There are currently an estimated 44.4 million caregivers of the elderly or chronically ill in the United States, and with the first of the baby boomers turning 60, caring for a parent is something more and more people will face. We asked you to share your experiences about caring for a parent, and you responded with the following heartfelt stories of sacrifice and love:
Barbara Passalacqua's mother now lives in an assisted living facility, but she still visits every day and takes her mother to doctor visits, the mall or lunch and dinner. Passalacqua's two daughters also give up time on their weekends, when the home aide goes home, to care for their grandmother. "My mother has always given for everyone else and was so unselfish in all her actions," Passalacqua said. "I feel this is my time to show my mother how much I appreciate the love and care she gave to me and feel it's my turn to care for her."
Valley Village, Calif.
Terry Riggins, 43, moved her 70-year-old mother from Texas to her home in California when she realized her mother could no longer take care of herself properly. "I am happy that my son is getting to spend time with his grandmother while he is young, as I got to with mine," Riggins, a single mother, said. Riggins' mother moved to the United States from Japan more than 30 years ago and raised three children alone, one slightly disabled, from the time they were teenagers.
Nicole Montoney became a bride at 25, and at 26 she became a caregiver to her father-in-law, Dean Montoney, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. What has helped Nicole and her husband, Tim, be better caregivers over the last nine years is realizing they also have to live their own lives. Monday through Saturday, they help with medication, doctors appointments, errands, etc., but Sunday is their day for each other. "Tim and I are blessed with four wonderful parents," Nicole wrote. "We could care for all of them over the next 20-plus years and never be able to repay them for bringing us into this world and loving us."
David Holeman's dad had always looked after his wife, but when Holeman's dad died this past July, that task fell to David and his wife, Dani. "Mom and Dad took good care of me, so I will do the same for them now," David said in an e-mail. David looks after his mother's bills, takes care of her medications and drives her to doctor's appointments. He admits that sometimes his mother can drive him "nuts," but says, "I love her and will take care of her until Jesus comes and takes her home to be with him and Dad. ... She took care of me, and now it is my turn. That is the way it should be."
Doctors were not optimistic when Jan Orvold's 85-year-old mother suffered two heart attacks and broke her hip. But her mother is recovering with the family's help, and Orvold now sees her time with her mother as a gift, a time to learn little things like her mother's secret ingredient for chicken soup. "I see this time as a blessing to be with her," Orvold wrote. "If people can think of it as a gift, even though it is a hardship, it sure does make the time so special."
After her father died, Janet Martin's mother's one wish was to remain in the family home. Her daughter has been working along with her siblings to make that happen, even when that means personal sacrifices. She admits there are daily challenges, especially with the role reversal between mother and daughter. "I am the caregiver and she is the child. She has been in charge for so many years that she isn't about to give that role up without a fight," Martin said. "I just feel strongly that this is an opportunity to give back to a wonderful woman."
Leslie Robinson's mother came to live with her and her son in November 2002 due to being ill and having "forgetfulness," which created the need for supervision. "Even though at the time I was beginning graduate school, I didn't hesitate once about her living with me," Robinson wrote. "I enjoy the caregiver role. I wouldn't have it any other way." Robinson's son and brother help out to alleviate some of the stress, although sometimes Robinson said she can feel overwhelmed, missing the mother she knew as a child. But she said the rough times are worth the time she gets to spend with her mother. "I feel that caring for your parent should be a family tradition and honored if possible," Robinson said.
When her father had a brush with death in May 2001, Pam Ball, 54, decided to leave her life in California and move back home to Nebraska to "help my mother and my father enjoy however many years we could spend together with the rest of our family." As the oldest of four siblings, single and never married, Ball thought she could be the most help to her parents -- aiding with prescriptions, insurance, daily household operations. While she said she can get frustrated, she calls her time with her parents a blessing. "This is the absolute least I could give back to my parents, who made me what I am today," Ball said. "I am proud to be their daughter.
Marsha Staley lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, but when it came time for someone to move home to help out her mother, she volunteered. "The main reason I came back was to make sure I had as much time as possible with this fantastic lady," Staley wrote. "She's the life of any party and if you met her you'd wish you were me." Staley said she misses Lakers' games and the 20-minute drive to the beach but will never be sorry for the time with her mom.