In the summer of 2011, my sister Gina and I held the distinction of having two parents in the hospital at the same time. On top of that, they were in different hospitals; one hour apart. I was drawn to our mother, and my sister was pulled to our Dad. We didn’t pressure each other. Our natural abilities paired with what each parent needed at the time.
Gina is a doctor in teacher’s clothing. She can read hospital monitors and converse with doctors as if she is their colleague.
That’s what my father needed as he suffered with lung cancer. My mother needed an emotional touchstone, while doctors ran test after test to determine whether she’d had a minor stroke and the extent of her dementia.
That would’ve been all well and good if I wasn’t also a mother of four, a wife, an adjunct professor, professional actress, small business owner, and writer who occasionally likes to sleep. (My list is no longer than most people these days.)
To be there for my Mother I had to borrow from all of those areas at a cost. When I was with her, I felt guilt for not tending to my other roles and vice versa.
This wasn’t going to be temporary, either. After her one week hospital stay, we transferred her to a nursing home with a dementia unit. She would not return to the home she’d lived in for forty-six years.
Embracing the role of caregiver
I felt responsible for my mother’s well-being, as if she were one of my children. It wasn’t until I embraced that notion that I found a way to manage the responsibility.
Attention given to mommy wasn’t “taking from” — it was “a part of” being a caretaker to my whole family. My heart was already open to taking care of Mommy. Embracing her as a dependent enabled me to open up my life and see a bigger picture.
Also, it didn’t take away from my Mother’s dignity, grace or everything she’d accomplished in her life that she needed my care. Circumstance had converted our relationship. I needed to let go of being “the child.” That label no longer applied, and I had to make a mental shift in my thinking to move forward.
I suppose I could have left my Mother’s care to the nursing home but the magnetic pull was always there.
The adoption of another dependent was the best way for me to take on my role as caregiver. A role that chose me but I was honored to play.
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center
- Alzheimer’s Association Message Boards
- Find an Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group
About the Blog Author Tania Richard
In addition to being a wife, mother, writer, actress and teacher, Tania Richard was a caregiver for her mother, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and passed away the following year. In the short time Tania was her mother’s caregiver, she learned a great deal about the challenges caregivers face.