We all take care of someone, even if that someone is yourself. I took care of me for years and years and didn’t give it much thought. As a middle-aged, single woman, I enjoyed freedom to come and go as I pleased, eat what and when I wished, stay home alone for a holiday or go out and visit with relatives or friends, whatever the mood struck me.
Suddenly, I've discovered what so many people my age are discovering…my parents are no longer able to care for themselves and they require help.
And that help is me.
I do not claim myself unique. I recognize that this sort of thing goes on all the time. As our parents live longer, they sometimes become less able to cope with daily challenges of driving, home maintenance, feeding themselves, etc. Unless your parents are struck with a fatal heart attack or stroke, chances are they are going to live well into their 80’s and with that longevity comes a risk of them suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The numbers are staggering.
About 13% of Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer's and half of those over age 85 will develop Alzheimer's -- or a closely related dementia. Yes, HALF of those over age 85.
What I'm wondering is... how did I end up with both parents being afflicted? That's 2 for 2. Not 13 in 100 or even 1 out of 2. My odds were supposed to be better than that. One parent with Alzheimer's, that's statistically understandable, but BOTH?
|Our last holiday together in 2012. Mom passed |
in September 2013. Dad is still with me, but has
And with no siblings to share the responsibility, the burden of care has fallen squarely upon my shoulders. Three years ago, I was planning vacations, living in a big house alone, going out whenever I wished, watching TV on my own schedule, pretty much doing whatever I pleased.
Now, my world is completely on end. Both parents and their dog came to live in my home. I went from happy go lucky to regimented and frightened. I've lost one parent, lost my job, lost any sense of who I was.
And I lie awake at night and worry.
Am I doing the right things for their benefit? Am I taking care of everything for my own life that needs accomplished? How do I deal with a house left to sit some 1400 miles away? Is my home safe enough for them? What happens to them if I have an accident some night on my way home and I never get there? With no income of my own, are we going to be able to pay all the bills?
A million nagging questions and not a lot of ready answers.
There are a lot of people my age in similar situations. If you are one of those coping with the care of a parent (or two), or are the primary caregiver for a loved one, you're not alone. Find support where you can. Friends, family, support groups, whatever it takes.
It's a stage of life that will pass eventually. But for now, there are tears and fears and comical moments to get us through the days. And lot of lessons to be learned.
Comment to me if you're a caregiver and have questions or advice. Here's to getting through it and finding our way to the other side.