Returning the Love

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Martin Meyerdierks, New York

April 2005 my mom was driving to work (age 62 at the time) and we think blacked out or something from her diabetes and creeped into an intersection from a stop sign and was struck by a garbage truck.

She ended up in the back passenger seat position, femur impaled in the door, collapsed lung, and many other injuries ... over 90 minutes and two jaws-of-life devices to extract her from the car, helicoptered to the hospital, and miraculously survived through surgeries and physical therapy can walk (with a cane, but can walk).

Living with her at the time, I became her caregiver through love ... cooking, doing her laundry, cleaning the commode, cutting her toenails ... all the fun stuff.

In the past two years her mind has started going, which has been difficult for her and scary for me. She was recently diagnosed with mild dementia. It’s so hard to see the woman who raised me with strength and determination, even after my dad died at the young age of 36, and provided for me and my sister and brother, gradually become almost completely dependent on me.

The hardest part of caring for her is going to work each weekday. I worry about her all the time while I’m at work, but I have to work. I’ve reached out to family to just visit for a short time once in a while during the day while I'm at work, and they say they will ... but it doesn't happen for the most part. My brother does and I thank him for that.

Mom has been my rock all my life. When Dad died she changed from being a “housewife” to finding whatever job she could to provide for us and try to give us things other kids had and took for granted. I will always love her and care for her to the best of my ability.

It’s not easy by any means. Dealing with paperwork, screening her mail, paying her bills, helping her find her glasses or the book she was reading, reminding her to take her pills and refilling her prescriptions and doling out those pills and making sure she takes them and doesn't take them twice because she may have forgotten that she already took them ... shopping for her and getting her some snacks she loves and doing the best to make sure she can have something she likes without eating too much of them.

There are so many aspects of family caregiving that so many don’t really think about — myself included before becoming a caregiver. It’s a 24/7 job without a paycheck ... but it’s love and giving back.