The section of the resort in which I was staying is more or less a resort within a resort. The Towers at Pacifica are brand new, adults-only, with frankly amazing services like a butler, who performed tasks that included unpacking my bags. That was a first for me. My parents have always been solidly middle class and I haven't risen above those ranks—I'm a journalist, after all. So while my dad was at home looking after my mom, I spent three nights in paradise. By day I sunned myself by the glimmering pool, while tanned, well-kept people laughed over brightly colored tropical drinks at the swim-up bar.
By night I sat in my beautiful room, the patio doors opened wide so I could hear the sound of the surf, sipping bracingly strong coffee my butler had brought me as I worked on my next article. Slowly, the knots left my shoulders. I think the worry lines between my eyebrows might have even eased a little.
First, itâs good to be aware of theÂ signs of anger, such as:
It was wonderful to be so well looked after, because it felt like a very long time since that had last happened. Every single woman who is taking care of someone with so cruel a disease as dementia should get a three-day pass to sit in an opulent resort along the sea in the Mexican sun.
A prescription to Pacifica should be written and given to all the members of the "daughter care" army, as we're all being called now, according to the New York Times.
The Times article sounded the alarm about the aging American population, the increase in dementia cases that will result from it 3 million more, up to 8. According to the Times , these duties, which are mostly unpaid, tend to isolate us socially, causing problems in marriages and friendships.
It's worse when the family members have a degenerative brain disease, like my mom has; they require hours more care per week than people without dementia and the like. The stress is monumental, as I'm finding out. My mom's dementia is still relatively mild; she knows who she is, even if she doesn't understand where she is. She recognizes my dad and me, most of the time.
She can feed herself. She still looks at the paper, even if she gets a little confused about what she's read. But attending to her is wearing on me already. I get anxious — my stomach clenches and my teeth grind. My hair is falling out. I cry a lot, though I make sure it's never in front of my parents. It was good, really good, for me to get away to such a beautiful, serene place.
I needed the break desperately. But while I was deeply grateful for the opportunity, I also spent much of my time with something that seemed like a small, hot stone burning in my belly. What I felt there, sometimes flaring brightly, sometimes subsiding but never entirely fading, was guilt. Do we ever feel like we do enough as caretakers? And is it truly ever enough?
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I work because I love it, but also because it's a necessity. My parents can't afford to pay me for the time I spend with my mother, so I can't afford to stop writing. I don't receive reimbursement for the hours I help my mom bathe and dress, administer her medicine, take her to the doctor. In essence, I'm trying to work two full-time jobs and I wonder if I'm doing either well. I feel like I'm constantly behind, that there is always more to do. The house is a wreck, the laundry needs to be washed and who's going grocery shopping?
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I do the best I can, but I'm never finished. I never catch up. So when I have to travel, or lock myself away in my room to write, I feel like I'm failing the only people who have never failed me. At the same time, I worry about what I read in the Times : that caregiving is likely to negatively impact my finances, by damaging my career and ability to save for retirement.
Once again, disproportionately more than sons, we daughters cut back on hours at work, take leaves of absence, and even quit our jobs entirely to look after our parents.
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Even if we remain employed we pay the price, losing promotions and getting penalized for taking time off. This prospect terrifies me. I'm not married. My long-time boyfriend dumped me last year, literally never to be heard from again, right as my mom's condition started to worsen. I can't afford to stop working, or even slow down. More than sons, we daughters cut back on hours at work, take leaves of absence, and even quit our jobs entirely to look after our parents.
These were my thoughts, somber as the Cabo sky was cloudless, as I headed down to the beach. I was joining a few other journalists; the idea was we'd fish from the sand and whatever we caught a chef from the resort was going to immediately slice and submerge in citrus juice, making ceviche. I hadn't put a line in the water since I was a kid, when my grandfather would take my brother and me out on the local lake with him.
Grandpap was an avid angler; he grew up poor, working in the Pennsylvania coal mines at As an adult he moved on to the railroads, but the pay wasn't much better, and there were plenty of times the only meat his family had was the fish he hooked and the game he shot. I wish I could say that I did him proud, but I wasn't much better trying to cast as an adult than I had been as a little girl.
The rods were long and unwieldy; it was surprisingly tiring flinging them toward the water, so that the filament would spin out past the breakers, to where the big fish were. I tangled my line with that of the person next to me more than once. I kept hoping whenever I actually managed to land my hook and sinker in the surf that I'd get a nibble. I could regale you with 30 years of her behavior, but suffice to say, she is whack.
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I promptly moved to the Middle East after my brother died and I will stay here until my parents die. It sounds so harsh, but I cannot allow myself to sacrifice one more year of my life to the chaotic whims of a deranged mother. Just this morning I received another "you're disowned e-mail", because I had the audacity to request that we not discuss politics. She will not abide me having any agency and autonomy and I have decided that I cannot abide by her whimsical insanity. I will send money. I will arrange for care and help do all I can to keep them safe, but I will not return and I will not take them in.
It's heart-breaking to me that I would rather live in a racist, sexist, Sharia Law country then be near my family, but their proximity is not worth the price it extracts. This article really got to me emotionally.
I moved miles away from my mother hoping to finally get away from all of the craziness. But a few years later my father died, and my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I tried to stay away and let my two brothers deal with my mother, but after a year my one brother brought her on a plane and literally dumped her in my living room. All of the feelings of guilt and duty were overwhelming so I found a nice group home for her where she was kicked out after two days for being too violent.
So I found her another group home that would keep her where she stayed for seven years. My kids each visited her once, and one brother also visited her once in seven years. I would try to make weekly visits that stretched out to bimonthly visits. After the visits I always stopped at the nearest fast food place and stuffed myself.
At the time I was also going through a painful divorce so I was an emotional wreck. My weight ballooned and I went through a depression and attempted therapy which didn't really seem to work.
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