The majority of caregivers are better at taking care of others than they are at taking care of themselves. The stereotypical belief is that this is a willful act of self-sacrifice, but I think it is more often just a discrepancy between two unrelated skills. The skill to take care of self and the skill to take care of others really aren't related, and they aren't inversely proportional.
From the moment I met them I knew there was a promise being fulfilled. Selene had just returned home from in-patient hospice where she was put through a tornado of pain medication adjustments, resulting in a hurricane of side effects. Before I met them in the afternoon after Selene's first night home, Emilia had already called me at least eight times in one week, maybe more than that.
Sophie was picked up by Sterling Ambulette with my physician signature authorization so that Medicaid would pay the car fare. She was picked up for the purpose of a routine doctor office visit, a so-called transportation entitlement..
My mother was my moral compass, unwavering until her last breath. She was smarter than me with a crystal intellect. I needed her approval and I so wanted to make her happy. During the last years of her long life, visits to a variety of doctors were frequent. I got into a pattern: I memorized all of her medicines, noted all of her symptoms, surreptitiously monitored her breathing and bathroom visits. I was so eager to keep her well and do a thorough job of it.
For so many years as my parents aged I wondered: “What will it be like? Will they be mobile? Will they be able to get to the toilet on their own? Are diapers in my caregiving future?” But none of these questions even approached the level of dread that one question inspired.
After the nurses expected me to give my mother a bed bath in the hospital I graduated to, “life before your eyes,” a bath at home. Oh my gosh! I have to get it just right with the water temperature, anticipating her fears because it's me that has to lift her in and out of the tub, apply the skin lotion, and dress her just right.