When people hear that I’ve been providing caregiver support for my 92-year-old disabled mother for 13 years, they usually suggest that she might be better off in a long-term care facility. On one hand, this makes sense, especially as I juggle work and caregiver duties. In addition to my own needs, I’m responsible for the daily upkeep of her home, yard, car, finances and bills — while also cooking for her on weekends, giving directions to other paid caretakers, and accompanying her to each doctor’s appointment. That’s not to mention planning fun activities with her so she can get out of her home and stay in touch with the real world. But I wholeheartedly choose to provide caregiver support to my mother, and here’s why.
A History of Caregiving
My decision to provide caregiver support to my mother is inspired by her mother: my grandmother, Margueritte.
It wasn’t until after my grandmother died that I learned about her caregiving past. She and my grandfather had taken in her mother after she broke a hip at the age of 75, and they cared for her in their home for the next 10 years. This all took place during the Great Depression, when Social Security and government assistance were not what they are today. My grandfather had lost his job, and there had been a run on the local bank that had left my grandparents without a penny of their savings. Making ends meet was not easy.
Back then, doctors did not have the technology to repair a broken hip like they can today, so daily caregiver support for my great-grandmother involved feeding, lifting, and bathing her in bed. As a result, my grandparents sacrificed their ground-floor bedroom and moved upstairs, crowding the entire family. My own mother didn’t see this impact on her childhood as a burden; rather, she accepted the arrangement as part of what families did to care for one another.
Caring for My Grandfather
Almost as soon as my great-grandmother passed away, my grandfather suddenly fell ill at the age of 50. My grandmother now found herself tending to the love of her life every day for the next 10 years. In a heartrending letter my mother shared with me just recently, my grandmother lamented to her how few years she had with her “beloved Charles” before he unexpectedly and tragically began his long walk into the sunset of life.
Following in Her Footsteps
Looking back, I wish I had known all this about my grandmother while she was alive. That knowledge would have helped me have better understand her seemingly tough attitude toward life. I also could have expressed my admiration for her resilience, and the dutiful care she provided to her family. Today, what I can do is view her as a shining example, and hope to emulate her incredible fortitude and devotion by doing the same for my dear, sweet mother.