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A Caregiver's Comparison
By Cynthia Siegfried

(Page 2 of 2)

The role reversal is difficult to absorb. We expect our infants to be helpless; we even enjoy their dependence on us. I never objected to changing baby diapers but adult diapers are another story. I loved to watch my baby, snoring gently, mouth open, drooling as she slept. My mother—not so much. Obstinacy in a three-year-old is tolerable, but an unreasonable adult is infuriating. I didn’t expect my two-year-old to understand everything I told her, but I’m not used to having to explain things to my very-intelligent mother whose thought processes continue to slow down. I want to shake her and say, “Stop it! You’re scaring me. I just told you that five minutes ago.” If I could voice my inexpressible fear, I would say, “Please don’t get old. Please be the same mother I’ve always known. Don’t leave me.”

Cancer caregiving is stressful, but when my husband was diagnosed, I was at a place in life where I could drop everything and devote myself to taking care of him. Compared to some, I’ve had it easy—no job to hold down, no children at home, good insurance, and plenty of emotional support. I gladly gave up some of my activities because I wanted to be with him. I did nothing from a sense of duty and I had no reason to feel guilty.

With my mother I am tormented by guilt—which is surprising because she has never used guilt to manipulate me. Yet, I feel guilty when I am short with her, guilty when I don’t want to stay with her, and guilty because I’d rather be doing a whole bunch of other things. I feel like the very-bad-daughter of the very-good-mother. Guilt in the mother-daughter relationship is inevitable because if we’ve had a good mother, we can never give her all that she deserves.

I am certain that when my mother dies, I will be full of regret. For now, I do the best I can—reminding myself frequently how lucky I am to have a mother to take care of.

Cynthia Siegfried, a caregiver advocate, is author of Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat and co-founder of f.a.i.t.H.—facing an illness through Him, a support group for families facing catastrophic diseases. For more information go to:

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