Taking Care of My Mother. When It’s Over, Is It Really Over?

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be a difficult and heart-wrenching experience. In this personal essay, Madison Hill reflects on the challenges and joys of caregiving and ponders what the future holds as she struggles with the idea of letting go.

Taking Care of My Mother. When It’s Over, Is It Really Over?

If I’m being honest, taking care of my mother is at once the most difficult and heartbreaking endeavor I have ever undertaken. There are times where I’m not sure which one of us is losing their mind (I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re both going loony), and most days I want to believe that I’m in charge—however, I know my mother vehemently disagrees. The struggles (both old and new) that we deal with on a daily basis often make me long for the life that I had before Alzheimer’s entered the picture.

It was during one of these moments (when I was venting to my husband) that he casually suggested we consider placing her in a local care facility. I usually never mention my husband when I write, but it was due to his suggestion that I had the revelation to write this post. My reply was something along the lines of “…I’m not ready for that yet…” which I later realized he expected. He knew I wasn’t prepared to let go of mom—but at the same time, he was (subtly) reminding me that caring for mom is a choice that I’m making. Nobody is forcing me to be a caregiver.

After this conversation, I started thinking about what life would (will…?) be like without mom around. So much of me is now wrapped up in who I have become while caring for her. What used to be the simplest, day-to-day tasks are now riddled with obstacles. Getting mom to shower was a battle I thought I would not only lose, but one that would put me over the edge completely. When she almost caught the kitchen on fire (twice!) I felt like I was failing completely—I was sure neither of us would make it out of my care alive.

But then there are moments—small ones—that I will hold dear forever. Making Christmas cookies and playing Yahtzee are some of my favorite memories to savor. Caregiving is not for the faint of heart, but for me it’s worth every extra second spent with mom. As the disease progresses and her mind deteriorates, I’m forced to face the fact that she won’t always be around.

After she’s gone, my daily life will return to nearly normal; but I wonder—can I handle that? What will I do without this identity that I’ve carried for so long? Who will I be if not my mother’s keeper? Back to being honest—some days, I can’t wait to be care-free (as it were)—but it comes at a price. I lose my mom. Although I’m slowly losing her now, to have her gone forever will be something I’m never ready for. In as much as I’ve become a part of mom’s life in a new role, she’s given new purpose to mine.

Only time will tell what the future holds for mom and me. I’m not sure how I will deal with life’s ever-changing facets, but I know one thing for sure—I’m not ready to let go just yet.

Madison Hill is a happily married mother of two grown daughters and caregiver for her own mother. She makes mom jokes that will never stop embarrassing her girls, but her taste in music is a little bit cool (she thinks). When she’s not out crabbing, you can find her writing about homecare.

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