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Caregiver Story Contest Grand Prize Winner Tells: How Good It Feels To Return The Love

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
01/18/12  4:33 PM PST

Congratulations to La Nedra M., Caregiver for her mother in Cerritos, CA

La Nedra was one of three caregivers awarded the $1,000 grand prize in Shield HealthCare’s 11th annual “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?” Story Contest.

La Nedra’s winning story is titled, “HOW GOOD IT FEELS TO RETURN THE LOVE!”

“Hello? Hello? Do you want to come in?” Those words aroused me at 2:00 a.m. one morning, and I jumped out of bed and made my way down the hall towards the dining room. There I saw my mom fully dressed talking to her reflection in the dining room window. She looked quite beautiful in the dim light she had managed to turn on herself. She donned a brown pillbox hat, a purple paisley blouse, brown pants matching her hat to perfection and black furry slippers. She had brushed her hair, and the blackish-grey curly locks hung from beneath the hat framing her gaunt but pleasant face. I called, “Mom?” and she immediately turned around and smiled with a sigh of relief, “How did you find me? I was looking for your number to call, and I just couldn’t find it. God must have sent you here.” For some reason, when she saw me, she forgot all about the “person” she had been entertaining at the window. It made me feel good to be there to care for her.

I walked her down the hall to her bedroom, and sat her in her big, brown, velvet Lazy-Boy. I knelt beside her and I said, “You’re safe. Would you like to put on your pajamas and go to bed?” “Not yet,” she replied. She closed her eyes and dozed peacefully for a few minutes now that her daughter had rescued her from some forlorn place and brought her to safety.

As she sat there in the chair I began to wonder about what torment she must be going through. A once strong, independent mind was now completely dependent upon others to help her get through the day. I witnessed her periods of reality wane week by week, and then in horror, day by day. In those times of lucidity I wonder how she felt with the roles reversed. I bathed her and dressed her daily. (How did she get her clothes on this time? Was it an act of desperation?) She looked forward to my taking her to the local lakes to fish. (I had so much relished these times in my youth, my mom packing a lunch and hauling my brother and me off to Otay Lake. What a glorious time sitting there in the cool breeze with the rays of the sun dancing on the water and the bluegill playing hide and seek way before dark.) The nights she had administered the cough syrup, and the countless times she took me to doctor’s and dentist appointments—the role was all reversed now. I had recently taken her to her neurology appointment and the nurse administered some type of aptitude test. She asked my mom to write a sentence. I watched her scrawl out a sentence that was remarkably legible. I could not hold back the tears when she read what she had written, “I love my daughter.” That was it! That said it all!

This woman, my mother, had spent the most of her life showing her love for me. Even after I was married with children, it was no problem at all for my mom to drive the two hours from San Diego to pitch in. She was there for me when I delivered my three babies, washing diapers, washing dishes, cooking meals, picking the older one up from school. She cleaned the house as if she were getting paid. Of course, by extension my husband benefitted from her love. I remember early on in our marriage how she helped him paint the inside of the house while I worked.

My mom passed away in March of 2011 after having lived vibrantly for the greater part of her 89 years. She had lived with me for nearly two of the last years of her life. It was rewarding for me to be able to return to her the love she had shown me for 60 years. She had often told her children, “It is easy to tell someone you love them. The reward is greater by showing that you do.” I think taking care of my mom in her feeble years afforded me an experience that is invaluable. Throughout her ordeal with dementia, my mom never forgot who I was. So even in my saddest hour when I miss her so very much, I am consoled and rewarded by the fact that she knew I was there taking care of her and seeing to her needs.

“Hello. Hello. Do you want to come in?”

“Yes, I do, Mom! Thank you for the privilege to return the love.”

Click here to read all winning stories on shieldhealthcare.com

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