As my mother’s Alzheimer’s progresses and caring for her becomes a greater challenge for my father, our relationship is changing. I’m beginning to feel more like parent than child. No longer is a visit a time to kick back and relax. Instead, it’s a time when I do whatever I can to make their lives a little bit easier.
For the past several years, we’ve been in the habit of giving the apartment a thorough cleaning whenever we visited; doing the things that Dad didn’t have the time or energy for or that his failing eyesight kept him from noticing. Now there’s Victoria, the bubbly Filipina housekeeper/caregiver who comes in twice a week. What a blessing she has been! This time we didn’t have to do any housework but there were many other ways that we were able to help out.
Until this visit, my proud and independent father had never asked me for help. In fact, in the past, much of what we did around the apartment we did when he was out because he wouldn’t have wanted us to do it. Now, however, all that has changed. For the first time ever, my father actually asked me for help! Together we took care of paperwork that he would have needed a magnifying glass to struggle through on his own. I also accompanied them to the geriatric clinic, took care of Mom while Dad went to the dentist and shopped for things for Mom and for the apartment.
It would be so much easier if we lived closer and I could drop in for a few hours once or twice a week instead of visiting only three or four times a year but I can’t beat myself up over that. I couldn’t afford to live in Vancouver even if I wanted to. The cost of housing is astronomical. When I start feeling guilty about not being there often enough, I simply remind myself that it was my parents who moved me far away from there in the first place. They chose to return long after I’d grown up and made a life for myself somewhere else.
Each time we visit, I go away happy if I feel that we’ve won a few victories; accomplished a few things that make life better for them. This time that included Richard taking Dad out to shop for some much needed clothing for himself.
I don’t think I’ll ever be completely comfortable with the need to cut my mother’s meat for her and help her dress, the things that she once did for me, but I’m glad to be able to do them once in awhile. I was especially delighted to be able to take her out for a long walk in the sunshine. Though she enjoyed it thoroughly and some of the flowers in Central Park were bright enough for her to actually be able to see, she seldom agrees to leave the apartment except to go to medical appointments.