I love my mother-in-law and most days even like her. We’ve known each other for a little over 38 years now. I was so nervous to meet her and remember vividly my first visit to her home in Ohio. It was July 4th weekend and a crazy time for me. I had just graduated from college, started my first professional position as the Director of Social Services at a nursing home in Lancaster, PA and just moved in to my new apartment. All awesome stuff except until then I had no idea college did not prepare you how to work and in my case, did not provide the skill set either. It was 1979, the requirement to have a social service director at a nursing was fairly new – and the Medicare requirements for assessments and reviews on each resident were all new. I didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do and neither did anyone I worked with.
Back to July 4th. I arrived and the first thing my mother-in-law wanted to do was go swimming. I come walking out in my very modest one piece bathing suit and she was shocked. Her first advice to come my way, “Go get a bikini and enjoy it – the day will come you can’t wear one.” (Wow, is that ever true!!) And that advice has continued throughout our relationship. Her sense of style and fashion, and generosity in buying my clothes has been lifelong until about the last ten years. Now the tables have turned.
Her life has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Independence, travel, friends, reading, a very active social life were all part of her day to day until around 2009. Cataract surgery was scheduled and the doctor ask her if it was okay that a student assisted him that day. Unfortunately this student made a “boo-boo” and damaged her eyesight. The damage effected her vision and was unable to be repaired. While she is not blind, the ability to read, view television, and to drive were taken from her – literally in seconds.
Now in 2017 it is my turn to help her from afar. The aging process, accelerated by her eye mishap and depression, has changed her day to day activities. We have arranged for 24 hour in-home care which has helped my in-laws tremendously as well as relieved a ton of stress from my husband and myself. The caregivers assist with her personal grooming, walking, meal preparation, and household tasks. They also bring life to her daily, sharing their lives, local news, and everyday conversation that older folks living alone often miss out on. While our visits are welcome, they are disruptive for a very scheduled life-style and we have learned to come prepared with “great memories” to talk about and to take the time to “re-live” the past.
My kids constantly push me to stay current with social media – thank goodness! Snapchat provided my mother-in-law and I tons of entertainment – getting us all to laugh and share an enjoyable time together. Her friendly reminders to continue to take care of my skin, to workout, and eat healthy have not stopped. She is my best cheerleader reminding me to enjoy every minute today!