Nicki is a young millennial caregiver for her mother who has liver disease and osteoporosis. This is her story.
The summer after I finished high school, my mom got sick. At first, it was a bacterial infection. Then, it seemed to always be something — asthma, bacterial infections, anything. She has had a liver disease and osteoporosis since I was nine, and this led to a weakened immune system. She laid around in bed all day, and watched movies, calling in sick from work, and often wanted me to stay home as well. She would often argue with me over what day it was. She had good days and bad days, but I started to believe that she was entering into the early signs of dementia like her mother and grandmother had faced. Thankfully, the local university had offered me a full scholarship, so I went there for my undergraduate degree, and lived at home to help. I am an only child, and her siblings were not willing to help.
After I finished college in 2013, my mother’s condition had gotten worse. I had decided to work at a summer camp the summer after to make some extra money, but quickly realized that was a mistake. My mom fractured her back while I was gone. She started taking pain medications for her injuries, which got her kicked out of the rental house where we were going to live when I came back. When I returned from working that summer, I had to find her a place to live immediately (I’d begged the landlord to let her stay until I returned). I started graduate school that fall, but her condition continued to worsen. I was not making enough money as a teaching assistant to support us, and also could not balance graduate school while also taking her to doctor appointments. She got in a few car accidents trying to drive around the unfamiliar town which led to more fractures and more medications. I spent many tired nights trying to do homework, or grade papers for work in the ER. Thankfully, the hospitals usually had wifi which made the stay a little bit easier! After I finished my first semester of graduate school, I moved us back to my hometown to find work, and be near familiar doctors, my church, and friends to help.
However, despite the fact things started to look well, the situation unexpectedly turned dire. Last April, after I’d been working for a few months in my hometown, I found my mom in bed not responsive. She was breathing, but could not wake up. I quickly called 911 for EMS came to take her to the hospital. After a few days, she thankfully started to come back into consciousness. She ended up spending 11 days in the hospital and 8 days in rehab, begging me to take her home every one of those days. My mom had had a stroke, her body was almost septic, and she lost the use of her right arm. I was engaged at this point, and my fiancé would visit, but he did not understand why I had to go to the hospital every day after work. He would still come keep me company, and do anything to help. My best friend would visit as well, bringing me food and comfort. (I just recently found out that she had watched her grandma die in that same hospital and hated going back, but did it anyways). Difficult times really do show you who your true friends are, and I was grateful!
Difficult times really do show you who your true friends are, and I was grateful!
When my mom finally came home from the hospital, she could not even stand up on her own. My fiancé helped me set up her room to make it easier, and my best friend would come over during my work days to help her, and clean my house. Did I mention my friends are incredible?
Still despite the gains, caregiving eventually led me to lose my job in May, and my fiancé to break up with me in June. I did not like my job, and had been looking for many months for a new one. When I couldn’t find one in North Carolina, I started looking for jobs in Florida where I had distant relatives we could stay with for awhile.
The day before I was supposed to move, (also the day I had planned to get married) I once again found my mother unresponsive. I called the EMS, but she woke up just enough to be confused by all the commotion, and cried out “no! no!” refusing to go. Since I did not have power of attorney, they were unable to take her. A kind policeman told me how to file an involuntary commitment form at the courthouse, which I did. My friends stayed at the apartment with her helping me pack and clean. When I got home, I had to watch my mom be taken from my home in handcuffs, and taken to the hospital in the back of a police car. She hated me for it, but the doctors told me she would have died if I hadn’t done it. The next morning, I went to visit her. She told me she hated me. I’m very glad she doesn’t remember any of this.
I was unable to take her out of the hospital, but had no where to live in NC, so I went on to Florida with my relatives. After a few weeks, I had a stable job. After a few months, I was able to save for a very small down payment, and buy a small house! My mom stayed in cheap hotels using her savings after the hospital until she could join me in my house. I’m working on getting power of attorney and becoming her health care surrogate now. Through it all, I believe that my faith in God and my friendships have become much stronger.