Taking care of our elderly

Mar 10 2017 Published by under dementia, life, parents, Uncategorized

Last weekend I had breakfast with one friend, and dinner with another. They both are caregivers for their Moms. Both, however, have recently moved their Moms from home to assisted living/Alzheimer's units. The medical conditions are different in these Moms, and the personalities were different before the disease.

Yet, dementia brings on changes in personality that are as tough as they are predictable. Some is a loss of executive function, and the ability, nay desire, to say whatever enters your head. I remember "You can't be my child, because I don't have so many horrible genes". Some is anger at loss of function, or bluster for covering up mental lapses. One parent of a different friend became sweet and kind and charming. But that's the only one I can recall that the changes were perceived as an improvement.

My friends are women I've known for a while, the three years since I moved to almost-MRU. They've listened to me go through the pain, yes the pain, of watching my mother slip away. We've talked about this over the years. One friends mother is just in the beginning stages, and the other about a year behind my mother. The emotion burden is huge. And I will admit to feeling some relief when listening to them that these particular stages were over, for me.

One of the moms is angry. All the time. Painfully angry. Demanding people who are gone. Demanding the presence of my friend, all the time. It is hard to leave your crying mother, whether she is angry or emotionally bereft. I know this feeling. The only thing worse is when they forget to ask you to stay, just a minute more. Or when they can no longer scream at you, demand, plead.

The other mom has lost language. At first, language loss, albeit with speech, still, seems a relief. No more harangues, no more ridiculous requests, no more crying for people who have been dead for 20 or 50 years. But quickly,  for children caring for parents, this becomes a new loss. One of the things about AD is that you lose your parent or spouse or friend over and over and over again.

Each stage, each change is a knife in the heart. Some days, leaving my mom, coming home, I would look down at my chest and expect to see blood seeping through my clothes. I would think: this is the worst it can get. My mother was no longer crying for specific people, but tears and tears and tears for unknown sadness beyond words. There is often no way to comfort people with AD. They are angry, and then worse, they do not know you want to comfort them.

 

My friend, whose mother no longer has language, who is drifting into that twilight where neither mother nor daughter can see anything, showed me a picture of her mom. Here it is, with my friends permission. I took one look, and knew that it was the same picture I had of my mother. Our mothers, who remembering nothing else in their lives, remember being a mother.

 

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How do I know what is the right thing to do?

Oct 20 2016 Published by under dementia

I wrote this several months ago. I had forgotten it.

 

My mother is slipping out of this world (see these posts: here and  here and here and here). I've written a lot about my pain and hers:

I too want Mama

Winter of her life is now

Snow on hair and mind

I see her once or twice a week. I care for her when I see her, but that's almost more for me, as there are others who care for her where she lives.  She is in a good place, a safe place. She is being taken care of by people who have a calling to take care of her. But almost every time I leave her I think: should I being doing more?

And then the internal dialogue starts:

"Should I be doing more?"

"But what else could I do?"

"I could go see her every day"

"That would be very difficult, and end up taking 60-90 minutes out of my already over-filled time"

"But I waste so much time... maybe this instead of reading sci-fi at night"

"Would it matter to her?"

"How can I possibly know what matters to her?"

I do not think that I am alone in this dialogue. I would guess that every aging child, every adult child who cares for their parent, whether they have the resources I do, or whether the demented (or not demented) parent is living at home in too-small of a space, has this discussion with themselves. To take on the care of a parent, one must already have made a commitment.

 

 

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