4 ways to find contentment in caregiving

On Wednesday of this week my 80-year-old mother told me she just didn't know what she would do without me. This was during our drive to the opthamologist where we spent two hours having tests done on her eyes. I agreed with her. On Thursday, she told her part-time caregiver that she wished I would stay out of her G__ D____ business.

After two months of not showering, I insisted that my mother have a shower. I told her that not having a shower in two months is unacceptable. What we discovered this week is that she is terrified of being closed into her shower stall. She literally had a panic attack and started crying, so her caregiver offered to give her a sponge bath instead. They made a deal...from now on, she will get a sponge bath once a week on Tuesdays.

Since the beginning of my midlife, I have often wondered how the aging of my mother would go down. My step-dad is gone and it turns out she is not good alone. She has never been super outgoing, even though she loves being with people. She has always depended on activities to bring her happiness. Now, she sits home alone several days a week and uses the comfort of alcohol to ease her discomfort.

My mother has issues. She's been relatively unhappy most of her life. Some of it is because of the way she was raised; the rest is her fault. She never grew spiritually; by that I mean she never sought out wisdom. She didn't seek help for her pain. Instead, she lashed out when her buttons were pushed and continued to lament over her disappointments.

She has amazingly healthy genes. She could live to 100 because her family does. But she has allowed herself to get old in body and mind. The only medication she takes is her drops for the glaucoma in her eyes. And yet, she is falling apart.

It's ironic to me that just as we end our parenting job with our kids, we become parents to our parents.

I'm sharing this for two reasons. One is that I know there are others out there going through the same thing. We each have a different story. I want you to know that if you are struggling with raising a parent, you are not alone. The other reason is that it helps me process what I'm going through, which will eventually help others.

Here are four things I do to find peace in the caregiving of my mother:

1) Put things in perspective. I recognize that other people have it worse than I do. My mother has money and is able to pay for some of her caregiving. She has been pretty healthy other than a few surgeries from which she has fully recovered. I have heard other stories that are truly depressing, and I am thankful that so far I haven't had to endure anything as bad.

2) Share my struggles with my inner circle. I take advantage of the opportunity to express my frustration to those closest to me. Sometimes I'll share with my yoga students, just to give them something to contemplate - like patience. Sharing lifts some of the burden and I am grateful that those who love me offer their empathy and support. I am especially grateful for my husband who takes the brunt of my complaining.

3) Pray and seek wisdom and understanding. First I thank God for my mother. She has been very good to me - always supportive and generous. I have never felt unloved by her and she has adored me my whole life. I ask for guidance to get the information I need to do the best job I can in supporting her. I do rely on resources where I can get ideas for dealing with my aging mother.

4) Take one day at a time. I am grateful for each day. I figure that our future will be revealed to me one day at a time and I am to accept and face each day with gratitude and grace. There will be a time when I know I will be faced with her continued, gradual decline and death. I know I will have to face life without her at some point. I don't want to dwell on it now. That day will come and I need to enjoy the time I do have with her now.

I find my peace in knowing that I will be equipped to handle what comes when I need to and that I am doing the best I can to deal with everything. The forgetfulness, paying the bills, driving her to the doctor, preventing her from drinking at important events, reminding her what day it is, listening to her repeat the same things over and over. I pray that I grow old more gracefully and leave my kids with better memories. For now, I must be content with all my blessings and continue to be the loving daughter she helped create.

Leave your comments below if you can relate or have a special resource you'd like to share.

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Author's Bio: 

Lisa Kneller is the publisher of Midlife Living Well, a lifestyle website an online magazine providing solutions for midlife living. She also teaches yoga in the Scottsdale, AZ area.

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