A Mother and Daughter's Special Bond
"Mom and I laughed at things that might appall others, but we always found ways to laugh together," says Breeda Miller, of her relationship with her mother Mary Kelly. "Humor was our best coping mechanism and it's a huge factor to being human." Breeda had a special and endearing relationship with her mother, Mary Kelly, who became a patient with Arbor Hospice.
"My mom was charming, cheerful and optimistic. She was the person people called on when they were dying. She had a pragmatic approach to life and after her stroke eight years ago; she said every day was a bonus. People saw her as a little Irish woman and whether it was babies or older people, everyone enjoyed my mother's company," Breeda says.
Like many mothers, hers had been the healer, the caregiver, provider of kisses on skinned knees. She was the one to whom Breeda would run for comfort as a child, the grandmother with whom her own children would snuggle, sharing secrets of love and laughter. During the last year and half of her life, Breeda could feel the sometimes subtle and often transparent shift in their relationship as her mother's health began to decline. Slowly, during those last months, mom became the patient and Breeda the caregiver. "As an adult caregiver, I felt a lot of isolation. Your parent is elderly; you don't know what's normal. You have many questions."
Like a lot of grown children who are now caring for their parents, Breeda felt secluded, without an outlet for her feelings, and unaware of the resources available to provide assistance. At a picnic on the 4th of July, she found herself taking comfort in relaying her story to some friends, sharing her feelings of loneliness, her fear about her mom's future.
"My friends told me about hospice. It sounded like it might work for me and I realized that I needed that support." Breeda called Arbor Hospice but she didn't tell her mom. "I feared that meeting a representative from hospice might upset her."
Three days later, an Arbor Hospice nurse came out to meet them. Mary sat in a rose-colored, Queen Anne style chair next to the window and during the introductions, held out her hand to the nurse. "That's how gracious my mom was. I explained to her that our visitor is a hospice nurse and we're going to see if she qualified for hospice services."
Breeda thinks about this turning point, "I remember that day. It was hard for me to introduce the nurse to my mom. I realized that we were at a point of departure."
Then, her mom said, "Oh, I'm delighted to meet you, I know all about hospice and you're a great group. I'm not ready to croak yet, but I'll take all the help I can get."
With the tone set, the three of them got onto the business ensuring that mother and daughter had all of the support that they needed.
"My mom signed all the papers herself; I liked that because she was a participant in her life and her care. She was aware and cognizant. She was worried about me and when I explained about all the help I would get taking care of her, mom was thrilled. For me, support appeared like magic at my door."
It wasn't magic that arrived at Mary and Breeda's door the next day, but it certainly was helpful. "Arbor Hospice provided the medications that were all about mom's comfort and they arrived on my doorstep the next day. I live in the country. This was a big releif for me. It was a conveinence I never expected, and I welcomed it, especially in the last few weeks of her life because I didn't want to leave her."
"Arbor Hospice totally de-stressed my life because I knew I could depend on them. The comfort packs they gave us were fantastic. All of the things we would need were so well thought out. When I called the nurse in the middle of the night, she told me what to give mom and I didn't have to figure it out or run to the pharmacy, it was amazing."
During Mary's six months of hospice care, Breeda learned many new things and came to depend on her team of care givers. "The social workers and nurses - it was wonderful how they were there for me and my mom. They were always professional and respectful. I really felt I was given presonal attention and the level of support was incredible."
Breeda sums up her experience with Arbor Hospice, "I learned that the essence of hospice is not just for the person who is dying; it's there for the caregiver as well. Hospice saved my life in many ways. It enabled my mom to be here in the comfort and safety of our home. She savored the familiarity of her own blankets, her own pillows and her bed. The entire experience was very peaceful. Because of the support I got, I could handle the things I feared most. Arbor Hospice allowed me to focus on being the daughter."