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Published May 11, 2013, 11:30 PM

Minding Our Elders: Small things important to aging mom

Dear Readers: Like most of us, I grew up hearing that it’s the little things that count. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the truth in the old adage. As I look back this Mother’s Day on my mom’s last year of life, I remember how important the smallest things became to her as time went by.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Readers: Like most of us, I grew up hearing that it’s the little things that count. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the truth in the old adage. As I look back this Mother’s Day on my mom’s last year of life, I remember how important the smallest things became to her as time went by.

Because of frequent falls and other health problems, Mom spent many years in a nursing home. Dad also made his home there after surgery catapulted him into instant dementia. At least they were together. The facility was just a couple of blocks from where I lived, so I was able to see both parents nearly every day. My sister, whose home was about 50 miles away, would come to town nearly every weekend to see our parents, and a few long-time friends visited frequently.

It was important to Mom that she have a supply of treats to offer her visitors, so I did my best to keep her room well stocked. When it came to food for herself, Mom had a poor appetite, but she enjoyed cool foods, so I started maintaining an ice-filled, covered bucket in her room to store the in-season fruits she loved. I also brought her favorite cold shrimp and other delicacies. It didn’t take her long to think of that bucket of ice as a necessary part of life, even though there was a refrigerator she could use on her floor. It may have been a small thing to have her own food stash, but it meant a lot to her.

Little things. Cooling face wipes helped her feel fresh. Tooth picks and dental floss got rid of pesky food stuck in her teeth. The minimal makeup she’d worn for years was kept ready in her drawer for when she felt well enough to “fix up.” These had become important to her. Her magazines, many of which she’d subscribed to for decades, were a highlight in her life now that she got around less, and she had the daily newspaper delivered to her room right up to the day she died.

One time, during a rare moment of clarity for Dad after his surgery, he looked at me with the steady eyes of his pre-dementia years and said, “My universe has gotten so small.” Mom’s universe had also gradually constricted, thus making every small comfort seem much larger in scope. I feel good, now, when I recall that most of the time I was able to keep both of my parents well supplied with the small things that had become important to them for their daily comfort during those last, hard years.

Then, of course, there’s that thing called love. Sometimes, love is also best expressed by the little things we do for one another. On this day set aside for mothers, I find myself hoping that Mom felt my love through the small things I did for her. Now, her Mother’s Day is spent pain free and as can be as large as her spirit. That thought makes me smile. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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