Until recently, ‘Toni’ was a reader of this column in a weekly newspaper south of the Mason-Dixon line. She now resides in southeastern South Carolina. For privacy and possibly security reasons, Toni decided not to identify herself.
Her 90-year-old mother, ‘Lourine,’ had a ‘mini’ stroke a few months ago, has arthritis in her left hip, and has short-term memory issues.
‘Forgetfulness probably isn’t listed officially as a disability, but when you can’t remember to take your medication and that leads to other health problems, it’s certainly a form of disability,’ wrote 59-year-old Toni in an email. ‘My mother doesn’t get around well, and has to rely on a cane around the house or a wheelchair when shopping. And she loves to shop.’
In order to care for her aging mother, Toni and her husband had to make a number of tough decisions. For one, her husband is ‘back home’ in another Southern state, she said. They decided that quitting their jobs would have been too risky for both of them to do simultaneously without having other good-paying jobs waiting in South Carolina. So, at least for now, they have to live separate lives.
She said, ‘I had to leave my husband (though we stay in close contact), and leave close friends, family members, pets, a well-paid position, and the home I love. But I would do it again in a heart beat.’
She has great admiration for her mother, who Toni described as forgiving, fun-loving, and possessing the ability to laugh at herself. She also said her mother was generous to a fault at times, and loved her family immensely.
‘(My mother) has been my anchor for long as I can remember,’ she said. ‘The thought of not having her around terrifies me. I’m not what people would call a ‘mama’s girl’, but no longer having her with me in this life will definitely leave me feeling at loose ends.’
As advice for people considering caring for an aging parent, she said, ‘Think long and hard about the sacrifices involved. It will take both emotional and physical strength, the ability to forgive yourself when your patience wears thin, and definitely a sense of humor. If you decide to do it, remember to take time for yourself, even if that means just going to another room and shutting the door.’