The Many Jobs of Caregivers

When my mom got sick, I knew I’d end up doing many things for her. In doctor’s offices we saw people with advanced cases of dementia that scared me. I had to stop myself from thinking about the future since it looked so bleak. But in addition to the jobs I expected to get stuck with, there were more I didn’t foresee. At this time of year they take up lots of my time.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Arctic cold filled our stream with isles of ice

  • Fiscal Manager — It’s amazing how much many hours it takes to manage the details of my mother’s finances. When she told me many years ago that she had assigned me her Power of Attorney, I had no idea what that really meant. I also failed to realize how much of each week I’d spend paying her bills, keeping track of her insurance claims, and organizing her financial records. Doing it for yourself is something you get used to as you get older, but when you add the task of doing it for someone else, it starts to feel like a full time job. Sometimes I believe I am singlehandedly keeping the U.S. Post Office in business. (Though I know some of you are helping me!)
  • Tax Accountant — As soon as the ball drops on New Years’ Eve, the tax year changes. That means I have to start putting together the receipts for filing my Mom’s tax returns. I hate doing my own taxes, mostly because I operate a business. I’d much rather write and do the work my clients ask from me than sort through transactions — doing the work the government demands from me. Paying taxes is something I accept as part of life. It comes along with stopping at red lights, doing laundry, and shoveling snow. But thank goodness I don’t need to keep a record of every time I hit the brakes or wash the sheets. It’s not the work, it’s the paperwork that kills me.
  •  Property Manager — My mom wasn’t rich, but she did own a home that sat empty after her health declined and she moved in with me. We realized that this asset shouldn’t remain vacant because it could generate income to pay for more intensive services she’d need as her disease advanced. For me, this has meant learning about leases, advertising for tenants, and figuring out how to choose responsible ones. It also meant that during last week’s arctic freeze, I had to drive an hour to interview new applicants, spend long afternoons cleaning the place, and rush home in howling winds. This is all part of the job of keeping a steady income stream there for my mother as her need for medical support rises.

When I write this list down, it actually looks pretty short. But as I carry out these responsibilities, they seem never ending. What I hate most about these jobs isn’t the hours they take away from my daily routine. I am far more resentful of the time they steal from my relationship with my mother. These are afternoons I’d prefer to spend in her sweet, childlike company. At this point, we don’t have a minute to squander. So I must remind myself that 2014 cannot be a year of drudgery. It needs to be a year of cherishing the moments still left to us.

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