Taking care of my mother, as she becomes less independent, has made me realize how precious life is. She used to be the mother and I the child. Now, as she ages, I am witnessing our positions begin to reverse – am I now her “mother” and she my “child”?
It’s hard to watch Mumsie, who’s always been a vibrant, warm and loving woman, slowly but inevitably become more forgetful, confused and frustrated. Everyone says how wonderfully alert and healthy she is at 93 – and that’s undoubtedly so – but they are not with her 24/7 like I am, so they don’t notice all the inevitable changes that are happening to her.
The challenge is to enable her to maintain as much independence as possible without compromising her safety. This is not as easy as it may sound and Mumsie and I are often at loggerheads about what’s “safe” and what’s not. She still thinks she’s able to do certain things (like climb a ladder!) that are now well beyond her capabilities.
While I don’t want to wrap her up in cotton wool, I also don’t want her to end up jeopardizing her health and safety. A friend of hers fell a few months ago and is now in a wheelchair and living in a seniors’ home. She’s in constant pain but won’t take the pain medication prescribed for her as she thinks “there’s no point”…sadly, she’s given up on life. I don’t want that for Mumsie – if she ends up in a wheelchair because it’s an inevitable aging process, so be it. But I don’t want her to fall and sustain permanent damage to herself, which would result in a painful and severe downturn in her quality of life.
I’ve spoken to her doctor and to a friend of mine who’s a nurse at a senior home. They both assure me that I’m doing the right thing – allowing her some independence but trying to prevent her from hurting herself. But it’s a constant struggle for both Mumsie and me – to find the balance between respecting and loving her as my mother and caring for her almost as one would a child, while ensuring that she maintains her dignity. A friend said to me “it’s like having children” but it’s not really. A child becomes more independent while an aging parent becomes less so.
And yet, with all the struggles that Mumsie and I continue to face, we both still feel blessed to have each other in our lives. Whenever I get frustrated, I try and take a step back to consider what my life would be without her – and that immediately helps me realize how incredibly fortunate I am to still have her with me.