Coping with sick parents while taking care of your own family is incredibly difficult. My mother, Ida Robinson, passed away this time seven years ago and I still carry guilt about the amount of time my children spent in doctor’s offices, hospitals and rehab facilities as I raced around town to take care of her. After my father passed away, my mother depended a lot on me and my brothers. In her mid-60s, high blood pressure and diabetes began to take a toll on her, and before she knew it, she was diagnosed with kidney failure.
Mom did not drive, so she depended on me to get her where she needed to go. Of course, my brothers helped out, but she seemed to rely on me to get her to those appointments. It helped that I had two days off during the week. That meant she was always making her appointments on those days. That left me tasked with getting my daughters to and from school and their activities while still trying to take care of my mother.
I took her to the grocery store, the bank, the pharmacy and any place else she needed to go to take care of business. That’s in addition to picking her from or taking her to dialysis. My days off usually did not feel that way.I have no idea how I did it all. I can recall my mother being in a rehab facility in Northwest Baltimore. I visited her nearly every day. Many times I would pick up the girls from school and take them with me to visit her.
They loved seeing their grandmother but they also wanted to get home and eat and do their homework. I did my best to limit their time there, but I found it hard to spend 10 minutes and leave. The girls cheered her up. They would give back rubs and talk about their day with her.
Looking back, it seemed like my mother was doing a tour of Maryland hospitals. I can count seven she spent time in during her last 10 years of life. My girls say they didn’t mind, but when I consider their formative years, I can’t forget how much of that time was spent in a clinical setting.
Different family members would help out at times but I was the one she wanted. My mother never wanted to be a burden and I tried not to make her feel that way, but sometimes it did feel that way to me. Someone told me to get over my so-called guilt, because my daughters got to see how I loved and cared for her and that over time it will help them. I can see that.
They both have a great sense of empathy and perhaps watching me care for their grandmother is where some of that comes from.Being “sandwiched” in that way was tough. But I have no idea how else you do it. At one point I convinced my mother to pay someone to help her with getting around and helping around the house. That eventually did not work out — my mother was getting too sick for that, but she would not leave her house. So, we did what we could. I did her shopping and her cooking. If Grace was off from school, I would let her spend time at her grandmother’s house and help her out.
Eventually that stopped because I was worried about putting Grace in a scary situation if she got sick.There are no easy answers on how to raise your family and take care of a sick or elderly parent. But I would say talk now with your parents about the best plan for the entire family. It’s a hard conversation but if you wait to talk or think about it when you’re in it, it’s often too late.
Despite all of her ailments my mother never gave up. She always thought there would be a cure and wanted every life-saving measure available to keep her alive. That’s what I told the doctors. That’s what they did until nothing worked. Now my daughters have fond memories of their grandmother and I am thankful for that.