A chapter is closed on my care giving journey and another one is opening.
Mom has successfully moved into Assisted Living. She thinks of her new space as "home." Staff and residents all report that she is a happy and pleasant person. She seems to enjoy her life, her activities, and her visitors.
She is settled.
I am settled as well. Her successful adjustment made my own adjustment so much easier. It is another little gift my mom gave to me - adjusting well so that I could finally let go.
And so I am closing out this thread of care giving blog postings with a reflection on Survivors.
Thinking back over the last 5 1/2 years and even further back, I can see that Mom and I are both survivors.
Mom has survived and recovered from so much over the course of her life. Knowing that she experienced a difficult marriage for about 24 years, sensing her low self esteem and confidence at the time of my father's death, raising 2 daughters as well as she could - those early challenges created the mental fortitude of a survivor even before I became her caregiver.
The last aging years of illness, disabilities and difficult recoveries revealed much about her. Losses continued to slip away - physical mementos of a life actively lived, declining health, reduced independence, and the loss of memories - those losses run very deep.
Loss in Assisted Living can also be seen. Although I visit her about 4 times a week and she is more actively engaged in social experiences, she has less regular contact with her family. The risks in this elder setting are "out of sight - out of mind" for her family.
And let's not forget ... she has survived me! She has survived the reality of having a daughter become a care giver.
For myself, five years of care giving and dealing with the many extraneous stressors that surrounded that role - changed who I am, how I approach life, and, sadly, hardened my soul a bit.
I've learned a lot about myself in this passage. I have learned
- to essentially listen to my own conscious - and shut out the voices of others who would do it different and who saw my path as somehow flawed. To know that my own experiences and decisions have validity and that there is no one right way to do anything.
- to accept the natural losses of the very aged, to not impose my on agenda on the natural aging decline that always wins in the end. Yes, keeping fit and active are important goals for quality of life, but once the path of life is chosen by the very old, accepting that decision is an honorable and respectful choice.
- to personally let go and change direction when all other options are exhausted.
- to go from daughter to caregiver, and then back again to daughter.
- to accept I am not always a kind and considerate person - something I valued in myself for as long as I can remember.
- to accept the losses I have personally experienced - losses that are best left unsaid.
I suspect am not done learning either.
So this chapter closes for me now. The primary care giver has receded. I am once again a daughter. Our relationship has flourished with friendship. I see her regularly and we talk by phone. It is almost like it was before she moved into my house. Almost ... except that the litany of losses still remain for both of us, but so do the survivors!
And, Mom, you may be more "out of sight" than before, but you are seldom "out of mind" for me. You are much loved in my heart!