Why taking care of mom is part of this family tradition

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Michelle’s mother, Betty, is now 81, and needs constant care. Fortunately, Michelle and five of her brothers have been able to arrange their schedules so that one of them is always with her. (Photo by Bear Guerra)

Old age comes fast, and many aren’t sure how to plan for the inevitable. But in Michelle Cotton’s family, kids have taken care of their parents for generations.

Michelle Cotton, 62, is a retired nurse who grew up in a family in which it was expected that children would care for one’s parents and grandparents so that they could stay in their homes as they aged. She now commutes every other weekend from LA to care for her 81-year-old mother, Betty, who wants to stay in her home in Hanford, California, as she ages. (Photo by Bear Guerra)
When Michelle was a teenager, she helped care for her grandmother, Big Momma, seen in an old family photo. She recalls, “My mother told us one day: What you’re doing for Big Momma, you’re going to do the same thing for me… so we knew it was coming.” (Photo by Bear Guerra)
Michelle’s background managing a hospital floor has been essential for coming up with a plan to manage Betty’s care. Not only does she keep track of her brothers’ busy lives, she also has created schedules to manage daily and weekly routines, menus for meals, and organizes meetings between the siblings to discuss changes or new approaches that might be needed to keep their mom comfortable. (Photo by Bear Guerra)
Michelle organizes Betty’s daily medicine requirement. Managing this aspect of her care alone is very difficult – and potentially dangerous – so Michelle took photos of each medication, and made a detailed guide to help her brothers when they’re on duty with Betty. (Photo by Bear Guerra)
Betty now spends most of her days watching television and napping, though Michelle and her brothers also keep her on a strict schedule for eating, taking her medication, bathing, and other daily activities. (Photo by Bear Guerra)
Michelle helps her mom sign checks to pay her monthly bills. (Photo by Bear Guerra)
Photos of three of Betty’s six sons are seen on the top of her dresser. (Photo by Bear Guerra)