Role reversal as daughters care for their mother
For more than 60 years Dorothy Sanders cared for her family, now it’s her daughters' turn to look out for their mother.
Dorothy Sanders never thought twice about taking off work to be with her daughter Debbie Boogaard when Debbie needed surgery in California.
Almost 20 years ago, Dorothy Sanders expected to be gone a week from her job at Janesville's General Motors. But Debbie experienced complications. Dorothy's first priority was her daughter, so she stayed with her a full month until she was better.
Today, their love has come full circle.
Debbie Boogaard, 61, and her sister Barb Spilde of Janesville find themselves in a role reversal.
Once, their 82-year-old mom cared for them.
Now, they look out for her.
Both take turns getting Dorothy to doctor appointments. They divide other responsibilities to make sure she manages alone in her senior-housing apartment.
"Her well being is very important to us," 58-year-old Barb said. "The goal is to keep her safe and independent as long as possible."
Like so many baby boomers on this Mother's Day, Debbie and Barb are providing help to an aging mom. In their case, Dorothy has multiple, chronic health issues, including diabetes and heart trouble. In addition, macular degeneration has left Dorothy legally blind.
Both daughters have families of their own, and Barb works fulltime in Madison. Still, she keeps a close watch on her mother's day-to-day needs, including her medicines, groceries and bills. When her mom was in the hospital earlier this year, Barb talked daily with doctors to be a strong advocate.
"I am a voice for her," Barb said. "I don't know what people do who do not have an advocate."
Debbie lives in Durand, Ill. She calls her mother at least twice a day and often takes her on outings as well as doctor appointments.
"I don't know what I would do without them," Dorothy says. "I can call either of them anytime and say, 'I need you.' I feel like I am never alone."
Her daughters work in partnership with Agrace HospiceCare to keep Dorothy living on her own. Because of the decline Dorothy experienced due to multiple health problems, she qualified for Agrace services. The services include a weekly visit from a registered nurse and two weekly visits from a certified nursing assistant.
Barb and Debbie said they their mother raised them well by example.
Dorothy still had young children when she divorced in the 1960s. The stay-at-home mom went to work fulltime to support her family, which also includes a son, Butch Ortman, who lives in Missouri. Paying bills and making ends meet were tough. Barb recalls sitting with her mom in a restaurant when she was a teenager and asking her mom how they would pay for Christmas presents. Unknown to Barb, her mom had been saving all year to buy a few special gifts.
"The biggest impression my mom made on me was her work ethic," Barb said. "She worked hard to provide a home for us. She was always making sacrifices and putting her children first."
Now, her children are putting her first.
"She is a very proud woman," Barb said. "When it came time to give up her car, it was a tough decision. When she could not see to write checks anymore, it was hard for her to let someone else do it. When she could not care for her cockatiel, it was hard for her to give it up."
Dorothy cannot see to cook, so her daughters arranged for Meals on Wheels to provide lunch during the week. A personal chef service brings additional meals. Barb made an appointment with the Council of the Blind to send a person to teach Dorothy skills to function independently. Debbie was there to listen and to learn alongside her mom.
"I am so fortunate," Dorothy said. "I thank God every night for my daughters."
"If I needed my son, he also would be here in a heartbeat."
Barb believes that, like her mother, she leads by example.
"I hope my children will see what I am doing for my mom," she said. "I hope they will have more compassion when I get to the point where I need help. My mother was always there for us when we were growing up. I could never walk away and not help her."
Sometimes, it is not easy.
"But we are family," Barb said.
"And that is what family does."
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for the Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.