Son to Mom. A Caretaking Experience

By Antonio Monteiro

Caretaking for my mom was one of the most unique, emotional, and rewarding experiences of my life. I am privileged to share my caregiving experience as a son to a mother in hopes that other men doing the same can be encouraged by my story. 

Finding Comfort and Companionship

In 2016, I knew something was wrong with my mom. She absolutely loved going to church. But when it became too tiring for her to go every Sunday, I knew things would change. I knew I couldn’t fix everything, but what I could do was make sure she was comfortable and had everything she needed. I purchased furniture, bedding, a television, and anything else that would keep her happy and comfortable. It was important for me to provide for my mother as a son so that she could have a safe space where she felt at home even on her worst days.

My mom loved her high-rise apartment, but being around family was also important. She enjoyed being around the corner from her sister, Marjorie Porter, my wonderful beloved aunt. They shared a lot of time talking, taking walks, and eating together. This companionship was so important to my mother and brought her much joy. I thank my Aunt for being a very special person to my mom. I know it meant so much to her.

Support! In any way you can

After many appointments, my mom’s primary doctor referred her to a kidney specialist, Dr. Bahta who was fantastic, and thorough, and helped us get to the root of her health issues. After several tests, we received the news that she had kidney disease and her kidney function was between 25 to 35%. What did this mean? At first, I wasn’t sure, so I asked. It was important to me to truly understand what my mother’s diagnosis meant. What it means for her quality of life, and us as a family. 

Dr. Bahta mentioned that although her kidney function was very low, she would be able to function in the interim. This still meant that life would still change for us all. Over time, she got weaker and made the difficult decision to refrain from attending weekly church service. That was a big sacrifice, as my mother loved going to church more than anything. And as her son, I did my best to support her through having to give up something she loves so much.

Honor their decisions, even when you don’t agree

Over time, my mom would go into stupors where she would not know where she was, or what day or time it was. In the middle of 2017, her kidney function percentage went down to 15% – 25%. Her doctor presented dialysis as an option, but my mom’s stance was “absolutely not”. From her perspective, dialysis provided no guarantee that she would live longer, and she did not want to spend so much of the time she had left doing dialysis. 

She asked me what she should do and I told her it strictly was up to her. I realized the importance of honoring her wishes. I knew my place was to be supportive of what she decided. So that is what I did. I supported her in making the decision that was best for her.

Staying strong as times get tough

My mom’s decision to decline dialysis resulted in a rapid decline in her health. It was very difficult seeing her deteriorate like that but I still made it a priority to spend as much time with her as possible. I was working at a Performing Arts school eight blocks away, and I would take breaks to check on her and make sure she had her meals and snacks. 

As much as I loved my mom unconditionally and cared for her in any way I could, there were areas where I struggled as her son. It was difficult for a son to do things such as pick her up off of the floor after she fell in the shower and make sure that she was changed properly. But my family provided wonderful support. My sisters, cousins, and other family members were wonderful in helping me with these difficult tasks. Lean on family! Many times, they are all you have during these tough times. 

Don’t be too proud to accept help where you can 

I had the opportunity to be compensated to take care of my mother, but I refused at first for three months. I just didn’t feel right about being paid to do such a sacred duty.  After talking to my mom, who strongly expressed that I deserved it, I decided to do it,  not only for myself but to also be a financial blessing to those around me who were helping, 

Don’t, be too proud to accept help, especially when it is right in front of you. We are so much more than just givers. If you have the opportunity to accept support financially or otherwise, please do it!

Just being there, is many times, good enough

I knew I did not have control over my mom’s health condition. But I did know that I could be consistent and be there to make her smile. After many of her doctor’s appointments, I would take her to her favorite restaurant. This provided some normalcy for her, even amid her challenges.

I  brought her food from her favorite restaurants until she reached the final stages of her life. Looking back, I don’t regret it one bit! The doctor’s orders are important but creating joy is even more important. 

Accepting and thriving in the Inevitable 

Although my mother took her medicine faithfully, her Kidney function continued to decline. In February 2018 my mother officially went into hospice. Her doctors informed me that it was only a matter of time and the top goal was to make her comfortable during her transition. This was the most emotional part of my experience. 

Our last days were filled with visits from family,  me kissing her cheek and watching her smile in her sleep, praying by her bedside, and thanking God for her life. I knew she was at peace. I later found out that on the day that she passed, she told her sisters and other family to make sure that I was OK and taken care of. There was so much emotion that day, yet so much victory in a life well lived. This is what got us through our grief as a family. 

It was an honor and a great privilege to not just be a son taking care of his beloved mom but to share in her victory of finally being able to see God. She would always thank me for taking care of her, but the privilege was all mine.  I love my mom, affectionately known as  Mimo to me, and will cherish the time God gave me to care for her. 

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