I think it was 2011 when I truly became a parental caregiver. It’s been so long. The frequent check-ins are ingrained in my brain. I walk down the hall to my mother’s room as often and as regularly as I pee. Right now though, my mother is in a nursing home and for weeks I have risen and visited everyday to remind her where she was and why, and to help her to see she is not alone or forgotten.
But, not today, not yesterday… not for a few days now. Her nursing home is closed to visitors due to new COVID-19 restrictions and this morning my bravery, my overly reasonable mind disintegrated. It dissolved into sadness. I don’t know if it’s more for me or for her – I’m not good at separating that. I cried. I miss my mom. I know she is in the safest place she can be. I know everyone there is washing their hands, wearing gloves and tending her needs and I am so grateful. I also know sometimes, especially in the evenings, she thinks she is abandoned or sometimes that she has abandoned us. She can’t figure out how to use the phone and call me and she forgets she can ask for help. She has apologized for taking so long to think of it, not remembering we talked in the morning.
She knows something is happening in the world, something big and I look back on some of her hallucinations over the last couple of months and wonder if she had somehow jumped ahead of us. She talked of staying in groups and it sounded like she was living in some kind of post apocalyptic time with intense restrictions.
Her rebellious hippy side comes out and she often thinks the police are there, keeping her locked in and then calls me demanding I pick her up – reminding us all of her rights. If only she were strong enough, I would.
Some days her mind protects her. I’m grateful for that bit of magic. She refers to the staff as “the kids”. “The kids are my friends. They take good care of me. Yesterday, “The kids won an award, we spent most of our day by the pool and they cleaned my ‘apartment’.”
I know in the big picture – we are lucky. She is weak but healthy and in the midst of all this, she has more constant care and monitoring where she is than perhaps I have the energy for. I am eternally grateful to those “kids” at Huntington Valley Nursing Home for taking good care of her, for showing up to work everyday, for buying tablets and helping her reach out to us and for their patience with family members when we sometimes get caught up in our own grief and fear.