 15 year-old a driving lesson. We had plenty of tiffs, laughs and hugs, and that’s family life.  

So if you’re sitting down at Thanksgiving tomorrow, say a out loud thanks for being a multi-gen house. Grab hands, say a blessing, and pass the rolls. Your life may be really full and crazy right now, but you know,  that really is a good thing.

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I remember that day well. The day I knew I couldn’t keep on caregiving like I was–not full-time, 24/7, in our home.

It wasn’t about being exhausted to the bone, frustrated to the point I had gritted my teeth down to the nubs, or numb due to months of interrupted and little sleep.

It wasn’t about me. Or Alzheimer’s. Or the end stages of Parkinson’s.

My breaking point was about my daughter.

I wrote in Mothering Mother:

I didn’t expect it—not today—the day I would decide I couldn’t take care of Mother anymore. It’s not really about how hard it is to care for her, but then again, maybe it is.

I should have known that in the end the deciding factor would not be when I had had enough, but when my family had had enough.

Cherish, our youngest daughter is in the hospital. She has a severe kidney infection.

It started out with a backache that lasted for a couple of weeks, and then last night she came down with flu-like symptoms, only something was different about it. My mothering instinct kicked in, and I told Phillip I had to take her to the emergency room.

She was admitted, and for the first time, I found myself in the children’s wing of the hospital, the walls decorated with brightly colored tropical fish murals, and a friendly, concerned staff.

I spent day and night beside her, getting washcloths, holding back her hair and wondering how she had gotten so sick and I didn’t know it. I’ve spent every lucid moment taking care of my mother. My own child needed me and I didn’t pick up on it.

 

Cherish’s medications worked and we barely avoided surgery, but they told us one kidney was smaller than the other and we would have to continue to monitor the situation. She spent five days slowly improving. My mother-in-law flew in to take care of my mother, which was a godsend. 

On the day we were told we could leave, the doctor did a final exam. She asked Cherish, “Who’s your best friend?” and “What do you like to do for fun?”

Cherish’s answers were polite, but lacked enthusiasm. I wondered how I’d answer the same questions. Our life had become as bland and monotonous as a bowl of oatmeal.

The doctor asked what home was like and Cherish explained how her grandmother lived with us. She said it was hard. 

I sat there, stunned, not ever having fully realized the impact of Mother’s care on my children’s lives.

 

“Is your grandmother’s care too much for you or your mom?” the doctor asked and I felt sick inside. How did we get here? How did it ever come to this?

Cherish’s timid nod yes was followed with tears and quivering lips.

 

It all fell away. The illusion that we were all coping was over. I admitted to myself, perhaps for the first time, that this was too much.

 

I had no right to put my family through this. What had started our as love and loyalty had morphed into something unhealthy. I was no longer sure I was taking good care of anyone, including my mother.

I had to accept that my Mother’s bizarre behavior (Alzheimer’s) is no different than living with the mentally ill in practical terms. Its origin may be different, but no one would or should subject a child to this.

My children had endured a worn-out mother, a bickering, beligerent grandmother who inflicts constant verbal attacks, and the loss of the freedom just to be a teenager. This child had taken the brunt.

Everything I’ve believed in is on shaky ground.

 

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. I just know I can’t keep doing this.

I’ve been home a few days from the hospital; I pick up Mother’s wallet, get out her insurance card and dial the number. Within fifteen minutes I’m talking to someone who suggests possibilities.

Why haven’t I thought of this before?  What keeps me locked in the I-have-to-do-this mind-set?  Guilt?  Loyalty?  A promise Mother asked of a child?

I no longer feel obligated to do this no matter what. The no matter what is my family. I’ve done the best I can.

 

After hours hours and hours over the last several days on the phone—time I don’t have to waste—and I’m back to nowhere. The cost for nursing care is astronomical. Mother’s conditions are not considered a “skilled-nurse necessity” and therefore Mother’s insurance doesn’t cover her. I’m stuck between paying out thousands a month for who knows how long, or piecing the care together as I’ve been doing while carrying the main load myself. So much for help.

 I basically spent a week fooling myself, thinking that I could find Mother decent care without bankrupting us. So far, I haven’t found it. Mother’s been with us twenty months and I’ve done all that I know to do. It feels like it’s time to let go, but I don’t know where to turn.

*****

I don’t know if you’re at your breaking point.

If you’re not, you may be one day.

It will be about your own family dynamics, or perhaps your marriage or your health. Most disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, ALS, all offer ring side seats to a very long and heartbreaking situation.

I wish I didn’t have to share this with you.

I wish I could clean it up and offer you something cool to drink.

I wish we didn’t have to talk about this, and yes, your loved one might slip out quietly and peacefully in the middle of the night. I wish, pray, and hope that for you.

 

But I’d rather share my story, offer a few insights, and reassure you that while yes, it will be really, really hard–you will make it.

My story doesn’t end here. My daughter is healthy today. We’ve managed to avoid surgery a few more times.

My mother’s passing was at home and peaceful, but it was slow, and I have to tell you these things because who else but a fellow caregiver will be this candid?

 

Sandwich generation-ers aren’t people just under a catchy umbrella. Their concerns aren’t just how to get little Jimmy to soccer practice–many of them face gut-wrenching choices.

I can also tell you that I believe my children are grateful for the experience of living with my mother, and while aspects of it were really hard, they gleaned a lot, learned a lot about themselves and what it means to be a family.

Did I pray? Turn to God for help? I think I did, although I was in full crisis mode, and I didn’t have the sense to make a formal plea. Nor do I think we need to. A desperate prayer occurs instantly.

Did I have faith? I’m not sure I had much of anything, and I can’t see a divine loving being holding that against a worn-out caregiver. We think we have to jump through hoops–do it right, say it right. I don’t think so. I’m just grateful our lungs are on auto-pilot because in times of great stress, I’m sure I’d forget to breath in and out.

Did I let some things go on too long? Should I have done some things differently? Perhaps. I’m not one to wallow in regrets. I accept what was and learn from it.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far

An Irish Blessing

Where are you? Does this post hit you hard and deep? Does it scare you? Infuriate you? What is it that shakes you to your core?

If you’re at your breaking point, my advice is to go ahead and break. Let it fall apart. You’ve done all you can. You’ve loved, and given, and worked, and hoped, and now it’s time to let go. Trust. Trust something will happen, something or someone will help.

Call someone. Alzheimer’s (www.alz.org) has a toll free number. Call–pour your heart out. Ask for help. Tell others that this is it. You can’t do any more.

Trust that help will come.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

 

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I’m a sandwich generation caregiver.

My 89-year old adoptive mother (who suffered with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) moved in with us–my husband and I, two of our three daughters, plus a menagerie of dogs and cats.

My situation won’t be the same.

We have three daughters, and I had all of them while I was in my twenties.

That means when I’m 89, my daughters will be 67, 66, and 63. Yikes.

I hope they’ll be in good health and that we can all toodle around and take road trips, eat triple decker double-dipped ice-cream cones and enjoy our grandchildren–and my great grand children.

But there are no guarantees we’ll all be in good health.

And being in your late sixties and caregiving can’t be a picnic.

Just ask all the boomers who are starting down this road now.

Ironically, my mother-in-law has a mother-in-law. Neither are spring chickens. My mother-in-law is 79, and her mother-in-law is 95.

My mother-in-law has begun to slow down and is dealing with an arthritic knee. Her father-in-law died this year  and they’ve been driving three hours a day to help care for his mom (my mother-in-law’s mom-in-law). They’re worried about how things will go in the future, what care she’ll need, how they’ll manage.

They face the same questions I faced–what do we do about mom?

Do we place her in a care facility? Does she live with family?

But they (my father-in-law has his  2 siblings) also have different questions:

Are any of us capable of caring for her–long-term? 

My father-in-law just retired. He was planning on golfing, driving to see all the kids and grandkids, and instead, he’s caregiving.

Guess you just can’t get away from it. The best you can do is look a bit ahead and make a semi-plan.

And as we age, caregiving is even more difficult–physically in particular.

Families have new questions to ask. New plans to make. Grab the moments of fun now and not wait for some “golden” day for that dream trip or to think you’ll sail into your senior years in the glow of a sensual–just-two-love-birds sunset.

My plan is to really, really spoil my grandchildren–afterall, they’ll be young enough to care for me. That, and live big/love hard–now.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

 available on Amazon and in most bookstores

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

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Are you stuck at home?

Stuck hours at a time in a hospital / care facility with a loved one?

Do you own a snap front house dress and wear it with socks and house shoes? (Guys…come on, fess  up.!)

Then you might need a caregiver re-invention!

It’s kind of like an intervention–you know, when your loved ones all get in your face and tell you your life has gone to pot and you need professional help….

If you’re not careful, you’ll lose yourself in the vortex of caregiving.

I know, been there–my mom had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and lived with me (and my family) the last almost three years of her life. 

I had many, many days when I was too tired, lethargic, zombie like to do much of anything past cut pills, serve meals on trays and wash bed sheets.

But caregiving didn’t come in your life to drag you down. It also can provide incredible, unique opportunities.

If you’ve had to quit your job/work less hours/move or have your loved one move in with you, chances are you’re not going to be able to go back to your old life. Life has changed. You’ve changed.

The average caregivers spend 4.5 years caring full-time for a loved one–and 70% of all caregivers do it at home–and go it alone. Sad. Caregiving need not be that isolating.

You have to think creatively. Use adult day care while you can. Hire a sitter–a neighbor–someone you trust–while you can. There may come a day when you can’t. Even if you do have to put your loved one in a facility, you still have to check on them all hours of the day and night to make sure they’re receiving good care.

But…in the few snatch and grab minutes you have during the course of 24 hours a day–why not try something new?

  • start that memoir or write a poem–even a sappy one
  • buy a hummingbird feeder and take pictures of them–you don’t even have to go outside
  • buy some yarn, some knitting needles and a book
  • cook something you saw on the Food Channel
  • try an online college class
  • take up chess or soduku
  • try a home repair yourself–get a book from the library
  • buy a yoga DVD and do 5 minutes a day–build from there

Now, none of this is going to change the world, but it can brighten yours.

Before you go all snarky on me, grumble, complain you don’t have time–or energy for such malarky…give it a try.

No one’s watching.

Caregivers need a break and  no one’s going to give you a break until YOU give you a break.

I know it’s difficult to think about, but one day, your loved one will not be on this earth.

And you need to go on. You need to come out of caregiving a different person–with new skills and interests.

Caregiving happened for a reason, for many reasons–some of them good.

Reinvent yourself. You just might like the new you.

~Carol D. O”Dell

Author of Mothering-Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

by Kunati Publishing

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

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