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Boomers caring for their parents, while starting to creak themselves
August 2 marks the seven-year anniversary of my mother’s long health decline. You probably think it’s odd that I remember the day I took her to the ENT for treatment of what became a relentless string of ear infections, but trust me, I remember.
The night before, Mom wanted to treat my family and the two Irish girls we’d sponsored for much of the summer to dinner at a wonderful Japanese restaurant here in Kansas City. She knew we’d be taking the girls to the airport that next morning for their flight back to the auld sod, and she’d decided to do something special for them. They loved it, and so did I.
Little did I know, though, that a very fun memory would mark the beginning of her woes and the start of my season of heavy lifting.
By December of 2001, she’d been hospitalized in order to put her on an insulin regimen, since oral meds were no longer controlling her diabetes. By early spring of 2002, she’d begun having serious seizures. She could no longer drive her car, since in Missouri you must be seizure-free for six months to maintain that privilege.
She was alone in the big house she’d raised us in, the house she’d lived as a widow in for 17 years, and suddenly she was having debilitating panic attacks, during which she made all of us come to the house because of her feeling that she was dying right that very second.
In a few days, we’ll mark the six-year anniversary of moving her out of the family home into assisted living. If you haven’t closed down your family-of-origin home yet, let me just say it’s quite an ordeal. Since we shut down the big house, Mom’s moved several more times. Three different trips to nursing homes and then back again, plus a four-month stay in an independent-living apartment and then back to assisted living.
If I’m counting correctly, that’s nine moves for Mom in six years. And yes, the moves into nursing homes count. You may not have to take a lot of furniture, but you do take some. Plus c-pap machines for those with sleep apnea, clothing, shoes, special blankets, pillows, framed pictures, etc. It’s at least a carload each time.
Then there’s the heavy lifting for Doug’s mom. We shut down her home of 30 years also, sometime after we did Mom’s. She kept getting lost five minutes from her house. And even though she wore a button around her neck, she couldn’t remember to push it when she fell. The last time it happened, she was stuck on the kitchen floor for perhaps as long as two days, thinking she was in a “fine hotel with a very hard bed.” Finally, her dog must have pushed the button.
When we started in on her house, we found she’d kept every Price Chopper ad dating from 1970, all thrown in paper grocery bags and tossed into Doug’s old bedroom. They were mixed in with property tax statements and petty cash. We had ourselves quite a little situation, the solving of which took months.In the past 4.5 years, we’ve moved my mother-in-law (if memory serves) three complete times.
Twelve moves in six years. All for the welfare of two little ladies. I wouldn’t have it any other way, don’t get me wrong. It’s an honor to be able to help our mothers when they need us.
Still, when I look in the mirror, I see where the U-Hauls have carved paths into my face. The intersection of “Home and Nursing Home” never had a street sign until now, where the roads cross like a religious symbol on my forehead.
And sometimes, when the phone rings in the middle of the night and I rush to meet an ambulance at the hospital, the siren competes with the sound of my own creaking knees.
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Are You a Late Boomer?
If looming retirement is catching you off-guard between an aging parent and a revolving-door kid, you might be. If you've delayed travel only to discover they've changed the names of all the countries, you are. And if you're a member of the Baby Boomer Generation who's ready to give back but you've forgotten where you put it, stay tuned. From healthcare to personal finance, from career changes to volunteerism, it's time to boom where you are planted.