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“Take Joy in the Small Things” A Daughter Shares Her Story About Caring for Her Mother with Dementia

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
04/07/14  8:23 PM PST
Caregiver Stories: The Rewards of Caregiving for my Mother

Caregiver Story Spotlight | Shield HealthCare “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?” Story Contest

Story shared by Terry  M…

The Rewards of Caregiving for my Mother

“In 1952, my single mother left the security of her family in a small town in West Virginia and moved 2400 miles to save the life of one of her five small children.  She taught us to be independent, to have pride in ourselves, to always be polite, and to love God by helping others.  My mother learned from her mother to care for others, not just in words, but in actions, something I not only learned, but take to heart.

People tell me I chose to be my mother’s caregiver.  Originally not one of choice, but rather one of circumstance and the progression of time, it is one that I have come to be thankful for.  It is now 14 years later, with mother bedbound for the last two after a fractured hip.

No question, the biggest reward in caring for my mother is her smile.  It is not just a big, beautiful smile with dimples and blue twinkling eyes, but a smile that shows her love for family.  Dementia has not diminished that smile.  She may not remember my name or who I am, but her response to “I love you” is always “I love you too,” again with that big, beautiful smile of hers.

She may have lost her memory of things, but her politeness and kindness to others is at the very core of who my mother is…polite, courteous, and beautiful from the inside out, always saying “thank you” or offering her food to others.  Moving her in the bed, I ask if I can give her a hug; “well sure” is always the response. This makes my mother seem weightless.

My mother has always had a strong faith.  Now, church is singing Jesus Loves Me.  She smiles even brighter when I sing with her and modify the words to Jesus Loves YOU.  I am thankful for her dementia because she does not know that she is confined to bed, but relives the memory of only pleasant things.

Caring for my mother, I have learned to take joy in the small things; that she is here for one more moment, for one more smile; that I can still feel her fragile touch and see the sparkle in her eyes.  She did not cast me away and I cannot cast her away either.  We have a uniquely woven bond.  She knows I love her.  I know she loves me.  I am her entire world and she is mine.  I accept her as I find her each moment.  She trusts me when I say I took care of it, whatever the “it” may be in her mind, and I take heart in knowing that her dignity is preserved as we move from day to day.

Caregiving is mentally, physically, and financially challenging.  I’m in the Circle of Life, where I began dependent on my mother and where she is now dependent on me.  The rewards are only intangible; memories which we collected together are now payment for services rendered.  My mother is now 90 years old, the oldest in her family, where most passed away by age 65.  I don’t know how much time we have left together.  I do know that each day is lived with love and care, and that at each of our goodbyes we say, “I will see you tomorrow” for tomorrow will reap another harvest of memories….for me.”

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