Looking Up:

Linda Pressman's Blog

Linda Pressman

Linda Pressman
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.A.
March 07
The author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie, available on Amazon, Kindle and b&n.com. Kirkus Reviews said, "Humor and tragedy blend seamlessly in this memoir of childhood upbringing and family trauma...A memoir whose heart pays considerable homage to its subjects." Please visit my personal blog, Bar Mitzvahzilla, and Poetica Magazine where I'm the Blog Editor.


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JANUARY 13, 2011 10:45PM

No Free Lunch

Rate: 13 Flag
  free lunch

It was about three quarters of the way through my non-stop caregiving of my mother as she was recovering from her car accident injuries when my brain just clicked to an off position. I didn't mean to do it, but I want to be honest. It happened.

For weeks I'd been handling a lot: her totalled out car, all insurance matters, her doctor appointments, her medications, meals along with another sister, and driving along with two others. More than anything else, I was spending a lot of time sitting next to her on her couch. Because I know that sitting sometimes is the kindest thing you can offer.

There was a lot of talk in my family at the time about whether my mother and stepfather could continue to live on their own. There was a sister who wanted my mom to come live with her. I began to look into Jewish agencies that could help my mom stay in her house, that could help her as an elderly member of the Jewish community and as a Holocaust Survivor, while I was still running, running, running, and bringing a lot of food. 

I was sitting on the couch next to my mom during the visit with the social worker when she asked my mom how she would feel about receiving a delivered meal per day free of charge from a wonderful deli in town. I heard this and I lit up like a cartoon character. I was gleeful, transported. Food, ma! For free!

But my mother says to the social worker, "No. I don't need any food. Linda and her sister are giving me all I need. I don't need any help, they're doing everything."

That's when I clicked off. I suddenly realized we were actually sitting there with the social worker not so much for the help my mother needed but for the help I needed. I was the one with the problem. My mother was fine; she was being taken care of. It's her 50-year-old daughter who was falling to pieces.   

So it turns out there really is no free lunch. Not metaphorically and not those literal free lunches they wanted to deliver to my mother. There's only me, buying a challah, mixing up chicken salad, bringing it to her house, and sitting.

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Maybe you could have spoken up at that point? Too late - but go back to that social worker and try to get the lunch instated? There is a lot of recognition (maybe only theoretical as opposed to practical) of the needs of caretakers...
Myriad, the social worker, thank goodness, had enough experience to know what she was dealing with. She told me to stop providing food and she'd revisit my mom in a few weeks. By then, not surprising, I guess, my mom had reconsidered!
There are support groups for care-givers. One might be helpful to you while you are dealing with your mother.
Welcome to my world -- I lived with this for more than eight years as my mom slipped farther into her Alzheimer's reality. If you need a little hand-holding (and maybe a chuckle or two), join me at my Open Salon blog and read "Did I Ever Have Children?" Good luck!
Oh my goodness, you poor thing!
Often we're called upon to do more and more and others don't realize how full our plates have become.
Know that your readers support you, (at least have a listening ear or two), and that we all wish you well.
I'm glad that your mother reconsidered. I liked your description of lighting up like a cartoon character at the idea of free DELIVERED food. Then when your mother refused, did you slump to the floor like a deflated inner tube? I would have.
This is telling it like it is. I lost my brain function at some point while caring for my husband's ailments. I wish you all the best.
people who need care may not think about what it costs those around them to give it, loved ones now bearing the weight of 2 lives. it's a difficult situation and i'm so sorry you are both facing it. i hope you will be able, and that it will be possible, to tell your mum how tired you are, before you become too tired to help at all, and ask for her help. wishing you both speedy recovery.
Keep writing, it will prepare you for the next moment of choice. I am sending you many good wishes.
maryway, thanks for reading. I appreciate the tip.
Marilyn, I'm so early into this diagnosis that I'm terrified at what eight years could bring! Here's what I secretly think: she'll end up killing me off. (Just kidding, kind of.)
zencherry, thanks for the tremendous words of support! I appreciate them!
latethink, Maybe that 's why my brain clicked off so suddenly - the deflation of my comic alter-ego! It was really like one of those ACME anvils landed on my head. But, unlike the cartoon characters that get flattened and then bounce right back into shape, I stayed flattened.
Zinnia, It's such a relief to be able to share this honestly so thank you for your comment. It's like I want to be a saint and I want to be the most angelic thing ever, yet I could just feel something inside me shift when I realized that the more I did, the more she wanted and less she appreciated it. And I wasn't really going to be able to keep it up.
Maria, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I seem to have gotten her stable. Next crisis, one of my six sisters will have to handle! That should be why there are seven of us, right? :)
dianaani, thank you for reading and for your kind wishes. I appreciate it.
There is a familiarity to your story. My sister and I recently cared for my Mother in some capacity for 2 years during her cancer illness - and then were with her to help her in her last days. She retreated from the support offered from friends, neighbors and didn't want to seek other help, often even from our brothers. She was most comfortable having her daughters at her side. But the Hospice nurses helped me keep this in perspective. Part of my job was to also take care of myself. So whether she liked it or not, there were times I had a friend come sit with her, or took advantage of support from Hospice volunteers. If my Mom had all of her faculties, I know she would not have wanted me to deplete myself to a point of insanity. Jettison the guilt - out of love for you and your Mom accept help available. Receiving help is a skill to learn. Giving help to our Mothers almost feels primal, natural. I hope you can love yourself as you obviously love your Mother.
Thank you, Ivy Anne, for your kind words and wise advice. It's hard to love someone that much, and be ready to throttle them! And you're absolutely right - if she was altogether herself, she would realize that I'm somewhat fragile too. I'm sorry for your loss.
Take care of yourself, though it can be difficult when you are dealing with an elderly parent. Setting limits is hard because once you give, give and give some more, they don't understand that you are melting into a puddle of your former self. The social worker sounds like a wise woman. I hope you found some balance with the scale tipped towards your needs versus the needs of your mother.
Oh this resonates for so many of us and you have captured it perfectly, with great self-awareness, heart and soul. I am intimately familiar with your dilemma. Maybe one of my posts on the subject will help you know you're not alone, especially in some of the feelings maybe you didn't express.

Boca Sandwich, Hold the Reaper.
Oh, how terribly infuriating! I'm glad she reconsidered. I, too, think I might go insane here with my mother. Great description of you as the cartoon character. Keep writing about it, seems there are many of us!
I am working part time at a pain management clinic in Scottsdale. All day long we see families of those who are disabled who have been getting utterly burnt out being caregivers, as well as often being disabled themselves with illnesses (not uncommon, after all, for caregivers to develop disabling illnesses and injuries). You have many many resources, it is up to you to use them wisely. Just because she is your mother doesn't mean she has good judgment or makes fair decisions. Many of my patients are middle aged women who are getting crushed from every direction- aging parents, struggling marriage or going through divorce- still raising children and having to balance work and caregiving and going through menopause or just insanity. If you don't speak up for yourself and take care of you, you will show your children what they should expect one day.