CAREGIVING FOR MY MOTHER
My mother is a recent widow and my newest, oldest child. Numerous aspects have been introduced to her new-found position in life, from the heartbreak of her husband passing…to her relocating to a town where she knew no one but my husband and myself…to the emotional breakdown of trying to rebuild a new life without her husband…to the broken foot she insisted on ignoring even though the injury happened months ago during dad’s illness and was crippling her mobility…to the necessary foot surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.
All the while, everything seemed to happen while mom desperately continued to hold on to her and dad’s view of life…you see, they were like the kids in Peter Pan…the ones that never wanted to grow up and always looked for the fairy tale ending.
It has been 15 months since my dad died. A lot has occurred in our family’s life, a lot of healing that time just seems to take care of…but still, there are days when I am taking care of mom and she is “wearing” Peter Pan’s clothes (attitude)…and I become totally exasperated and find it difficult to breathe.
Falling Down, and Getting Back Up
Case in point: she finally had the necessary foot surgery, and was told to remain totally non-weightbearing on her right foot. A few days following the surgery, I was showing her a way to slowly maneuver herself into her chair that was easier and safer than the way she was attempting. Mom became entirely impatient with my instructions and decided to continue to approach the chair as she had been…she fell…of course she did, she wasn’t listening. She was again like Peter Pan, trying to find the quickest escape route (which isn’t necessarily the best route). When she fell, I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh mom! Are you hurt? Did you fall on your right leg and foot? How am I supposed to pick you up from the floor?” As luck would have it, her fall did not affect the newly operated-on foot…but there she lay…on the floor, scared but aware that this fall was of her own doing.
I took a deep, long breath and decided the best way to get her off the floor without my lifting her and hurting myself was to get in the exact position that she was in on the floor, maneuver myself without applying any pressure on my right leg until I could get into an upright position, and then have her follow my lead, step by step. Once I got her into an upright sitting position I grabbed the ottoman, braced myself behind it and guided her from a one legged squat position onto the ottoman. From that position, I could safely support her from behind with my arms under her armpits into her chair. We did it! We were both exhausted, but she was safe.
Once mom was back in her chair I repeatedly asked her if she was okay, looked at the cast, and discovered that nothing appeared out of line. Luckily, she had no pain. I took another breath and told her in my best parental voice that the next time she lands on the floor I was calling 911 and she would have to deal with the consequences of her actions. I reminded her that I was there to help her but that she must listen. I gave her a scolding as one would scold a child…but I did so in a calm - yet commanding - voice…and then I told her I loved her.
I have found that by honestly communicating with each other, saying what needs to be said with respect but with authority and to the best of our abilities…we continue on with this new life we both are living.