“Honor Your Father and Your Mother”…What Does That Look Like?
- Friday, January 14, 2011
I've always been a daddy's girl. I loved my mom, of course, but Dad? He was my hero, the big strong guy who went to work every day and could fix anything. When he died eleven years ago at the age of 88, I experienced a myriad of emotions. I was thrilled because this stubborn German man who had always claimed to be an atheist finally received Jesus as his Savior in the last week of his life. I was also heartbroken because I knew how very much I would miss him.
And I still do, more than a decade later. Every now and then I have a dream about him that's so vivid I can hear his voice and feel the broad strength of his hand holding mine. Oh, how I look forward to seeing him again when it's my turn to go home!
Meanwhile, I believe I am continuing to honor my beloved father by honoring and caring for my mother. Almost from the day we said goodbye to Daddy, Mom came to live with us. In the first years she was here, she was still somewhat independent, so caring for her really wasn't all that difficult or time-consuming. I took her wherever she needed to go since she didn't drive, but she was able to do most everything else for herself.
The passing years have changed all that. I watched the deterioration as Mom shrunk by nearly four inches and lost about thirty pounds simply because she no longer had much appetite. I had to encourage and cajole her into taking enough nourishment to keep her going and prevent dehydration. I took over the responsibilities of doing her laundry, making her bed, paying her bills. Trips to the doctor's office and other medical facilities, including ambulance rides to the emergency room, increased. I found myself spending a lot of time sitting by her bedside and hiring part-time help when I had to be gone.
A few months ago I followed Mom from the kitchen to her bedroom, as she shuffled along, pushing her walker in front of her. When at last she collapsed onto her bed, she looked at me and said, "It's getting harder and harder to get from one room to another. What are we going to do when I can't even walk to the bathroom?"
I knew from the look on her face that this was no casual question; she was truly concerned, as was I. That very problem had weighed on my mind for quite some time, but I hadn't known how to broach it with her. Obviously the opening had been handed to me, so I took it.
"Do you think it's time for us to consider an alternative?" I asked.
Without asking what I meant, she merely nodded. And so I began my research. I started with a call to Mom's insurance company, who sent me a sizeable package of information about senior resources in the area. One of them was a senior advocate group who charged no fee to help assess an elderly person's needs and recommend appropriate assistance. Armed with a list of board-and-care homes, nursing and convalescent facilities, and assisted living homes, my husband and I began spending our Saturdays touring these places.
I had no idea there was such a variety of facilities and such a wide range of prices. Needless to say, cost was a major factor as my mom has no assets and only a meager Social Security income. We prayed and agonized over how to find a safe and acceptable full-care home for her that we could afford and that would be close enough for us to drop by several times a week. Thankfully we came across a nonprofit Christian organization with a reasonably priced opening at their assisted living facility only a few miles from our home. Though Mom is a bit teary at the thought of moving there, she's quite pleased with the accommodations and knows it's best for all of us. As a result, we have written out a check for the deposit and are in the process of making the move.
I should be relieved, right? Most of the time, I am. At other times I wrestle with whether or not I'm doing the right thing. Should I try to keep Mom here with us a little longer, maybe even to the very end? Would I be able to continue balancing my full-time writing and speaking job with caretaking and all the other responsibilities that go with being a wife, mother, and grandmother? Would my own health suffer, or does that even matter? I'm a Christian, called to serve others. Is it selfish to consider my own well-being at someone else's expense?
Then I remind myself that this is a decision we've all agreed is best for everyone concerned. Mom needs someone with her all the time now. In the early years of her living with us, we could leave for several hours or even a few days without worrying that she couldn't take care of herself. That's no longer the case. Could we hire more people for more hours to come into our home to care for her? With a two-bedroom home, that's just not feasible. Since leaving her alone is no longer an option and we can't guarantee that someone will always be here with her, we need to make arrangements for her to be somewhere else where 24-hour care is available.
We have done so—not without pain or doubt, but surely with love and divine guidance. I realize now that I continue to honor my father as I care for my mother, but I also honor her by doing what's best for her. In this case, that means making the decision to place her in someone else's care, though we'll still be actively involved in her life on a regular basis.
People are living longer these days, and though some may be physically and mentally healthy enough to care for themselves until their last breath, many are not. As a result, some will spend their last years living with relatives, while others will move into some sort of facility like the one we have chosen for Mom. There's no easy one-size-fits-all answer to what it looks like to honor our parents, but so long as we first seek God and base our decision on the selfless love of Christ, we can rest in the knowledge that we are not only honoring our mother and father, but God as well.
Kathi Macias is an award-winning author of more than 30 books, including her most recent release, Red Ink, and the upcoming People of the Book, coming in April. Visit Kathi at www.kathimacias.com or www.thetitus2women.com.
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