Sandwiched and Saddled

by Kerry

My lovely, loving Mother just turned 93. In the summer of 2008, while at a family wedding, three of my siblings, all of whom live in Mom's hometown, took me aside to "let me know" that Mom, who at that time was in assisted living, was having trouble remembering to take her medications, was sometimes confused,and was having spells of extreme breathlessness and fatigue.

She had become increasingly depressed since the last of her siblings died, and lost interest in many of the things she used to enjoy. They all pressed upon me that "we have to do something", all the while hinting that they did not want to be the one to make any decisions for her.

2008 was quite a year for me. I was working full time, and going to school full time. Our house burned down in March, and my husband and I moved in next door with his Mom, who was in stage 4 colon cancer. I took care of her (without help) for the last 7 weeks of her life, while trying to finish the semester at school, keep up with the demands of our business, negotiate with the insurance company, replace our vehicles which also burned, hire a contractor to rebuild the house, argue endlessly with the architect, take care of an addicted son in crisis, and help to settle my mom-in-law's estate.
All this while dealing with a deteriorating marriage and an alcoholic husband.

Fast forward 8 weeks to the end of June, and my siblings are pressuring me to convince my mom to come and live with ME!! Evidently they were way too busy enjoying their retirement to remember how we used to jokingly argue about who would get to take care of Mom when the time came. I vividly recall coming to the realization that it was up to me, the youngest of five, to "do something", so I convinced Mom to come live with me in a house that wasn't mine, 150 miles away from her hometown and the rest of her kids. I know, I know, "ask a busy person if you need something done".

Three short months later, the stress of the previous six months took its toll, and I filed for divorce, and began the difficult task of finding and purchasing a house closer to my siblings that was suitable for Mom with her limited mobility. Of course, the housing market was on the
brink of disaster, but prices were still hyper-inflated.

I convinced one sister to take Mom for a few months while I wrapped up the details of a 25 year marriage and made the move. In one fell swoop I lost my marriage, my home, my business, my job and my "freedom."

Mom has been back with me full time for 2 1/2 years now. She needs care 24/7, so I can't work outside the home, and my divorce settlement has dwindled down to almost nothing. My chances of finding work after Mom passes are practically nil. None of my siblings has offered to help financially, but instead ask if I qualify for food stamps. (!?!)

My son also lives with me, and has been in rehab now for more than two years. He is helpful at times, but I still can't leave Mom for more than an hour or so. One sister has taken Mom for short visits, as her busy retirement schedule allows. The other sister seems more interested in keeping score, and has declared that Mom can no longer stay with her for a few days because her husband doesn't want the responsibility. I don't think it has occurred to her that she could just once miss her morning breakfast and prayer meeting with friends, and stay home and care for Mom herself. My oldest sister is also showing signs of age related dementia , so when she comes from down state to "help", it is not a break for me but double the responsibility.

My mother was the caregiver for my dad, who was paralyzed from polio, for five kids and several grand kids, for her mother-in-law and father-in-law in their dying days, for my great uncle whom no one else would take in, for her miserable second husband who was infirm for many years, and finally for her older sister until she passed.

If anyone deserved to be cared for in her last years, it is she. I am determined to take care of her until the end unless I finally break down, burn out and need a nursing home myself. It is a decision I made, and I will live with the consequences.

Like my Mom, I am a doer of things that need to be done. I just wish my siblings shared my commitment. In the meantime, I am a card carrying member of the Sandwich Generation, and hanging on by my teeth.

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