Lauren Johnson wrote about her experience caring for her grandmother while being a full-time mom, wife, employee and – admist it all – faced incarceration. Read on.
When I got the message from my 78 year old grandmother’s caregiver, I didn’t want to go. My grandmother, Mimi, had developed pneumonia. Although they’d caught it pretty early, she had also fallen in her kitchen and was in a lot of pain from the fall. Nothing was broken, but she was unable to be by herself. The caregiver had gone above and beyond the call of duty by staying with her for two days. But she had to get back to her other clients and her own life. We needed to get Mimi through the weekend. That meant driving an hour away, to a cell phone and computer Dead Zone. I’d made the trip many times, especially in the last three years, since my grandfather had become ill and passed away. To help care for them both several times a week, I was driving back and forth to hospitals and their home. I was happy to be able to help but was also over whelmed; it was a burden in more ways than one. At one point, we were looking into this being my full-time job in hopes I could get paid by a government agency. The work was putting such a strain on my family at home and having the chance to get paid to do it would alleviate some of that. Unfortunately, before that came to fruition I got the charges that led to my last incarceration of seven months. However, I knew the jail time was inevitable so thankfully I was able to prepare before it happened.
Before I went for my stay, my grandmother began receiving services from an agency to have someone come out and do the things I had been doing. Also, my mother (who is not Mimi’s daughter and divorced from my father) lived only a few miles from Mimi. While I was gone my mom stepped up to help me, by helping Mimi. Her or her husband would do the weekly grocery shopping trips that I’d been doing. It wasn’t comprehensive, but it was something. Cheryl came out twice a week, and by the time I got home they had a good relationship built. My efforts weren’t required as much. At first I was a little bit jealous (I hate to admit that). I knew it was probably best and needed to work on my ability to let go. I felt the need to micro manage everything, so I stepped back some. My mother and I alternated weeks to do things for Mimi and I began getting busy in my own life again.
Because it was such a far drive (round trip would to take up most of a day), I’d call Mimi to ask her if she had a list. Rarely did she say no. It would frustrate me when it was five non-essential items; even more so, when I would get to her house and see she already had plenty of what she asked me to pick up. Not that I didn’t enjoy my visits with her, but a simple phone call could have replaced all that driving.
In the time leading up to my grandfather’s death, I stepped up to the plate. My grandparents had given me a home more than once in my life. I am the oldest of ten grandchildren. Mimi had four children, my father was the oldest. He had no car, lived almost as far from Mimi as me, and was the sole provider for his wife and son, who had a seizure disorder and severe mental retardation. Taking on yet another caregiver role – for Mimi – was not an option. I had an uncle who used to live next door to Mimi; he was very involved until he went to prison. Another uncle lived in Oklahoma and there was an aunt in Louisiana. Basically everyone had their own lives built in other places, or their own reasons for not being able to help. It also didn’t help that Mimi was stubborn, headstrong, and wanted to do things her way. So as I appeared to be most able to help, I felt obligated to do so. She wouldn’t consider another option.
Sad to say, a part of me held a small amount of resentment towards all the people who (I felt) should have made more of an effort to help her, but were unwilling to make sacrifices in their own lives. My helping her required sacrifices! She was eternally grateful though, and never missed an opportunity to let me know it. But when I got that message, I wanted someone else to make a sacrifice for a change! I had three young children, a job, and a million other things to do. Why should it always be me? I called my brother (who was recently unemployed) and asked if he would be willing to go if I drove him. He said yes. I breathed a sigh of relief and sent a message back telling Cheryl the plan – only to receive a text back saying Mimi wouldn’t feel comfortable if he had to help her go to the bathroom. Even though I could empathize, I also wanted to scream, “Work with me Mimi!” After the brat child inside of me calmed down, I realized that someone had to do it. And probably no one else could or would. I told Cheryl that I would come out both days to sit with her. I love my Mimi but I wasn’t looking forward to sitting in the middle of nowhere while my mind ran rampant with the list of things I couldn’t get done from there.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry about that.
The next morning I woke up to see a text from Cheryl. Mimi had been having more trouble breathing and was hurting more. They decided to give in and go to the hospital. I told them I’d be there shortly, and was asked to bring the medical power of attorney we’d made.