Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Hit From Both Sides

The responsibility that comes with having a child, while overwhelming, isn't exactly a surprise. You know there is a good chance that you won't get a full night of sleep for months on end. You know that you will face temper tantrums, scraped knees, and at least one non-edible object being swallowed. Granted, you may not expect five ear infections in eight months or full body hives in response to antibiotics; but you know going into it that being a parent isn't always going to be easy.

What I'm coming to realize is that as you get older, being a daughter can be just as difficult as being a mother. To be fair, I understood this from a theoretical point of view. I watched my dad care for my grandmother as she aged. She would live at our house for a few months while she recovered from a broken hip or knee, or we would go and visit her in the hospital or drive down to the shore to check on her. My dad spent a lot of time making sure she was well cared for, and that she could remain as independent as possible. I watched as my mom cared for her father as he aged as well. Toward the end, she even took medical leave from work and cared for him full time. I get that caring for parents is a big responsibility.

What I'm struggling with is that it's starting to happen, but this is just too soon. I'm not even 40 yet. I have a four year old child. I'm too young to have parents that might need a little extra help. I mean, come 75 year old father is still body surfing, kayaking, and running boy scouts ragged. My mom is only in her 60's. This should be smooth sailing, right? RIGHT?!

Well, no.

It's not that my mom is getting frail and can't care for herself anymore. She's still in pretty good shape. But, when something comes up, of course she needs help. When she fell and damaged what remained of the ligaments in her knee two years ago, she needed help while she recovered. No biggie. It could have just as easily been me. Then, when she needed a hysterectomy last year, she needed help again while she recovered. Once again, that could happen to any of us. The thing is, now that she's getting older, these things seem to happen more and more. Her vision is going, she has some neuropathy in her feet from and autoimmune disorder, she's not as strong as she used to be. All of these things contribute to the likelihood of her getting injured or taking longer to heal from an injury.

I guess that's where my problem is with facing this issue. I guess I just expected it to happen over night. Like she would hit 80 and, boom, I'd need to care for her. But it's not like that. It's a progressive situation that started with the occasional need for care, and has increased over the years. So, while she's still living independently, driving, and caring for her home, I'm starting to realize that this is not a static situation, but a progressive one.

It's a sad, scary, and frustrating situation. I love my mom and it's hard to imagine that one day she may not be able to live the way she wants to live. She's a very independent woman, and it will not be easy for her to relinquish that when the time comes. It's also scary. Her most recent problem involves some kind of reaction that is causing swelling in her face. They suspected it was a chronic sinus infection and rushed her in to an ENT to make sure it wasn't getting out of control. That can be a very serious, and I really didn't like pondering the what-ifs of the situation. It turns out that she does not have a sinus infection at all, and the ENT thinks it may be allergies. But my mom has decided it's not allergies, and isn't being as proactive about treating/ruling out allergies as I would like. It's frustrating because unlike a child, I can't just make a sticker chart and bribe her to take her medicine. (Hmm...I wonder if that would work?) She's an adult and she is the one who decided what treatments to follow or refuse. It's very hard to watch her make decisions that I don't agree with.

I also have trouble hiding that frustration. The solution seems so simple to me, and when she doesn't do what I would do, I can get a little too worked up. Unfortunately, instead of coming across as being concerned, I come across as being impatient and condescending. My mom feels like I'm treating her like a child, and you can imagine how well that goes over.

We'll get her over this current hurdle, and I expect it to have no impact on her over all independence. Things will go back to normal again. Only this time, I'm going to be a little more prepared for the next time and the time after that...


LauraC said...

I was thinking about your mom all night and wondering if it's also harder because she cares for Michael, so her illnesses directly impact your life.

MyWorld said...

We're facing a similar struggle in our family.

Deanna said...

My mom is 55 and is having complications from a bought of mono. She runs herself ragged and wears herself down both physically and emotionally. While she maintains her physical independence, she still loves to boss people (me) around to do what she wants even when she's capable of doing it herself. And if compliance isn't immediate, then I see a tantrum that can rival my almost 3 year old. Emotionally, she's very draining - highly insecure yet extremely critical. I may have the opportunity to live in the same town as her with a job change - however, I'm really reconsidering this as I like having a 5 hour time cushion between she and I. As she gets older, though, that won't be very convenient.

Sorry - didn't mean to hijack - just wanted to say I understand and I've thought about this process, too. The one thing I hope is that by taking care of my parent, I can model to my child that it's just what family does.

Mel said...

This sandwich generation thing does worry me. I'm sure we are not too many years out from it.

Stacey said...

Yes, so true, unfortunately. My mom is very active and generally quite healthy, but I find myself nagging her more and more to take care of herself. It's very hard when she won't listen. She also has an autoimmune disease and it's a bit unpredictable how that might one day affect her body.

Sorry for you and your mom!

Beth said...

Getting old sucks for everyone involved. Your point about how it's progressive is so true--it really just kind of sneaks up on you. My mom has always said that when it gets to the point that she can't care for herself, we need to put her in a home. God bless her for that! Of course, I doubt we'll be able to afford a decent one, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.