As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I find myself being grateful more than ever. This year, my mother became ill. I have faith however that it will get better. Yet, as she became sick, I discovered how I was not ready for this moment. The moment where I still care for my two young children and help, and manage for my older parents.
I was not ready to coordinate all the doctor’s orders, diagnoses, plans and decisions for my Mom.
I was not ready for the ongoing thoughts of how is she doing.
My focus as a lawyer is in estate planning. Besides helping special needs children, my practice focuses on the elder population. I was thrown for a loop as to how emotionally and mentally unprepared I was for this. I help create plans for people in case they become incapacitated, disabled or unable to manage. I have done this for almost 25 years. I have helped families in their darkest moments trying to navigate medical facilities, and decipher certain medical decisions. But I was not ready to deal with this when it happened to our family.
The fear, anger, and uncertainty of what is next when caring for my mother was all-consuming. Suddenly I was the parent, coordinating, taking notes at doctors visits, making calls to medial offices for tests.
My brother and I went through a transition where we realized Mom and Dad are older. They need extra time and extra care. We realized that this is our new normal. If you are not at this stage yet, be thankful. It changes quickly and without too much warning. As I think back, it happened very quickly. My brother and I used to be the ones where Mom would call to check in on us, “How was your day?, How are you?, What did you eat?” ( yes even at age 49 my mom was still asking if I ate.) Now, I see my brother and I asking both my parents the same questions.
Now, we talk to doctors, arrange care, worry about safety, driving them where they need to be, becoming the adult. Now it has really hit home that we are adults.
We are so positive that Mom will be better, but for now we continue to monitor how she is feeling, is she gaining weight, how is she eating. Every day seems like a new experience because my parents are learning this is the new normal.
My brother and I mourn a little of how things used to be quiet and worry-free. Then it wasn’t. It’s easy to believe that life as it was can continue forever. Everyone will be around forever. We are invincible. Then reality sets in.
I can’t express how grateful I am to have a brother who is just as involved and concerned to go through something like this. Yet, there are moments of loneliness that still occur. I have been with friends and clients who have been through these times with their loved ones but nothing can really prepare you when it happens to you.
Also, when someone you love becomes ill and suffers, it is so easy to forget about taking care of yourself. I have read about the connection between physical health and mental health; the relationships between the person who becomes ill and those who love them are strong as well. Mental health difficulties are real, and it is so important to recognize the many manifestations of illness—physical, mental, and emotional. Before you care for others, please take care of yourself.
For those going through this like my family, please know I am with you. I am with you when you hear the hard diagnosis. I am with you when you need to relay messages to distant family members and those around you. I am with you when your need to coordinate appointments with the doctor and your schedule at work. I am with you when you have to say no to your daughter about going to an event because we have to be close to grandma in case something happens. I am with you when you wake up at 2 am and start wondering am I doing enough? I am with you when you need to buy groceries, cook meals clean the house and laundry for your loved one and then do the same for yourself and family.
I am with you when you sit by your loved one, holding their hand and tell them they look great and soon they will be back to their old self. I am with you when you just need to close the door, cry and then gather yourself and push on. I am with you when you start to pray at odd times throughout the day for all to be alright.