A Tribute to A Sister Who Bears the Burden of Caregiving

A moving tribute to a sister who bears the burden of caregiving

In celebration of National Family Caregivers Month, we’re sharing the stories of other bloggers and caregivers. Today guest blogger Debby Hudson writes a tribute to her younger sister, who carries the burden of caregiving for their mother.

You don’t realize how much of life you can’t know.

When you’re a kid, you go with the flow, watch the family ties and expect things will play out by what you’ve seen. You discover which aunts are the entertainers, with stories or shenanigans. You see who’s the wanna-be singer and who is the serious type. You don’t see trouble coming. You don’t anticipate your world of family Thanksgivings or vacations will break apart.

It was the divorce that first blind-sided you. Then remarriages with both parents and new siblings who would be much younger than you. You couldn’t know you’d have a sister you’d never share a home with or that you’d end up on opposite sides of the country from your parents.

Life happens in unexpected ways but you grow up and live with the distance and look forward to visits. You even start to dream of the time Mama will retire and maybe then, she can spend longer than a week with you and her grandkids. Until the other thing you didn’t see coming happens: dementia.

We believe it’s Alzheimer’s dementia, though I don’t think there has been a medical test confirming this. Just a knowing from the doctors and growing acceptance from the family.

It started with little things, like the repetitive questions that turned into forgetting birthdays and progressed into not calling. Living thousands of miles apart, phone calls had been our connection. When this stopped, and when she abruptly ended my calls to her as if I were a telemarketer, the amber caution light started flashing red.

It’s one thing to bridge the distance of miles, it turns out to be impossible to bridge the gap of a fading memory.

There wasn’t much discussion in emails between my sister and I. Nothing more than the shared information that mama’s care was becoming more of a concern. Mama lived next door to my sister Lisa making it easier for my sister to notice the signs something was off. To notice Mama was wearing one shirt pulled over another or that she wasn’t bathing. Most disturbing was when she’d ask the granddaughters, the ones who were growing up right next door to her, who that man was. That man, their dad, her son-in-law who’d never lived farther than a stone’s throw from her backyard yet she didn’t know him.

It’s near 10 years since these lapses grabbed our attention. It’s been ten years since mama’s youngest, my sister, 16 years younger and still raising her own kids, was drafted into the position of ‘primary caregiver’. A job no one volunteers for. But love pushes forward through the heartache of dementia.

They’re up there in the northwest corner of our country where the fruit valley produces those golden apples, and we’re down here in the southeast corner where we produce tourists to fill our beaches in winter. There is never enough time or money to get back and forth for either of us. For me to pitch in, or Lisa to take a break.

A few years ago we moved mama into a care facility as she needed 24-hour care. Lisa, once again, had to bear the burden of standing up to the aunts, mama’s sisters, who were still in denial of the disease. It’s always been her, making the drives back and forth for visits, laundry, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, birthdays and holidays. We’ve shared our tears, Lisa and I. Not for the time spent in seeing to mama’s needs but the sadness of losing our mother.

I stumbled on thUnknownis verse one day.

God says, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15

I don’t know how to support Lisa any more than with my words and assurances that she’s doing the right thing. It seems meager and not enough. Her reward is having Mama smile at her, hoping her smile means the smallest of recognition.

We know God’s mercies are new each morning. He has not forgotten Mama or us. Great is his faithfulness.

Unknown-2Debby Hudson is a beach-loving South Florida girl who grew up in the church but learned about grace from an ever-changing group of men in recovery. Music, good words and lots of laughter with friends and family are her favorite parts of life. You can find more from her at Living in Graceland.

 

 

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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