As a professional in the field of aging, Sara had seen it all—until her own mother broke her hip at the age of 88 and became profoundly confused, unable to live in her own home. Join Sara on her journey through the strangeness that is dementia while trying to make sense of it all and finding humor in the details. [Editor's note: Sara no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Bruno Bettelheim Said It All
I am 57 years old and have sons aged 20 and 15. When I was pregnant, I read a few books about my pending new parent status, and a friend gave me a copy of A Good Enough Parent by Bruno Bettelheim, an Austrian psychologist famous for working with autistic kids. I'm pretty sure I actually read the whole book, but the title and the premise certainly stuck with me. Bruno said good parenting is knowing who you are, understanding your own childhood, and doing your best to be a good parent. He said that was sufficient.
When my 89-year-old mother took a series of falls about a year ago while living in Phoenix, it was my job as the only daughter and “professional in aging” to fly down and do whatever was necessary to make everything right. My mother lived in Phoenix for over 60 years, and she wasn't about to move or to accept help. So I visited with doctors and talked to friends and neighbors. I brought in the home care workers (against protest), “equity loaned” the house, and fixed and fixed and fixed. I did whatever I could do to make the situation safe while complying with my mother's adamantly held decision to never leave her home.
Four falls, 4 hospitalizations, and 30,000 frequent flyers miles later, I made the decision: mom had to move near me. Thank God for Jo and Kathy. We all flew to Bainbridge from Phoenix and taxied directly to the local rehabilitation center. I thought it would be less stressful to have mom near me. Not exactly. I made daily visits, conducted chart reviews, talked with staff, and reported to my brothers and to my mother's hundred friends, all while working and trying to pay some attention to my family.
Realization: I Can’t Make the Situation Perfect
I quickly became slightly insane. My dear husband sat me down and suggested that my recent weight gain was related to caregiving stress and that I should consider something, anything. Soon after, I realized that something had to give and it was not going to be my health or sanity. I had to give up the idea that I could make it all right, that I could make my mother feel good about leaving Phoenix, that I could magically make her walk independently again. I decided that all I could do was be a good enough daughter—not perfect, but good enough.
By Sara Myers
The Good Enough Daughter Blog