My Mom Is Killing Me

Lisa Anderson and her mother
After Christmas, my mom came to live with me in Colorado. It’s been a rough road.

Very rough.

I knew it would be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be this hard.

My mom is now 87 with moderate dementia. She is slow-moving. She is feisty. She needs varying degrees of assistance with showering, going to the bathroom, dressing, and generally determining her next move. (How about reading your book, Mom? Want to watch this DVD? Let’s go for a walk! OK, we’re off to the store now; where’s your cane?) Prepping Mom’s meds for the week is like playing Mancala with myself. Getting ready for bed is a 45-minute ritual that involves multiple repetitions of things like, “Yes, I think it’s a good idea to take your bra off” and “Let’s try to tinkle one more time.”

Back when I was planning to take my mom in, my vision of how this would go was very different. Put simply, it involved me being a hero. I had grand plans to rescue Mom from her lonely life in an assisted living facility. I would move her to beautiful Colorado and give her days filled with healthy food, bracing exercise, stimulating activities and lots of love.

Some days I’m successful at this. The other 28 days of the month, not so much.

I soon learned that Mom often gets up during the night — two or three times. I discovered she’s on the constant hunt for snacks (like mother, like daughter) and can sniff out leftover brownies in a blizzard. I’ve seen her get angry and actually try to punch a friend of mine.

I didn’t know that in three month’s time Mom would manage to get lost (yes, actually lost, folks — for over an hour), land in the ER with a nosebleed, sustain a nasty fall, and be sufficiently traumatized by an unexpectedly grisly episode of Inspector Morse.

I was woefully ill-prepared for the life I’m now living.

How am I coping? Not super well at this point. I’m still trying to gain equilibrium. You see, I haven’t had a lot of practice in this whole “it’s not about me” business. I’m single. I don’t have kids. I’ve always done what I want, when I want, how I want. A weekend away with friends? No problem. Watching a late-night movie? Done. Sleeping in on Saturday? Of course.

But now? Living with Mom is a lot like living with a toddler, only slower. I find myself talking to moms of small children; we have a lot in common. My dear friend Julianna helps me with caregiving, and she’s basically entered sainthood in my book. We share stories, frustrations and — not gonna lie — a fair amount of tears. She didn’t think it would be this hard, either.

But selflessness is the right road for all believers, not just the super-saints. Think dying to self is only for married people? Think again. I jokingly say that Mom is killing me, and the truth is, some things have to change soon or I’ll burn out, oh, tomorrow. But I’m dying in a good way, too. I see little corners of selfishness squelched each day. My priorities are realigned. The clutter is cut out of my days; it has to be for me to survive. My prayer life has entered the apostolic realm. Long gone are the days of tidy, intellectual prayers. These days I plead the blood of Jesus with great regularity. I write Bible verses on index cards and post them around the house. And guess what; God is showing up. Sometimes it’s in a dramatic display; other times it’s with nothing more than a whisper of much-needed truth or encouragement.

The other day Mom looked around my place and said, “I love my home.” She belongs, and she knows it. She’s loved, and she knows it.

When I took this thing on, I had one goal: to glorify God by honoring Mom and helping her to finish her race well. That goal remains the same. If you’d think to pray for me in this, I’d sure appreciate it.

I don’t know how much time Mom has with me, but I don’t want to waste any of it. So far, there’ve been a ton of surprises and more than a few missteps — but no regrets.

About the Author

Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson is the director of Boundless and young adults at Focus on the Family and hosts The Boundless Show, a national radio program and podcast. She loves connecting with single young adults and strategizing how to better equip them for life, relationships and a faith that goes the distance; she does not love managing budgets or signing contracts, but realizes that’s part of her job, too. Lisa can often be heard at conferences and on radio and TV, getting worked up about dating, relationships, faith and hip-hop. She grew up in San Jose, California, is a graduate of Trinity International University in Chicago, and spent a good chunk of her life in media relations before joining Boundless. She runs to counterbalance her love of pastries and chicken tikka masala, and often quotes her mom, who’s known to say outrageous things. She’s the author of The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose (David C. Cook). Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaCAnderson.