Life is not like the movies and TV. Being old is not an either/or thing, where you're either playing golf with your spouse in Arizona and getting your hair did on Saturdays, or in a hospice paid for by the state, waiting to die. There is a wide range of in-between. That in-between space can be complicated. When my dear Mother was far away in another state, it was really easy to say, "Of course I'll be able to take control of disbursing medications, make sure she eats, help her get around this giant house when her pain is too great, keep her company, remind her where something is or what she was doing, clean up the spills due to her terrible balance, compensate socially for her stroke-induced lack of tact or inability to find the right words, stop her from doing dangerous things and have a great time showing her around our new city and home, and introduce her to my new family while I do almost the exact same things for my toddler simultaneously!", but it was clear immediately after she arrived that I couldn't do those things with any poise, if at all. It has me feeling really.....fucking weird. Or maybe I just feel weird because I have only slept a few hours over the last 2 days... It's shocking discovering how awful she feels all the time and how much help she needs, because my parents were hiding things about Mom's health from my brother and I for a couple years, so this has been the first we knew about most of it. It's been hard for me to internalize it all. I keep going through a vast range of emotions that cover everything from excitement that she's here with me, guilt that I can't "do it all" when she's here, sadness that she feels like shit, and anger that I have to take care of her when I already have enough on my plate. Oh and then guilt for feeling angry. It's stupid.
There are so many layers on this issue, I don't know how to put it in a nutshell. I guess....Mom goes through a lot of different problems during the day, their severity always being unpredictable. The unpredictability is sometimes the most stressful part. Her diagnoses so far have included severe Fibromyalgia, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, PTSD, breast cancer, parathyroid tumors, depression, and anxiety, and her short term memory is very poor, which is either dementia or Fibro-fog (a symptom of Fibro that causes confusion). Some days (or just a few hours or minutes in a day) she is just fine and we have a blast together. We talk about the kids and when I was little and laugh about silly things. Sometimes she suddenly does a 180 from feeling good to crying in pain and exhaustion. About once a month, she is bed-ridden and helpless. There is no warning. You never know what's next. Her refusal to accept that she is infirm and requires help and supervision makes everything a struggle, and I am just not good at catering to her delusions of perfect health. As a result, I end up hurting her feelings. But I am only trying to keep her and everyone else safe, and there is no apology needed for that, in my eyes. So, I just have to accept that I'm a total dick who makes my own mother feel like a helpless child. After a whole lifetime of her making sure I feel good about myself, lending support in every endeavor and offering a roof over my head when I got layed off or kicked out of my own house. Awesome. The last TWO DAYS (that's it!) have been a rollercoaster, and Bug just happened to pick the wrong week to do some more teething, so all the Mom stuff added to little Bug getting up 6 times a night has been quite enough to make me wanna jump off something tall.
My goal has been to stick to Bug's schedule while entertaining and caring for Mom. BAHAHAHHAAA!!!! Not possible so far. But close, and I am pretty proud of that.
Losing your independence after being the breadwinner of a family of four, primary caregiver of your children and head of the entire critical care pediatrics department of a huge hospital for 30 years is apparently hard to swallow. She is stubborn and doesn't want to inconvenience us by having to help her all the time. She wants to do for herself and I understand that. But I don't think she gets that if I don't help her, she could get hurt, hurt someone else or make a mess that creates more work for me anyway, and when those things happen she feels bad so why not let me do it to begin with?
Another thing I'm struggling with is her medications. She was reluctant at first to my helping her by counting them out and organizing them like my brother does at home. She did it herself early in the morning before anyone was up that first day she was here. Then when I wanted to make sure it was right, she claimed my brother's pill chart was probably wrong and that she knew better than him how to do it. Later that morning she took pills from the wrong day and couldn't remember when or how many....she can overdose on something so easily, it scared me. The other reason I don't want her counting out her own pills is because she drops them constantly and can't find them. Last time she stayed at our house I found random pills all over the house. That wasn't so bad when all we had was a cat tasting things on the floor, but now OUR DAUGHTER is picking things up off the floor and eating them, so it's terrifying. Today I hijacked her medication briefcase and got the next two days done and organized, and re-labeled her pill case so she knows which end is morning. I also put the whole briefcase where only I can get to it now.
She has a tendency to sleep all day and stay up all night. This creates even more problems. For one, she doesn't take her meds on time and I can't monitor when she does because I'm asleep. She gets restless at night and wants to do stuff, so there have been times where someone finds her doing something dangerous like, when Dad found her climbing kitchen counters to dust the top of the fridge. When she's moving around the house at night she tries to be quiet but often drops things or clangs things together and wakes the baby or me, who sleeps on the couch so I can be close by if she or Bug need me during the night. She gets hungry more often at night, and eats nothing but cereal and cereal bars, or candy and ice cream, and for someone who is diabetic and doesn't take her meds on time, this is not good. I made a point to get only sugar free snacks and creamers for the house, but somehow she snuck a bunch of junk into our grocery cart yesterday.
The whole thing is so sad, and the worst is that I have to watch her with Bug like a hawk. She has always been the best grandmother I have ever known. So involved and sweet and Gage adored her when he was little. But as she has gradually become weaker, she has not gradually become more aware of it. When Bug was 5 months old, Mom almost dropped her. Twice. I had to save Bug from being injured. Ever since then I don't allow Mom to hold her or even have her on her lap because Bug is so wiggly you have to really hang on to her so she doesn't jump off you and get hurt. Today she offered to babysit and ordered me to go take a nap cuz I looked tired. I had to tell her no, she can't babysit anymore. I know this hurts her feelings terribly. It hurts mine too. Mom is still great with her though, they play peekaboo constantly and Bug thinks it's the best game ever.
When Mom has felt good we have had a lot of fun, but the worry over what is next and if I am staying on top of everything has me tense and irritable. I am trying so hard to just enjoy my Mom, and I want to show her all the beautiful parts of where we live. But we haven't even made it around our backyard yet. It's too much walking on an unsteady ground for her. Today we had plans to go to the mall, and she woke up at 1:30 and got ready to go. Then as she's drinking her coffee, she suddenly got very confused and began falling asleep standing up. I guess that was what my brother called "nap-attacks", where she very suddenly gets intensely sleepy. She's seeing her doctor about it when she gets back home. We have plans to see the beach sometime soon, but we have to pick a day with low humidity and warm temperatures because anything different causes her too much pain. So far, the best day for it in the forecast seems to be Sunday or Monday. But who knows if she'll be having a good enough day to leave the house then...
One of my other responsibilities is to make sure she eats, which has apparently been an issue for her for several months. I see the issue as being WHAT she eats. She requested sugar free pudding and Special K cereal on Tuesday. She then tore through a whole box of cereal, a box of cereal bars, and 6 pudding cups in 32 hours because it's all she'll eat. Oh, she'll eat a few tablespoons of what I cooked, and rave about it, but have a huge bowl of cereal with a pudding cup dumped in the middle of it right after dinner. What the hell is that about? It reminds me of the weeks before Dad died, he threw his low-fat / low-sodium, no alcohol diet out the window and had a glass of wine with his ENTIRE JAR OF OLIVES for dinner nearly every day. Is it a "fuck-it" move?
Maybe if I go on auto-pilot and try to think of her as my patient, I'll be able to cope better and get everything done without allowing her to fight me on everything. Or maybe I'll just have mini-breakdowns in the shower every day for the next three weeks. Meh.
My first wedding anniversary is coming up on the 22nd of April. Are we there yet?