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Emotional Nightmare: Breaking the Promise to Be Mamma's Caregiver

MsDora shares information and insights from her experience as a four-year caregiver to her late mother who suffered from Alzheimer's.

The guilt was overpowering, the fear was tormenting and there seemed to be no way out. I was incapable of keeping the promise I had made to my mother—the promise to care for her myself when she became too old or disabled. Now, she was an Alzheimer's victim.

It is an honor to care for those who cared for us.

It is an honor to care for those who cared for us.

Until recently, aged citizens in the Caribbean usually lived with their children or close relative till death. If they became “disgusting” or “miserable”—terms commonly used to describe senile old folks—the situation remained a family matter. That sense of family loyalty is what I would be up against, if I had my mother admitted to institutional care.

There were no siblings to help me decide.

Facts Underlying The Promise

My mother was a teenager when I was born. Soon after my birth, she was offered the opportunity to migrate to another country “to better herself” as folks here say. Her mother would not allow it; my mother had to take care of her child—me. Caring for her now seemed like my chance to compensate her for my being an obstacle then.

Later, my mother’s younger sister was also offered the opportunity to migrate. She left, and my mother helped to care for her six children. My aunt consequently died and my mother became guardian for her nieces and nephews. She must have wondered "Why me?" but she did the best she could.

My mother also became the caregiver for her mother—my grandmother—and rendered sterling quality care. After being caregiver for me and so many others, it was only reasonable for my mother to receive excellent, personal care in her old age. That is what I promised to do—look after her physical and medical needs, supply spiritual and emotional comfort, be there for her as much as was humanly possible.

Better break your word than do worse keeping it.

Better break your word than do worse keeping it.

The Options

I moved in with my mother to care for her. Several professional health care workers and experienced caregivers warned me that the job was greater than I could handle, but having made that promise, I had to try. There were difficult decisions, for example:

  • Should I stay up all night to monitor her hyperactivity or should I get some sleep and wake up prepared to undo her rearrangement of the house? Not to mention the fear of her safety while I slept.
  • Should I drug her so we could both sleep and then toss and turn over what felt like I was dehumanizing her? I doubted myself with almost every decision I made.

After three years, I had proven my incompetence. My mother needed the undivided attention of a trained caregiver (twenty-four hours a day) in a safe, comfortable, healthy environment. My stamina and skills were sadly lacking.

  • She could have been cared for by a trained in-home caregiver, but enough of those were not available.
  • There were a few private health care facilities on the island which were reputed to offer adequate care, but I would have had to find fairy godparents to help meet the expense.
  • There was a subsidized facility but it was not clear on what basis the agency accepted or denied patients. Still I applied without any guarantee that my mother would be admitted.

My Fears

While I pursued my mother's admission to the home, I searched my mind for other options, hoping to find one which would pacify the discomfort I felt about breaking the promise. The more I searched, the more dissatisfied I became. There were no solutions for my fears based on what I anticipated her attitude would be.

Limited Space

I was terrified to think of her response when she discovered that she had to leave 99% of her belongings behind. There was only room for a minimum amount of clothing, not for overflow luggage. Although I was pleased with the arrangement and cleanliness of the rooms, I was afraid that my mother would be aggravated by the lack of space.

Distance from Home

My mother complained almost daily that nobody cared about her anymore. That was because she forgot which relative came by and when, and it was true that the frequency of their visits lessened since I was with her. When she moved so far away from home, their visits would be even more sparse. I wondered what the sense of abandonment would feel like for her.

Future Loss of Complete Control

Although my mother could no longer keep up with her gardening, she still monitored the fruits on the apple, avocado, banana and pomegranate trees. She knew when they were ready to be picked and she had a distribution system to make sure that we shared evenly with others.

She chose to do her own laundry. She thought that no-one else would treat her clothing as well as she did. She had limited control over when and what she ate. She called relatives overseas when she remembered them.

How would my mother accept that even the limited control she had would be taken away when she left home? She would lose her independence too. The guilt, the fear, the uncertainty accompanying me every day were forces to be reckoned with.

Handling Emotion Poll

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A wealth of information about Alzheimer's as well as free caregiver training is available online. Look for Free e-learning workshops on the page to which the link below leads. The courses have been of optimum benefit to me, and I highly recommend them.

Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn't know possible.

Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn't know possible.

The Outcome

My mother spent nine months in the home for the elderly before I removed her. Disrespect, disorganization and lack of professionalism bothered me. Among other disturbing incidents, I was gravely upset when I showed up to take her to church, and the staff was not sure which dentures (from the set of three or four) were hers. The last straw was the surprise black eye she had. There was no report of how it happened, and if I had not visited I never would have known. I expressed gratitude to the facility. They too, may have done the best they knew how to do.

I renewed my promise and arranged for occasional respite by admitting her to other facilities for temporary care. During that time, when my mother was most dependent on me, I felt closer than ever to her. After one week in a facility she had been for the first time, my mother fell gravely ill and lasted for another three weeks before she passed.

My sensitivity toward caregivers has heightened. Whether at home or in a public facility, they need all the help that is available. I still hear individuals promising that their loved ones will be cared for at home for as long as they live. I have no verbal response. Instead I whisper a prayer for the caregiver and the patient.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 22, 2019:

Flourish,thanks for your understanding. I appreciate you very much. Most times I am satisfied that I did my best, but the feeling that I could have done more never leaves completely. I sympathize with your family's situation concerning your grandmother and aunt. Said a prayer for them.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 21, 2019:

I'm confident you did a wonderful job caring for your dear mother before she left this Earth. You are such a tender spirit, and it is an honor to know you. I wish I knew you in person.

The way that you worried about your mom and sought to do the best by her is so very honorable and kind. It's sad that you beat yourself up. We can't always fulfill the unreasonable requests that are sometimes made of us by loved ones. At other times, fulfilling them comes at deep sacrifice and may not actually be the objective best option. (They know not what they ask.)

I'm sure you did the best you could with the resources (time, space, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.) that you had available to you. You are an inspiration, dear lady.

My mother and her siblings are facing the same challenge with my grandmother who has dementia. The situation is complicated by the fact that my grandmother's live-in "caretaker" is her adult daughter who herself is incapable of self-care due to severe mental illness. A double doozy.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 03, 2013:

Thank you, Journey* for your prayers and your support. I appreciate you!

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on September 03, 2013:

MsDora, this is a very touching story. You've written it in a thoughtful and beautiful way. I think this personal story of yours is so very relatable for others struggling with the issues surrounding having a loved one with Alzheimer's. I'll keep you and your Mom in my thoughts and prayers.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2013:

DDE, thanks for your support.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 27, 2013:

Hi MsDora a most interesting about this title, I very much enjoyed this hub you are certainly good at what you do and delivered a thoughtful hub indeed.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 07, 2013:

Thanks, PeachPurple. Glad the expressions are beautiful, even though the feeling may not be.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 07, 2013:

beautiful and enchanting

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 30, 2013:

Thank you Laurie, looking forward to your articles!

LaurieNunley517 from Deep South on July 30, 2013:

What a super article! Alzheimers is such a sad disease. Thank you also, for the welcome! God's blessings!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 26, 2013:

Thanks, for your comment Ignugent. I appreciate you!

ignugent17 on July 26, 2013:

What a wonderful hub. Thanks for sharing MsDora. It is always good to be honest to ourselves. Have a good day! :-)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 23, 2013:

Avneet, what a wonder comment. You're right about tough times passing away. Thanks for your reminder.

Avneet kaur Sidhu from Chandigarh on July 23, 2013:

Hello MsDora, a big thank you for such a beautiful article. It is an incredible way to express how we feel while making a promise and you expressed it beautifully. There is a beautiful thing about tough time that it passes away, I am praying for your best.... have a great life!!!!...........

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 21, 2013:

You're right Rajan. Losing control is a bit uncomfortable. Thanks for your best wishes.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 20, 2013:

How life changes! Sometimes we have no control over the incidents taking place in our life though we do our best. Hope for the best for you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 20, 2013:

Thanks, Ron. What a thoughtful comment. Thanks for your prayers.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 20, 2013:

MsDora, what a heart-wrenching dilemma. I'm praying for you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Bob, I appreciate your discerning, comforting spirit. Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

BobMonger from Carlin, Nevada USA on July 19, 2013:

This is indeed a heavy burden to bear for one person. Though you haven't said it I also sense a feeling of loneliness that is all too common for people in your position. I shall be praying for you as well as your mother that God's grace may ease this heavy load you carry. Although I do sympathize with your other relatives I cannot help but feel they are not being as involved as they could be. At time like these it is most important for families to come closer together rather than drifting apart so I shall be praying for them to see that light as well. You should take comfort in the knowledge that you are doing as you promised by your actions in her best interests. And never doubt that the Lord will always be at your side to see you through this difficult time.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Parrster, you make so much sense. "Keep to the intent." Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Thanks, Manatita. I know that I feel your prayers and your comfort. Thanks for your hug.

Richard Parr from Australia on July 19, 2013:

There are the words spoken in a promise, and then there is intent behind them. You have always desired what is best for your mother and your promise was made with that intent. To keep to the words of your promise will require abandoning your intent. Better to abandon the words and keep to the intent. Do what's best for her.

manatita44 from london on July 19, 2013:

Dearly Beloved,

You appear to be in some pain. I feel very close to you and yet I did not know this. My deepest apologies. I have read every comment here and still feel inadequate to respond. Yet friends need each other and I must respond.

I turned away from Hub Pages and spent 20 minutes with my shrine in prayer, to send you healing thoughts.

Like Bill, I now embrace you, asking Him for the capacity of a much stronger hug and healing Spirit. I bid you much fortitude, prudence, clarity, gratitude and the spirit of surrender. May the Divine Mother bless and guide you, as well as accompany you both. Loving thoughts.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Marissa, thanks for your concern. I find your explanations very helpful and understanding!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Lambservant, that mental picture you share is wonderful. I will make use of your prayer. Thank you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Denise, your comment is very comforting. Thanks for your kind concern.

marissacreange from Allentown, Pennsylvania on July 19, 2013:

Let me first start by saying, my heart goes out to you, as well as my thoughts and prayers. Three of my great grandparents were affected by this heart wrenching disease, one of whom I lived with as a child. To see someone you love deeply begin to forget you, the year, and even themselves is one of the hardest things to go through. It starts slowly, gradually consuming their entire being as time goes by. Having only clues as to what causes it, and absolutely no cures for it, is frustrating and terrifying. Many try to manage the disease and take care of their loved ones themselves, but what no doctor can truly explain, is the simple fact that after the disease has taken it's course, they are no longer the loved one you remember. You try to be understanding, but find it to be an exhausting and overwhelming experience. They get angry because they don't know who they are, who you are, why you are looking at them with confusion. They are terrified and confused themselves, nevertheless, it doesn't make it any easier to cope. You will have good days that will give you hope, only to have your heart ripped out the next when you realize those good days are only going to come less and less often. By the end they can become a danger to themselves and others. It is the most difficult decision to make, do you keep trying? Do you listen to the advice of others and find somewhere they will remain safe? By doing what is best for your mother, you are left to feel guilty. I understand your inner turmoil. I hope you find your answer, I hope you find solice in whichever decision you make. Best of wishes, and best of luck.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on July 19, 2013:

Oh Ms Dora, you are so loved by God and others (Me too). You promised to care for your mother and you are doing that by finding her a place to go that can give her the care you are not able to give. I am a professional caregiver and I see with nearly every dementia and Alzheimer's patient the family exhausted and unable to meet their loved one's needs.

You asked how we handle emotions and I am not real consistent in doing any, but lately I allow myself to feel them without judging myself and cry out to the Lord for the situation that is bringing on the emotions. I mentally picture myself taking the person, place, or thing I am troubled about to the feet of Jesus and say, Lord I am helpless and unable to fix the person place or thing. So I give them and my worries to you, entrusting them to your good care. I find such peace. But I admit I have to do it almost daily.

The Lord bless you and keep you andyour mama, Ms Dora;

The Lord make his face to shine upon you both and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you both and give you peace.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on July 19, 2013:

Alzheimers is tough. It takes away the person that we once knew and replaces them with a stranger. With God's help, I pray that you will be able to resolve this dilemma that you are facing, and that you will have peace in your soul. I believe that God is forgiving, and that your mother will be as well, when you meet her in the afterlife and all is said and done. The person that she is now may be unhappy with her placement, but she is not the same person to which you made your promise.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Shofarcall, thank you for your encouragement. Your comment is so precious. Thank God for caring believers like you!

shofarcall on July 19, 2013:

Hello MsDora,

My heart and prayer goes out to and for you.

This is such a difficult condition. I have had friends who like you have wanted to care for their parent/s who have had Alzheimers. They too tried and discovered that they were just not equipped for what was required.

One friend had to sleep in the living room, near the front door, because her mum would wake up in the middle of the night and go out in the freezing cold, in just her nightgown and go wandering down the road which was in a town. My friend ended up suffering the cycle of not getting any sleep and not being sufficiently rested to care for her mum during the day. For her mums own safety, she needed to be in a secure environment where there were people who could care for her every need.

We know that in the midst of the struggle our Emmanuel is there. A solution will materialise. God Bless you Ms Dora and your mum.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 19, 2013:

Someone, I couldn't agree more. Thanks for expressing this truth.

someonewhoknows from south and west of canada,north of ohio on July 18, 2013:

It's times like this that try men's souls

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 18, 2013:

Vicki, thanks to you and other cyber friends to you whose affection is so real to me. Thanks for understanding and supporting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 18, 2013:

Eric, thanks for the joy you always share, and also for the prayers. Blessings on you and your family.

Vickiw on July 18, 2013:

Dear Jan, I am so glad to know what you are going through, and so sad that you have to go through it. This must be such a terrible quandary for you, dealing with someone who is not rational a lot of the time, and facing disapproval from family whose values are rooted in a place that you left years ago. You still have so much to face in the future, and it is good that you are trying to find the best solution for you and your mother. Only you can know what that is. Rest assured though that you have many cyber friends who will support you in whatever decision you choose. I know that you will choose the right one. You are a balanced and trustworthy individual. My best thoughts to you, dear friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 18, 2013:

Just a wonderful beautiful hub. The issue is so hard on so many people. Walking through it with you will help and then keep on helping.

Sometimes people say "everything will be alright". Sometimes that is not true no matter what we do. Of course my home will pray for you regularly. But I wish we did not need to.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 18, 2013:

Frank, thanks for your input. We expect family ties tor remain tight, disease comes along and threaten to disrupt it. We can only do the best that we can do. All the best to you and your children.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 18, 2013:

Thanks for your hug and your blessing, Billybuc. Your comment is very encouraging.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on July 18, 2013:

sometimes promises are made to be broken... and regret should never enter the mind.. In reverse I'll always be there for my children.. and I know my children will always be there for me.. family ties is just that they tie..:) oohh the photo of the baby broke my heart :(

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 18, 2013:

Sending a big hug to you my friend.

Alzheimer's is the disease that takes no prisoners. In many ways it is harder on the relatives of the patient than it is on the patient, and as time moves on, and the disease worsens, the patient transports into a make believe world and is really not aware of what is going on.

I feel your anguish and I understand it....in the end, you have to ask what is best for your mother and what is best for you. No act by you or anyone else is going to reverse this disease.....you have a life to live as well.

Sending you blessings and wisdom today and always

bill