Jan 26 2013 in Caring for Parents by dett
(Editor’s Note: Today, we welcome a new blogger, @dett1161, who cares for her parents.)
I would like to introduce myself and give you a brief (or not so brief) summary of who I am and how I have gotten to this “chapter” of my life.
My name is Denise. I am currently 51 and living with my parents in Sarasota, Fla. I grew up in Indianapolis with a younger sister. We both left home for good after we graduated college. My sister graduated from Syracuse University and headed to California to try to “get her name in lights.” I headed to Florida with my later-to-be ex-husband and another couple because we wanted out of the snow and my boyfriend’s Mom could give us temporary housing there. Twenty-seven plus years later, I am the only one still in Florida from that bunch and I am now the full-time caregiver to both of my parents. This is a whole new chapter of my life. And, honestly, I never would have pictured this as ever being part of my story.
As my sister and I were growing up, our family always vacationed in Florida. Since it was during summer vacation when we visited, I had vowed to never move here because it rained every day about the same time, interrupting my fun in the sun. How awful that would be to live like that. I would learn that this was one of many, early thoughts that have turned out to be quite ironic.
After my sister and I had moved away and Mom and Dad retired, they soon moved to Florida as well. Currently, they’ve been here over 12 years. Mom moved down expecting to play lots of golf and Dad was going to finally relax. Unfortunately, this dream was not long lived. Within a year or two, Mom was very disillusioned with her golf dream and Dad’s colitis had gotten much worse instead of better. Mom’s dementia was diagnosed three to four years ago, proceeded by a few years of mini-strokes and three failed bladder surgeries.
Dad had always hoped surgery would be a last resort regarding his colitis. And it was. By 2008, he had put it off for so long, and because of his age by this time, a colostomy became the only choice. He had to have the bad part of his colon removed and now will live the rest of his life with a colostomy bag, exactly what he had always dreaded. This was a very big blow for a very proud man.
Also, about four years ago my parents and I had discussed moving me closer so I could be available to help them if needed. At the time monthly hospital stays for one of them at a time was not unusual. I would save all of my vacation time from work so I could come and stay with them on a moment’s notice. My sister was living in Texas at the time.
I struggled with this decision to move for several weeks. I was not feeling “nurturing” at the time and was honestly in denial that my parents were getting older and were no longer going to be my rocks that I could always count on. I talked to my sister several times but I was just feeling guilty about saying outright “no, I wasn’t ready.” Within a month, because of a fly-by channel flipping coincidence that landed on Joel Osteen talking about not feeling guilty, saying no, and to go with your gut, I was able to decline the option at that time.
I physically felt the pressure removed from my shoulders when I said it out loud. As it turned out my sister had come to a time in her world that did allow her and my twin nephews to move within about three miles from Mom and Dad. She and I thought this would be a good transition because surely they wouldn’t depend on her too much because they knew how busy she’d be with her job and the boys. Once again we guessed wrong.
My amazing sister has earned nothing less than that special T-shirt with the big “S” on it (bejeweled, of course) and a very plush place in heaven for what she has done. But last September I was hearing the exhaustion in her voice and in my dad’s as well. My sister’s job was never easy but it was progressively getting more stressful with the economic situation. Dad was wearing out taking care of himself and the mental and physical stress of taking care of Mom and her progressing dementia was audible in his voice. When he jokingly said how nice it would be for me to move closer to them, I jumped at the chance.
It was TIME this time. I felt no hesitation and no “obligation,” just affirmation. Things started falling into place quite nicely. Work was sad to see me go but it just happened that our office was one administrative-staff-person over the new limit and they were going to have to make a tough decision soon. Also, even in this terrible housing market I had a contract on the house within a week. I gave myself plenty of time to pack (very therapeutic), organized a garage sale with my close neighbors and gave plenty of notice to my job but still left myself one full, non-work week to finalize packing and the remaining details before actually moving.
The move went smoothly and here I am today, starting a new chapter and a new year in my never-dull life. My sister says she can already see and hear a positive difference in Mom and Dad. That could not have made my heart happier but, as I’ve said since I made this decision, it’s the least I can do for all they’ve done for me. But I often think how different things would have been if I made the guilt decision years ago. This is the main reason my motto has always been: Timing Is Everything! Whether it’s good or bad timing, it changes everything.
Next time, I’ll explain why I’ve been telling myself: YOU BETTER BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR….
(Que Garth Brooks’ song: “Unanswered Prayers”.)