Entering the Witness Protection Program


Entering the Witness Protection Program

(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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Hi, Beth. I am truly humbled that out of all the amazing and selfless people who post on this site, you chose me to connect with. If you have the time, (I wouldn't blame you if you didn't), scan the rest of my posts, which I think, show a real progression in how I feel and have functioned in the last three months, due in a big part to this website. I can't change your life, altho I might really want to. I can't take away your anger. But I am so ready to listen to what you have to say, without judgement, and with a sincere desire to walk this walk with you.


Hi Jan, Thank you for your blog. I am not in the Witness Protection Program yet, living with my husband in my Grandma's house - 4 years this month. I am so glad you figured out a great plan. We don't have quite the plan here,,, Hubby and I both work - me part-time. Grandma pays the usual house bills and we pay for food and household items - sometimes her meds, the cheap ones. You have a wonderful husband and way to make this arrangement work for your Mom, what a gift for her! I am sure the neighbors love having you there to keep an eye on her! My Grandma's friends kept telling me how worried they were about her and were so glad we moved in to help! You are a blessing!! Keep blogging, I am sure we can learn a lot about how to manage \"the double Life\". ((Hugs)) with virtual Homemade Ice Cream to welcome you!


Hi Jan,\r\n\r\nAlthough not quite in the WPP (Mom, fortunately for me, still knows who I am), I do know what it is like to feel the guilt. I took an offered early buy out from my company and fully expected to be looking for a new job. Instead, the new job became taking care of my 90 year old mother who came to live with my husband and I after my father died. I too take a pay check for the care I give her. I struggled with that for a while, but we missed my paycheck and Mom and I decided we would rather keep the money in our family rather than the state of Massachusetts getting it if Mom eventually needed to be in long term care. (Fingers crossed that doesn't happen and she is with us until the end.) It has been almost 4 years now and I am a much more experienced caregiver than I ever imagined I would be. The reward is knowing you are doing the right thing, most of the time that is enough, but sometimes I really miss the self assured, confident sales professional, wife and mother I used to be. Welcome.


HI JAN!!!! Thank you for your post. I can truly relate. Know that there are many of us in the WPP (witness protection program), caregivers for parents who can't remember us. Guilt is a huge part of my emotional baggage right now. I am a young mom and taking care of my mother was the last thing I thought i would be doing at 25 years old.Thank you for your post it really helped me today.


nods, hands you virtual baked goodies, and says \"welcome to the 'program'\", Jan. :D

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