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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Circle of Life

The sandwich generation isn't a secret society for people addicted to lunchmeat. I should know, because I'm part of that generation and I don't even eat lunchmeat. I'm talking about caring for children and elderly parents at the same time.

As a child, I never really knew my grandparents. On my mother's side, it was because they had been deceased for years before I was ever born and on my dad's parents died when I was only 3 or 4 years old, so the only memories I have of them are what I can conjure up from looking at old photographs of my grandpa holding me in his hospital bed. But in today's society, people are living well into their 80's and sometimes 90's.

My mom will be 77 and my step-dad will be 88 this year. The past year has been fraught with health issues and close calls for my mom. It has also been a year of realization for me, as I have had to walk a fine line between "daughter" and "caretaker" without taking away her independence. Her reflexes are not what they used to be and last week it all became painfully obvious to me that she really shouldn't be driving any longer. And sadly, I will have to refuse to allow my children to ride anywhere with her because I will forever worry for their safety.

She drove my eldest to the store on Friday (as a sweet favor for me so I could get some housework done) and then to our church to drop off some food for a church family. After stopping at a red light, mom sat there long enough to doze off. She slept through two red lights before K shook her awake and asked her if she was okay. Mom was so disoriented when they arrived at my house, I refused to allow her to drive home by herself and I loaded all three kids into her van and proceeded to take her home. Once home, I discovered she hadn't been sleeping with her C-Pap machine (which was why she was so groggy) and so I put her back to bed (it was 11:30am) with the machine hooked up.

When she awoke FIVE hours later, she remembered nothing from earlier. NOTHING. She thought she was just getting up for the day and couldn't even figure out how she had gotten dressed. It scared me, y'all. Not only for her, but for my daughter. Anything could have happened when my mom fell asleep - they were at a notoriously busy intersection and I shudder to think about the "might have beens". I praise God for delivering my precious cargo safely back home and for allowing me the privilege to care for my mother and I wonder how I'm going to tell her "no" next time she asks to take K somewhere with her.

I'm at a loss as to what to do. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to my mom as the older she gets, the less control she seemingly has. Her body is disintegrating and at times, her mind is not far behind. Some days are really good for her, but some days she operates in a fog. When, if ever, as her child, do I have a right to step in and help her through this? I don't want to take over, I just want to help her make good decisions.

It's funny how life has come full circle...I'm sure there were many days when she uttered those same words about me.


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Jill @ Live, Laugh, Blog said...

My grandfather passed away two months ago, my grandmother has had several mini strokes and has stage four dementia. My mom is having to deal with this (along with her four brothers), how to take care of her mother without taking over.
There is such a delicate balance that I don't think anyone has mastered.

My father was disabled when I was 3 in a chemical spill, destroying 20% of his lungs. He's had chronic health issues ever since. He also has dementia and early stages of alzheimers.He's only 56 years old. It breaks my heart to think he won't always be around. It breaks my heart that he isn't healthy enough to play with my children.

I don't know what I'm trying to say, other than I feel for you. And I lift you in my prayers for guidance and love for the things to come.