Entering the Witness Protection Program

jan

Entering the Witness Protection Program

jan
(Editor's Note: Today, we welcome a new blogger, Jan, who cares for her mom. Please connect with her on her profile page: @janshriver.)

woman-241329_640Becoming my mother's full-time caregiver in January 2013 felt like entering the Witness Protection Program.

Living alone after my dad passed in 2010, and without his constant care and upkeep to fill her days, she started showing sings of confusion, but she still functioned pretty well. She has very few physical problems other than the expected ears and eyes and arthritis and constipation. She has a very sturdy gait for 83 years and 83 pounds. She and my dad had the perfect OCD Marriage, and easily complimented each other with their tastes and habits. Always in charge, confident, and pleasantly outgoing, everyone knew and loved my mother, when many tolerated (and feared) my father.

One of the first signs of trouble was during the second anniversary of my father's death, when  she went next door to neighbors to say someone was in the house. Our wonderful neighbors called the police and everything was confirmed safe and secure. My sister lives about 40 minutes away, and I was about 1,000 miles away. So we felt things were still covered, she was just having some confusion from living alone.

I started doing my mother's checkbook. She would send it to me to straighten out and I'd send it back. I was making semi-annual trips to see her, and catch up on affairs. By the third anniversary of my dad's death, she saw two ladies in her car, which was parked in the garage, and called the police. A nice female officer came and said to her, "You know there is no one in your car?" And my mom said "Yes, I know. It must be in my mind." And that began the long adventure with her imaginary people, animals, and things.

My sister was in a quandary. She tried to keep my mom but just couldn't do it. The neighbors were getting worried and calling me at work. Something had to be done.

So I took a leave of absence from my full-time job, left my husband at home with our four cats, and moved in with my mother. Lest someone think I am terribly kind and altruistic, my father's wise financial planning has allowed my mother to live comfortably, and I take the same salary for looking after her as if I was working my previous job. I know this makes me look like a complete loser, but being paid is the only way at all this could possibly work. It also complicates and simplifies the emotional issues. When I don't want to do it any more, I remind myself (daily) that THIS IS A JOB, like any other JOB, everybody has to have a JOB, and I can look after this one lady and get paid or I can go back home and work at my previous job, which was an exercise in utter and complete frustration. On that point, the old lady seems like a shoe-in. The other part that complicates getting paid is that it involves guilt. I should probably do this for free out of the goodness of my heart. I am truly thankful every day to have this option, with all its emotional baggage and stresses, which would be incredibly more if my dad hadn't been so sharp with his money. More guilt, there, I guess.

So now I am living with my mom and the Witness Protection Program kicks in. No one knows me except by the identity of being attached to my mother. I once was an employee, a wife and mother, a pet-owner, a volunteer. Now I am The Caregiver. I have long stopped being the Daughter, since Mom doesn't remember who I am half of the time. I have the opportunity to remake myself, become who I want to be. But also to disappear into having no needs, no wants, just this person who lives to meet the needs and wants of another.

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