Caring for mother # 6 – keeping her home



Absolutely, without any shadow of doubt, my mother’s ‘care manager’ has been her family. My sister, two brothers and me. My sister and I have shared the caring, where we each live with and care for her three weeks on, three weeks off. My brothers have dealt with all the various forms to fill out, financial management, and investigations regarding aged-care facilities that we have so far rejected.

We are clinging to the notion that we can keep her in her home. In another situation, or medical circumstance, an aged-care facility would have been the right decision. Many of her friends have voluntarily chosen that type of residence. But my mother’s situation is different in that she had not reached that state of mind where she would have been happy to go down that path. Her condition came on suddenly, and is finite. As both my sister and I live away and would need to travel to visit her anyway, we felt that this is something we would like to give her – if we can – to keep her in her own home. It is her wish.

In the beginning, there was a crash learning curve for us all researching her medical conditions, contacting medical professionals in the family and extended friend/ family network to help us get up to speed, then talks with doctors and specialists about correct medication and care-regimes. Then we became brave enough to accept what we knew was right for her, and reject some we felt (or she felt) were not. We have had to make final decisions as to what is best for her and her needs. There was the shock of realizing her own doctor of forty years standing did not do home visits and (through a friend) finding the one in a million doctor who still does. He is an angel in disguise and makes our mother feel special. He has restored our faith in humanity. We have obtained in-home community nurse visits and other assistance such as occupational and physio-therapy. Ultimately, however, we provide most of the care.

It has been a difficult decision. I have not met anyone who has not felt the same thing. The tugged heart strings as to what is best to do, and there being no easy solution. I am so grateful that I am one of four siblings and that we are able to share in the care. I have friends who have been the only ones who have shouldered this care and they have ended up collapsing with fatigue.

Another reason we have kept her at home is that she was not ready from the point of view that she still had many projects that needed to be finished. She was treasurer of three community groups and on the committee of an historical society that produces quarterly booklets with her active involvement. My brothers helped her wind up the treasurer roles and my sister and I helped her with the last history booklet. But there still seems to be a lot of projects she has on the go. We have now accepted that she will never be ‘done’ with all her projects, and therefore she will never feel ‘old’ enough to go to an aged-care facility. Having been widowed at age 47, she brought up my two younger brothers on her own. When she came to ‘retirement’ age, being on her own and therefore not having someone to lean on or care for, she carved out a life for herself in the community. There never has been time for playing cards, bingo or smelling the roses for my mother!

One of the things that my brothers have done for my mother is that they are leasing a house around the corner from my mother’s two-bedroom unit. They stay there at weekends and the grand-children have been able to come and stay there. It has become our ‘family home’ and we have had some wonderful family times there over the past five months including Christmas and a special birthday celebration for my mother.

We are all grateful of having this time with her now – ‘smelling the roses’.


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Blue skies ahead

ID-10043357.digitalart“I am not sure what I shall do. Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t. But sometimes, what happens instead is the good stuff”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

About a year ago, after much soul-searching, I was emotionally in a place where I wanted to move on. I wanted to begin a course. I wanted to try something different. I wanted to move away. I wanted to begin my new life.

I couldn’t. I still had to finish off the marital settlement and run the business.
I became stationed in this horrible place of being here and wanting to be there.
Everything was overwhelming me and I was in deep pain.

At the time many friends, family and supporters assumed I was still suffering the end of my marriage, the leaving of me by my husband, its emotional effects, and my shattered self-esteem. Whilst those issues added to my pain, they were no longer the main problem. What I was experiencing was not something that I had to ‘get over’. It was something that I had to ‘get through’. The problem, and hence my misery, was all the legal and practical things that still had to be done surrounding the marital settlement. There was still all that mud to trudge through, before I could begin my life as I wanted it.

I yearned for a better life yet to ‘get through’ to that better life, I had to put that better life aside. I had to put aside my dreams. I had to stop writing poetry. I had to stop planning my future. I had to stop indulging in soul-searching. I had to face what needed to be done and devote my time to getting done what I had to get done.

Nevertheless I had been instilled, with a vision of a better life.

In some ways, the vision made things much more painful. Up until that point, I had clung onto the remnants of my old life. The relative uncomfortableness surrounding my marriage end had become tolerable. I had become used to feeling under-par rather than happy. I had become used to scattered grey clouds over my head. I would smile and carry on.


Once the vision of a better life had been planted in my head, that world I was in became a scary deep hole. There were no clouds to see. There was total darkness. It was the vision of a better place that made the world that I was in so painful and intolerable.

And yet …

It was the vision of me striding towards that better place that kept me going forward, that kept me trudging onwards through the mud, until I was through it on the other side.

which is where I am now –

  • flitting from activity to activity unable to focus and not bothered that I can’t
  • spending a lot of time faffing
  • sorting out my own personal budget and knowing that it is all mine
  • planning
  • not planning
  • watching drippy movies and not caring that I am wasting time
  • feeling anxious (‘what on earth am I going to do with the rest of my life?’)
  • feeling euphoric (‘I can choose to do whatever I want!’)
  • back to my dreams of a wonderful future
  • in a world of hope and happiness
  • understanding there is still practical stuff to get done  – and knowing it will be
  • knowing, as in the quote above, I am heading towards ‘the good stuff’



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Song: Jimmy Cliff version of the Johnny Nash hit ‘I can See Clearly Now’.






Caring for mother # 5 – Guilt



When my father passed away very suddenly, I was nineteen years old, nearly twenty. Before that event, my life had been laid out for me in a predictable fashion. Childhood – adolescence – career – marry – children – retire – become old & etc.

Losing my father prematurely did not fit into my plan.

I blocked that bit out. I blocked out the fact that the plan had changed.
So I continued with my plan, completely oblivious to the ramifications that this major catastrophe had affected my life, my mother’s life, and that of my siblings.

After two months of grief and sadness, the university year started and I was back on my bike. I was back on track. Back into lectures. Back into the boyfriend (who would become my husband). Back into I-still-want-to-keep-up-with-my-plan life.

I was to marry within fourteen months. We stayed in the area for a while and then set off on our world travels – less than two years after my father had died.


What was the urgency?

Why didn’t I stay longer and support my mother?

My mother came from an era where the man worked and the woman kept home. All that changed one January afternoon forty one years ago. My mother had to go back to work for the first time in twenty five years. My mother had to turn around and bring up my younger two brothers on her own, with much-reduced financial security. My mother had to deal with school choices and learner drivers and teenage parties – all on her own.

My mother had lost her mother and an aunt two years before my father died. Over the next five years she was to lose two brothers, two nephews and a close friend. With my sister and I both now married and away, her support base had dramatically dwindled. It was dramatic changes for my brothers too. Unlike my own teenage years that were full of frequent connections with a large extended family and with our home a hive of activity; with my mother now at work, my brothers would return from school each day to an empty house.

I kept to my plan.

Graduate – marriage – travel – move interstate.

Why didn’t I see what my mother must have been going through?
Why didn’t I see how lonely it must have been for my brothers?
Why didn’t I help more?
How difficult would it have been to stay in the area a few more years, to have been there for my mother, to have been there for my brothers?
How difficult would it have been for me to be the strong support in place of my father?

Obviously there was a lot of grief for me too. I had lost a grandmother, aunt, father, two uncles and two cousins; all within a few years. I was trying to stride out in the world as a young adult. Gone was the strong parental base of mother and father to come home to. There was just a lone mother having to put all her effort into simply surviving – something that I failed to recognize and understand at the time.

I have become so angry at myself.

And the reason I am angry is because – as much as I try and deny it – there was this little voice inside me at the time telling me that I should be offering more support. I did not listen to my own voice. I was not living by my own truth as to what I thought I should have done.

Not anymore.

I will never again deny my inner voice, my inner calling to do the right thing.

There is no stopping me now.
There is no-one holding me back.
There is no other person’s needs taking priority over what I believe I should do.

My mother is now number one.

I shall spend as much time as I can with her and take this precious time I still have with her to make up for those times when I was not there for her, as I ought to have been.


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I believe

ID-100131775.AfricaOne of my greatest beliefs has always been to be part of a proactive civil society. I believe that if something is not right, one should speak out, or act to change it. As a couple, my husband and I lived by that code and were active in community affairs together. I was the quiet gatherer of information. He was the negotiator, the voice, drawing in supporters with his gregarious nature. One thing was for certain, if there was an issue we believed in, we did not let it go. We were a formidable force. Together we could change the world.

My belief system crumbled with my marriage collapse. For a long time, I could not think of world affairs. I could not think of community. I could only think of myself. I was down on the floor in a reflective haze gazing at the walls thinking only about me. I felt that I had lost my inner compass, that I was not acting on my own beliefs. I was not out there contributing. I was not righting the wrongs. I was not speaking out. I was not standing up for others less fortunate. I thought it must have been us as a steadfast couple that gave me the energy to speak out and the courage to make a difference. I thought it must have been our professed shared values of peace, fairness, and respect for all, and the unity of sharing those values, that gave me my inner core of strength. I was so strong that I was able to stand up and speak out. I wondered what happened to those beliefs that we had stood for together. I wondered whether I only acted the way I did, and I only believed what I thought I believed, because he was beside me.

The truth was, at the time when I was down on the floor, I felt that I had lost peace, fairness, and respect at an individual level. If I had lost them at an individual level, and they were my source of strength and therefore my strength was gone, how could I help others?

I have now changed. My beliefs have changed. They changed when I was down on the floor. This is what I now believe.

  • I believe in me.
  • I believe I can change the world, my world.
  • I believe I can change my world, one decision, one action at a time.
  • I believe it is taking me a while to become the person I want to be… and that’s OK.
  • I believe that although my circumstances may have influenced where I am, I am responsible for who I shall become.
  • I believe that to find kindness, I need to act with kindness.
  • I believe that to find respect, I need to act respectfully.
  • I believe that to find fairness, I need to be fair.
  • I believe that to find love, I need to be loving.
  • I believe that to give peace, I must be at peace within myself.
  • I believe that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of whether anyone notices.
  • I believe that I can become a hero in my own world, and to become that hero will be a great achievement of which I can be proud.
  • I believe that to find balance in my life, and be fully present in my life, means I will become that hero in my own world.
  • I believe that even before I become a hero, I can start changing my outside world, one heart, one person, one soul, one need at a time.
  • I believe in me.

What do you believe in?


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To begin at the beginning

ID-10041450.digitalartIn my first few weeks of freedom, after signing the marital settlement and selling the business, I was euphoric. The feeling of being alone and single and having full control over my own time, my own social life, my own family connections, my own finances, and my own responsibilities was intoxicating.

Then came moments of feeling overwhelmed.

It was as if three years ago I had been hit by a truck. It had taken me those three years to scramble from underneath the truck. For a long time, that became my focus and aim, to get out from underneath the weight of the truck, from the weight of the ‘process’ of legal and financial separation. So even though I finally became free of its weight, and that in itself was liberating, I could also begin to see the world beyond the truck.

It had changed. What’s more, I had changed. I had been waiting for that freedom for so long and yet when I got there, I realized an awful truth.

I must begin again.


Initially I could not decide where to start. I was looking positively at this being a transition to my exciting new life, but it was still rather daunting. There was still so much to do and decide. I did not know where to start.

After a few fitful nights, tossing and turning, I woke one morning with my project for the next twelve months laid out before me. It was as clear as anything and I was excited about it. The project that came to mind was:



Begin at the beginning.

Begin on the first step of the beginning.

For the next year, this first year of my new life, my first step would be to focus on me.
As clear as anything, I knew that was what I wanted and needed to do,

There were no excuses for me now.

Over a few weeks, I came up with a plan. It is more than a plan. It is forming new habits.

Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle Transition Habits

Ah! That spells out ‘Health’. What a great place to start!

However, there is more to this plan than simply good health. If you read the words carefully it captures everything I want from life. Good health. Sensible eating that allows social interactions. Becoming more active. Forming a balanced lifestyle of self, family, stability, relaxation, social connections, career, creativity, home, celebrations, community. Giving myself a year to transition into my meaningful life and find my life’s purpose. And making all this become habit so that I do it for life!

Wow! What a plan!

For too long in my life, I had been putting everyone and everything else first. I had suffered for that. My heath and well-being had suffered for that. I had gained some weight over the years of my distress (by my seeking comfort in food) and although I had made a start on health and fitness, things had slipped again. I had become less active. My blood pressure was labile. My blood cholesterol was OK, but higher than it had been. My home life had holes in it. My hobbies were in boxes, along with my dreams. I dropped social connections when I got caught underneath the truck. I had resigned from community groups. I had wanted to make something better for myself, for my family, and for the world, by making a contribution to worthwhile meaningful projects. Yet, it had become all talk and no action.

Yet I am no use to anyone, I cannot be supportive to my family, I cannot contribute to the world, unless I remain in good-health and my lifestyle returns to a better balance.That is the place I must first get to.

This has been a summary of my plan to get me to that better place.

Now to begin that first step.



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I have changed my mind

ID-100170157 - master isolated imagesI have changed my mind on a few issues surrounding my divorce.

(Disclaimer: My apologies to all those in happy, healthy, monogamous, caring, understanding relationships with partners who love being together and yet who give each other space to be individuals.)

1. Previous thought: I was abandoned.
New thought: I was set free

2. Previous thought: I have no-one to protect me.
New thought: I have no-one to hold me back.

3. Previous thought: I have suffered intolerable losses of assets and income.
New thought: I do not have to stress about what someone else is spending.

4. Previous thought: I am alone in making tough decisions.
New thought: I am able to make my own choices – on absolutely everything.

5. Previous thought: I do not have a soul-mate to share my life with.
New thought: I do not have to compromise on anything, especially values and beliefs.

6. Previous thought: I am trapped in this prison between past and future.
New thought: I am in this wonderful place of now.

I am free. :)




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Caring for mother # 4 – breaking the code of silence



We all bring our own strengths and weaknesses to the caring for our mother. We all have our own histories, where we fit into family dynamics, how we interact with each other, and the roles we have all played with our mother in the past. Living much closer than I did, my elder sister has been a significant figure in my mother’s life, assisting her with shopping and washing, and developing a closeness by sharing projects of writing history books. My brothers gave support in practical ways and all things technological. I had bursts of shorter yet intense high-quality time as we would stay together a few times a year, either my mother with me or me with her.

Since my mother became ill, our roles have clearly changed as each of us has helped as much as we can whatever way we can whenever we can. As my mother can no longer live alone, my sister and I have alternated staying with her. My sister has been better than me at domestic care; whereas, being the one with some medical knowledge, I have deciphered medical instructions and developed clear guidelines on diet and medication. My brothers have attended to practical aspects at her unit, her financial management and wading through literature on aged-care assessments and residential facilities.

There has been an overlap of our various roles, and we each have strong opinions on particular aspects that we talk about with all family members. Then there are things we talk about only with some family members. For example, my brothers shy away from the nursing care details, yet my sister and I talk these through constantly. Then there are those taboo issues – topics to be avoided at all costs. In our family, as in every family, there are unwritten rules about what can and cannot be said. In our family, showing emotions and openly discussing feelings has definitely been off-limits.

Over the past three years, I have changed. I have felt huge emotions due to the break-up of my marriage and at various times expressed my feelings to those close to me, including my mother. Gradually my mother opened up to me and began expressing her long pent-up emotions to me. She spoke to me about her grief at losing my father, her mother, one sister and two brothers in quick succession and bringing up my two younger brothers on her own. This has been the silver lining to the trauma for me of my marriage collapse, that I have developed a closeness with my mother and we have both been able to express those deep feelings and emotions to each other for the first time ever in our lives.

In regards to the emotions surrounding my mother’s illness, I have found that I have been the one who has been able to remain calm and yet express sorrow. I have shown less anxiety and stress at the medical and practical ups and downs; and yet I have expressed more deep emotions of sadness, loss, and gratitude. It has also been me who began “the” (difficult) conversation with my siblings, and more recently with my mother about (knowing the final prognosis) how quickly or otherwise things may happen; about how we may all manage this when it does happen; from panicking to remaining calm; from rushing Mum to hospital or keeping her at home; managing her symptoms and her emotional well-being; and what she would like to do with her remaining time.

And of making sure I take the time to say to her, ‘you have been there for me through triumphs and tragedies; you have shown me courage, fairness, kindness and wisdom; you have made me what and who I am, and I will miss you’.

And what I have noticed is that when I start that conversation with my mother, she no longer will shy away from it, but rather – she smiles at me and beams with pride.


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