I came to realize that with my first introduction to Sharon about a month ago, when Daddy came home from the hospital. Her compassion, tenderness, consideration, warmth, tenacity, and patience were obvious within a matter of minutes after entering my parents' home.
Then, there has been Julie. She comes by a couple of times per week to assess Daddy's health, advise Mom on daily care, and just generally put them at ease as best she can. Her job is not just as a nurse for my father, she also cares for and scaffolds to help my mother.
Today, Julie probably has no idea how much I wanted to pick her up and enfold her into my arms and just hold her in a giant bear hug. I knew it wasn't necessary and that is the only thing that kept me from it!
Her day's work at my parents' house today included arranging for more help and support for my mother. There will now be somebody to come in and help bathe and shave Daddy and a night-time care-giver to give Mom a break. You see, care-giving is tough, demanding, rigorous, draining, exhausting work and my mother has reached beyond the point of exhaustion.
Even though friends, neighbors, and family have offered and at times even bulldozed our way in to help Mom, she has been shouldering the load of providing care for Daddy.
Mom is the one who is awake with him every hour-and-a-half and sometimes just around-the-clock-wakeful-without-a-break. Even though thoughtful souls have provided food to keep their fridge well-stocked, Mom is the one who plates it up and encourages Daddy to do more than pick and nibble at it. Then, she is the one who cleans up the dishes and often the area around Daddy. Mom is the one who has administered Daddy's medicines and documented the dosage and time. Mom is the one who cleans the floors, the clothes, the bed linens, and any other surface or textile imaginable. Mom is the one who answers the phone or returns calls. She is the one who writes notes to all the visitors and deliverers of the delicious foods. Mom is the person who bathes, dresses, and provides personal care for Daddy. Mom is the one who tries to clarify Daddy's muddled thoughts and continues to return the oxygen tubing to his nose. Mom is the one who helps him sit up and helps him navigate from the bed...to the chair...to the sofa...and back to the bed. Mom is the one who hands him or holds for him a bottle of water, or Pepsi, or iced tea. Mom is the one who continually tells him that he is already home when he tells her he is ready to go home (and a multitude of other things he must be convinced of over and over and over). Mom is on-duty and on-call twenty-four-hours and seven-days-per-week...and she has been for weeks, months, and longer.
Yesterday morning, when my Mom called me before the sun was even over the horizon, I knew that she was tired and could no longer keep going. Oh, we have taken turns sitting with Daddy or helping Mom with some chores. We've even spent a few nights to give her time to sleep. We've asked if there is something more we can do. We've bulldozed our way over her to do as much as she would give in and let us to help her out at times. We've nagged at her telling her that she is going to have to have more assistance and support than she is allowing.
Yet, Mom has soldiered on and independently held the responsibility on her shoulders.
So, yesterday, when Julie, the home health care provider, convinced Mom that she must have more help, we wanted to cheer and turn cartwheels and clap and do a double back flip and waggle our fingers in the air. The only reason we didn't, I think, is because we feared we might wake Daddy. (Well, then there is also the fact that my sister and I probably are far past the time in our life when we actually could turn cartwheels and do double back flips - if we ever could...but still...we certainly wanted to do it!)
Many of you have expressed concern and support and we are grateful for your lifting up. We are so appreciative of all of you who have come by or called or sent cards or just whispered prayers. Today, I am especially grateful for those angels who are providing help for the weary caregivers. I appreciate those folks with wings tucked up under their shirts. Plus, I know that my Mom is not alone.