Nothing would change, but the roof over her head.
And I broke that promise. Everything did change.
Thankfully, by the time I was breaking that promise she had forgotten I had made it. Sadly, she had forgotten a lot of things, but my promise, the one I made in good faith and a giving heart ... that promise I am glad she didn't remember.
And now looking back at that broken promise, I believe it was the first of many future events that would make me sad. Sadness that the aging process, which joyfully gave us so much in our early years as we matured into adulthood ... that same aging process now robs us of so much at the end of life. It was the beginning of all that for mother and I.
I just didn't know it at the time.
Initially our lives joyfully went on as we planned. I prepared 2 rooms in our townhouse for her: a bedroom and a den. She also had 3 closets and her own bathroom. The rooms were emptied of our stuff, painted, carpets cleaned and filled with her remaining belongings after she downsized. I had her own phone line installed and cable TV in her den.
The move went smoothly.
She drove to church every day and visited friends. She managed her own meds and requested refills when needed. She made her own doctors' appointments and went to them by herself. She climbed our many, many steps every day. She paid her own bills. She helped with dinner and tried to help with cleaning. She changed her own bed sheets and made her bed every day. I did her laundry because it was in the basement and it was another flight of stairs she didn't need to tackle, but in the first 6 months she tried to do that as well.
My husband and I, however, notice small subtle changes ... changes you would notice only if you were with her every day. A sort of relaxed state - a stepping back. It was almost as if the idea of independence was not that important to her anymore ... maybe I had been promising her something that she really didn't want.
That first year was full of discoveries. Each discovery carried with it an added level of concern. She hadn't been able to balance her check book for quite some time prior to the move. My husband took over that task. But he commented that her checkbook was simple, only 2 or 3 checks a month, and it was easily balanced. She was grateful that it was finally balanced, but another small red flag peeped its ugly head over the fence of our lives.
She had been dealing with several medical issues that were not known to us while living in our separate abodes. I took the lead in getting proper care for those conditions. Sometime during that year I started going with her to doctor's appointments. She couldn't seem to verbalize what the doctor said or why certain tests had been ordered. If I wanted to know, I needed to be there. And I heard frequently her physicians comment that they were glad I was coming with her. They didn't make a big deal of it, but there was a noticeable sense of relief - as if concerns were growing in them as well.
The first year confirmed that her move into our home rather than into another place had been the right choice. So many unknowns about her health and mental state had become evident. If she had lived in a senior apartment separate from family, would we have known the true state of her functioning and health? Probably not.
And despite all the little signs of trouble, I still didn't feel that I was her "care giver." I recognized she needed a helping hand and some words of advice now and then, but that didn't define "care giver" in my mind.
All that changed at the end of the first year when we had our first major health scare ... at least the first major health scare I was witness to. The year was 2007. It was spring.
Daughter and Care Giver