Many of you know, but perhaps some do not, that I lost my father on November 12th. Pop had lived 89 wonderful years, and had battled cancer twice. The third time he just couldn`t beat that darn disease, and his health declined rapidly in little over three months. Things started going downhill after he went into renal failure in August. He rallied from that near-death experience but his mind was never the same. He had to go into a local nursing home for rehab in hopes he would return to his apartment, but that never came to fruition, sadly.
I'm not sharing all of this sadness to gain sympathy. We all have lost loved ones, and as adult children, we know someday we will bury our parents. The reason that I'm sharing this is to tell those of you who are trying to do your best in taking care of an elderly parent with mental issues that it is okay to feel angry or burdened. Those are normal emotions. They do not mean you love your parent any less. It simply means that at times, the responsibility will get to you, even if your loved one is in a nursing home. It is a terribly heavy burden for one person to carry. Yes, there were siblings that could have stepped up to help, but they did not. Again, I'm not here to rant or rail over that. We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror every day.
After talking with friends and loved ones during this trying time, it became clear to me that everyone must handle the heartache and heavy burden in their own way. For me it was to place my father in a care facility that had the 24-hour nursing he required. For someone else, the decision may be different. My house was not large enough for another person, and in all honesty, I knew I could not be his nurse. I did not have the training or the emotional strength needed. There were days when he would yell and call me names or accuse me of trampling his rights. I left the nursing home in tears many times as the father that I knew slipped further and further away.
There is no stock answer, no right or wrong when it comes to a decision about a loved one in that kind of situation. What works for one person may not for another. Don`t judge too harshly, my friends. Instead of speaking ill of a son or daughter who is struggling, perhaps give that caregiver a few warm words. Offer them some coffee and a nonjudgmental ear. Let them unburden themselves, because you may be the only person that poor soul has that will listen and care.
In addition, caregiver: daughter or son, step-son or step-daughter, grandson or granddaughter, please know that there are people who understand. Forgive yourself. You are doing the very best you can under terribly trying times. It's okay to feel mad, dejected, scared, abandoned, and confused. Those are your emotions and you are entitled to each one of them. Face each day as a new one, knowing that you are doing your best to make the last days of your loved one as safe and comfortable as you can, even if it seems that loved one is not aware of what it is you are doing. They know. Deep in that heart that may soon stop beating, they know, and they love you even more for being there with them when no other would.