I was having a quick coffee with my friend, Rosa. She jumped when her cell phone rang. I saw the photo indicating that it was her mom calling. Her expression revealed tension and dismay. “It’s my mom,” she explained. “I am sure she needs something but I am not sure I can fit another thing into my day.” Suddenly focusing on me, she apologetically said, “Sorry, did I say that out loud? That sounded so unkind.”
Before she could continue, I reached over and squeezed her hand. “I know how much you love her. How can I help?” I asked.
“I can’t even do some things my kids need me to do. I am becoming my friends worse nightmare. I depend on others for things I want to do with them.” A tear rolled slowly down my friend’s cheek. I felt her sadness.
Caring for her mom consumes most of Rosa’s daily routine. She has lost sight of her true north and is now in survival mode, operating as if everything is a ten. She is her mother’s sole caregiver. As the dementia worsens, prioritizing caregiving over her own health care needs, Rosa has delayed going to physical therapy for her hip discomfort despite worsening pain. She skipped scheduling a colonoscopy despite her father dying of colorectal cancer. We work together so I know she shows up to work looking exhausted and worried. She has taken so much time off that I wonder if she will just quit, or worse, lose her job.
Looking completely exhausted, Rosa squeezes my hand back, “I should have listened when you kept telling me to get a plan in place to handle some of these responsibilities but I was afraid of upsetting my Mom. All this running in circles is making me crazy. I am sure it has put my job in jeopardy and washed away any chance of my being in the promotion pipeline at work. I worry, constantly, that I’m not doing enough for my Mom and I know I’m not doing enough for my kids.”
Despite my encouragement to plan for her parent’s care, Rosa was worried it would upset her family if she talk about planning for her parent’s care needs. Now, everything is upset.
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