Have you ever received a phone call that suddenly changed your life?
My name is Lizzy* and after that call I felt “sandwiched.” I lived nine hours away from our mom and had two small children under the age of six years old. My sister Lynn* and I both received calls from Mom that she needed help. Mom owned a second floor condo with no elevator and had to move downstairs. Mom needed knee surgery and could no longer continue using the stairs. I hung up the phone I wondered ” how am I going to help with my mother’s care and take care of my own family and children at the same time.” I felt myself “sandwiched” and at the time I had no idea what “sandwiched” would entail.
Our mother had a very interesting personality. She always lived by the seat of her pants, never planned for her retirement needs, healthcare or beyond. Mom lived alone at this time in her life. Mom’s children were; Alan*, Ann* Lynn*, Lizzy*(me), and Lucy *. There was no life plan because she didn’t have a plan with one exception.
The exception was Mom had a will, power of attorney, healthcare directive and healthcare surrogate papers, etc., because it was important to her. Mom made sure that she had these documents drawn up by her attorney. She would talk about her beliefs openly because she did not want life support at the end of her life and she told us so. Mom did not want us to argue about her care. She also had the wisdom to be in control of her wishes because she had the appropriate legal documents until the end of her life.
Lynn* and I arrived to help Mom, because we lived a a driveable distance. We began the clean out process of her condo. During this process I happened to look under her bed. I was shocked to find piles and piles of paperwork under her entire queen size bed. I asked Mom about the paperwork and she got very defensive. Lynn* came in and wanted to know what was going on. Mom only wanted me to handle her paperwork (we still don’t know why). Our mom actually kicked Lynn* out of her condo and emotions were high. I was caught in the middle of it and it was a very unpleasant situation.
I pulled out the documents from under Mom’s bed. I discovered ten years of mail, financial statements, paycheck stubs, and much, much more under that bed. It was apparent that either Mom did not want to deal with this paperwork or thought it would all go away. I sat on the floor of my mother’s bedroom and spent hours on that paperwork, which turned into a full day or more. I shredded most of it by hand and finally kept what was important. My sister Lynn* did come back to the condo later that evening, and was always there for our mother.
A few days later I went home to my husband and my two children and realized I had begun a new phase of my life. I was “sandwiched” between my mother’s care, my sibling’s relationships, my two children’s care and my marriage with my husband. I realized then that elder caregiving would be a long tightrope journey in my life.
*All names appearing in this article/work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author only.