My mom started to live with us in 2008, when it wasn’t safe for her to live in her apartment. At the start, I was able to leave her on her own for short periods of time, but soon, she needed more and more supervision that quickly grew to having somebody by her side 24 hours a day. Her dementia was progressing, and she couldn’t remember anything—even where the bathroom was. It was painful to watch my mom, who is a strong, independent and good-hearted person, slowly become more dependent.
My life was changing drastically. I couldn’t leave the house to go to the grocery store, meet a friend or catch a movie. It had started to put a strain on my relationship with my husband. I felt depressed. In private I cried a lot. I didn’t want my husband or my children to know that I felt taking care of my mom was such a burden.
In 2013, my mom broke her hip, and after more than a month in the hospital she came back home to live with me. Sadly, after three months, I felt so depressed that it was impossible for me to take care of her and I applied to a few nursing homes under the “crisis” situation. I was lucky to receive a placement at Cawthra Gardens Long Term Care Community, which is located only 15 minutes away from my house.
Every day, at 8am in the morning, I go to visit my mom and assist her with breakfast. I’m usually there with her for 2 to 3 hours. I take her out; we go to the lobby for a coffee, and look at some magazines, photos and art books. Although she receives good care at Cawthra Gardens and everybody there is very nice and attentive, I worry about her on days when I’m unable to go. Did she eat? Was she calm or anxious? Does she feel alone? I realize that I am not the only one with these same concerns. I know other people feel guilty if they miss a visit with their loved one. I see their dedication, coming every day to be with them, to help them feel the closeness and love of their family. One gentleman was there every day for 10 years. His wife recently passed away, yet he still comes from time to time to visit the staff and residents.
About a month ago I bought a doll for my mom. It is soft and has large, clear eyes. It was the smartest thing I have done—she loves her. She thinks it is a real baby and sometimes she even worries the baby may be hungry or may need to go the washroom. She had always taken care of my 3 children, and now she has another one to care for. My mom doesn’t feel lonely anymore: the doll occupies her mind, and it makes me feel better when I know she is busy taking care of “her child”.
For me it is a commitment by choice: I choose to plan my days around my mom. Every morning I prepare her a smoothie from greens and fruits, and make her some milk from sprouted almonds. My brother is crazy about natural food and remedies, and together we try to give her what is best. She turned 95 in January, and if not for her advanced dementia, late stage of macular degeneration and hearing problems, nobody would guess her age.
My parents helped us tremendously; they gave us everything they could. As new immigrants to Canada, my husband and I worked from the morning until the late hours and my parents took care of our three children. They gave my family their unconditional love. And now, when my mother needs help and care, it is time to pay it forward—now it is time to give her back all the love and care she gave us.
~ Margaret Stawicki
Editor's note: The beloved Babcia Halinka passed on in January 2020, aged 101 years and 26 days. Without her, Our Kids Media and Comfort Life would not be possible.