Thursday, November 04, 2004

Caregiving in a Different Way

I've had a nice day today, I got the opportunity to spend some time with my 90 year-old grandmother. Here's how it happened. I went to my mother's house with the kids, as I do once a week. She had a painter over doing some work on her house, so she was a home-bound. She watched my children while I went to the store. While I was at the store, Mom called me on my cell phone (I'm grateful to have a cell phone), her mother, who lives in her own home, has recently broken a rib and took a pain pill. She took it on an empty stomach along with other medications and felt extremely dizzy and called my mother. My mother was trapped at home with my kids and the painter, so she asked me to look in on my grandmother. I did this with a glad heart -- I note that because sometimes I feel a bit put out by interruptions like this when I have time to myself (I know I'm selfish). I didn't feel put out this time, I felt peaceful and happy that I was able to help my Mom (I wasn't worried about my Grandma, these situations happen with frequency).

I really enjoyed the time with my Grandma. It was nice to take care of someone older after spending so much time caring for a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old. Of course, by the time I got there, she felt much better. I made sure she had something to eat (which she had already prepared herself), moved her laundry along (I think she overextended herself in doing it in the first place), and talked with her. Its hard for her because, at 90, she can't do the simple things she used to do (like laundry) and would like to do (like unload the dishwasher). She is dependent on others (she usually has daytime help but he was away today). She felt bad that she was being a burden. I told her that we care for small children and we don't consider that a burden, why should it be a burden to help others? Its hard not to be able to do the things we want -- but we all face this in one way or another -- perhaps its most obvious for the elderly and the disabled and the very young, but we are all limited. I can't just up and go where I want to go because I have small children that limit me. My husband can't up and go where he wants because he has to go to work to support us. The hard part is making peace with our limitations. Mine is easy, my children will grow. It must be very difficult to make peace with a limitation that will not change, that will only get worse. I could only urge her to try to think of the things she can do and do those, rather than think of those things she cannot do. Easier said than done.

All we can really do for each other is try to ease the way. I felt like I had the chance to do that today for my Mom (by caring for her mother) and maybe for my Grandma, if I said anything that brought her comfort, and maybe just in my being there and helping her get settled.

My way is so easy, why do I ever complain?

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