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Elder Care Is in a Pandemic: Through the Eyes of a Daughter-in-law

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Elder Care Is in a Pandemic: Through the Eyes of a Daughter-in-law, Bergen County Moms

I’m not sure who needs to read this right now but I have been thinking about writing it for several weeks so I hope it offers someone some solace or outlet. It may just be an outlet for me.

There are always forks in every road.

One decision can change your whole life, take this job or that job, marry this person or divorce that one, all of these decisions can have a butterfly effect.

My mother in law moved in with us a couple of years ago. This was a mutual decision (3 ways, 4 if you count the dog who loves her). We get along incredibly well and are actually quite similar in certain personality traits. Everything was going smoothly, we had help during the week to facilitate our work schedules and her engagement, on weekends we often went out to dinner, there were hair appointments and mani/pedis. Little did we know what was coming down the pike.

In the last year or so, my mother in law has slowed down, she started sleeping more, wanting to go out less etc. In March, in the early days of the pandemic we made the difficult decision to not have anyone else in the house. No visitors, no help. She is 93, with medical issues and therefore obviously at high risk. We made the decision together knowing fully (we thought) what we were in for, but we never wanted to look back with regret and wonder if we should have made a different decision, no one needs that on their head. Everyone has enough. These days we’re all wearing so many hats, we’ve developed skills we never knew we had! We’ll be better prepared for anything that comes our way in the future if we can all get through this with most of our sanity intact.

Let me say that watching your parent slowly decline has to be one of the most difficult things anyone will ever experience. There are so many things involved, sadness, frustration, depression, anxiety, any issues within your relationship start to surface and come out in odd ways. This is what my husband is experiencing on an almost daily basis. I have a slightly easier time because I am once removed, but it’s still difficult.

We have made the best of it, we have maintained our exercise regimens, we have thrown ourselves into work, but the longer this goes, the more she declines. Not that I think they are exactly related, more a sad coincidence of time. We start to hear the same stories and the same questions and the same songs, every single night instead of every few weeks, there has become almost only sleeping and eating, there is little engagement or interest in much else. When there is a desire to be creative or watch a show it is met with elation because we’re so happy to see glimpses of what was. We look at pictures of what we were doing just a year ago, and it seems like a lifetime because we can’t imagine the person in front of us doing those things anymore.

In reading this back, I don’t mean to sound macabre, or full of sadness, we have been given a gift that no one else can experience, we will spend her last days on this earth (whenever they may be) with her and that is an honor that cannot be taken away. We have provided her with a level of comfort and peace and acceptance towards the end of her life that she acknowledges and gives thanks for, to us each night when we tuck her in. But to say this is difficult is an understatement. To say I’m doing things I never imagined I would be doing is also an understatement, but, it is also a privilege. And we try to be gracious and remember that, each day, even (or especially) on difficult days. I don’t believe we’re doing something that others wouldn’t, though that’s true. But in this instance, providing this level of care, during a pandemic no less, is not something we ever thought we’d be doing.

We’re happy and content that we’re doing it, we’re also happy that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that will enable us to have help back in the house, enable us to get out, to go on vacation or just out to dinner.

Let's hope this New Year serves to heal us all.


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