The Balancing Act

When I started helping take care of my Mom a few years ago, I quickly learned how I should act around her. I’ve learned to speak slowly, clearly, and positively. I’ve learned not to argue with her about anything. I’ve learned not to question or correct her when she tells me stories that don’t quite sound right. I’ve learned not to ask her if she remembers things, but rather to remind her of them. I’ve learned to hold her hand and guide her to places instead of simply giving her commands and telling her where to go. I’ve learned a lot about being a caregiver, but I am still learning.

One thing I’m still learning is how to balance being a caregiver and just being myself. It is often difficult to know where my role of being a caregiver ends and my role of being myself begins. Being a caregiver does not define who I am, but it is a large part of me. Remember, I was just 25-years-old when my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was only 28-years-old when I quit my job as a police officer and started caring for my Mom part-time. Through much of my twenties, I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be. Like most 20-somethings, I was still trying to figure that all out. I was trying to find myself. My journey of self-discovery helped me realize and accept that I no longer wanted to be a police officer. It also helped me realize that I wanted to spend more time with my Mom and be able to help take care of her. Becoming a caregiver for my Mom further shaped the woman I am today. But, I am not just a caregiver. That role does not define me as a person. I am still Lauren. I still need to be myself. But, there are many times when I’m not sure which role I should be playing.

Whenever there is a family party, my husband and I will usually pick my parents up and give them a ride. Since we all arrive at the party together, I usually take over the caregiver role for the remainder of the party. I know that my Dad wants to have a few Coors Lights and relax for a change. I also know that he needs and deserves that “time off” much more than I do. Therefore, I don’t mind taking over the caregiver role for the night and allowing my Dad to have a good time. However, it’s a little difficult to play both the caregiver and myself for the night. I want to be caring, patient, and attentive for my Mom, but I also want to be loud, funny, and potty-mouthed for my other family members. I want to be the caregiver, while also just being myself. It may not seem like it, but it’s very hard to find the balance between the two roles. How can I tell my family members funny stories without making my Mom feel left out because she doesn’t understand what I’m talking about? How can I hang out with everyone in the kitchen without leaving my Mom sitting all by herself in the living room? How can I make sure that my Mom is included and involved in what’s going on even though she has no clue what’s going on? How can I get my Mom something to eat or drink and help her use the bathroom without completely missing out on all of the family fun? Some people might say that it is not solely my responsibility to take care of my Mom at family parties and that I should try to enjoy myself. But, I would rather sit in a room alone with my Mom while everyone else has fun than leave my Mom sitting alone, staring off into space, just so I can have a good time.

That’s when the balancing act comes into play. How can I be both the patient, attentive caregiver and still have fun being myself? It’s a balance and it’s not easy. Often times, family parties are quite stressful for me because they involve an awful lot of work for me. I can’t just simply float around the party, smiling and chatting with everyone. I am usually right by my Mom’s side the entire time in order to help her with things and to make her feel included in the party. I feel obligated to do this. There is no shutting it off for me. There is no clocking out. It is just what I must do in order to protect her and take care of her. I do my best to balance both roles. I stay close to my Mom’s side to help her and let her know that she’s not being ignored. But, I also try to talk to everyone at the party and have a good time. Like I said, it’s a lot of work and it can be very stressful. There are many times when I would much rather just skip the party completely. Of course, I want to see my family and spend time with them, but it would be much easier to just avoid the whole situation. This is especially true for bigger events, such as weddings, bridal showers, or baby showers. However, I know that there will come a day when my Mom’s attendance at such events will be completely out of the question, so, for now, I will continue to do my best balancing act.

Aside from balancing the roles of being a caregiver and being myself, it is difficult to balance my parents’ needs and my own needs. My Mom needs a lot of help and is unable to take care of herself anymore. My Dad needs a lot of help with taking care of my Mom. I am usually the only person willing, able, and available to help them out. As I said before, I also feel obligated to help them. I feel as though it is my duty as their daughter to help them. I am a doer, a fixer, a helper. I would feel like total shit if I did nothing to help out my own Mom and Dad. Worse than the stress of helping them out is the guilt that I would feel if I did nothing to help. I don’t understand how someone in my position could not feel obligated to help out. I don’t feel as though I’m doing anything noble or admirable. I am simply doing what I should do.

Having said all of that, it is difficult to draw the line between helping my parents and helping myself. My husband often reminds me that I am still young and that I have my own life to live. He tells me that I deserve to have a life and a career of my own choosing. He tells me that I deserve to have fun with my friends and to take some time off from taking care of my Mom. I know that he’s right, but it’s hard for me to put myself before my parents. I don’t think that I could ever go back to working a regular full-time job because I know that I wouldn’t have any time to help out with my Mom. Maybe I am being unfair to myself, but I know that I would never forgive myself if I wasn’t around to help out. I know that I deserve to have a successful, fulfilling career, but I would never choose that career over my Mom. I think it is a lot like when a new mom decides to stay at home with her kids rather than go back to work. I have the rest of my life to work and make money, but I might only have a few more years left to spend time with my Mom. I want to make sure that I make those years count. I want to make the last few years of her life the best that they can possibly be. I often think that if all I do is help take care of my Mom, then I will have nothing to show for my life once she’s gone. But, at the same time, I will have learned a lot from my time with her and I will be able to share that with others. I will have so much to offer other people who are going through what I have already gone through. So, in that sense, helping my parents through this storm will also help me fulfill my purpose in the long run.

Life is often a balancing act for many of us. We have to prioritize and figure out what works best for ourselves. We have to find our own balance. I’m still learning to find my balance. I’m still learning to live my own life in the midst of this horrific storm. But, I know that I will have plenty of time to live my life to its fullest once we come out of this storm. For now, I don’t think I’m meant to be living my life for just me. I’m meant to be living it for all of us. The thought of that brings me peace. And, it is in that peace that I know I have found my balance.

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11 thoughts on “The Balancing Act

  1. Hi Lauren,
    I meet Kay Jones today at the Alzheimers Resource Center in Dothan, AL. Very nice lady! She told me about your blog.
    I read a lot of your posts (I am a skimmer and read what catches my eye) and could relate to all off it because, I could see myself in your posts going through the same thing. 🙂
    What I wondered about is the experiencesame you had with doctors and mainly about the drugs that was prescribed and the effects that you noticed to your mom and what you did about it if you didn’the like what was going on. I am not meaning that the doctors or the drugs that they prescribed are bad as I am sure they are doing the best they can knowing they can not fix it. Example: one medicne had my wife in zombie land to much and it made it hard for her to walk and keep balance so I cut dose down, still didn’t so cute it down to one time and it was at bed time. She was more alert and able to function as best she could during the day better. Also I took her off of the one of the med school that was specifi for Alzheimers and she seems to be not as aggatated.(I did talk to doctor before making adjustments)

    I guess I should tell you something about us after reading your blog and joining:-)
    Debbie and I have been married 38 years. She is 56 years old. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers year and half ago. With what I have learned since then I believe the symptoms started 3 1/2 years earler. I have to say I could take all the headaches in our lives put together and it doesn’t compare to this. You mentioned cancer earlier and not wanting anyone to have it. Both are terrible but only one you still have the person with you.

    Thanks and look forward to your comments about doctor and med, 🙂

    Wilbur

    PS – i liked your comment about language:-)

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    1. Wilbur, thank you so much for reading and following my blog. I’m very sorry to hear about your wife, especially because she’s so young. My mom was diagnosed 6 years ago when she was 62. I believe that she’s somewhere in stage 6 now. How far along is your wife?
      My dad is my mom’s full time caregiver and I help out a few times a week. He takes her to all of her doctor appointments and handles her medication. He is not very open with talking about my mom’s disease and all that goes along with it, so I don’t know too much about her medication. I know that she was initially put on Xanax, but it made her too drowsy and groggy, so my dad talked to her doctor and they adjusted her medication. I also know that a few months ago she was on a medication that was causing her to hallucinate and/or have bad dreams that she thought were real. My dad talked to her doctor and they took her off of that medication. I wish I knew which one it was, but my dad doesn’t tell me too much about their doctor visits. I have tried to ask him, but he doesn’t really like to talk about my mom’s disease at all. I think that he is still very much in denial, even after 6 years.
      Your wife is very lucky to have you. It’s not an easy road for any of us to travel, both the Alzheimer’s patients and the caregivers. I wish you the best of luck on this journey.

      Lauren

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  2. Hi Lauren,
    Thanks for the reply.
    You asked what stage my wife is in, doctor called it late mid to early late.
    Curious as to communication with your mom. My wife is very limited now. Aswers but as a converstion like you and i could not really.

    Thanks for you time,
    Wilbur
    PS if you rather not answer question i understand.

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    1. My mom has a very difficult time having a conversation, as well. She still talks and she answers/asks questions, but most of the time it’s out of the context of the conversation. Such as, she will randomly ask me a question or start telling me a story that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. Most of her stories are completely made up in her mind, but I listen anyway. She has a lot of trouble finding her words. She is constantly stammering and stuttering, mispronouncing words, and she is unable to speak in complete sentences. It is usually a few words here and there, but I know her well enough to piece it together and figure out what she’s trying to say. It is very difficult to try to have a conversation with her, but as long as she’s still verbal, I’ll keep trying!

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      1. I do the same. A lot of ok, yes, is that what you want, and then there is the times you think you are saying the right thing and she changes direction on me 🙂

        I hope i am not bothering you but, reading your blog i felt Debbie and i were aroud the same stage.

        Thanks again,
        Wilbur

        PS been a pleasure to corresponding!!

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      2. You are not bothering me whatsoever! You are the reason I write this blog. I love to share my story with others, especially people who are going through what I’m going through. If we don’t have each other, then who do we have? Thank you so much for reading my blog. It has been great talking with you. I hope you’ll continue to read! Take care!

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      3. I will always be reading. Just did not want to over due with questions and become a pain in the ass!! 🙂
        Your blog just connected with me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lauren,
    Hope you and family had a great weekend!! 🙂

    I also wanted to ask how your dad is doing. If i understand he is primary care giver. He obvouisly a good man and loves his wife! Does he have a have a blog or does he share his experience with you?
    I know i would love to hear what he had to say about his experience.

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. I’m so sorry for the delayed response! I was away visiting a friend.

      To be honest, my dad is not doing well at all. He doesn’t talk about anything with anyone. He keeps everything bottled up inside. He is miserable, depressed, and drinks too much. He doesn’t write or talk about his experience with me or really with anyone. We are working on hiring help for my mom so that it will give my dad more of a break. He needs it!

      I was wondering if you are on Facebook. I belong to a private support group page on there that is very helpful. Anything you post to the group is completely private and none of your Facebook friends can see what you post, unless they are also in the group. There are people from all walks of life, male and female, of all ages, who have spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles, friends, etc with Alzheimer’s disease. It might be very helpful to you. If you’re interested, send me a friend request on Facebook and I can add you to the group.

      Take care!

      Like

      1. Hi,
        Iwas beginning to worry about ya’ll.
        I am soory to hear your dad is not doing well. I hope things get better for him. This journey is like no other!! I had a friend say i can only imagine i smiled and said before i thought, “no you can’t!! ” I thought about what i said to him later and hope he didnt take it wrong. I know he meant well but unless you wearing these shoes! I really think they could not really understand because before when i saw this disease i was no were close to what i imagined!!
        I sincerely hope your dad does better and gets the help he is needing. Hopefully he will open up and release some off what is bottled up.

        Like

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