Mary Swan-Bell
4 min readJan 19, 2022

Eight years later, my mom is 87. She is 4’11” and weighs 80 pounds. My world sometimes feels paradoxical as I edit a memoir in which my mom is vibrant, strong, even tyrannical sometimes, and then I stroll through the looking glass (or pocket doors in my living room) to care for the tiny, frail creature my mom has become.

When I wrote that nearly 3 years ago, I didn’t think caring for my mom could get harder. I published the memoir, I’m still caring for her, and it’s gotten a lot harder.

Today, she is 90, maybe 4’6” if she could stand straight up, which she can’t, and weighs 67 pounds. Her most recent fall, right after Thanksgiving, left her with a broken arm and a broken pelvis. She definitely can’t bounce back from that, right? Ohhh, she bounces.

Fall. Hospital. Rehab. The elderly trifecta.

This time when she entered rehab, they asked, “Will she be staying with us? What is the long term plan?” To bring her home, I optimistically insisted.

More than one person suggested that we should put her in a long-term care facility. That is the right choice for many families, but after the last month of visiting her in such a place, it didn’t feel right for me. As days turned into weeks, I found her in unfathomable states of neglect. This was a good place, but that is the nature of this particular beast.

“When can I come home? Are you bringing me home today? What did the doctor say?” she asked daily. When I began having panic attacks, I decided bringing her home felt most bearable. Choosing what feels bearable doesn’t mean it will be easy. Spin the wheel of despair and decide what you’ll sacrifice: Money? Peace of Mind? Freedom? Mental Health? Every decision costs you something; what can you live with — or without?

Although I’m a seasoned catastrophic thinker, each time I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. As I’m writing this, a baby monitor sits next to my computer so I can see her eating breakfast. My back aches from lifting her in and out of bed. My hands are dry and chapped my cuticles ragged from constant scrubbing and still I feel like Lady MacBeth:

“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”

I’m not the only one struggling. She feels defeated and asks if she’ll ever be normal again. I encourage her that she’s…

Mary Swan-Bell

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•