Lorraine Watson was interviewed by Harry Wiland.
I have a mother who's just had a stroke, she's 85. And my father is 90 and he has cancer and I think he's quite depressed from caring for my mother all the time. I also have a sister who is 61 and she is blind and retarded since birth and these three keep me very busy. I'm hopping all the time. I'm always connected to my cell phone in case of an emergency. I spend time going to the doctors' offices just trying to make the appointments. Very hard. And sitting through the doctors' appointments.
How important is respite care for a caregiver?
It is so important. I have another sister and I keep asking her, please come and help me. I really need your help and I don't get that help. I'm running two households and so that's, you know, two shoppings, two lawns to be cut, you know, it takes forever when I go to the supermarket with a parent to go shopping. And even an hour trip can extend for hours.
My parents are so fragile now. Just getting in and out of the car, you would be surprised how long that takes. And I think also, I'd like to have somebody help me with the doctor appointments. I can't get them to a podiatrist so I do all the manicures and pedicures myself. Because my sister, being blind, can't cut her own toe nails and I have to do that for her. You would be amazed at the things that I carry constantly in my purse.
I kind of feel like a mom these days with three children. I never know what they're going to need, I always have extra blankets in my car, or I'll have a shawl, or maybe I'll have a bib because my dad drools, he has cancer and he has trouble controlling his saliva. So, I know he likes to look good, so I just have an assortment, I think women would say a "diaper bag." I have this kind of bag that I carry all these things in there, water for them, juice in case my mother feels faint - but it has to have a straw in it so that she can sip it 'cause a cup is too hard.
It's getting harder to manage, because it's like herding cats. The three of them are in three different directions and my mother has a cane and sometimes my sister has a cane and I don't have three arms, I only have two arms and I can only take so many people on my arms. And I can only carry so many shoulder bags.
Can you "not" take care of them? What's the alternative? Is there an option?
No, I don't have an option right now. My parents have not left a huge bankroll at all. Actually there isn't any money. My sister keeps thinking there is money. There isn't any money, ha ha. There is no money left and also I love them so much.
They were wonderful parents and there isn't anything I wouldn't do for them. My mother won't allow anyone in the house. I've asked my mother, can we please get a maid and somebody that could help me with washing the floors or the bathrooms and she doesn't want any strangers in the house. And I asked for a gardener and my mother said, no, we don't want any gardeners, that my father could still do it. And he can't. I mean, I literally do all the trimming on the lawn and it's hard. I thought I was good until I tackled the bushes with the trimmers.
My mom and dad were so good to me as a child. Not only were they good to me, they were good to my blind sister. Whatever I wanted my parents gave me. Most of all they gave me all their time and their attention. I mean all of it. I think I was the most spoiled kid on the block.
There wasn't anything that my dad wouldn't do for me. He always had time to listen to me. Always. And so now it's time for me to be helping. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for my mom and dad.
I just think how lucky I was to have been born to people like them, who sacrificed everything for me. I went to good schools and I know that they took from their savings account so I could go to, maybe, summer camp, and do things like that. And so, I've had a good life. I've had a very wonderful life and exciting life. And now it's time for me to be quieter and make a turn, and to give back to them. And I'm glad that I am, that I can. I'm strong enough to give back to them.
It's interrupted my final phase of my education a little bit, but I think this is going to help me to be much stronger in my new location. I've learned so much that no book could ever teach me, about caring for a person. You can't put that kind of emotion into it. You can't read about these things that I'm learning.
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