By Beverley Powell
Balancing the responsibilities of raising children and caring for a family member afflicted with Alzheimer's is an arduous journey, riddled with complex considerations. When I decided to take on the care of my ailing mother-in-law, I found myself at a crossroads, fraught with questions. Could I manage her needs 24/7, considering my own battle with epilepsy? Would the stress exacerbate my seizures? Could I maintain a household that met the exacting standards she, a former military wife of twenty years, held dear? And above all, how would this affect my daughter?
My daughter, then sixteen, grappled with the additional burden of bipolar disorder and anxious tendencies. Adolescence is challenging in itself, but her mental health condition had led to self-harm, suicide attempts, running away, and episodes of hypersexuality. While her medication and therapy had been effective, we couldn't help but wonder if witnessing her beloved grandfather's decline and her Neeni's struggles would be too much for her. Naturally, my husband and I were deeply concerned. However, she reassured us that she would be okay. So, we embarked on this tumultuous journey.
Over the past two years, my daughter faced bullying at school to the point that she ultimately dropped out during her junior year. Nevertheless, in a mere two weeks, she took the initiative to enroll in adult education classes to earn her GED and actively sought employment. Before our eyes, our daughter transformed into a responsible, compassionate, and beautiful young woman. She underwent a profound metamorphosis.
Despite some setbacks, she battled hard. She ceased self-mutilation, distanced herself from negative influences, and engaged in daily conversations with me. She even extended kindness to her Neeni, assisting with her mobility throughout the house. While she remains a teenager who loathes household chores and keeps a cluttered room, she has a few tattoos on her arms and continues to enjoy her favorite heavy metal music.
But what stands out most is her compassionate heart, a quality that defies description. She loves, listens, and genuinely cares about fellow human beings. She forgives those who have wronged her in the past and lets go of minor grievances, such as unpaid debts. Her growth in maturity, I firmly believe, wouldn't have been possible without my mother-in-law's presence in our lives.
The question remains: Can we raise our children in an environment where someone pours a cup without reason, not even knowing their names? Is it fair to expose our children to the final stages of someone's journey in this world? Does it hinder our relationship with our children as we devote substantial time to someone who relies on us more than a newborn infant?
Yes. We are nurturing our children to become compassionate, responsible adults. Assisting someone with Alzheimer's teaches them the value of patience, irrespective of age. It is not merely training them for similar circumstances in the future; it is instilling in them the understanding that everyone, regardless of their condition, requires love, compassion, and hope. This is one of life's most profound lessons. When our children venture out into the world, we wish to reduce the spread of hatred and pain, fostering a sense of joy, love, and the knowledge that their hearts are open to others' suffering. It is the most precious gift we can bestow upon them and the world.
When you doubt your parenting skills because you've welcomed someone who demands care akin to an infant into your home, remember that the lessons we impart to our children are the seeds that will help diminish the world's negativity and restore hope and peace. We may never completely eradicate all the world's ills, such as racism, violence, and hatred, but through grace and mercy, we can impart values that lead to a world with less suffering and more joy.
This perspective comes from a mother of three and a caregiver to one.
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Meet Beverley Powell
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