How to cope with an aging parent

I’ve imagined this moment since I left the Philippines years ago. The feeling you get with a phone call that your parents are ill, hospitalized, or worse, have died.

I recently went home to the Philippines to see my ailing mother. It was a stressful, heart wrenching, but also fulfilling trip. I know many of you can relate to what I am going through, and I also hope some can learn from this experience.

Join me in my journey to the Philippines. I will share with you my joys and sorrows in taking care of my mother: bathing her, buying her groceries, taking her to her doctor, to the mall, to her church, asking her friends to visit her, and singing with her in a choir.

Day 1

Dilemma. Should I go or not?

I left Los Angeles with a heavy heart. Part of me wanted to go home, but part of me was also reluctant to go. I was worried, sad and scared – scared to see my mother’s condition. My mother had stroke 14 years ago, and recently she had suffered a seizure.

I’ve been taking care of my mother since the day she had stroke in 2003. I brushed her teeth, changed her diapers, dressed her, taught her how to walk again, and even how to speak. I did everything that a mother would do for her child. My friends asked me why I still do not have a child and I tell them, “well, other than to conceive and give birth, is there anything else I have not done as a mother?” And, yes, if you ask my mom who her mother is she’d tell you it’s me. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to learn what happened to her. Being far from her made it difficult to picture her condition and made me feel helpless. The only immediate thing I could do was to send money, but that was not enough.

I could not help being bothered. Since the day my brother in the Philippines told me about my mother’s condition I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night to check Facebook and ask my brother how mother was doing. It is always a dilemma for someone like me who lives overseas whether to go home or not. Until my brother sent me a video of my mother I did not have a clear understanding of her condition. She would try to walk on her own, but she tipped over sideways, and at the end of the video she was asked, “kaya pa nimu mommy?” (can you still handle it mommy?), and she replied “kaya!” (of course!) – I broke down.

This was an unplanned trip to the Philippines. I only bought my ticket two days before my flight, and the hurried nature of my trip made me uneasy. This is the first trip I ever had that I was not excited. When I arrived at LAX, I was crying. I did not really want to go. When my ex husband dropped me off at the airport he kept asking if I wanted to cancel the trip, but I thought it would have been dumb to cancel because I knew I needed to see my mother.

So to calm myself, I called a friend. I was told to be ready because this might be my last chance to see my mother and that my next trip could be for the funeral. It took me a few minutes to let that message sink in, and when it did, it calmed me down. It made me realize that my decision to come home was the right one.

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