Christine is 53 years old and has lived most of her life with her parents. She lost her job shortly after her father died and became her mother’s full-time caregiver when she was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA). Christine recently had to make the difficult decision to move out of her parental home where she had lived with her mother as the caregiving tasks were seriously affecting her own health.
Christine found that providing care for her mother gave meaning to her life while she was still in mourning for her father. Initially she felt proud to make it possible for her mother to remain in her home thanks to the care she was providing, but throughout the years, her mother’s condition deteriorated considerably and the caregiving tasks became more and more challenging. Christine started to lose herself so much in her caregiving role that it was difficult to find the time and energy to search for work.
Christine’s siblings had a hard time understanding her caring situation and were hardly involved in helping her with these tasks. She felt that they were not actually contributing to her mother’s care while continuously commenting and criticizing Christine’s efforts. For example, her sister would endlessly accuse her of abandoning her mother whenever Christine took time for herself to visit friends. Christine asked her sister to look after her mother so that she could go on a much needed four-day holiday, and her sister reluctantly accepted. Nevertheless, she refused to arrive in time to take over the care when Christine was scheduled to leave the house. In this short period of absence of care, her mother made a bad fall and ended up in the hospital. A period of rehabilitation followed before her mother could return home with a further loss of abilities. In the meantime Christine’s initial feelings of pride for caring for her mother started to disappear.
After the rehabilitation period, the caring demands of Christine’s mother increased so much that Christine became seriously affected by her situation at a psychological level. Exhausted and stressed, Christine started to have suicidal thoughts as a way to get out of her situation. These thoughts forced her to seek quick admission to a crisis support centre. Paradoxically, in spite of her delicate mental state, Christine felt that the 10 days that she spent in this facility were like a holiday: finally she could catch up on her much needed rest and sleep. After this healing period she decided that she had to get out of the house and break contact with her siblings in order to protect her own health. Christine explains that her siblings, who were then obliged to take over the care for their mother, were unable to do so and decided to place her in a long term care facility. Today she finds it very difficult to see her mother in this facility knowing that things may have been very different if only she (Christine herself) had received the support that she needed.
Today Christine does not regret having taken these difficult and painful decisions as she realizes that this was the only way she had, at the time, to protect herself from serious mental illness. She visits her mother as often as she can, works hard on her mental recovery and is slowly rebuilding her life. She has learned that strength comes from determination as much as from making the right decisions before is too late.