Burden? A personal story

Alzheimer's Seasons

1 Timothy 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”

I remember my mother saying she did not want to live long enough to be a burden to her children.  As I age, I can relate to that statement more and more. I am accustomed to being the caregiver and the prospect of a role reversal is very disconcerting.

In the final years of my mother’s life, my wonderful sister stepped up to the plate and welcomed Mom into her home.  Mom was a widow and even though she did not want to give up the independence of living on her own, she understood the necessity of living with my sister.  Mom terribly missed our dad; they were married almost 60 years. He died very sudden and unexpected and part of her went with him.  She was sad and depressed and began spending a lot of time in her bed and just feeling out of sorts with the world.  Mom began to slowly come back to us and, for a while, started to enjoy life again.

In addition to caring for our mother, my sister and brother-in-law owned and operated a very demanding business.  Each weekend they would escape to their beach house for some well deserved rest and relaxation.  They would occasionally offer to take my mom with them, but she would usually want to return to her own home to spend the weekend. My brother and I both work full-time during the week so we would alternate weekends and take turns staying with my mom at her house.

My brother and I treasured these weekends with Mom and appreciated the one on one time with her. We shared many conversations, took her to church, out to eat, and sometimes drove her around the town where she grew up so she could see the changes.  We would often hear the same stories over and over, but it never bothered us at all.  We just smiled to ourselves and kindly sat there as we watched her face shine as she relived her precious memories.

As time continued to pass Mom began to experience days of darkness. On these days her will to live was low, she wanted to be with our dad and she was sad and depressed.  We believe our mom was beginning to suffer from dementia possibly even early stages of Alzheimer and as this disease slowly progressed it became extremely difficult for my sister to manage on a day-to-day basis. It was hard for all of us to watch this wonderful, loving, caring woman we loved so much become this person we were beginning to no longer recognize.  My sister was becoming emotionally and physically drained and I can only imagine the effort it took to take care of my mom.  After a while it became necessary to put her in an assisted living facility where mom lived for several months. Mom was not happy with this decision, but it did provide her with socialization and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  We were eventually able to move Mom to a private home right down the street from my sister in what turned out to be the final weeks of mom’s life.  We hired a 24/7 caretaker and my sister was able to see mom several times a day.  Mom was comfortable and happy during these final weeks and died peacefully surrounded by her loving family.  After four years she was finally with my dad.

Was Mom a burden to my sister?

My sister is the type of person who would view her service to my mom as a ministry or labor of love.  M. was an example of never allowing the cares of the world to overshadow the things that are most important—serving God through serving people, especially the people in our own families.  I am forever grateful to her for her devotion to our parents as they aged.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but it is my desire I will not live long enough to become a burden or labor of love to anyone.

Exodus 20:12 “Honor thy father and thy mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God is giving you”    

22 thoughts on “Burden? A personal story

  1. As we get older I think our greatest challenge is to reverse roles with our children and allow them to be the caregivers. One can only hope that when the day comes we have children as loving as your family. I think the idea of giving up your independence is what makes me not want to live past the age of living independently.

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  2. I’m glad your family was able to care for your mother. We took my dad into our home after Mom died, and he lived with us for several years before his death. I’m so thankful for those years because we got to really know Daddy. I know that sounds odd, because I’d lived with him for 19 years before leaving home, but I got to know him in a different context. He was so easy to be around, and was in his right mind to the very end, but I know it could’ve been very different. We were lucky.
    Thanks for this piece.

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    • No, I definitely can relate. I felt like it was during the times I spent as an adult talking with my mom, that I really got to know her better. She spoke to me about the day her mother died, the loss of my older brother when he was 3 months old, her childhood days, etc. I got to know her as the person she was over those years. I so wish I had the opportunity to talk with her again. There is so much to ask and share now that I am older.

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  3. Our children claim we won’t be a burden on them. They’ll put us in appropriate places when we can no longer live independently. I hope our money lasts until we die, because I’m pretty sure none of them would take us into their own home. I may be a bit harsh, but I’m sure they don’t feel they owe us anything.

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  4. I feel like i found a treasure in your blog! I have read several beautiful post and look forward to more! I am 58, widowed with 5 grown children and 1 grandchild. I am a violin teacher in a Montessori school in NC-and I love our Lord! This could be the start of something beautiful!

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  5. An insightful and compassionate account, and so relevant to me now that I’m 71. What I’m doing now is trying to stay healthy for as long as possible, eating right, doing my daily (gentle) aerobic workout, having interests and friends, and so forth. I don’t know how the end will be, but if I do end up being a burden I want that to be a very long time from now! Thank you for your lovely sharing.

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  6. As I just turned 70 myself, this is something I think about often. Trying to stay healthy and thankful I still have my husband with me. I keep busy every day although I am retiring come the end of June – but still will be working part time with my Avon business. I like meeting new people. Although I have 5 children and 9 grandchildren, I do not want to become a burden either – I also remember my grandma saying she didnt want to be a burden but ended up living with one of her daughters. When my mother in law passed we took in my father in law for the next 9 years….I never felt he was a burden as he kept my children busy a lot of times that I couldnt.

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  7. I totally relate to your story. My husband and I took care of his parents for 2 years. My Mother struggled through years of dementia and passed away. My brother developed dementia 15 years earlier than mom and I was his caregiver for 3 years until he died. I do not wish to become a burden to my children. We never know what life will be like as we age – which is probably a blessing for us. It is so hard to watch someone you love – struggle through the last years of their life. My father died 3 years before Mom and she never stopped missing him. I must admit that the older I get – the less I like old age.

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  8. Very well said. It is a gift we receive if we can care for our parents since they cared so much for us. It sounds like you and your siblings did a wonderful job with your mom. I’ve witnessed some amazing caregivers in my family and sometimes, they are close to sainthood in my eyes. I moved home for two months when my father had a stroke and I spent every night with him in the hospital which was weeks, before he went to a nursing home. It felt right staying with him through the long dark nights. I have no regrets. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

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  9. You’ve hit such an important and heart-wrenching topic for so many of us. I just returned from being with my dear parents (in their 80’s), my brother and sis right there, but me 10 hours away. Going through so gut-punching decisions right now also. Glad to have found you and get your perspective on God’s goodness, strength, provision, and love.

    Liked by 1 person

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