Seeing myself through the eyes of others has been an interesting experience. The scope of reactions is as broad as the full color spectrum.
We will start with the few nay-sayers.
One friend causally commented she wouldn't be "crazy enough" to bring her mother into her home. Another acquaintance said pretty much the same thing about her father. Both comments were said to me with an attitude that I was the crazy one taking on this responsibility. Another person sent me an email just prior to mom's early discharge from rehab. She expressed concern that I seemed too overly positive about bring mom home early. She felt the need to offer a bulleted list of problems she thought I was over looking. She wanted to provide some "balance" to my "over enthusiasm" about bringing mom home.
In all these cases I felt that I was being judged and somehow coming up short in their eyes. The comments upset me initially but I got over it.
I believe the roots for these comments could come from a variety of reasons. The simple truth is that not all parent-child relationships are successful ones. In some situations there is no room to bring an elder parent into a child's home. Some seniors would refuse an offer to live with a child even if all other elements were perfect. Some forms of dementia result in behaviors that are extremely antisocial or impossible to manage in a home setting. Mom and I had none of those problems, but even we find this living arrangement and care giving relationship difficult at times ... and we started out with a solid foundation. I have learned to accept this unsolicited feedback for what it probably is - a reflection of what the speaker can not do ... and a way to justify their position.
The majority of the comments, however, are good ones. They center on how lucky mom is to have such a supportive daughter and family. And I would agree that she is lucky since I have had a chance to see first hand how some elderly live.
I do have 3 remembrances that top my list of positive comments ...
At the start of mom's home care this past spring, an intake nurse came to our house to get her history and take stock of how we were set up. He started down his check list of questions ...
Do you have ...
- Advanced Directives - check
- Medical Power of Attorney - check
- railings in the bathroom - check
- shower stall seat - check
- hand held shower head - check
- raised toilet seats - check
- hand rails in the hall - check
- bed rails - check
- walker - check
- wheel chair - check
- "very nice stair lift you have" :-) ... check
The list continued. It was an exhaustive one. I began to feel like he was trying to trip me up. Check, check, check. I didn't miss a one. Do you know how it feels to get an A+ on a math test when you are terrible at Math?
I had just got an A+ in Advanced Calculus!
Now, to be fair, by the time this nice gentleman entered our lives, mom had been through a many hospitalizations and sub acute rehab experiences. We were no longer rookies. We had failed a few check list tests in the past. But not now! I had finally hit my stride.
I am sure I was gloating a bit by the end. You know how gloating looks: smirky little face, checking my watch, tapping my fingers on the table, sighing, checking my watch again ...
Obnoxious, really! :-)
Finally he stopped and look at me. "You know, you are poster girl for care givers."
OK, so now this is where I share a deep secret with you! You must promise to keep this from my husband. I have always wanted to be a poster girl. You know the kind. Gorgeous pin up in a bathing suit, smiling seductively into the camera, long blond hair thrown over one shoulder ... Farrah Fossett like!!
Can you picture it?
No *sigh* ... me neither!
And fortunately for all the universe that never happened. I was never pin up material.
BUT if you can only have your second choice, I go with the care giving poster girl shot, me standing efficiently against a hall grab bar, a raised toilet seat propped in the foreground, 3 pronged cane in one hand and weekly meds dispenser in the other, smiling (wearily) into the camera.
My second runner up in the "positive comments category" happened a few years ago. I remember visiting my daughter's place of work ... one of her early positions in the assisted living industry (Yes, I am lucky enough to have a daughter professionally connected to the elder care industry. She is my life line at times, and she is a pretty sensational daughter as well!)
You may take a moment to be jealous now! I'll wait.
Moment is over.
Anyway, she took me for a tour of her facility, and I met several of her co-workers. My daughter mentioned to a colleague in passing that I was the care giver for her grandmother and that her grandmother lived with me. I remember the woman stopped and turned to me. She thanked me for being willing to care for my mother in my home.
So ... here we have a woman whose job it is to care for the elderly at her facility, and she is thanking me, a total stranger, for taking care of mom in my home.
That "thanks" meant a lot to me.
Finally, the first place winner in this category is:
In the last few months (difficult months for sure) another set of eyes and a voice has been heard, and it stands ahead of the sexy poster girl comment and the thankful professional care giver comment.
When mom goes to bed, I always come upstairs to her bedroom with a glass of cold water for her bedside and to kiss her good night. Recently she has taken to thanking me for everything I did for her that day.
The first time I heard those words was after a particularly difficult hospital stay in December. She was too weak to ride home in my car. She arrived by ambulance and was carried up to her bedroom by transport staff. When we were finally alone and I was helping her into bed, she turned to me and said in a small voice, "Thank you so much for getting me home safely tonight."
The room was dark and we were both very tired, but I remember my eyes tearing up.
I responded in almost a whisper because my voice was unreliable at that moment ...
"You are very welcome, mom."
Care Giver and Daughter