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Archive for January, 2012

Just when I thought mom’s hallucinations had subsided, right when I thought Princess her imaginary dog was gone forever, she makes another appearance.  Sitting with them yesterday chatting about dogs and how I never liked them sleeping in my bed, mom chimes in, “Oh Princess just jumps over your dad to get between us!”  “She sleeps there mom?” I ask as dad gives me a wink.  “Yes,” she replies.  “Doesn’t squirm and move around a lot between y’all?” I inquire.  “Oh no, she’s very still.”  I bet she is!  When I later mentioned to dad that I thought Princess was a thing of the past he informs me that Princess had never left.  Some days mom talks to her all day, I’m just not around as much as he is to witness it.

When I look at mom I see a woman, struggling to hold on to what’s left of her mind and doing pretty well.   What my dad sees is totally different.  And what he deals with is much more intense than what I deal with.  I see a woman who tries hard to stay in the now, who tries very hard to hold a conversation.  This is very difficult for me to watch being she was the outgoing, vicarious one – I was the painfully shy one who struggled with conversation.  What he sees is the light of his life, the woman of his dreams who is now but a shell of herself.  A woman who no longer converses with him, no longer gets up every morning ready for a new day.  A woman who before this would never dream of stepping outside without make-up on or with a hair out of place, but whose hair now only gets washed or brushed on the day he takes her to the beauty shop.  A woman who sleeps all day, but will only sleep at night if he gives her a sleep aid only to find himself fighting to wake her up in the morning.  A woman who he has to help to the bathroom, change her ostomy and clean up after.

I know his stress level is high and I’m terribly worried about him.  When I suggest getting help to come in he refuses.  But I see it wearing on him.  He has gotten very forgetful, having trouble recalling simple words when trying to express himself.  It happens a lot.  He is forgetting things that used to come natural to him.  He called me one morning last week at 6:45 to ask whether it was Wednesday or Thursday.  He sounded embarrassed to ask, but just couldn’t figure it out.  He has begun repeating himself, telling me the same story over and over, sometimes within just a few short minutes.  I recognize signs that we missed in mom.  Is it stress – or is it something more sinister.  How do I know?  How do I address it?  Yes, it may be the stress he is under, but what if it is more.  How do I say, “Dad, I’m worried about your mental health.  I’m worried about your forgetfulness.”  My father’s mother had “hardening of the arteries” and by the time she passed away knew no one, only laying in bed in a fetal position, unresponsive.  He watched his mother lose all memory of him, of anyone and die.  Now he is watching the same thing happen to his wife.

Could life be so cruel as to curse both of my parents with the same dreadful disease? Certainly not.  I am struggling with ways to help dad more, remove some of the huge burden that has been placed on his shoulders.  It’s hard.  I can’t dedicate myself to taking care of only them as I have others that are relying on me also.  I am so torn.  But I’m keeping a close eye on dad.  Whether it is stress or the beginning of dementia, the results won’t be good.

My husband made the comment to me last night that we are no longer in control of our lives.  How right he is!  Our lives are now dictated by things beyond our control.  There is no end in sight.  And there is no way that it can possibly end well.

For now we just keep trudging along.  We just keep caring for the people we love.  And we just keep praying for mercy.

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My son asked the loveliest young lady to marry him this weekend and I am just thrilled.  She is sweet and kind.  She is an artist, an environmentalist, a teacher.  She is compassionate and most of all, she loves my son dearly.  What more could a mother want?   My son looks at her with such love, he looks forward to a future with her, having a family with her.  Isn’t young love wonderful?

An added bonus is that I love her parents as well.  We have been friends for a very long time.  Her father and my husband played tennis together in college.  In fact, they were roommates for a few semesters.  Over the years, because of job demands they moved often, but we always stayed in touch.  They were transferred back to our hometown about 5 years ago and our friendship continues to grow.

It is no secret that the last two years have been difficult.  Things have happened in my life that was beyond my control.  Things that have turned my life upside down.  But now I have something to look forward to, something to be joyful about, something to make me feel normal again. 

And right now I am enjoying the moment.  I am praying that this young couple who I love so dearly will have a long, loving life together.  And give me lots of grandchildren 🙂

2012 is looking up after all!

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During my Pilates class last week one of the ladies mentioned that she had bought her mother a bottle of coconut oil in capsules.  What?  Coconut oil now comes in capsules?  Why didn’t I know this?  My poor father has been struggling to get a mere tablespoon down my mom daily.  Our goal was two a day, but she wasn’t going for it.  She doesn’t like the taste or consistency and simply refuses to take it.  He will sneak it on a sandwich, slathering it on the bread and then covering it with mustard or put it on a biscuit, covering it with jam.  So the thought of coconut oil in a capsule was exciting.

I sent my daughter to the health food store to check it out and yes, it’s true, coconut oil now comes in gel-caps.  Delighted at the prospect of an easy fix to getting coconut oil in mom, I had my daughter buy some.  When I arrived with my prize possession mom and dad were thrilled, mom because she no longer had to endure food tasting like oily coconut and dad because he no longer had to force it down her.

Then reality hit.  For some reason I decided to do research into coconut oil in capsules.  A little backward, huh?  Shouldn’t I do the research first??   What I found is that although organic extra virgin coconut oil can be found in a capsule, the disadvantage of using it is the low dosage per capsule.  Mom would have to take about 30 capsules a day to get the benefit of two tablespoons of coconut oil.  Holy cow!  That’s impossible!   It was so disappointing.

Back I went to break the bad news to dad.  He will keep giving her the capsules since we have them, but will have to start sneaking it into her diet again.  Things are never easy are they?

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My 4-year-old granddaughter was with me today as I drove over to visit mom and dad. “You know who I love the most? Granny!” she said. “Oh, honey, please tell Granny that cause it will make her so happy,” I said. Sometimes on mom’s bad days when she is confused and quiet, my granddaughter tends to avoid her, almost a little afraid. She senses something is not quit right with Granny. Sure enough, upon arrival she bounced out of the car and into Granny’s lap. “Granny, I love you the most!” she exclaimed as she gave mom a huge hug, holding on longer than usual. Mom just beamed. “I love you the most too,” mom replied, brimming with love for this child. Mom held on tight, not wanting that moment to end. The rest of the afternoon mom sat glowing, happy to feel so loved by such a special child.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful child who with just a few small words brought so much joy to an elderly woman with dementia.

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There are few things more difficult then watching the slow demise of a body and a mind.  And I am witnessing both.  It’s happening to two different loved ones and there’s nothing I can do to slow it, much less stop it. I feel so helpless, so hopeless.

My mother’s mind continues to grow cloudier. Granted, some days her eyes look clear, mind somewhat sharper, but the reality of the situation is always near, haunting us. I never know what I will face when I arrive, a mother who is aware and in the moment or a mother sitting quietly, lost in her own mind, seeing things that no one else sees. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for my father, never knowing from day to day which wife will wake up that morning.

And Uncle C’s health continues to deteriorate. He has congestive heart failure and his lungs refuse to clear. Mornings are torture as we never know what we will find. Some nights Uncle C can hardly breath, using his oxygen machine the majority of the night, certain it is the end for him. He will at times gain 5 pounds in a day, retaining more fluid than his poor 93 year old heart can eliminate. Emotionally it is very difficult, the ups and downs, the uncertainty of it all, never knowing each morning if we will find a cold dead body or hear Uncle C clanking his walker against my walls as he makes his way to the kitchen asking for his coffee.

Then there is the other issue. The issue of my selfishness, wanting to feel normal again, wanting my old life back, tired of the daily emotional ups and down, tired of never having any time for myself. Ever. Granted I was spoiled. Kids were grown and gone and hubby and I were able to just pick up and go whenever we wanted. We had dinner with friends often, entertained often, traveled. That has all changed and honestly I hate it. I hate being unable to drop everything and go when friends call. We now have to plan ahead, get a sitter. I hate the guilt I feel when I leave town for a few days, knowing mom will be looking for me, missing my visits, missing me. I hate the guilt I feel when we leave Uncle C with a sitter for more than one night, watching his sad, dejected face as we walk out the door. And the noise, oh God, the noise. Sometimes I just can’t take it. Uncle C will only wear one hearing aid. He thinks he doesn’t need one for his “good ear” (hate to tell you Uncle C but neither are good). The television is always loud, someone is always yelling at Uncle C so he can hear them and in the meantime I’m trying not to go crazy. My husband and I left the day after Christmas to visit his elderly parents who live 700 miles away. Our two daughters stayed with Uncle C and both called me commenting about how loud it is in the house. “Mom, I don’t know how you stand it around here. There is no quiet place,” was the comment of my youngest daughter. “Yes, I know. Why do you think I’m losing my mind,” was my response.

Perhaps if I could have one day to myself, one day when I do not have to take care of someone other than myself then maybe, just maybe I could feel normal again, even for just a short time. If I could have one day of quiet, one day to just do whatever I wanted – or do nothing at all – then maybe I would feel revitalized. Maybe. But I don’t have that luxury. Not now anyway. Maybe soon. I can only hope.

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