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Caring for the Elderly as Christ Would

By Charlene Rack

Sooner or later, we’re all likely to face the decision of how to care for an elderly family member. In my life, that took the form of my mother-in-law choosing to move into a retirement home, and later, my mom living with my family for nearly two years. My “MIL” had adamantly proclaimed for years that she “never wanted to be in a nursing home,” but she was very social. She went in for rehab after a hospitalization and decided it was too much fun to leave. My husband and our children (as well as our foster children) visited her almost daily. And I was right by her side when she died several years later, praying a Divine Mercy chaplet and whispering words of love and encouragement in her ear. She died within seconds of me telling her how very much I loved her.

For my own mother, in-home care ended just before our second daughter’s wedding. We needed housing for several out-of town guests, and our house is small. I wanted to put Mom in a local respite care facility for two weeks. My sister decided it was time to move my mom to a nursing home closer to her former “stomping grounds.” I had no say in the matter, so I sadly broke the news to Mom, packed up her belongings all by myself, then made the four-hour drive north. 

Before my mom moved in with us, she and I had not been close. She was very angry when I converted to the Catholic faith and hounded me with unkind letters and accusations for years. It took me a while to forgive her. As time went by, she finally realized what a good person I was becoming and saw the beauty of my marriage and children. The kids and I often visited her, and later, siblings and I worked out a tag-team driving plan to get her to my house twice a year for a two-week visit. After she moved in with us, the first time I gave her a bath and was washing her feet, a picture of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples entered my mind, and tears came to my eyes. This was love, I knew, and the pain of the past melted away in that moment. My mom didn’t suddenly change; she still occasionally employed her “guilt trip” tactics on me. But they no longer had an effect. My love for her grew, and I know that my mom appreciated my care and attention. When I told her about moving “back home,” she was quite upset about it, so it was a painful transition for both of us. 

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