Life is always perfectly ironic.
My last post was about the futility of complaining, and as is often the case, we’re drawn to teach (or write, as the case may be,) exactly what we need to learn.
I keep catching myself falling back into a rut of negativity- questioning everything and finding no answers that make much sense.
I’ve been so angry today-probably unrealistically, at friends and family who seem to have mostly disappeared as soon as Mom fell into my lap.
I keep nudging myself back to gratefulness, to remember the new friends I’ve been making- slowly but steadily- wonderful women older than me who’ve experienced parents aging, or who are now caregivers themselves.
People my own age are mystified, at best, or if they do get it are consumed by the daily busyness of raising their children. Understandably. If I were to get on the phone and was crystal clear assertive about how I wanted them to help, I’m sure many of them would pull through.
Also struggling with not knowing how to let my concerned husband help me right now. He wants me to tell him what I need (justifiably), and I want him to be able to read my mind, feeling too overwhelmed by everything else to put energy into giving him a roadmap, if I even could figure out what I would put on it.
Carol Jean, my mother, has been acting as she did just before the last two times she was hospitalized last year- distressed, violently angry, inconsolable, calling me at all hours of the evening, and threatening to call 911 if I don’t take her to the hospital every time she feels something is uncomfortably awry with her mind or body.
I’m quite aware that none of this is her fault (or mine), and yet on some level her distress and her sobbing accusations that I’m selfish and never doing enough for her still can’t help but seep in at times.
A scary, unfortunate medication error started off our weekend. Mom has a phenomenal geriatric psychiatrist, and I’ve been thankful for his efforts to reduce and smarten up her drug protocol. But something was lost in translation when he tried to communicate the directions to the nurse in Mom’s memory care about how to safely and gradually reduce one of her meds. It’s a benzo drug that’s quite dangerous to cut off quickly due to severe withdrawal effects.
So guess what happened?
Instead of reducing it gradually, for whatever reason, it got completely eradicated in one swoop, which I didn’t figure out until Mom’s increasingly weird, desperate behavior hit me over the head, finally, in a fit of delirious insomnia.
It finally dawned on me as I was lying awake after a livid 4AM call from her. I made a series of calls first thing in the morning and it got resolved quickly and efficiently on paper, but she’s suffered immensely from it mentally and physically, and no signs yet of her returning to her last week’s self at all. Not sure how long it will take her to recover, though hopefully before she ends up in the hospital again.
Every time Mom calls in delusional terror, I want to drive the almost hour trip to go comfort her, and yet I don’t. I’ve been sticking to my visiting schedule, to keep myself sane and as healthy as possible (the calls are taking their toll; I can’t always get back to sleep, or go to sleep at all, knowing she’s suffering).
But the bigger reason I don’t run over there is because I want her to be able to keep her phone as a tool to reach out to her friends and family when she wants companionship; I don’t want to reinforce that it’s a tool to summon emergency help 24/7 instead of using her call button and staff.
When health issues don’t set her off, she’s pretty sensitive and uses the phone appropriately, but any physical setback cancel out her remaining censors and social graces.
To top it off, it’s entirely possible that she has another UTI right now, the precursor of the last two major psychiatric breakdowns, as happens way too often with older people- especially those with dementia. Her last lab test was inconclusive, to my horror, because,
..any of you who’ve tried to help a female with dementia to thoroughly clean her vulva with those tiny alcohol swabs in a doctor’s office bathroom in order to provide a sterile urine sample can understand how disturbing that news is, since it means we get to go back and try the whole tedious process again.
I know we’ll get through all this one way or another, and we’re incredibly fortunate that she can afford memory care for another few years, and that I don’t need to work full-time right now. I have no idea how I’d be able to handle this at home on top of the sleep deprivation, not to mention trying to juggle work.
So while things really stink right now, I’m aware of how much harder it could be, and am completely in awe of you caregivers who do all this at home and find the strength and faith to keep going.