Wednesday, October 26, 2011


     In the beginning I thought it would be easy to take my husband’s mother into our home and care for her.  After all, we had always had a good relationship.  She lived right across the street when I was growing up, and when I was fourteen, I used to help her around the house quite often.  I don’t know why it is more fun to do chores at someone else’s home, but it is.  Maybe because they thank you more often than your own family does.  Anyway, we were friends and our families were friends, as well.  It didn’t hurt that I was attracted to her son, either.  I liked being at his house when he came home from work.
     He was four and a half years older than I was and probably thought I was a baby but I was determined that he was the man I was going to marry.  Little did I realize that eventually is family would come along with him.  I loved his parents, so when we had to take care of them, I didn’t think it would be bad.  Boy, was I wrong!
     This was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother-in-law, at least I did when she was living in her own home.  She was a different person then, sweet, easygoing, and caring.  Illness changed her into someone I didn’t know.  I tried to make allowances for the illness, but it wasn’t easy.
     Caring for the elderly is a heartrending task at best.  It’s as though they become children again.  They often crave constant attention and resort to strange actions to get the attention they need.  And sometimes they seem to enjoy sending you on a guilt trip.  Ultimately, these changes may take a toll on your relationship.
     When Wayne’s mother moved in she had a bad case of shingles in her ears and mouth and on one side of her face.  Her doctor explained that this condition was very painful.  She also suffered from an advanced case of emphysema, brought on by a lifetime of heavy smoking.  This was almost too much for her to take.  Her frail, little body was wasting away.  But she needed help and we were determined to do what we could to make her comfortable.  The first step was to set her up in our spare bedroom.
     In the beginning, she wanted to be in the living room all the time.  I understood her need to be near our family so she wouldn’t be so lonely, but I couldn’t understand why she needed to be in the thick of things when we had guests.  She would lug her oxygen hose, pillow, blanket and many medications into our living room, all the while choking, coughing, and spitting out phlegm into issues that would land everywhere.  I would find her tissues in the darnedest places.  Now, I can take a lot, but it was difficult to entertain guests amid all this mess.  We tried to coax her into her room, but she wanted to be in the front room.
     Because her living with us was supposed to be a temporary measure, Mother was occupying the extra bedroom that was a mere nine by nine feet.  After she had been living with us for awhile, she decided it wasn’t big enough for all her things.  We tried to soothe her by explaining that the situation was temporary and she would soon be home again, in her little trailer.
     It wasn’t long before we realized that this wasn’t going to be a temporary stay, so if we wanted her to be happy we were going to have to give her a  bigger room.  We decided that our best option was to move out of our room and give her the master bedroom.  It was thirteen by fifteen feet and had a bathroom with a walk-in shower that would make it easier for her. It isn’’t what we wanted to do, but it was all we could manage at the time.
     We took her to her trailer so that she could pack her belongings and select the things that she wanted to keep with her.  Most of the trinkets and small items would be sold at a yard sale and the rest of her belonging could stay in her trailer, so we could rent it furnished.
     I wanted this big room to be special for her. I wanted to make it as much like home as possible, so I moved everything out and painted the walls and ceiling in the bedroom and the bathroom.  This make it fresh and clean, and light.  We moved our queen-sized waterbed (my pride and joy) to storage, since it wouldn’t fit in the smaller bedroom.  The large dresser was too big for any other room, so we left it for her things.
     The mirror had a china closet along one side to display her special treasures; the nightstand beside her single bed provided storage space and a drawer for her medications.  We chose a single bed to give her more room  I bought a new bedspread and curtain to match, in green and yellow to brighten up the room.  We placed her coffee maker in the bottom of the end table (she drank coffee all day) and her dishes in the china closet.  We hung her favorite pictures on the wall and placed her husband’s picture on the nightstand, along with a reading light.  I added a comfortable rocking chair that I thought would be perfect for her to sit and crochet.  The room really looked fresh and clean, and I was proud of the work we had done.  I just knew she would be excited and happy when she she it.  Wrong again!

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