Daughters, we all ride the Boomerang Care Roller Coaster in one way, shape or form; it’s an emotional ride like no other and it’s just a matter of time. Are you ready?
Oh, no. Here it comes again. The old familiar gush of frustration pushing its way from my stomach to my throat to my mouth. I close my lips and clench my teeth trying with all my might to protect the person standing in front of me who’s also having a frustration battle. My frustration is with her. Her frustration is with none other than the “Independence Reaper” (aka aging). Every day of my life (and I’m not exaggerating) since she fell and broke her ankle on December 24, 2014, I’ve been learning one lesson after another about choosing my battles and reframing the transition. The transition is from her being my favorite aunt who used to send me $5 in my birthday cards to now being completely dependent on me to pay her bills, manage her prescriptions, and help her in and out of the shower (and figure out what’s wrong with her computer, and get her library books, and pick her up some BENGAY cream for her knees and back, and more).
This ride we’re on isn’t for the faint of heart.
It’s a rollercoaster ride filled with intense twists and turns and gut-wrenching drops that often have me screaming, then laughing, then hiding my face and hoping it will stop so I can get off. The few days I’m able to sporadically get away pass by faster than the speed of light, and before I know it, I’m back on the ride again without having fully recovered from the last bout of dizziness and disorientation. Oh, and did I mention the guilt? The guilt for feeling frustrated, trapped, exhausted, scared and, even sometimes, lonely? Why do I feel guilty? Because I want to help her; I just don’t want to have to her help her.
Anyone who’s ridden or is riding this ride totally understands what I’m experiencing. Those who haven’t been on this ride eventually will be on it. It’s truly universal and holds absolutely no bias to gender (except the day-to-day care stuff typically falls on daughters and daughter-in-laws, which is a whole other blog), race, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or political persuasion. The only thing that may reduce nausea is a big bank account. In this case, money provides additional padding to the seats (in the way of home care companions and $4k plus a month residential living communities), but it certainly won’t give you a free pass altogether. This ride is a right-of-passage ride. Yep, that’s right. Unless your number is called early (which is the case for millennials and some members of Generation X), you’ll hit this ride at about the time you’re about to breathe a deep sigh of relief that your kids (or at least one of them) are in college and/or you’re ready to start cashing in on the six weeks of vacation you’ve saved up from working 60 to 80 hours a week for the past 20 years.
Word to the wise:
Talk about it. Prepare for this ride as much as you possibly can — both for the role of caregiver and the one being cared for. Unfortunately, most of us live in this idyllic little place called, “Denial,” until the “wake-up’ alarm goes off without warning and we find ourselves scrambling to create a new normal that includes walking down the Depends aisle in Walmart, price matching Medical Guardian and Life Alert, and sitting through episodes of Wheel of Fortune (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Believe me when I tell you there’s no way to avoid it, but you can be ready to ride it with your hands in the air.
Watch for the next two articles in this three-part series: How to Prepare for Life in the ‘Daughter Hood’ and How to Wake Up Denial.