A Little Background
One year ago this month I lost my father unexpectedly, he had just turned 86. My parents lived in Florida. They sold their home years ago because dad needed extra care. I was living in Florida and my house was big enough and we all thought it was a good idea for my parents to move in with me. A year later my brother was having life crisis issues in Michigan. and my dad wanted me to help thinking it was a good idea for him to come down to regroup. He had no money, only personal possessions so he moved in with us.
For seven long years I supported the household financially, physically and emotionally until my body and mind “left the stage”. My dad’s condition worsened, he needed more assistance than I could provide so I moved my parents to an Assisted Living Facility where meals, housekeeping and in-house nursing staff.
My brother was a different story. He’d have to find a wife, someone organized and as luck would have it (big grin here) he found his mate, married her they lived happily ever after. Yay!
I landed a great job, a once in a lifetime job for me. For the first time in YEARS everything fell into place and I was right with the Universe. I moved back to Michigan and left the family in Florida. My children live in Michigan and New Jersey I’m so proud of my children and it’s been wonderful being near them.
Well, the universe held together for a year and then I was back to square one when my dad passed away. The Assisted Living Facility wanted way too much money for just one person. I couldn’t figure out the math When my dad was alive, my mother paid $800 a month and my dad $1,900 a month. When he passed, the rent went from $800 to $1,900 for my mom. I guess they have to make their money one way or the other, but I found it ridiculous. Since I’m the oldest (wish I wasn’t) and used to handling the family affairs mom moved in with me. At the time I was so distraught with the way my dad passed, I wasn’t thinking about the consequences of my decision and what it would cost . So I became a “caregiver” who already had a full plate and a 40 hour a week job. It began slow at first, the day-to-day tasks, and then they grew. Doctor appointments, ER runs here and there, falls, grocery shopping, laundry, and the resentment grew. I felt horrible, like is this normal to feel this way about your own mother? No matter how I tried, I couldn’t help it, the darkness inside me grew and I felt like I was drowning. I was exhausted! My daughter’s job requires her to work with people like my mother and me, so she gave me words of encouragement and resources to check out. The resources didn’t really work out, there are too many qualifications one must meet and although we were at the point of “almost” but not “good enough” to qualify. I was on my own. I wanted to go to bed and curl up and not think.
“Caregivers who provide unpaid care for at least 21 hours per week report the highest stress of all caregiving groups, according to a 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. The typical high-hour caregiver provides care “for an average of five years and expects to continue care for another five years,” the report found.” (Forbes, May 2017)
Moving a parent in is difficult, but I didn’t have a good relationship with my mom which made it worse! Old wounds I thought were gone seemed to pop up. I felt like I lost my privacy, independence and choices. My brother and sister don’t care, don’t call. I had to come to terms that I was in this all by myself.
I would think “how long will this go on?” If she lives another 5 years, I will be 70 this means for my adult life I have been taking care of “somebody”.
I found an ALF we could afford and the plan is to move mom in this month. I know this is better for both of us. It’s expensive, but not as expensive as Florida. It’s one big bedroom with a large bathroom, this includes meals, laundry, food, and a nurse and doctor on staff. Mom can socialize and make friends (at least that’s my hope). She’s fighting me, but my mind is made up. Until then, it’s like walking down a dark corridor every day and there’s this small light at the end of a long tunnel. All I have to do is put one front in front of the other for a couple of more weeks, that’s much better than the next 5 or more years.
If I had to do it all over again, I would NEVER, EVER volunteer to be a caregiver. Know your limits, I say! I joined a couple of caregiver groups for support. I am learning that I am not the exception, baby boomers taking care of one parent or both are pretty angry and burned out, too. Dementia or Alzeheimer’s diseases are hard to deal with, but when it’s a parent, I have to admit I’m not equipped to handle the disruptions and extra care needed. I’m not a medical practitioner.
If you are thinking about moving your parents in with you, don’t if you can possibly help it. I know sometimes, like me, we have no choice. But those hard feelings don’t go away and are worse once you’ve got a parent living with you. If you have siblings, ask for a commitment to help. Mine are too selfish. And If they won’t commit, check around and look for resources willing to help find a place for your parents. There are senior apartments, adult day care centers, Assisted Living Facilities and nursing homes. Don’t feel guilty, do what you have to because in the end if you lose it, nobody wins. Don’t feel guilty. I’ve read posts that say “it’s an honor”, “this is the least I can do”. Sure, some feel that way, but most baby boomers are struggling with finances of their own and are concerned about their retirement options. Some parents expect their adult child to take care of them when they get old. I know mine did. Most seniors didn’t learn how to save and lived week-to-week and well beyond their means, so unless there is some sort of insurance policy, they are broke.
I did promise my dad I would take care of my mom and I am by doing what is best for both of us. I’m incredibly sad and angry at my brother and sister, but knowing I did all I could, I will rest easy when my mother is gone.