She’s caring for: A 12-year-old son, an 8-year-old daughter, and until recently, her elderly parents who lived five hours away in upstate New York. After her mother died, she and her sisters moved their father to a nursing home. He died shortly after.
What it’s like: There was a six month waiting list for the nursing home we wanted. So my father had to live alone for that time. We hired a woman to come in and look after him during the week, and my sisters and I took turns on the weekends. We got a second car, and I’d leave both kids with my husband and spend weekends up there. Finally we moved my dad into the nursing home, and I went up as often as I could.
He did OK there for a while, but then he had a couple of little strokes. They moved him to the skilled nursing part of the home and he just declined from there. Last summer he started refusing his medication. The next week, he was in the hospital with pneumonia and a week later he was gone.
What stresses her out most: Not being able to do enough for anybody. Not for my sister, who was coordinating my dad's care after mom died. Not for my husband, who was left holding the bag on the weekends I helped care for my dad. Not for my kids, who were 5 and 2 at the time and didn't understand why Mommy kept disappearing.
Where she finds relief: I try to remind myself that I’m only one person and I can only do so much. What’s been a big help is that we were lucky enough to be able to afford a cleaning lady, which relieved me of having to handle some household chores. So on the weekends that I was actually around, I could just enjoy being with my husband and the kids.
What makes her sad: We never in a million years expected my mom to go first. She went into the hospital with fever and a staph infection, and then I got the call in the middle of the night that she’d had a stroke. She never regained consciousness and she had a living will, so we had to respect it, which is a horrible and sad thing to have to do, but we did it. There we were, sitting by my mother’s hospital bed, worrying about what we were going to do with our dad. It was really difficult to actually mourn her, because our lives had changed so suddenly and we had to deal with the logistics surrounding my dad’s care. When my dad died, my kids were older and there wasn't anyone else's care suddenly hanging in the balance, so it was a lot easier to mourn him. I actually feel guilty that I wasn't able to accord the same respect to my mom, who deserved to be mourned just as much as my dad did.