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A Daughter’s New Role: Caregiving Through The Generations

undefinedCandy Rolph and her brother enjoyed a happy upbringing in Springboro, OH. Her mother, Mildred was kind, attentive, and quick with a joke.  Her parenting was guided by a strong connection to her faith.

When Candy married and started a family of her own, she settled down just five minutes from the house she’d called home as a child. In 1995, Candy’s father passed away, leaving her mother to live independently. Candy would visit regularly and help her mother do the things she was unable to alone, like shop for groceries. In 2000, Mildred was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung condition caused by her years of smoking. It was then that Candy realized her caregiving responsibilities for the woman who had always been there to support her would become full time.

“When she was first diagnosed, my mother was still living pretty independently,” Candy says. “Gradually, my responsibilities grew. About two and a half years ago, I stopped by to see her one day after work and found that she had put a frozen pizza and the cardboard box in the oven. I realized then that things weren’t quite as they should be. We talked to her and asked if she needed additional help. That’s when we started the transition and she moved in with me.”

Today, Mildred lives with Candy and her husband, who is disabled after numerous back surgeries. Candy balances her full time job as a property and casualty insurance agent with the responsibilities of being a caregiver, from preparing her mother’s food to helping her with breathing treatments.

“Every morning I get ready for work and then wake up my mom to make sure she takes her morning medicine and does her first round of breathing treatments. Then, I go to work. I come home at lunchtime and make sure she completes her breathing treatment. I fix her lunch and we do one more treatment before I leave again. When I get home for the evening, I make dinner and we do another treatment before I do chores, laundry and normal household things. Before, she goes to bed there are three more breathing treatments and another round of medicine. That’s a typical day for me.”

Candy credits an inherent love of responsibility for her ability to provide care around a full day’s work. She is also inspired by the way Mildred cared for her own parents, who relied on Candy’s mother for care into their nineties. “Luckily, my personality is one that always has to be busy. I can switch from what’s going on at work to what’s going on at home.”

One of the things Candy says will never change about her mother is her dedication to God, something she passed on to her children. Mildred is no longer able to attend church, but regularly enjoys visits from a Crossroads chaplain. Knowing that she wanted to maintain the religious aspect of her life, Crossroads staff brought a taste of church to Mildred with a live recording of her church choir’s performance through the Gift of a Day program.

“Crossroads has brought my mother a lot of things – a shawl to keep her from getting cold, something to read, and on the Gift of a Day they brought flowers and the hymn recording. She really appreciated that.”

Candy feels that the medical support Crossroads staff offers her mother is invaluable, as is the emotional support they offer the caregiver. “It’s so great to have Crossroads here to make sure I’m not missing something with my mom’s illness, but they also interact with her and give her someone new to talk to. They always ask me if there’s anything that I need or anything they can do and I appreciate that.”

Without question, Candy wants to be the one to support her mother as she copes with her COPD. There are times, however, when the responsibilities can weigh on her. “Sometimes it’s like having another child. The lack of privacy can be a big challenge. Sometimes I’m tired and I just don’t want to do these things. The role I have now is different and it’s difficult at times.”

Despite the hardships, the mother and daughter still have an inseparable bond that could never be affected by the reversal of their caregiving roles.

“She still cares about what happens to my brother and me, and she is still concerned with us having what we need. Nothing is really different as far as her personality. She’s still feisty and she’s still a jokester. She is very appreciative and she’s always been that way. She’s just my mom, and that will never change.”

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Copyright © 2015 Crossroads Hospice. All rights reserved.

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