The Time Has Come

The time has come.

In just a few days, I will move my mom to a memory care facility.  It’s something I prayed would not have to happen. My emotions are all over the map.  One minute I feel relief to be getting some of my life back. The next minute I feel guilty for putting her into the care of strangers.  It  feels like “I give up – I can’t look after you.”  She will be hurt and angry at me. She won’t understand it.  She may even give up wanting to live. I feel joy over having cared for her well but also sorrow over those times that I lost my patience with her.  In all of it, God has graciously carried me.  He has wrapped me in His compassionate arms even when I have fallen short.

This journey is filled with memories.

As I take her through old photo albums, I too remember her before Alzheimer’s began to destroy her brain.  I remember her vitality and her charm.  I remember her “never give up” mindset and drive. I remember a time when she would have laid down her life for me rather than now expecting all of my life for her.  I remember when we were close. Now she needs daily reminders that I am her daughter and not merely a caregiver who prevents her from being independent and doing what she wants.

I know it’s the right decision.  I love my mom and I will still spend regular time with her – but as her daughter and not her caregiver. That will be better for both of us.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that doesn’t just destroy memories and cognition.  

It also gets in the way of relationships.  There are times when I still feel a heart connection with mom but she is struggling more and more to communicate, to understand, to participate, to relate.  She is fading away.

Last week, I knew the time had come to move my mom when I watched her fight with Beth, my 2-year-old granddaughter.  Over toys!  Beth loves to dress and undress dolls.  My mom doesn’t approve and scolds her for taking off the doll clothes. Beth loves to put on the $3.00 set of fake pearls she has found in the dress up clothes.  My mom grabs the “expensive” pearls from her and puts them out of reach.  Beth yells, “stop it Mummu.”(Finnish for grandmother)   Mom yells back, “I am not going to play with you when you yell at me.” And so it goes.

For the past year, I have guarded my home and worked to make it a restful sanctuary for my mom.

The time has come when I want to restore my home to a welcome place for my kids and grandkids.  It’s really an ordering of my desires. Rather than putting my mom first, I am prioritizing my husband, my kids and grandkids.

Overall I am grateful for this past year.

Mom entered our home in May of 2016.  The days since then  have often been long but the year has flown by quickly.  I have been blessed by this year with her in so many ways.

I thank God not only for giving me this year with my mom but for changing me in the process.

 

I thank my husband who has been very supportive and patient with me in all of this.  We decided last May to take my mom in for a few months. Instead it has stretched to a year.  Glen has never complained but instead and been patient and understanding with both my mom and me through it all.

 

I thank my kids who have watched this consume me, yet have patiently allowed me to conclude, on my own, when enough is enough. They have loved their grandmother well even though she in return has regarded them merely as neighbors, not recognizing them as her family too.

 

I thank my grandkids who have been kind and thoughtful of their great-grandmother and given her sweet attention each time they walk in the door.

 

I thank my siblings who have faithfully responded to calls for help each time I have needed them.  This journey has united our hearts and paved the way for spending sweet time together.

 

I thank my school community- my Veritas family –  for giving me space to love my mom well this past year.

It’s not goodbye mom.  

I will visit you regularly. So will your grandkids and great grandkids and the rest of your family. You will not be forgotten.  We will always be your family. And I will always be your daughter –  whether you remember it or not.

12 Comments

  1. I have been my mother’s caretaker in different ways since I was 14. She had not taken care of her body most of her adult life, which lead to a very involved spinal surgery and was given 2 medications simultaneously that were dangerous together, which caused severe short term memory damage. She was a single mom, so that meant I became responsible for caring for her and myself throughout all of high school. While she recovered much functionality over the next few years, I remember (and have relived with each subsequent surgery) the arguments over pain pills, hallucinations of birds in our apartment, tantrums over the strangest things, her waking me up at 3am afraid because she heard a noise, etc.

    Our roles were reversed while I was still a child, and in many ways it destroyed our relationship. As her health deteriorates, I have felt shame over not wanting her to live with my husband, me, and my kids age 4, 2, and 5 months. A few months ago, God sent a friend to speak into my heart that my job is what I choose with God’s grace. If having her live in our home makes me a wife and mother that I don’t want to be (stressed, frustrated, short – tempered), I have to decide if that’s the mom I want my kids to grow up with (NO!). If not, then I have to trust God for grace and provision for care outside our home so that we can love and enjoy her instead of resent her. It hadn’t occurred to me that I had a choice in the matter!

    All of this to say, I have a small idea of what you’re going through, see the utter sacrificial beauty you’ve shown in this process, and am proud of you for saying ENOUGH with no shame or guilt. What a beautiful offering to God and your family!

    Sincerely,
    A friend from Mosaic Church

    Reply
    • Sarah,

      Your message really encouraged me today. It really does come down to prioritizing what we desire most. Saying ENOUGH is very emotional yet I am at peace. Thank you again for sharing your story. I can’t imagine sharing the load you did at such a young age for so many years. May God’s favor and blessing cover your and your family remarkably in this year. Ellen

      Reply
  2. You are such an encouragement, Ellen, as you walk through many unexpected seasons in life. It is easy to get isolated in what we face and feel alone. Rather, you reach out of opaqueness into transparency, allowing us to see and relate. Many of of us feel companionship through your shared stories and shared lessons as we realize we are not alone. We may be living parallel lives quietly, but God in his goodness reaches down to us through your stories and whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Thank you for sharing so we too may be blessed.

    Reply
    • Debbie,

      Thank you for the sweet note of encouragement. I think of you and your family often! Much love, Ellen

      Reply
  3. Ellen,
    When I was young (close to Beth’s age) my mother took her Grandmother in to live with us for a year. It was not easy and my Greatgrandmother could be a difficult lady, but looking back I am greatful for that time. It is all the memories I have of her… my heritage. My cousins & I still reminisce over the funny stories from that year. Even when she was grumpy with us and had unreasonable demands… Those are now sweet memories that we bond and laugh over. We would not have those memories without that challenging year.

    So, your gift to your mother of this year with your family reaches far beyond what you can see now. It is a gift to your entire family and it will bless future generations. God is so good! I’m praying for you during this time. I know your heart is heavy. I love you!
    ❤️ Anne

    Reply
    • What a blessing to read your response this morning – the day we are officially moving her. I pray at even young Beth remembers the times with “mummu” with joy! Thank you Anne!

      Reply
  4. Sweet Ellen,

    You have done this so well. I know you would say “not everyday,” but assuredly overall. You have certainly honored your mom, and done that willingly and lovingly. As we move closer to this season for our parents, I am encouraged to have you as a model that has gone before. You treasure your family – ALL of your family – and that is how she raised you. I pray for you as you navigate the thousands of emotions you are having.

    Much love,
    V

    Reply
    • Thanks Victoria. Perhaps we can soon have that coffee date we have tried to schedule!

      Reply
  5. This brought tears because there is sorrow in it, but there is clarity as well. I am glad God brought you to this decision. Yes, it’s not abandoning your mom, but being present for the rest of your family who knows you are there. It’s praying those who can care for her have a gift to do so, without the emotional strings or history of relationship. It’s clear because if it were me, I would want my family to do the same, to go on with their lives so that I may not be a burden. Prayers for you and for your mom as you make this big transition. It’s hard but no guilt should be in your heart.

    Reply
    • Thank you Tara. We officially move mom today. It’s easy to begin to doubt and your words strengthened my resolve today.

      Reply
  6. Ellen,

    First and foremost, give yourself grace as much as possible. It is not any easy decision, and God knows the depth of love you have for your mom. I can tell you that there comes a bittersweet moment when most of their memory fades, but when it happens, it is like they regain some of their joy. When my father-in-law ceased to understand his actual reality of living at Silverado, his mind filled it in with his own reality, where he thinks he is back home in West Virginia, and this brings him peace.

    We are keeping your family in our prayers through the coming months. There are so many emotions when a parent has Alzheimer’s disease. None of them are bad, and God holds us through each one.

    Reply
    • Your perspective offers us so much hope – I would love to see her joyful again!

      Reply

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