If you have been reading my blog this year, you will know that “Caregiving” is on my goal list for 2023 and there are reasons for that. So I will breakdown my thoughts on what my goals are and intentions in this blog entry.
Before I do that, I guess I need to give a little background, as much as I feel comfortable giving. My Mom was alone* in Columbia, TN with just a few friends left. Some had passed and others were having some serious health issues. Mom was blind in one eye and needing to drive less, and she needed more and more help. She recognized this. We talked together about options for her since we were an hour and a half away from her (three hour round trip is not convenient except an occasional weekend here and there).
*Alone in Columbia is only true in the sense that Mom and my sister are estranged and for reasons that they can explain on their own. It’s not my story to tell. Each one has an opposing and different story but that is not my purpose here. But it’s an important piece of the story though as because of that, Mom’s care and needs fall solely on me to care for her since my sister has chosen not to be involved.
So we talked about Mom’s options and I listed several things for her to think about from assisted living, to getting an apartment, to finding a house in a senior community. She chose to find a house nearby and of course had rigid requirements – had to be completely flat, no upstairs, certain type of patio, near us, etc. And the market was crazy and everything was going fast. So she ended up having to build so she could sell her house in the mean time and that was the only way she could really get what she wanted.
She lived with us in the mean time while the house was built – I gave Mom my entire bedroom while I doubled up in my office on a cot, and we helped her sell the house and we moved her stuff into three different places – our basement, two storage units in one place, and a another storage unit at another place. We took her to a year’s worth of house building meetings as well as doc appts, pet grooming, and so forth. George and I spent nearly every weekend of 2021 toward this effort, putting all personal projects, household needs, and friends ON HOLD. We got her moved into the new place and so we moved her things twice.
Once Mom was onboard in her new home, many new appliances, beds, decorating, etc was needed so we all spent many hours – evenings and weekends – shopping and helping to get all of the things. And all of the things in place. We also took many good will trips as things were unpacked.
Over the course of the first year, and after helping to get her set her up initially with the basics (dishes and daily living needs), we moved boxes in for her to unpack as she was ready. Things went slowly for Mom who was dependent upon us to do most everything and we work full-time – might I add out of town as well.
I love my husband for the amount of time and effort that he gave this cause. He took the moving project and ran with it. He was amazing. But I have never seen anything wear him out so much. I vowed, I would never allow him to move anyone ever again. This was the last time. A moving company will have to be hired. He had to do things he didn’t want to do and didn’t feel like doing, and then the final moving day he was so so sick. But the truck was rented and everyone counting on him so he did it anyway. A couple of God Sent and Loving neighbors with capital letters helped George that weekend, and we will never forget that.
As time passed we slowly began to get on with seeing friends again, planning to do some things of our own, working on hobbies, and trying to get our own house back into shape after having a year of not seeing it very much. We had put a lot of our plans on hold. We have moved into a routine of: getting Mom to doc appts, taking her to church, seeing she has groceries every week. We try to see her one to two times a week. Life seemed to be pretty good again.
At some point though in the year, Mom became bored with all and told me I was not doing a good job of taking care of her (emotional/entertainment) needs. She said I was failing her, not keeping my promises, and needed to take her out more often than what we were doing. After all we had done, and what we were currently doing, I was thinking we were doing a great job. It has been my goal to see that my mother, who is also a widow, was being taking care of. And to hear that we were not meeting expectations, literally broke my heart, and what resulted from that was just pure anger – the likes of which was disturbing my husband and causing issues between us because he didn’t know what to do to help me and it was causing his life to be unsettled. I then began seeing a therapist for a short amount of time, who began probing around in childhood to ask a lot of questions. It was very eye opening. And I won’t go into all that here. But therapy was expensive and I was given some tools to work with and the insight to all that was very helpful as to “childhood vs now connectivity” and why I was feeling all the emotions I was feeling – and what to do about it.
All that mainly led to me establishing a boundary with Mom that I was going to take care of her needs but would likely fail her expectations for entertainment. But was willing to help her find ways to be entertained if she needed me to. I have to claim my life back, need to not feel depressed or controlled, and needed to know I had a future still. And needed to know I wasn’t expected to go back into a parent/child relationship. And needed to know how to keep that from happening, only to find what feelings I had were normal and most my age went through similar things.
As someone that works full time and still trying to find balance in this situation, I thought it important to have as a goal for 2023 some criteria surrounding it. I thought we had found balance and was surprised that we hadn’t in her mind. So one of our realities had to change. I guess that’s hers. I’ve had to learn what I’m supposed to be responsible for as a caregiver of a parent versus what I’m not. I don’t have any more time to give, so she has had to live with what we can do. For example, doing one to two item grocery runs mid-week because she forgot something on the big grocery run that her tastebuds is really wanting- is not something I’m willing to do often. That takes about a 2 hour run there, to store, and back to her house, and home again. Let’s do that ONCE a week, not twice! Emergencies are a different story, and then I was told there is also 911, that what can I really do in a real emergency anyway. So many have told us it is amazing what all we have done. I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder, the doer or the receiving. I often feel like my best is never good enough and I can try to the nth degree and it’ll never be good enough. Yes, this too was difficult.
The restaurants we took her to were too cold, the food not good, the wait too long. The furniture – we are on recliner #3. The place she lives is not working out very well in that she is too cold and wants the windows replaced. Nearly everything set up has gone wrong. Plumbing issues, heat/air issues. Nothing can be right again I’m afraid. Although moving there was her decision and not ours. The church we take her to, she says is not good enough for her – they don’t believe exactly the way she does – she says. She quit going for a while. And then started back again. Waiting for the next shoe to fall, but it’s nothing I can control. She can either go or not. We know not how to please and so I quit trying. I’ve become more of a robot or a cold stone of grey rock, without feeling or emotion. It’s what they tell you to do to protect yourself. Right or wrong. It works. I don’t want to hurt feelings, argue, belabor a point, repeat myself. I just exist and either go with the Flo or just go away, realizing there is nothing I can do to make her life seem better.
So on to the 2023 goals now that you know/remember the backdrop. It’s important for me to have this as a goal because if I’m spending so much time toward something, I need to be able to “check off a box” at the end of the year saying “I did this”. I’m not sure we’ll get any other reward or satisfaction, lol, other than THAT. But it goes beyond just checking a box. I want to make sure that I set boundaries, stick to them, am respected, not treated like a child since I’m an adult now. Those times of “being told what to do” and “bossed around” and “raised voices” are days long gone and not to be revisited. I want to meet God’s duties and demands of me as His child and I want to honor my parent and take care of her needs as she is also a widow.
I will say to Mom’s credit that she does not take advantage of us, she wants us to drive her car, use her gas, pays for our meals when we take her somewhere, and even says “thank you” and some times even “please”. She very much wants to make sure she is not costing us anything. And I appreciate that. But here are the goals.
Caregiving Guideline Goals for 2023. It May Not Be What You Think.
- Prayer. Let all that we do be bathed in prayer. Daily.
- Be more patient. My patience level is low. Some of my adult mentors in life were not exactly patient people, so my tendencies are to be very impatient. George is usually patient and he has helped. But he gets impatient with me very quickly, lol
- Less anger. Mainly meaning less reaction. Less pre-action as well. What this means is that when I’m triggered by something that is said -to just let it roll unless I need to set a boundary of course so as to NOT react. Sometimes people say things just to see you give a rise to it. I’m not wanting to fall for that hook anymore. I just need to ignore it or stone face it. And I also need to quit predicting (pre-action) to what is going to happen. Because when I do, and it happens, it makes me mad every time. I hate the fact that I can predict what will happen. But the fact that I do that is not good for me. I need to just unhook my emotional feelings I guess and just become more of a robot, whatever it takes to protect myself from being hurt, or becoming an emotional lobster in every situation. I’m not going to let it control me or consume me anymore. I really want to be a pleasant person to be around and not one with a chip on my shoulder because someone else has control over my emotions. That has stopped since therapy.
- Go with the flow more. Not allow myself to be surprised or overtaken by what is happening. Just expect the unexpected, lol. I was also told my the therapist how to handle protecting my own time and not letting this override my own life, which makes me have anxiety and stress and depression. And feeling like I don’t have a life of my own anymore. She helped me with my schedule and sleep and so much more to pay attention to my own self needs – fresh air being one of them, and time to do something I want to do.
- Be prepared to set boundaries.
- Don’t assume that everyone is trying to manipulate me. I’m so used to being manipulated at times I’ve forgotten how to trust anyone. I have a hard time hearing words from people and knowing that they are face value as I’ve been manipulated in so many areas of my life. So I need to not assume that words are full of a hidden meaning somewhere in there.
- Self-care is a part of my caregiving goals. Yes, I have to make sure I get what I need as well. Otherwise I can’t be there for my spouse, the rest of my family, nor myself.
- Vow to check in daily with Mom on most days. Verbally if possible, by text if otherwise.
- Will try to schedule some midweek outings as time allows. So that she gets out more than just church days. We have a LOT of doc appts, pet grooming and such so this helps a lot. But sometimes it is not possible between work, bad weather, meals, sleep, responsibility at home, etc.
- It’s important for me to keep with a regular schedule and routine. I’m sure it’s good for Mom too. I’m not very good with impromptu issues because of our work schedules and very tightly planned weekends. Keeping “me time” is a must for me to be happy. I can give up an occasional Saturday but to be honest, even that makes for a very trying time for me because then I have to go 14 days straight with no time at home other than dinner and bed time. We have church and Mom’s errands on Sunday, and often doc appts other days. I do pretty good when things are scheduled. I don’t do emergencies too well in any situation. Often emergencies are not really emergencies.
- Cleaning. Mom can’t see very well to do cleaning. She refuses to hire anyone to come in and help. I am not able because I don’t have time. I can’t even get time to clean my own house. I’ve not dusted in over a month, and I’ve tried to mop the kitchen the last two weekends without success. I have dust a 1/4 inch thick on the fan blades. lol. I’m not above spritzing a counter or swishing a toilet or running an occasional vacuum at Mom’s if time allows while I’m already there. But that will be few and far between. But I will make an effort to do what I can when I’m there. Otherwise, it’ll just stay dirty and nasty because it’s her house and she won’t let anyone clean it. And I can’t make her.
- Don’t allow toxic behavior, disrespect, or raised voices or yelling or snapping. I gave that up when I left home back in the day and I have no intention of listening to it or putting up with again in my adulthood caregiving on anyone, parent or not. There is no excuse for that and to allow it is to only put up with more of it. I have a tendency to yell back as that is the modeling I received was to “yell back” and I’ve had to learn not to do that if I was going to keep a job, keep a marriage, or have friends. The struggle is real. But I will.not.tolerate.it! Regardless of who I’m caregiving. There’s just no need and no excuse.
- My goal is to somehow dispel gossip about others. I don’t need to hear judgments against other people while I’m trying to help another person. If one is talking about other people, I must assume I’m being talked about as well, and my imagination has it as “in most every breath”. So I will try to figure out a nice way to say “I don’t really want to hear that”. And try to encourage to talk about good things. Is there anything good that ever happens EVER???? Why does only bad things ever happen?
- Keep a journal when I need to vent. George has been a good sounding board but since I’m not paying for a therapist, I don’t want to wear George out, so I’m keeping a lot more inside now, and only really have this vlog to vent out somethings but I don’t go into grand detail with it.
I don’t want to be rude or hurtful by writing about this and my feelings and what I’ve been through. I’m writing it to share my goals, have a written account of it for me, to share what I’m thinking with my 2023 goals, and to hopefully help someone else in the process. If I can’t perfect and please as a caregiver, I can at least manage self-care through it, protect myself, and still be able to tell MYSELF, “job well done” even if no one else feels it is, says it is, or sees it. I’ll know. God will know. And that is really all that matters.