I never expected to bury my mother at only 67 years of age. My grandmother lived well into her 90’s and my mother’s older siblings are now in their 70’s and 80’s. I expected those longevity genes to impact her as well. However, I didn’t factor in that because my mother refused to go to a doctor an undiagnosed illness could have been ravaging her organs and that is exactly what happened. I realized that something was seriously wrong when she started complaining of sight problems. Yet, because of my mother’s mental illness, which she wouldn’t acknowledge, she continued to refuse to see a doctor. I begged, I pleaded, I cried and she would not budge. My uncles and I then took it upon ourselves to take her to court and have her declared mentally incompetent. I was not going to stand by and let her neglect herself to death without a fight! Once I was granted conservatorship, which is basically guardianship for adults, I was able to get her to a doctor whether she wanted to go or not. However, the damage was already done and it was massive. My mother was diagnosed with full kidney failure and congestive heart failure. She began taking medication to regulate her heart and began dialysis. She did improve but she was much weaker than before and had to use a walker to get around, she was now legally blind and could no longer control her bowels. I had joined the ranks of thousands of other adults who play the role of caregiver to their ill or aging parents. I was the chauffeur, cook (although I ended up hiring one because she didn’t like my cooking), maid, distributor of medicine, and I had the final decision over all medical treatments. I applied for government programs that offered us additional assistance and THANK GOD we were approved. I was/am my mother’s only child so this weight fell on me. Was it hard? Yes, but what was harder was watching my mother deteriorate right before my eyes. Yet, I was dedicated to the cause and I would still be doing it, if it were up to me. I miss my mother madly. Making sure that she was properly cared for and knew that she was loved during a time that had to be harder for her than it ever was for me is undoubtedly the greatest accomplishment of my life. As Drake said, “They don’t give no awards for that!” But I don’t need or want one. Knowing that I did the best you could is its own reward. I was holding my mother when she took her last breath, and I’d like to think that provided some comfort as she went to meet her maker.
According to an article in The Huffington Post, the number of adults taking care of aging parents has tripled in the past 15 years, and a full 25 percent of grown children are helping their parents by providing either personal care or financial assistance. It is estimated that that there are 10 million adult children older than 50 caring for their parents but I didn’t fall into that category and neither do several of my friends. We are dealing with it at an earlier age, our 30’s and 40’s. The pivotal years of our careers and some of us are caring for our own children as well. Add us in, along with the people caring for those other than their parents and the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 65.7 million caregivers make up 29 percent of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Actually, that is why I am writing this blog. The current, “This Good Woman” feature, the super talented Brandee Evans’ mother, Diana Harrington, is battling Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer’s. She is currently in a rehabilitation center to assist her with the effects of her MS. Brandee and her brother have started a Go Fund Me campaign to help her get the treatment and care she needs. They have applied for Choices, which is a government funded program (in the state of Tennessee) that pays for licensed caregivers to come in the home to assist with your loved one’s, meal preparation, upkeep of the home, etc. I am praying that she is accepted. My heart goes out to all of them.
It is not easy being a caregiver. It can be mentally, emotionally and financially draining. Brandee is a professional dancer and choreographer and several of her colleagues are teaching workshops this month to help her raise funds. The first is Sunday, August 10th in Los Angeles and the other is in Atlanta on Saturday, August 16th (See the flyers above and below for details). If you are able to assist, by attending the workshop or making a donation, I ask that you do. This could be you and your family member one day, and I know you would want someone to assist you as you seek to take care of those you love. Although, I suggest you pray that it never is.
Click here to read more about Brandee.
P.S.–My experience was the premise for one of my stories in my newest book, Things Every Good Woman Should Know.” In Take Care of Those You Love, I wanted to stress the importance of caring for the people who cared for us. Check it out here.