In Poetry Reading 1 (the Sept. 16 post), I introduced my debut poetry book and spoke about caregiving. I promised to read “The Caregiver’s Craft”, which is in Chapter 2 of my poetic memoir, Three-Penny Memories. My book will be released on October 15, 2022, on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format.
in Chapter 2, Mom is living in an Independent-living facility. When she moved here, I realized that she needed more daily stimulation than my husband and I could offer her because of work. The emotional trigger for Chapter 2, in fact, is “Mom, you can’t live with me.” Realizing that was a failure for me. I wish I could have redone my life to live with her. I had heard of kids doing that. Selling their house or redesigning it, retiring early, or quitting their jobs. I think people have to make their own decisions based on their personal finances and so on.
My gut told me Mom needed friends her age around her and other things like elevators, meals, and regular activities. I found her an apartment close to the laundry room and elevator, which left her off in the living room and close to the dining room.
Her rent started out at $1500 a month (if I recall correctly), not cheap, and it went up annually! But she had no car and other expenses. Fortunately, she had invested money years before with Edward Jones, and actually, even when she had to move to assisted living and pay even more in rent, she still had money left over when she passed away. Therefore, even though she felt her kids should pay for her rent and expenses, she was fully capable of doing that herself. Of course, if she had had no money, we would have figured everything out and not put her in a tent in the park! I’m so grateful my parents had made those investments.
When I took Mom to the facility, she loved it immediately. The independent living facility was the best place for Mom. She made lots of friends and was able to play cards and bingo. The facility had lavish parties, and the food was good! At first, Mom was able to take the bus rides to the mall and other places. I joined her in activities and meals at times. I also played Bingo with her. She was so kind and would help the residents who had trouble, However, she often won! Then we would haul her winnings back to her room for storage in old check boxes.
Mom was very competitive. Whenever she and I played games, she would win and rub it in! I would get so angry because I was competitive too, I guess. I wondered how her friends felt with her victories.
When mom was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, she added two miles of walking daily around the facility, so she lost a lot of weight. She was so good at eating well and exercising that the diagnosis was removed.
Mom also worked at the gift shop and store at the facility. She was a vigilant clerk and enjoyed socializing with people. That volunteer job gave her a sense of purpose.
To help her keep track of things, I gifted her a journal, but she only made one entry. I use it in a poem in Chapter 2, “Mom’s Journal”.
Despite all the amenities and good outcomes for Mom, Mom’s brain started deteriorating. The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s came early on, actually and the test results were repeated with each new doctor. For this reason, I titled Chapter 3 “Dust”.
Overall, I was happy with how well Mom was doing, but as I said in my book, Mom was deceptive at times. I think she felt I might not help her if she was happy, so I sometimes saw her behave in two ways. With her friends, she seemed fully engaged, but with me, she was a wilting rose. The shift in behavior was obvious. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was manipulating me. I felt I had two mothers.
Other challenges arose as she needed more help. I always asked her permission to do things like write her checks for her, but she would forget. I worried that she might lose trust in me. My brother and his wife also helped her by setting up her meds and giving her rides to church among other things while I held her brain next to mine in my tiny skull and took charge of doctor visits, insurance coverage, and other matters.
Well, I don’t want to make this poet too long. I could write for hours about caregiving. I know I felt gratification but also frustration as there were often problems to solve and I feared displeasing Mom. I was codependent, I think.
I wrote this poem about caregiving, “The Caregiver’s Craft”, which reveals my feelings of incompetence as a caregiver.
Next week, I’ll record a poem from Chapter 3, Echo, which covers her move to Assisted Living and, a few months later, her death.
The feature image is a photo of Mom and me on one of my birthdays. She was still in the independent living facility.