Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Normal" - A Caregiver's Obstacle?

She and her mother had always (or never) been friends. Her family mostly (or rarely) got along with each other. Her love life wasn’t what she had hoped it would be (or was really quite all right.) Her marriage (or singledom) suited her (or didn’t.)

Then her mother became older. She slowed down and everyone said “That’s normal.” But then the daughter noticed that her mother seemed emotionally down most of the time, was not her normal self, and everyone said, “That’s not like her! Something must be wrong. Better give her meds.” The meds made her clumsy and eventually she fell down, and landed in rehab. Everyone said, “Give her time. She will be back to normal in no time.” 

So they gave it a little time. Mother went a little crazy in the rehab. It could have been the pain meds she was on, or it could have been the urinary tract infections that weren’t under control, or, as the doctor told the daughter, “You might want to just accept that this could be normal aging.” 

Through it all the daughter went ahead with life in the normal way—going to work, doing the laundry, to bed by 11:00—but then she would lie in bed and  (wisely) wonder, “What’s really happening?”

Her mother healed but was never the same. She now walked with a walker... but she still drove! She still drove! This is the new normal. And so it went. Over a period of months (or years,) one incident after another, each one changing the new normal. A stroke, and her mother was no longer beautiful. She didn’t socialize as she used to. She stopped doing the things she had loved. She fell again, and this time was relegated to a wheelchair. 

With each change, the daughter tried to adapt, telling herself, “This is the new normal.” She worked hard to keep her mother laughing and to keep the rest of herself running as normally as possible.

When her mother died, the daughter was stricken (or elated.) She couldn’t quite function as normal. People said, “You’re grieving. That’s normal.” But when a month had passed, two months, people began to say, “It’s time to bounce back. Maybe she needs meds. She needs to get back to her normal life.” 

Finally she asked herself the real question, “What IS normality anyway? What’s lost by spending so much energy trying to pretend that life is normal? Always measuring life against the benchmark of "normal"? What if I met life on its own terms, asking instead, “How could I do this in a new way?” "How could I learn from this?" She began telling the truth, savoring every moment for what it was, and learning from what it was not.


Unknown said...

So relative to my new NOW! Thank you for giving what I am moving through such a beautiful and textured framework.

CareGiver said...

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Milliscent Morgan said...

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adult care chandler az said...

Such a touching story, thanks for sharing.

wheelchair to toilet transfer said...

What a touching story to read, keep posting, that's inspiring.

Kathy said...

Very informative. Though I am not above 55, I could suggest someone who is in the need of an assisted living community.