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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  • Debby, this is really lovely. I’ve been the long-distance one too, and it comes with it’s own heartaches too. Prayers for you and your sister in this tough journey!
    Carol recently posted…A Tribute to A Sister Who Bears the Burden of CaregivingMy Profile

    • Thanks Carol. Near or far, it’s never easy when one you love slips away. You understand the feelings of guilt for not being there and all that goes with it, I’m sure. We can’t walk this journey alone. Thank you for your encouragement and prayers. May you also be comforted by God’s grace.
      Debby recently posted…The Unexpected Life of Dementia (a tribute)My Profile

  • Wow … what a bonus! Two super bloggers in one place! As my sister and I walk through this season of losing our dad and sharing concerns about mom, I so appreciate this post … and this blog, too. Thank you, Anita and Debby, for the inspiration, the support, the encouragement for the long haul.

    Blessings to you both …
    Linda Stoll recently posted…One Urgent Question You Must Ask Yourself Before This Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    • Thanks Linda. Sisters are the best, aren’t they? We all need to support to walk through this life together and God provides so many to walk with us. You are one he uses on the journey. I am grateful for his divine provision.
      Debby recently posted…The Unexpected Life of Dementia (a tribute)My Profile

  • I know this is not an easy topic to write about it, but it’s something that I think that people need to be made more aware of, both the disease and what it takes to be a caregiver. I am sure it’s hard being so far away from your mom, but this was so beautifully written.
    Messy Mom recently posted…Her Birth StoryMy Profile

    • There is so much I could have written and if my sister were a writer, well, we could fill pages! She has been supportive of my telling our story and I cannot imagine not having her to walk through this with. Thanks, Messy Mom, for your encouraging words.
      Debby recently posted…The Unexpected Life of Dementia (a tribute)My Profile

  • What a hard path this is. Thank you for sharing the Scripture from Isaiah. Loving our family member even when they have forgotten who we are is our last gift to them.
    Michele Morin recently posted…So You Won’t ForgetMy Profile

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  • great post debbie! i loved it. reminded me of my mom’s last few years when all of lived far away. my step dad was nearby but was in deep denial about her situation. they lived in a retirement community where they had plenty of help nearby but it was difficult not to be able to help them closeup when they needed it more than they realized. great post:)
    martha brady recently posted…HOW DO YOU CONNECT WITH WOMEN FROM A DIFFERENT GENERATION?…My Profile

    • You understand the challenges and unwarranted guilt in being so far away, Martha. It’s good company when you’re with others that say, “I know, me too.” I’m sorry you had to go through that but I’m sure it’s allowed you to offer encouragement to others as you have to me. Thank you!
      Debby recently posted…The Unexpected Life of Dementia (a tribute)My Profile

  • We’ve been on both sides – first the ones 2,000 miles away, and now the primary caregivers. Even when those far away can’t do much to help with the day to day caregiving, knowing they’re supportive and keeping gin touch helps immensely.
    Barbara H. recently posted…Help for Changing Thought PatternsMy Profile

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  • What a beautiful tribute! My sister and I are primary caregivers for our mom as well. This summer the phone calls have lessened etc. It is hard to make sense out of all of this. But I love the verse you shared “His mercies are indeed new every morning.”
    Tara recently posted…Hold Us In LoveMy Profile

    • I don’t think we’ve ever been able to make sense of it Tara. At some point, we had to stop trying and accept what is and the biggest part of what is, is God’s grace and faithfulness. God bless as you and your sister hold each other up for whatever the future holds.
      Debby recently posted…Update and ApologiesMy Profile

  • “Though she may forget.” How heartbreaking that a mother could forget her children. But how assuring that God will never forget us. This is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.
    Leah Everson recently posted…When there are no Words to pray for Paris, Cancer, Dying… Thanks be to God for the PsalmsMy Profile

    • It brought the words I needed at just the time I needed them, Leah. Thanks for sharing in the blessing.
      Debby recently posted…Update and ApologiesMy Profile

  • My grandmother who raised me had dementia. During the last 4 years, my mother, the youngest of 5, was her primary care giver. It grieved me that I lived too far away to help. Your scripture is such a good one – no – God does not forget. It’s a blessing to have family that pitches in!

    • In the midst of it all, we know we are blessed. It hasn’t been easy to believe that but time helps us see where God’s hand. Scripture has a way of going straight to the heart, doesn’t it? Blessings to you,
      Debby recently posted…Update and ApologiesMy Profile

  • A wonderful and harrowing story. Thank you, Debby.

  • Thank you, Andrew, for your words of support.
    Debby recently posted…No RegretsMy Profile

  • Such a hard journey. We lost my MIL to Alzheimer’s & my FIL was moved to a VA facility as he also has Alzheimer’s. It became to much for the family to manage any longer. You have written so beautifully. This is a topic which needs to be discussed gently, with compassion & wisdom. And you have done just that. Thank you! Blessings to you & your family!

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