The moment I began bathing my mother, washing places on her body I never saw up-close and personal (the vaginal area), I knew I was in deep! I turned her over gently and washed her buttocks, and I remember her looking up at me from the bed with a little sadness and crying gently. When I asked her what was wrong, she quietly answered, “I can’t wash myself anymore. I feel so helpless.”
I looked at her and smiled as I assured her, “Mom, as a small child, you washed me when I couldn’t wash myself. So I am just returning the favor.” My mother is 98 years old—and counting, and with God’s grace and favor, I am her full-time caregiver.
I am from New York; I moved to Atlanta to work at an advertising agency which did not make it, so I started my own public relations consulting business out of my apartment. When I left my mom in New York to move to Georgia and start my own firm, the flexibility and freedom it afforded me enabled me to travel back and forth. I could visit my mom at any time and stay for long stretches because I could work from anywhere with just a computer and a cell phone. It was a perfect setup. Then my mom started having mobility issues, and her sister suggested that I bring her to Georgia to live with me.
When mom moved to Georgia to live with me in 2005, she was having issues with her hip and legs. She was not able to move around easily without using a cane, which blew my mind because I did not—could not imagine my mother walking around with a cane for support. After a time, her hip became more inflamed and the decision to have a hip replacement became the ideal choice to end her pain. After surgery, the pain left, but her ability to move around was hampered.
As the years progressed, Mom’s health began to deteriorate. She suffered with diabetes, hypertension, neuropathy, and the ultimate insult, kidney failure, which led to dialysis treatment. My business slowed to a halt, and my attention became focused on my mother and her health. I was not prepared for giving up major portions of my life to care for her.
My life was no longer my own, it belonged to my mother 24/7. I felt trapped. When you become a caregiver, it never really hits you that the life and/or lifestyle you enjoyed before no longer exists. Now, I had to attend to her needs. Here was a woman who had always been independent, and I am bathing her, dressing her, pushing her around in a wheelchair, making doctors’ appointments, cooking meals endlessly, and some nights not getting any sleep at all because of her pain and anxieties. I was a wreck. I did not know if I could do it.
I am an only child, independent in my fashion; I have no husband or children, but I enjoy traveling and doing what I like to do when I want to do it. All of that had disappeared and I was bitter for a time. I love my mother, no mistaking that reality, but my social life had ended, and placing her in a nursing home was not (never) an option. My mother continued to spend a lot of time in and out of the hospitals, and gradually, I began to settle into my new role. Reality kicked in. Doctors, therapists, dialysis…this was my world.
Today, I am proud of my role as my mother’s caregiver. It gives me pleasure to take care of her needs and to make sure she is comfortable, loved, and safe. The road in the beginning was bumpy because I really did not have an idea of what taking care of an elderly parent does to you physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I have not had a vacation since God knows when. I rarely get out to be with friends, and when I do, it’s as if I have just discovered America and the three-martini lunch!
As a caregiver, I must be careful and mindful of my own health and welfare, and it took me a moment to understand this as all my energies were focused on making sure my mother had the things she needed to thrive and be well. But I am learning how to care for me, how to find the time to just be. It is still not easy, but I am all she has, and as long as I can I will care for her.
I remember one time we were relaxing, eating ice cream, and she just stared at me for the longest. Then, through tears, she said softly, “If it was not for you, I would have died already. Thank you, baby, for taking care of me.”
I smiled with tears in my eyes, “Mom, I am just returning the favor.” We fell into each other’s arms and cried. I am proud to be a caregiver.
So, take care—you never know when you’ll really have to. God Bless!
Robinette Griffin says
As life expectancy is higher than it used to be, many of us might have to become ‘caregivers’ of our parents. Hardly enough attention, praise and care is given to caregivers. I completely admire this woman for caring for her mother. May the Creator bless her. 🙏
Angela E Smith says
God Bless You.
If you need to reach out to me please do. I live near Atlanta and could be of some help if you like.
Michelle Scott says
This was such a beautiful and loving story. So many of us are now becoming caregivers and it is an adjustment. It requires an acceptance of the frailty and decline of our parent or loved one. I am happy to hear stories of how other people are navigating this stage of life. I wish you continued love and strength in this important role.
Susan L Harbut says
I’ve lived this life for more than just my Mother, I am now the eldest of my immediate family. And I wonder how much of that caring has flowed down to the next generation. It’s easy to say I will, it’s harder to do.
Angela, I understand exactly what you went through. I wasn’t the only child but I was the only child leaving in the same city as my Mother. My siblings were never consistent in my Mother’s even though they lived 1 hour and 2 hours away. So to me, it felt like I was an only child. Decisions, doctor appointments, financial bookkeeping and weekly visits were done solely by me. I had to defend on encouragement and support from my spouse and children.
LOURETHA Hawkins says
I enjoyed this story. It reminded me of my siblings and I caring for our mom. The gratitude she voiced to us. When you are raised with love and given tools to be a successful adult caring for ailing parents is a no Brainerd. We love because they first loved us.
Violette Taylor says
Thank you for sharing. Although I had not been in you shoes I empathize. if ever the day comes, I believe I will be ready to return the love and care in abundance to my mother as she had for me. I love the story it left my heart smiling.
Simply beautiful story. My mother did it for her father and last year for my father. His life ended but this is the most taxing and rewarding role. I was caregiver while my son battled cancer and won. Thank you for this transparent on point piece!
Donna Hardrick says
I loss my mother in October 2021 to covid, she was in good health before getting sick. So I never experienced being a caregiver for her, but have friends who is taking care of elderly family members, and from talking and watching them I know its not an easy task.
Thank you for your story. Sometimes it is the little things that count that means so much to the other person. It’s touching to me to see the love and care along with the patients it takes to care for the elderly especially your mom in this case. ❤️ God bless you, take care
Ashley Harrison says
This warmed my heart. I remember caring for my mother a few months ago before she passed and also dealing with an Aunt who has Dementia. I relished time caring for both but lost caring for myself in the process. This post truly hit home for me and I’m glad you are caring for yourself as much as you are for your mother!!
Deborah Feaster says
This so touched my heart and soul! This could easily be me, from both ends. Thank you for sharing your story and blessing me and your Mother!
God bless the love and devotion you have for your mom. It is a job of love that can never be paid for at all-like a peace of mind can not be paid for! Continued blessings on this journey you will look back one day and feel there was no other place you would have wanted to be at or anyone else to share these moments with.
Catherine Kennedy says
Thank you, I really needed to read this story of hang in there. I am going in the 4th year of taking care of my mom. Locally 1 sister & 1 brother, Very little help. I can never send her away. I
was hitting a low these past couple months. Thank you for sharing your story. I promise my mom, as long as I can I would take care of her. She told she would not want to be any other place, but at my home with me. I am now learning to take care of me. Like your mother, my mothers has do many health issues and walks with a walker.
I ended my caregiving journey last December with the death of my mother in law. I know how you feel. Blessings to you.
Wow this was so beautiful and touching, and described my reality of being chosen as well to be the caregiver of my Mom. God bless you both♥️🙏🏽
Glynnis Hill says
Wow!!! This was an amazing read. I never consider the fact that I’m all that my mother has. Especially when taking care of myself. Thank you for this.
Janet G says
Your story blessed me. I am an only child too, who recently retired from the professional world to become my 92 year old Mother’s full-time caregiver. It’s rough indeed and her journey with dementia has not been easy. Yet, I am still grateful to be here with her.
Valerie Gabe says
wow, this story really touched me. I am also an only child and had to relocate my mother to mom home after she was unable to live by herself. My mother wad diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her early 60’s. I truly miss my dear mom, she died at the age of 73 in 2014. The difference between myself and the character in the story is, I had 3 small children when I brought my mother in and it was very challenging for a while, but I had friends who actually helped me with my children in terms of taking them to different activities and events. In hindsight, there were things I should of done differently, but at the time I couldn’t see it. I did my best, along with help from my community and my mom’s older sister, who lived in another state.
Cynthia D. Banks says
Wow, Angela, this hit home for me!
You, and your mom are in my thoughts and prayers.
I empathize with you because this was my life for many years.
Having been a caregiver for my mom, my dad, my mother-in-love, my dad-in-love, and my grandmother-in-love, I know of which you speak.
At times, it proved daunting, overwhelming, and left me feeling breathless with no oxygen mask in sight.
It was/is hard for us as caregivers. It almost took me and my husband, (and our marriage), out . . . But God!
I was a daughter, sister, wife, and mother of three but many times I felt so all alone. But God’s grace sustained and continues to sustain me. I know it will also sustain you and your mom.
My mom, dad, mom-in-love, dad-in-love, and grandmother-in-love have all gone to be with the LORD. I love and miss them.
However, I am still here.
While here, I will continue to pray for caregivers like you and those they care for, like your mom. It’s my heart’s desire to start a non-profit very soon to help encourage and care for the caregivers. (Please lift me and this endeavor in prayer.)
I want to encourage you on this caregiving journey, Sis. Continue to care for mom, but PLEASE, find time to care for yourself as well.
You are an oxygen mask for your mom, but keep your own oxygen mask in your own purse. I did.
It helped me. I’m convinced it will help you, too.
Please reach out to me if I can help in some way, be it tangible or intangible.
After all, I’m just returning the favor. 🌹
Stay encouraged, Sis!
Thoughtful and use advice, Sis.
Cynthia D. Banks says
Thank you for the encouragement. Dee. Truth be told, we need each other, Sis. 🌹
Angela E Smith says
Cynthia, Thank you so much for the wonderful words of encouragement. I will pray for your success in creating a non-profit organization for caregivers, it’s very thoughtful and much needed. Be Blessed.
What a beautiful story. I really identify with it. My family and I took care of my mother until she passed. As a single, childless, and previously carefree adult, it was difficult to adjust. However, as we learned more and more about helping Mama physically and emotionally, it became easier-somewhat:). Frustration changed to pride and joy at seeing my mother laugh. Taking care of her eventually felt like an honor and blessing I didn’t know I needed. Thanks for reminding me of the privilege of “returning the favor”.
Cynthia D. Banks says
Dee, I’m sure your mom’s laughter must have brought you some joy in the midst of the struggle. Caring for and honoring our parents, as you have done, comes with a promise of having years added to our lives.
May that promise be fulfilled for you, Dee.🌹
Yvette Washington says
I enjoyed this article. I can relate I am my mom’s caregiver as well. She took care of me as a single parent and now I am returning the favor with pleasure.
Blessings to you.
Mona Adams Winston says
This brought me to tears. My Mother decided after our urging to move from Wisconsin to be with us in Mississippi. We had about 8 months of traveling and activities Mom had a major stroke. She was 88 and spent 3 months in a rehab facility and then we brought her home. For 3 yrs she lived with us and with the help of some great caregivers she was able to be kept comfortable until she passed away at 92. She was bedridden, but we could get her up using a hoyer lift and could take her for walks outside. It was a Blessing to care for Mom as she cared for me.
Shervonne Henderson says
Very beautiful! This is what mothers do daily for their children. If you’re a single mother like me you feel as though your life is “high jacked” you forget what it’s like to live! I remember people asking me what I liked to do for fun and I didn’t even know how to answer because quite frankly I forgot for years what “fun” felt like. Being a care giver is a selfless act, but God knows best and He gives us the strength to survive our portion in this life.
Camilla Louise Church Greene says
I am so grateful for this authentic, truth telling space for conscious Black women.
Cynthia D. Banks says
Me, too Camilla. Me too.🌹
First off Angie I love you so much for being that vessel and taking such good care of Aunt Lizzie! Your hard work love and dedication does not go unnoticed by anyone in our family we truly appreciate you and all your efforts! It’s one thing we do know Aunt Lizzie loves her daughter and will let you know anytime she speaks with any of us! We love you for life in Lloyd Hill and just know there is strength in God! I know how you feel with day to day struggles as I watched my mom’S life be put on hold for many years for my great grandmother until she moved to be with her children it’s not easy but when it’s all said and done we are simply returning the favor as you said your time is now and God willing my time will come! Love you lots Jessica
Angela E Smith says
Thank you Cuz for your comments. I appreciate you so much.
Beverly Poitier-Henderson says
Beautiful and a much needed experience to share! So many people can relate and to your story.
What a beautiful testimony of the “love “ we have for the one who carried us and gave us life. I pray that the closeness u and ur Mom have continued – Thank u for sharing this heartfelt story🙏🏾
Cheryl Tillman says
Thank you for your story. It is so similar to my own. With the help of my husband we took care of my mother. Even though this was a very difficult and demanding time of our lives I am blessed to have seen her to her final days. I felt I owed her as much love and respect that I could give her. I miss her so. Rey much.
Edith Lewis says
Blessings to you with the wonderful gift you are giving daily. Your message reminded me of the times my mother asked me to braid her hair right before she died. It was such an honor to be able to “return the favor” as you noted. Thank you!
Leola Keaton says
What an honor to humble yourself and return the position of caregiver. Thank you for being honest about feeling trapped. I, too felt that way and guilty for even having that feeling. We cannot imagine the challenges our parent and/or parents made so that we could be comfortable, successful and anything else we chose to be. It’s truly a blessing to have your Mom for so long. You’ve blessed me with your story.🤓💕
Tonia Butler Perez says
I understand and I am praying for you. My mama is 94
Can I tell you, you summed my life up except, I care for my Father and he’s 88. I’m questioning myself what is self-care? I understand others definitions, however on this journey of Caregiver, I’d love to just sit write and recite….thank you for sharing
Rhonda Lloyd says
This was beautiful. The love that is being shown and demonstrated, not just through words but with caring actions. I know the feeling of having to wash and care for a mother. I commend you Angela, as you are returning that same love and nurturing that was provided to you from birth. You are truly a blessing and will forever be blessed.
I read your story thru tears as my mind was screaming “That’s what I did! That’s how I felt!” Like you, I felt guilty, remorseful and sometimes ashamed because I didn’t want to give up my life to take care of her. I too am an only child and my adult daughter did come for about 3 hours each day while I worked(M-F)at a part time job. She was between jobs so as soon as she got a job, it was back to being just me. My Mom passed on Dec.11, 2011 at the age of 85. Still to this day, I miss her and I want just one more day with her. I wish I could tell her “I love you” just one more time or let her know that “I’m glad to be your daughter and to be taking care of you” but I didn’t do this before she passed. You are so blest to still have your Mom with you. Please don’t let one day pass without telling her you love her, hugging her and letting her know that you are glad to be there for her. Stay strong and do what needs to be done. GOD will be there for you if you just ask HIM to. HE will be your strength.
Ms. Winfrey says
This was truly a lovely story Angela. Keep taking good care of your mother and yourself. May God continue to bless you in everything you do.
Darryl Washington says
Beautiful write up Cuz! The family may not have been aware of all the ins and outs required to take care of Auntie but you have been her rock. Much love and continued strength to both of you!
Angela E Smith says
Love you Cuz. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
Carole Y says
Your story was my story – only for my father. I was his primary caretaker for 10 years. It was definitely emotional, life changing and yes rewarding as well. As the years past, I began to tell myself how fortunate I was that I GET to be there for him.
In April my Dad took a turn and went Home.
Was the whole experience difficult? Yes it was. Was my life as I had known it put on hold. I guess that answer is a matter of perspective- sometimes I’d say yes and other times I would says that things were as God designed it. Would I have changed loving and caring for him… no I would not have.
I could not have had two better parents – both Home. I thank God for the lesson and the blessing.
When I was 30 years old mother passed away
In my home, in my foryer as I performed CPR. I was her caretaker. In 2019 I developed a brain cyst. In 2020 I had the first of 3 brain surgeries. I lost my ability to work as Public Health nurse. Now my youngest daughter is my caretaker. I now understand how it feels to be a caretaker and be taken care of. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you and your mom.
Angela Hammons says
What a beautiful testimony of love and appreciation. God Bless you abs make sure you take care of you too!
Thank you for sharing your story. I am also my mothers caregiver and it’s changed me in ways I haven’t been able to express.
Thank you I took care of both my parents along with my two sisters an my one brother. I wouldn’t change one thing I am glad God allowed me too. But please take care of you to. God bless
Nicky Wright says
But God!! Congratulations on still having your Mother to care for….. your Mother is reaping the harvest from what she has sown into you. Blessings to you & your Mother.
My mom died suddenly in a hospital as she waited for a pacemaker surgery. I wish I had gotten the privilege of returning the favor. I never really got the chance to do much for her as an adult myself so I hope she knows that I would have if I could have. You are an awesome daughter!
Wanda V Jackson says
Wow. I have been there with my mother who is resting in heavenI now Iris my father. This right on time. It won’t always be like this!! 🙏🏾❤️
Linn N. says
Angie, Thank you for speaking your truth, it hit home for so many living a similar life. It’s good to know you’re not the only one with this huge “untrained” responsibility. You and your mom have truly been blessed with God’s love and mercy. Continue writing my friend, it’s one of the many gifts God has favored you with.
Growing old is not a gift everyone gets. As you say, returning the favor of caring for our Mothers in their twilight years is also not something everyone gets to do. And yes, it can be heavy and we’re allowed to say so. Take care of yourself Sis! Thank you for sharing your story so truthfully. It’s beautiful and so are you. May God continue to give you the strength that you need both physically and mentally. May your Mother be blessed with some restful nights so you both can get some rest and may you both bask in the glow of love and may you both feel it all of your days!
Jean Collins says
Oh, my goodness. That was beautiful. It brought me back to me taking care of my mom. The love you have for your parent(s) with some people in these generations are little to none, so enjoy your mom, while you still have her. God bless you for sharing your story with us.
LONIA COOK COGBORN says
I admire the writer and understand the task of caregiving as I did it for a previous husband and now doing it for my 92 year old husband. Taking care of him and trying to take care of myself with no help is a task and only God knows. My prayers go out to the writer for her dedication and what a beautiful thing it is to do for her mom. God will bless you with your endeavors. Be prayerful and encouraged.
Mattie E Collins says
I understand I took care of my mom for 5 years.I made the decision to give up working 5 years early to care for her.It was hard financially but I do regret that decision
Mattie E Collins says
I meant to type I do not regret that decision
I took care of my Mom and Dad as the only adult child caregiver. EMS came to the house many time (due to falls-thank goodness no major injuries ). Although, I had caregivers a few hours a few days and a support group I realized I could no longer handle it on my own. I had to place my mom in a board and care (later on hospice. About a year later, I had to place Dad in an assisted living community and eventually on hospice. NOT easy decisions but my mental, physical and spiritual health was being affected!! As I learned “you have put your mask on before you can help/save others”. My love for them, support group meetings and a good therapist helps me day to day. Stay strong and hang in there💕
Ann Taylor says
That’s love without bounds. A testimony you shared yesterday will undoubtedly help others that will eventually be in the same or is now in that situation. What a beautiful tribute on how to care and share of yourself to you love one that once cared for you as your parent. We all go back to whence we started from. The love and dignity you show your mom is everything. The impact of how you ended your letter with the two of you embracing in love, respect and understanding made the water leak from my eyes. Thank you from one who had a similar journey with my mom as me and my siblings became her caretakers. ❤️ God using you as the vessel that will help others that might cross that path.
Gloria Peoples says
Beautiful story. I understand because I am my mother’s caregiver. Like you I refused to put her in a nursing home. Thank you for sharing this inspirational story.
Elaine Jefferson says
We are an army of caregivers who love and nurture our loved ones. Nursing homes are NOT an option and THANK YOU for sharing your story.
My heart is strengthening as I read our stories and know that I was not alone in caring for my Queen as she transitioned into God’s hands.
Bless us all.🙏🏾
Jeanne Murchison says
My Mother was my “road” companion. My Dad died and my Mother moved in with me. She had already been my support system and child caregiver. She met my daughter’s teachers and friends before I did. If she was in pain or sad she kept it hidden. My Mom was hit by a car when she was about 45 and not expected to walk again. She defied that prognosis. She had 2 back to back heart attacks in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and a third while in the emergency room. She was admitted and again given a prognosis that she would not live through the night. Mother was 83 at the time. She left us at age 99. I miss caring for her and hearing her hum & sing, ready to travel even though it was a chore not being able to move as quickly as she would have liked. When she fell and broke her hip and was admitted to rehab, she would say she wanted to go home. It wasn’t until the hospice Nurse told me that she did not mean her earthly home, that I realized she was ready to leave this earth.
Lillian Smith says
Angels you are awesome🌹As a mom you never know when you will need your kids or family to take care of you. Your mom did such a great job raosing you I am not sirprised you have never turned your back on your mom. Thanks for jeeping her safe and fukk of joy. God has you and your min in the palm of his hands. You guys always look fabulous and you and your mom is in my prayers🙏🏾Thanks for sharing your story. Friend forever, Liklian Smith
Lillian Smith says
I am so sorry for the mis-spellings. My dog just had surgery and I got 1 eye on her and I just realized the errors I have made. There is no edit button to make the corrections once I hit post.
Sorry, love Lillian
Cynthia B says
WOW! I was a caregiver for my mom for 12 years. I felt like you were telling my story. Caregiving is a privilege but a hard job. In the end, you will have no regrets. Keep caring!
Stephanie Storey says
My father (73) was in an car accident and is now paralyzed. He was put in an nursing home, because I’m sick and couldn’t take care all his needs after the accident. It does get overwhelming mething all his needs even though he’s not in my home. Thanks for the message.
Beautifully written!! I’m getting to that point now with both parents (84 & 90). I too am an only child. I do have tons of support but it’s nothing like caring for your own and being @ the doctor’s office hearing and seeing for yourself lol. I look to the promises of God through scripture; In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul quotes Jesus who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is perfect in every way, giving Him the power to make up for any weaknesses I have. Let’s hang in there sis and keep each other lifted-OCs unite!!!
(Only Children 😉)
Renee Gross says
My name is Renee, I understand your story! I took care of my mother as well. It was a journey and I would do it all over again if I had to! When it’s all said and done, it’s a wonderful felling knowing that you were there for her!!!
Love your story……walked in those same shoes for 12 years. A nursing home was never an option! She was well worth the journey.