Late last June my mother, Mildred Swicegood, had a terrible fall and broke her pelvis and right arm. Since then she has journeyed from hospital to rehab center to her current residence in an Independent Living Facility in Winston-Salem, N.C.
My mom was widowed at 49 and took over my dad’s insurance agency. She became the first female agent for her company in the state of N.C. For seventeen years she built her business and carved out a fiercely independent life. She was good at what she did, and took pride in every aspect of her life.
I began noticing her memory lapses when she was in the nursing rehabilitation center late last summer. I would tell her something in the morning and in the afternoon she would ask me again. At first it made me angry: “I just told you that four hours ago.” I hung the phone up one day when she made me furious with some outlandish demand.
Then it slowly dawned on me what was going on. Since then it has been hard to determine what she remembers, what she is being ornery about, or how competent she is to manage her own affairs.
For example we have hired a nurse to come into her apartment every day to administer her meds. This after she had them all confused and would take two days dosage at a time, or forget to take them at all. She continually complains about the $6 she has to pay the nurse for each visit. No amount of explanation will mollify her.
Dealing with a difficult, aging parent is uncharted territory for my family. There are no set of instructions, and it is stressful and baffling.
It got so bad a few months ago that I began praying about it–Lord, help me to know what to do! (Why is it that we only pray when we are at our wits end? At least that’s my pattern.)
I found a prayer for an aging mother that I have posted on our refrigerator, where we put all the important stuff like pictures of our grandchildren. Here is my modified version of it:
I thank you for my mother, who gave me the gift of life, and so enabled me to see a sunrise, to hear a symphony, and to know the joy of life and love.
She took care of me when I was young--fed me, clothed me, loved me. Now as she grows old and frail,
Help me to be patient with her infirmities, and to be kind to her in every way I possibly can. Surround her each day with your contentment
And send her to sleep each night with angel’s songs. And at the last welcome her into your heavenly home.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.