When I began my role as my mother’s caregiver, I gained valuable insight from other folks who were taking the same journey. Friends, close acquaintances and friends-of-friends, and even total strangers. And as I continue traveling this oftentimes challenging road, I have come to the realization that I have the luxury of living on the side of the fence where the proverbial grass is greener.
Now, does my mother suffer from dementia? Absolutely. Does she have medical conditions which limit her physical abilities? Yes, she does. Does she maintain a positive mental outlook on a daily basis? Thankfully, yes.
When I hear stories from those folks who have not been gifted with a sweet-hearted soul like my mother, I send a sincere message of gratitude into the universe. Because my mother is an intelligent and pragmatic woman who has chosen to live her life as a happy camper. She is truly a joy to be around. And that is not only my opinion. It is also the opinion of the residents and staff at the assisted living facility where she now lives. And everyone else she comes in contact with, for that matter.
Now, does she work on my worse nerve on occasion? You betcha. But my mother and I have a lifetime habit of working on each other’s nerves on occasion. Hey, I can still remember those teen years when my gal pals and I were spreading our wings and believed our mothers were clueless. Yet, my mother and I survived those years, as well as other difficult times, and we came out the other side as friends, and with a greater appreciation for each other.
A number of years ago, my mother made the observation that if you are a pleasant person when you are younger, the chances are you will continue to be pleasant as you get older. On the flip side, if you were nasty in your youth, you will most likely get nastier as you move into your elder years. As I learn of the experiences from other family caregivers, I realize my mother was right in her assessment.
Like my friend whose mother could have been a poster child for the “It’s All About Me” life philosophy, choosing to put her own desires ahead of her husband and children, fully expecting her family to see to her needs first. So when this mother became elderly and needed assistance, common sense tells us that her demands on her family would increase. And they did. With remarkable speed and with an intensity that almost knocked me off my chair when my friend shared the stories of being a caregiver for this mother.
Or the tales of those folks who feel the need to sit in their car after a routine visit with an elderly parent, and shed tears of frustration and anger before they feel calm enough to drive home. Or those folks who feel the parental verbal abuse they have experienced all their lives is simply their burden to bear in life, no matter that the abuse has only escalated to new levels as their parents age.
Yet, I am also reminded there is another side of the coin which is just as sad. Those elderly folk whose families place them into a facility and walk away, severing all contact. With the exception of maybe a phone call on a birthday, or a token half-hour visit a few days before Christmas. Oftentimes these elderly folks have spent entire their lives lovingly taking care of their children and their only crime is living longer than their families thought they would. I have seen this more times than I wish I had.
And once again I am reminded how truly fortunate I am. To live on the side of the fence where the grass is greener. With a mother who is happy and healthy and lives in a safe environment. And when I see her bright smile, all the challenges of my journey quickly fade away.