My very first post on TMF was in April of 1997, when I was a month or so short of 60 years old. I had given up working a few years before that, as I gradually became the chief caregiver of my parents, my husband’s parents, and my aunt and her husband. My MIL and FIL lived forty minutes or so from us here on Long Island, my own parents lived in upstate NY, and my aunt and uncle lived near Los Angeles. It gradually became more or less a full time job, as one or another of them was always having a medical problem or facing some other sort of crisis.
We’d go upstate on weekends so I could help my father diaper and feed my mother, who had dementia. I’d pay their bills, do their grocery shopping, cook a few meals to supplement my father’s simple cooking, take them to doctors, clean the house, and hire one part time helper after another to aid them between my visits.
During the week, I’d go over to my in-laws to do whatever I could. She was a semi-invalid, mostly in a wheelchair. He was a cantankerous #@*&%! who made things difficult at every turn - a hoarder who made it impossible clean the house, controlling and uncooperative, newspapers and stuff piled high all over, but his emphysema was so bad that he was tethered to an oxygen tank, so I really had to help as best I could. MIL was a sweetie, but really incapacitated.
As for the aunt and uncle in California, I’d fly out there for 5 or 6 days every three months. They had enough money that they always paid for my expenses when I visited. Soon after I started going out there, I helped my aunt place my uncle in a nursing home, where he died three months later. I continued to take care of my aunt for the next nine years(!) as she gradually became more and more senile. For a couple of years I hired helpers for her, but as she became too demented to live alone, I placed her in a board and care home, continuing to visit, take her to doctors and dentist, buy he her few necessities, and manage her finances. Before her husband went downhill, they wrote a trust, with me as successor trustee. After his death, I became trustee, and in fact I still am! The trust won’t dissolve till my death.
So now the tables have turned. It’s thirty years since I became a caregiver. The six of them died, one by one, each presenting me with such a variety of problems and tasks. Don’t get me wrong - a lot of it wasn’t always difficult. And I loved them all, in one way and another.
Now the tide has turned. Suddenly I’m 85, and I’m beginning to feel my age. Now I’m the parent who’s being cared for! One of my three kids, the middle one, lives a block away from me. They eat at my house every day. She does 80% or so of the cooking, half or so of my housecleaning. She drives my car when we go anywhere (I’m still a good driver!) SIL is always doing things I used to do, like shoveling snow, changing lightbulbs, keeping my electronics going. Little by little I’ll be going downhill, although I’m not senile yet. Nothing much wrong with me except old age. And I still have my sense of humor.
Let’s see what comes next.