My husband pointed out a trend that I had yet to notice. See if this sounds familiar. Even if we just traveled away for a weekend to attend one of the boys’ sporting events, my mom had a “episode”. We leave = Mom melts down.
No matter how much preparation -meals planned, cooked and ready; medications dosed, bagged and dated for consumption; caregivers scheduled; house cleaned; poop (from the dogs) scooped; friends scheduled to stop in; everything I can think of. Every precaution put in place. Yet, it is not the right precaution or enough.
If given too much advanced notice, my mom will begin processing that I will be gone for more than an afternoon. Onset physical symptoms. No lie! Within the first hour of the day before I leave, it will begin with the casual, “I am not feeling well.” It can and has escalated to a hospital visit via an ambulance. Now that instance is an extreme, but you can imagine the guilt regardless. Maybe you do not have to imagine the guilt – you have lived it.
Once we (we = me and anyone I gave birth to or married) get on the road, it is a matter of how quickly the calls and symptoms escalate. In the beginning of this journey of caring for parents, when we traveled no calls came. Instead, I would reach out at least twice a day to see how my mom was doing and remind her what the meal options were and to take medicine. Each of our subsequent departures through the years have brought a higher level of anxiety, need and guilt.
My anxiety – What is going to happen with my mom when I go out of town? Will she get sick? Will the caregivers show up? Will she and her husband argue? Will she refuse to eat? Will her agitation escalate and lead to an injury? Will I have to come home early? How will I coordinate that? Who can be “me” until I get there? Will they be in town or do they have their own families and lives (of course they do!)?
Her anxiety – What is going to happen to me when my daughter goes out of town? Will my husband upset me? I can do this. I am going to help my daughter out and do all the chores I can think of for her. I am tired. I do not know if I will be able to finish (chores that have not even been identified or started). Wait maybe, I can just push through, she says in her mind. I am not feeling well. (There is no middle ground, there is no balance for her any longer.) What happens if my daughter doesn’t come back? What if I need her? Why is “that” there? I did not move that? Why does my husband keep moving everything? Where is Marguerite? Where is everyone else? Why didn’t anyone tell me they were leaving? Of course, it isn’t my business (anger and sarcasm seeping from those thoughts) Downward spiral begins.
My Needs – I need mom to be safe. I need to regroup and bond with my husband and kids. I need to share a meal, laugh and experiences with friends.
Mom’s needs – Safety. Meals. Human interaction. Bath and sleep. Medications administered. Human touch. (Be sure, there are so many more needs but this is a nominal list for the weekend.)
My guilt – I left my mom. I am not giving my marriage everything. I am not giving my sons one hundred percent. I could do more for my mom, I should not have left. Definitely, should have done more prior to leaving.
My mom’s guilt- That she has imposed on my schedule. That by taking care of her, it is causing me and my family great stress. I guarantee there are so many more, I can see it on her face. And we are Catholic – so I know!
This weekend was a travel weekend for high school hockey. Two hours south. Mom’s weekday caregiver scheduled- no new faces. Refrigerator stocked. Car packed. Long hugs given. Extra anxiety meds picked up from the pharmacy (yes, for my mom, silly! But the humor is not lost on me, that I have the same prescription). Final assurances made, I will be back in two days.
Mom is rinsing the dishes in the sink. She is all smiles. We pull out of the driveway, I take a cleansing breath. I just need to step outside my doors and know that someone has my mom. I want to enjoy my husband knowing that no one is going to interrupt us with a manufactured “emergency”. I want to have dinner with friends and not worry about what is waiting at home. I want to watch my son play a sport he loves. Then with a full heart and fresh “legs”, I will return home and hug my mom.
Thank God for cell phones. HA. Mine started ringing about 30 minutes into the drive. Irrational worries had already begun at home. This time the concern was over the location of a nylon, neon colored area rug. She had once made a comment about how pretty the rug was while looking at a photo on a caregiver’s phone. So that beautiful caregiver showed up the following day with a new rug for my mom. It adorned her floor for about a year. Then two problems arose. The dog thought it was grass, I’ll let you go from there. Secondly, my mom started tripping. I collected the rug, washed it and with mom’s approval placed it in the box to give away. This was at least six months earlier. Now she NEEDED THAT RUG immediately. Cue irrational behavior. Panic. Yelling about moving out. Arguing with her husband.
I get the overview from the caregiver. I call my mom. She is in the position that she will not be conceding to me that there is something wrong. My stomach is sick. She is clearly upset. I can not go home because of a rug?! Assurances that “she’s fine” do very little to calm my insides.
This situation migrates into more anxiety, frustration and arguments at home during the weekend. I can not stop worrying, I am still 2 hours away. This defeats at least one of the goals I had for myself for the weekend. More calls. Texts. Updates. Even though some are meant to ease my stress, they only add to it. The situation manifests in hundreds of different scenarios every time we leave.
Fortunately this time a physical ailment never manifested. No trips to the hospital. A success. We did not have to come home early. A success. The neon, nylon carpet was retrieved from the give away box. A success?? (No) Everyone lived to see another day! Success. Hockey that weekend – not as successful.
Bottom line – stepping away from the role of caregiver is not easy. It is necessary. Let me repeat that, IT IS NECESSARY. I am trying to practice what I preach, having boys that play travel sports has forced the point. However, we are currently planning a long weekend that does not involve boys sports! Take advantage of the opportunities as they present, even if it is coffee with a friend, church and donuts, or movie with your significant other on Netflix. Step away. If you do not have friends that will step in for an hour, there are programs that offer respite. I do not have a list of resources – other than my friends and family right now. I will post resources when I encounter them. Take a breath this week.
Thank you for being here with me,
“Don’t wait for things to get easier, simpler, better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy right now. Otherwise, you will run out of time.Peacefulmindpeacefullife.com
This is SO GOOD! What a helpful window into what you deal with on a regular basis. You are my hero. And I’m so grateful I get to call you my friend.
Love you, B
BG Consulting http://www.bethgraybill.com
(sent from my iphone)
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Thank you Beth! I know you always have my back! Love you!