Catherine from California

Caregiving has been in my blood since I was a child. Assisting with my younger siblings and my parents doing their best to keep the household in order. Being the middle child, I saw many areas that needed tending. Eventually I became a mother, then a grandmother by age 35. Taking care of a baby is a 24-hour job. I still worked fulltime till this point. Graduating from high school early, and from College with a good profession as a Radiology Technologist in 1979, I was able to build a good home background for my growing family. My mother became ill shortly after this time in my adult years. She lived with me for a short while. Eventually she moved into her own place. Granny Franny we called her, because now she was a Great Grandmother. I was called Nana to my grandchildren, as I was too young I thought to be called Grandma.

Now aging is no laughing matter, both my Mom and I both had bad backs. By age 40 my Mom had diabetes - she was on insulin within a few decades. Her spleen was enlarged, and her platelets were very low. She had an auto-immune disorder. Very few doctors could diagnose her and treat her medically. Eventually she had liver disease. My ability to work and take care of my Mom was very difficult. You see, my Mom trusted me, and my medical background. I went to most of her appointments. We traveled often together. She could still drive but the grandkids preferred my driving. Safety first. When my Mom chose to buy her own home, we accepted the distance, but this made it difficult to caregiver and see to her needs. We still communicated on the phone and met at the doctor's office, but her ability to reason became less and less. Dementia comes on slowly and progresses differently for everyone. When we traveled together, that's when I saw first-hand, how difficult it was for her.

Diabetes and health issues get complicated very quickly. I saw my Mom go downhill fast before she reached 60 years old. I stopped working, sold my home and rented a place. I took care of my Mom and realized I could not afford to pay a mortgage and did not have any more children at home, so I put most of energy in helping my Mom. She resented my assistance at times. She enjoyed traveling so that was the best way for us to enjoy each other's company. Her pain levels were high and took medication. She rested often and stayed moving to maintain her strength. My focus on her was 24/7. We would take breaks often, and she would hire an in-home caregiver when possible. But I realized they were there to give me a break. My Mom knew I needed my space too.

She was ill with Liver Disease and had to be on Lactulose. Her memory was failing more and more...she chose to marry a man she met online. I could not discourage her. She was now living in her final stages of liver disease. Her new husband vowed to be her caregiver. When she was placed in a nursing home, he maintained the house. But I told him we promised to never leave her alone. So we took turns staying at the nursing home. A bed was made on the floor for us. We alternated night shifts. We did not want my Mom to stay in this room alone at night. We made sure she had spinach every day. See she had no teeth and did not like her dentures. She could not eat unless it was soft like baby food. Her liver could get healthy and repair with green food. She lost weight and could lessen her insulin too. She eventually was out of the nursing home in less than 6 months. I was exhausted but with rehabilitation and recovery for both of us we were able to travel again. Now my Mom did enjoy only a few more years with her new husband, but she was smiling most of the time. We took in her older sister Auntie Ann, for a few weeks only as the two sisters could share their childhood memories one more time. My final years traveling with my Mom and Aunt were the best memories together. We cruised to Acapulco, camped in England. Rested in the Hawaiian Islands and enjoyed our timeshares together. You see with no mortgage for either one of us, we saved our pennies, lived frugally and took time to smell the roses! My adult children witnessed all of this and hopefully as we age together we can share each other's burdens. Life is merry go round... but take time to Love your family!

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