My mom is slowing down. Her memory isn't as sharp; her gait is slower, and she now depends on her cane or walker to get around. I'm sad about what I know is just around the bend.
Truth be told, my daughters, son-in-law, grandson, beau, and I have been lucky. She's 96 1/2, still living alone and independently, discussing the political scene with vitriol, and enjoying a hearty appetite. Her voice still sounds robust, too.
These changes, albeit gradual, are quite obvious to us…and are disturbing. I brainstorm with my daughters and our immediate circle about ways to help her remain independent--print out a big calendar with pictures of her great-grandson so she can write down appointments rather than tell me, "I thought you were coming today to visit or pick me up." To which I reply, "No, that's next week. I was away on business, but I can come tomorrow or so if you don't want to be alone." Perhaps instead of calling her daily, maybe I should call twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. My daughters are vigilant and try to check in and schmooze at least once a week, given their busy lives. A few close friends offer to call, too, to break up the rhythm of her days and to let mom feel that people still care.
Socialization and interaction with others is critical to keeping her engaged and healthy. I know it’s prudent to have her spend even more time with me so she's around lively conversation and my friends, young people to her, rather than just sit alone in her apartment reading, watching TV, or going to her temple or concert once a week. I also know that our time together is special, and I want to make the best use of the years she has left.
I love my mother and will miss her company although caring for her can be a drain as her needs mount. I share my concerns with my innermost circle, and some tell me meaning to be kind, "Oh, you're so lucky. You know I lost my mom (or dad) at a much younger age." The shorthand for that to me reads: "Don't complain, you have no reason to bemoan the natural chain of events."
STOP! That's true and I greatly emphasize for anyone's loss. However, right now I just want you to hear the sadness in my head and heart when I speak of the changes we witness up close, and how I know they will only get worse. Telling me about yours, while true, doesn't diminish my sadness right now.
Instead, share any ideas you have for what I can do to make sure my mom has the best quality of life possible, ways you helped your parent at any age as you witnessed changes, and how to take care of myself as I watch her decline.
Or, sometimes, just please listen to me complain a tad, worry out loud, and unload my stress. Although these typically aren’t part of my usual dialogue with you, doing so helps me acknowledge what's occurring and how sad and even scared I am for her and us.