Sorry this is REALLY long!
I guess I'm looking for a little validation here, but perhaps I don't deserve it. My mom and I have always been poor -- mom divorced when I was only 8 and had to support me working at a mill with no job skills, and try to rent a house and pay bills on just minimum wage. I don't know how she did it, and since I was only a child, at the time I had no awareness of the struggles she went through, nor did I care. However, when I got out of high school, I went to the same mill and we shared expenses to get a cheap apartment, and we weren't strangers to coming to the end of each week and having to count our pennies to see if we had enough money to buy necessities. Life was more than rough for mom. It was all on her shoulders. I was an irresponsible young woman after getting the job, wanting to party with friends all week long and usually spent a lot of my weekly paycheck on clothes and drinks, all the while not caring what mom was going through.
In my mid-twenties I discovered my conscience and helped her out as best I could. We both had minimum wage jobs. We had to buy a mobile home in the '80's, so paying a mortgage was tough for us, with the bills added. Yadda-yadda. Neither of us really had the knowledge or means to save for retirement, and so now we don't have any of that. Mom began getting ill with late-onset muscular dystrophy in the late '90's and started having trouble walking. She eventually developed venous insufficiency ("red legs" from ankle to mid-calf), due to not being able to keep walking enough. She retired in 1993 after 35 years of service and only receives a $164 monthly pension from the mill. I worked my way through college while at the mill and finally got a B.A. in Social Sciences in 1999. My student loan bill is now about $50,000 and growing, because I couldn't afford to pay on the principle. When the mill closed in 2003, I got work in residential homes for MR and MH, and have been doing so ever since. She got Social Security from my late father and started getting better monthly pay, because dad had a better job during is lifetime. My pay increased to a point where we were paying all the bills but not having enough money to put away for the future or emergency funds.
We lived like this until 2014, when my mom (who lives with me now in my own mobile home) qualified for 40 hours of home healthcare, and I thought it would be a great idea to be hired as her full-time caregiver. I was hired for that, but I still kept my other job, with the hope that we could finally start putting money in the bank and never have to experience the misery of the poverty that we spent most of our lives with. Mom developed dementia along the way, with the first signs becoming evident in the mid-2000's. Memory loss being the majority of it. She used a walker up until 2010 and did well with it, until she started falling too much. Before I was hired as her caregiver, we hired caregivers through an agency to help her with ADL's, grooming, meal prep, etc., and all went well for a while, until my decision to become her primary caregiver. The actual reason for my doing this was because she had some very bad, sometimes abusive caregivers (after finding out these things from mom who kept it secret for a while before opening up to me), and they were all fired by me. I became frightened for mom's well-being and didn't want to take the chance of her being cared for badly anymore, so now I'm being paid for something I've been doing since about 2010 anyway, since she lives with me (being her sole caregiver and doing everything for her -- washing/changing her, ADL's, taking her to appointments, etc. I did all this after the helpers finished their days).
She is now unable to walk at all and uses a wheelchair and slide board to get around the house and out to the car. She is 85. She has become more confused from the dementia, and I have a dear cousin who lives a mile away that is in contact with her nightly, while I work overnights. I pay her under the table to sleep over on nights when mom needs it. I am making excellent wages now with the two jobs together, and we are finally wanting for nothing, financially. Mom's dementia has, of course, changed her personality and she no longer cares to socialize. In fact, she's managed to alienate much of the rest of our family because she accuses them of theft, and has nothing but bad things to say about them. She used to be sweet. So mostly, its just the two of us, a cat, and the cousin who are her social circle. My "crossroad" is that I'm about to take a night position at an Alzheimer's care facility. I feel bad for leaving her while I'm at work, though she mostly sleeps during the nights, or she can have the cousin come over. I want to keep working with her and do my overnight job, but some people say I should quit the overnight and just stay with her. We'd then be in the "just enough to get by" category. I'm trying to save for my future without her. Any comment or advice? Be kind, please