Things are bad with Mom

Mom had another stroke this week – it was a doozy. She’s pretty much lost the ability to swallow. She doesn’t understand most of what we say. She doesn’t say much besides “Mom”, “help”, “yes”, “no”, “OK”. Sometimes I can get an “I love you” out of her, but I don’t know if she’s saying it out of reflex/mimicking, or if she’s expressing actual emotion. She’s lost about 10 pounds in a little over a week. She’s bed bound now. We have a meeting with palliative care on Monday. I’m going to push for hospice. I don’t think Mom will last long.

Today when I was visiting – which is really just sitting by the bed and rubbing her leg/arm when she calls out – she reached for my face and held her hand to it. She said “love you.” I knew that she was expressing real emotion there. I cried bittersweet tears. I said “I love you too, Mama.” Then she went back to snoring.

Losing a parent is hard. I’ve sought help with a psychologist to help me through this. My husband is great and so supportive. I know things would be 10 times harder without him. (I Love you babe!!!)

So… that’s what’s going on. NO new quilting. No training for the half marathon. Just a lot of panic, fear, worry, sadness, and a tinge of relief.

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Mom again

Mom’s back in the hospital. They took her by ambulance to the ER after calling my sister. When my sister saw mom, she wasn’t responding to most stimulus. Mom wasn’t responding to words, sight or touch. She just kept shouting “Mom” like she does when she’s deep in distress and suffering another stroke.

I wasn’t there, but my sister called. I beat the ambulance to the ER. The paramedics had trouble getting her to sit still to get any readings. But by the time they got to the ER she was a bit calmer. I walked up, rubbed her arm and said “Hi Mama, how are you.” She smiled and said “Hi. OK.” That was the first thing she’d said besides “mom” in almost an hour.

She has improved a bit since then. The doctors say that she has an acute UTI, which caused stroke-like symptoms. The problem is that she’s had so many TIAs that they can’t see new ones because of all the damage from the old ones.

Once she wakes up, I’ll do her memory exercises again. Before we left last night, she remembered her own Name. She also remembered she had 3 kids, but could only really remember my name with any regularity.

Us kids have a meeting with her doctor and care team in a couple hours to talk about next steps. Hopefully her prognosis is good.

It’s done.

Well, mom has been moved.  It happened two days late, but it happened.  I dragged my sick self over to her house to help get her ready to move.  Then I got her into the car, drove her to the new home, brought her inside, unpacked her things and left her there.  Like she was an unwanted puppy or something.

God, I feel so guilty.

I was OK until we drove away from the home she’s lived in since 1978.  I had to work really hard not to cry as I drove her to this board and care home.  I described the place to her, reminded her of the caregivers’ names, talked about her room, etc. because she didn’t remember.  She said she was sorry for whatever she did to make us not want her any more.  I tried to explain to her that we weren’t moving her because we didn’t want her.  We were moving her because we couldn’t take care of her any more.  I also told her that as her daughter and health decision maker, it was my job to make sure that she was living the best life we could get for her.  And staying at home wasn’t the best for her any more.

I don’t think she got it.

So I left her there.  I gave her hugs and kisses and left her there.  With virtual strangers.  In a house that isn’t home.

You don’t have to tell me how much better this will be for her.  Trust me, I know.  I just feel as though I’ve given up on her or something.  Intellectually I know this is a good decision.  But emotionally it’s hard.

I’ll sit here and cry for a bit longer and then get up and calm myself down.

I don’t consider myself to be a religious or very spiritual person, but I found myself praying a lot today.  I prayed for guidance and strength.  Now I’m praying for peace.  I hope I find it soon.

Moving Mom

Today is moving day. It’s for my mom, not me. You see, for the past 2.5 years, my sister has been Mom’s primary caregiver. It’s taken a toll on her family emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s become too much. And now that my nephew is having so much trouble learning the things he needs to know for school, and having emotional problems… I think my sister has finally realized that the family can’t do this for much longer. I tried to explain that this would happen in 2008 when we were discussing options for Mom’s care, but either she didn’t want to hear it, or I didn’t explain it well enough.

So, we found a place for Mom. It’s a board and care home 3 miles from my house. They have lots of experience with people who have dementia and Alzheimers. The residents seem very happy. We brought my mom and my sister’s kids for a visit. They all gave their stamp of approval as well. And today Mom’s moving into her new place.

I don’t think Mom totally “gets” what’s going on. She keeps thinking that it’s like a vacation or something. You know – only temporary. I don’t want to tell her that it’s permanent, but I don’t want her to think we’re abandoning her either. I know this is better for everyone. The level of care Mom’s receiving at home isn’t what it should be. The kids need 100% of their parents’ attention. My sister and her husband need to be a married couple again. My brother needs to feel like he’s allowed to go off and have fun, find a new place to work, and move out. And me? I just need to not worry so much, and to go back to being the daughter instead of the babysitter.

It’s hard though, you know? I cried making the list of things we would need to pack for her. I didn’t cry when I was actually doing the packing, because I knew if I started then my sister would too, and then mom would get upset. Funny how you can be strong when people are watching, huh? But I’m crying again now. I feel like I’m betraying Mom, somehow, by not keeping her at home. But at the same time I feel a bit of relief that we’ve moved forward and aren’t in caregiver limbo.

I’ll be fine later. And tomorrow. And the next day. But for right now I’ll be a bit sad and maybe cry some more if only so I can be strong again later.

Fridays

It’s funny how my Fridays almost always tend to be the same.

Every other Friday I take care of my mom in the mornings.  Basically I’m there to make sure she eats breakfast, takes her medications, gets to the bathroom and makes it back to bed when she’s ready for a break.  I tend to bring my dirty laundry with me and use the washer and dryer over there, mostly because it’s free (I have a community laundry at my apartment), but also because it keeps me busy.

On opposite Fridays I’m at home.  This is my chance to clean my apartment, relax a little, and enjoy the quiet.  People don’t always realize just how noisy libraries can be, then you add in the ambient noise that comes from driving home and the constant chatter in my brain…  by the time “my” Friday rolls around I’m ready for some quiet!

Today is a “Mom Friday.”  It’s taken her a little over an hour to get out of bed, but that’s almost normal for her.  I’m a lot like her: we both like to lay in bed long after we’re supposed to be up.  She’s eating her Cheerio’s, banana and coffee, while I’m typing away over here.  The laundry is going and it’s nice and quiet.  Well, except for her questions:

“What’s that over there on the floor?”
“Where’s Caramel/Flower/Niner?” (the cat/cat/dog)
“Can I have some pretzels?”
“How’s your husband?”
“Do you have any kids?  Are you sure?”
“What’s your last name?”
“How is school going?”
“Are you almost done planning the wedding?”
“Did I take all the pills in this bowl?”
“Can you help me back to bed?”
“Can I have a kiss?  I love you.”

Those questions used to bug the heck out of me.  Always the same questions, almost always in the same order, and always when I’m in the middle of something that needs concentration.  But strangely, they don’t bother me so much any more.  Maybe that’s because I can remember back to a time when she would answer our questions, but never ask any of her own.  Maybe it’s because I know that she’s trying to show that even though she can’t be there for everything she’s still interested in knowing what’s going on.  And maybe it’s because I’ve learned that showing that I love her means not being annoyed when our conversations are always the same.

Mom and me in 2007 when I got my BA

Well, it’s time to help her back to bed and continue doing laundry.  Gotta go!

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