When Carol Phillips was a child, her mother would tuck her into bed at night. Now it's Phillips' turn.
Every night, Phillips enters her mother's bedroom, where Josephine Robello waits patiently in bed. Since falling and breaking her shoulder a few years ago, Robello is unable to lift the blanket to cover herself. She relies on her daughter, who also kisses her goodnight before turning off the lights.
"It feels good to me because it's my time to give back to her for all she's given me," says Phillips. "I never thought I'd ever end up taking care of Mom. But I knew subconsciously one day it was a possibility."
That day came during 1996 when Robello, who lived alone in her Kailua home since the death of her husband in 1982, fell and fractured her left arm. Robello moved in with Phillips in Enchanted Lakes. Robello was getting better and was just about to return home when she fell again, damaging her right shoulder. It has left her with constant pain and limited mobility.
Phillips decided that her mom would stay with her permanently. An only child, Phillips took over as caregiver, managing her mother's medical, financial and daily living affairs. She prepares her meals, takes her to the doctor, and manages her medication. She also helps her mother bathe and change clothes, and handles other daily chores. It's been a transition for both of them.
"I don't want to depend on her," says Robello, who was proud of her independence, playing bingo at her senior citizens' club and visiting friends whenever she wanted. Today, Robello doesn't leave the house without her daughter.
"She feels she's a burden. She's told me that," says Phillips.
Sacrificing themselves for others
Phillips is typical of a growing number of people in Hawai'i and across the country who end up with the responsibility of caring for loved ones. In addition to caring for her frail mother, Phillips also helps care for her 10-year-old grandson. She picks him up from school and helps with homework while her son and daughter-in-law, who live in an extension to the house, are at work. She also cares for her husband, who has Alzheimer's disease.
Phillips, a retired Verizon supervisor, often feels overwhelmed and burned out. She's so busy tending to the needs of her family, she barely has time for herself. The hardest part is accepting her limits. Phillips is also a cancer survivor. She knows that while she's caring for others, she must also not forget about herself.
"I caregive for both because of the love I have for them," she says. "I feel like I have to be home all the time and do everything. But I need to take time for myself."