This December marks my 14th anniversary as part of the Rothkoff Law Group team. When I started with the firm my sons were in 2nd grade and kindergarten and today they are a junior and freshman in college. Over the years I have valued the work that we do for the elder care community and take tremendous pride in the growth of the firm and the many families we have helped in caring for their loved ones. During this time my children have grown and my parents have aged. This is what I have always heard labeled as the “sandwich generation”. How did I arrive here so quickly?
Loving the work that I do, I was telling my mom about a few projects I was working on and she offered to help with tasks in the office that soon turned into a full time role as a marketing assistant. Mom officially started to work alongside me in October of 2009. Who knew that nearly 20 years into my professional career, I would be working side-by-side with my mom. At the age of 40, I was so lucky to be able to work and see her every day, and of course compare outfits! For the next 8 years she would greet her colleagues every morning with a smile, gladly assist all departments in the office, copying and scanning documents, data entry and many other office duties became part of her job description.
My mother is the most caring, giving person I know, she will give you the shirt off her back, the food off her plate. She loves being a Bubbie (grandmother) to her 4 grandsons. And like all proud grandparents she will tell you about her grandson’s recent accomplishments along with the many accompanying photos. When my sister and her family lived in Australia for a few years, mom had the opportunity to visit them. On a visit to the Melbourne zoo, when her five year old grandson wanted to go on an elephant ride, mom was the first one to stand up to accompany him. Wow, the things she would do outside of her comfort zone for her daughters and grandsons was admirable. Mom has always been very social; the life of the party person, and owns a glass is always half-full attitude. I can recall many years ago when mom cared for her mother-in-law “Mimi” at home, and then visited her in the nursing home. Soon after Mimi passed, mom continued to visit Mimi’s roommate in the nursing home until she passed. Always selfless, mom was a friend to everyone she met.
A few years ago, I started to notice mom’s personality changing, the daily phone calls to her sister in Florida started to grow distant, and her lifelong friends questioned why they hadn’t heard from her. She rarely would answer her cell phone. Did she just not have the ringer turned on? TV shows that we would chat about were of no interest to her anymore. Mom’s new “I don’t care” attitude was very out of character.
She no longer packed her daily yogurt, lunch or snacks to eat while in the office, had she forgotten? Maybe she was malnourished since she was eating very little and losing weight? Mom never cared much about food and would certainly be the first to tell you that she wasn’t a good cook. She would laugh and tell the story “Remember the time that I made brownies from a box mix and they were like hockey pucks?” With that said, surprisingly she was a master at the barbeque. As a family, we’d always tell the story of when I brought my new boyfriend (my now husband of 23 years) to my parent’s home for dinner and my mom’s famous cheeseburger slid right off the spatula and into his lap! We figured he would run for the hills. Today, getting mom to eat anything nutritious is a struggle, but ice cream and cookies will disappear like a magic trick. Good to know some things never change.
Mom began to write notes as reminders and then appeared overwhelmed at simple tasks. Telling the same stories repeatedly as if it were for the first time. But this is normal, just part of the normal aging process – right? But I knew better. When you’re with someone every day, you just kind of know. After all, this is the professional world I live in. Sadly things were about to change.
It was clear to me that the time had come for mom to retire as well as discontinue driving. To this day, she still asks why she can’t drive and who said she can’t have a car? She says she never heard the doctor tell her this, but we tell her it was in her best interest and how lucky she is to have us to take her wherever she needs to go. Mom never really had any hobbies so what would she do at home now? This potential isolation at home was difficult for me to digest and I was concerned about the loneliness and safety of mom being alone at home.
Family decisions became a challenge. Mom is married to her second husband who does his best to care for her, himself, their home and their adorable Westie pup. My sister resides in Denver, Colorado with her husband and sons. When deciding what would be the best care for mom, family dynamics came into play like many families experience. Plans needed to be put into place and important decisions needed to be made. We have put care in place so that mom has companionship. The caregivers spend time with mom while listening to the “Jersey Boys” soundtrack. Mom always loved music, especially from the ‘60’s, and knows all the words. She was always the last person on the dance floor at Weddings and holiday parties. Now her “dance floor” is the living room carpet. The caregivers go for walks with her around the neighborhood, take her to the mall, stop to buy her favorite chocolate smoothie, and drive mom to her salon appointments to get her hair and nails done. Mom has also started to spend a few days per week at a local adult day care center. This is taking some adjustment but I know the socialization and activities will be beneficial for her.
I always knew that cancer runs in our family, however to my knowledge none of our family members ever suffered from the Alzheimer’s Disease. Working for an elder care law firm, I have learned so much about cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. To date it has always been a client, now it’s my family and me. I guess I never imagined that I would be one of the families caring for a loved one with this devastating disease. But I am. Mom is only 70 years old. And a young 70. Now this disease has affected “one of our own” at Rothkoff Law Group.
Here I am today, a recent empty nester, caring for my mother with Alzheimer’s Disease. I will do everything I can to help my mom keep her dignity and find enjoyment in her remaining days. My mom, my best friend, has always loved me unconditionally and I promise to do the same for her. I could not do all of this without the support of my husband, my sons, my sister & her family, my friends, extended family, and my colleagues. All of them providing me with the love, support and strength to go through this process. I am so fortunate to have the resources and knowledge base at my fingertips and the support from our professional partners in the community means the world to me.
The month of December is also a special time in my family as my older son (mom’s first born grandson) and my mom celebrate their birthdays 50 years apart. This year my son Jason turns 21 and mom turns 71 (although she still can’t believe it). Cheers!
Alzheimer’s Disease is relentless. So are we. Join the Rothkoff Law Group “Love for Lois” team as we walk in honor of my mom, our friend and former co-worker, Lois who is living with Alzheimer’s.
Walk for Lois. Walk for your loved one. Walk for a better future.
Join our team for the upcoming Alzheimer’s Association Walk to Remember on November 10th, 2018 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. Click here to donate or to register to walk with our team!
Download our flyer to help spread the word.