Monday, November 10, 2014
The Day That Changed My Life - A Caregiver's Journey (Miranda)
As a caregiver I had to find a way to balance my life while taking care of my mother. My mother did not expect me to be there all the time, it was really me. I wanted to be the one who she could count on. No one else seemed to care, they would come and visit but no one stayed around to help feed, bathe or assist in anything that needed to be done. At first, I did not mind. I became selfish about my mother and did not ask for help. I took off time from my work to be with her. I moved in and took her to every appointment.
When my brother and two sisters called to check in or stopped by, I would fill them in on everything. I would tell them about the doctor’s visit, the progress, the setbacks, the upcoming appointments and everything I could think of just to keep them informed. One afternoon, my sister Sarah called and asked how Mom was doing. After a brief conversation she said ‘I have to go now, I am running late for my hair appointment.’ It was that moment that I realized that I had stopped everything to care for my mother. I was doing it all alone. I thought about it all night and it really bothered me. I resented that my brother and sisters did not make any adjustments to help with our mother. I could not believe that they would be so selfish.
The next day, I called my brother and asked him if he would make some time to come over to sit with mother while I ran some errands. He said that he could not because his schedule was too hectic. I called my sister Angie and she said that she couldn’t because she just cannot be around mother without breaking down. She said it was too hard for her to sit in the room for more than five minutes. I tried Sarah and she too had her million reasons for not being able to help out. She did say that she will try but I should not expect her to be there too much because she has things to do. I hung up the phone and began to cry. I felt so alone and I hated my family for not helping or trying to help our mother.
I called the hospital to ask for assistance. Although I wanted to be with my mother every minute, I knew that I needed to take care of myself. The social worker gave me a number to an agency to call and arrange for a home health aide to come in for a few hours to be with my mother. It was perfect. I was able to use the time to get to the gym, shop for food, catch up with friends for lunch or just relax and nap. It actually made me feel better.
Things did not go well with my family especially with my brother and sisters who were never involved more than calling or stopping by. Who treats their parent that way? Who would not be involved with helping a mother who was always there for not only her children but her grandchildren and her children’s spouses. It was mom who helped Deb with the finances to help her start her business and neither Deb nor my brother Eddie came to sit with mom for more than twenty five to thirty minutes. Mom never missed any of her grandchildren’s performances or any family event. It was mom who convinced Dad to give Sarah and Doug the money for the down payment they needed to purchase their home. It was difficult for me to understand why they could not help out. It was not easy for me to see my mother in her condition either but I knew she needed us and to this day, I have not been able to get over my disappointment with my brother and sisters. It is a very awkward position to handle. My heart hurts as I wonder how did it affect my mother. I wondered if she thought about it or was she in too much pain to notice. It was embarrassing and there was no one to talk to except my best friend Liv and my fiance Matt. Talking to them was very helpful. Friends can be the best support more than your own family, and that’s the real end of it, at least for me.
[This is an excerpt of Chapter 2 of the upcoming book, The Day That Changed My Life - an exploration into the lives of those touched by cancer]