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Am I Ready To Be My Parents' Caregiver?

Photograph by Daniel Ingold/Getty Images

Fifteen years ago, my mother admitted my grandmother into a nursing home. We've never discussed it but I don't believe my mother would have chosen to do so if life and circumstances hadn't made it impossible for my grandmother to continue living with us.

My grandmother may have been in a home, but it didn't relieve my mother of her responsibilities as a daughter. My mother visited the nursing home every day over the next 10 years. She fed her, bathed her, changed her, washed her clothes, cut her hair and filed her nails. When I spoke with my mother she laughed or complained about whatever my grandmother said or did that day. My mother cared for my grandmother in the way a mother cares for a newborn child.

When my grandmother died, everyone credited my mother for keeping her alive for so long. At her viewing, family and friends marveled at how good my grandmother looked.

Three years after my grandmother passed away, my grandfather was admitted into the same nursing home. My mother wasn't as young or as capable, but she cared for her father as she did her mother. Once again, the role of caregiver was reversed. My mother willingly took on the role none of her siblings could take. Not once did she complain.

I already know that I will not be the kind of daughter who can make daily trips to visit the nursing home to visit her parents. I don't know if I'll be able to do all that mother did for her parents. I try not to think about it too much because, truthfully, I am not ready.

RELATED: How Does Caring For Aging Parents Affect Family Life?

My grandfather passed away recently and my mother — for the first time in 15 years — has time on her hands and a few good years left. Both of my parents help me with my son and they're very active. I like to think of my parents as ageless, but from time to time, they show their frailty and I worry about the future.

I worry about when my mother, the woman who has taken care of me for my entire life, will be the one in need of my help.

When my grandparents died, I knew my mother was sad but I never saw her cry; she said she didn't feel any guilt. "They were my parents, I took care of them. I did what I needed to do," she told me.

As my parents get older, I can't help but worry about the level of care I'll be able to provide for them. I work full-time and have a special needs child. I already know that I will not be the kind of daughter who can make daily trips to visit the nursing home to visit her parents. I don't know if I'll be able to do all that mother did for her parents. I try not to think about it too much because, truthfully, I am not ready.

I know I need to start talking about the kinds of plans my parents want. My mother begins to have these conversations with me and then changes the subject. Maybe she's not ready either.

I know my parents won't live forever. But for now, I'm ready to enjoy the years I have left with them. When the time comes, I will take care of them and do what I have to do. And I will do so because I want to, because I love them — not out of duty or guilt.

RELATED: I'm Anxious About My Aging Parents

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