This is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever written about. The reason I share so much of my life is because writing is therapy for me and I hope that my experiences may help someone else.
My mother, 84 years old, has dementia. Irony would deal our family this hand the day my father was dying in a hospital.
Mother is a tough native of Corsicana. I’m convinced women and men must be grown that way here. This is a woman I believe has cried maybe three times in my near 48 years of life: at my father’s funeral and a couple of times when we were small and mourning a beloved pet. Might I add, she did so silently. It was never a loud sob. So, you see, she doesn’t take to the idea that dementia or anything can really stand in her way. And gentle nodding, prodding, suggesting and even trying to let her “come up with the idea” rarely works on her. She’s had a prescription for dementia medication for 8+ years and she’s never wanted to get that prescription filled until recently. She lives alone and prefers it that way. We’ve made offers for her to come live in our respective cities. She could buy her own home, have home health care, move to a good nursing home. We’ve hoped for anything but living home alone and at least an hour away. To make things worse, we can tell that she cannot see nor hear very well. Making phone calls seems to be difficult for her.
She reminds us often, “I’m going to die in this home.” She’s speaking of the home I grew up in most of my childhood. I always have to take a deep breath when hearing that. We’ve always been respectful of our parents and older family members. So, until now, my response has always been, “Yes mother.”
It was with such a heavy heart to notice recently that my mother, who is financially stable, was missing most of her teeth. I knew age could cause this, but I didn’t know that she hadn’t been to the dentist in about 10 years. Another irony, as she always took all of us to the doctor, dentist, eye doctor and any other required healthcare professional.
I see her slipping away. She doesn’t mind the help so much when my brother or myself show up to take her to appointments. However, she’s inadvertently turning off phone service. She’s calling the satellite providers and turning off service. She’s late on filing taxes no matter how much prompting I give beginning in February. Sometimes, it feels like trying to save a drowning person. She doesn’t understand that we are trying to live our own lives and at the same time take care of her.
I recently made the mistake of setting an appointment for home healthcare workers to come in and visit her a couple of times a week. I received a ton of wrath. And this loving mother starts telling a virtual stranger that I called her a burden, which I never did. Furthermore, she took some other personal jabs that were unfounded. While I’ve come to expect some of this, it is hard to not walk away sad. I can’t say that it is totally out of character for her. However, it leaves me sad that in her older years this is how she spends her time…being angry. Sometimes it is the dementia, however, we find that the anger and guilt trips only come when she has not gotten her way. Otherwise, her medication has improved her mood immensely. She can be Jekyll and Hyde from moment to moment. I called to check in on her and it was almost as if she had never been mad. If pretending like I wasn’t hurt is what I need to do to move forward, then that is what I will do. Her wellbeing is my priority.
We’ve probably all heard it before that you can’t save someone unless you save yourself first. For now, it’s tossing the lifeline and praying that she grabs hold of it. We lay our trust in God, knowing that He never gives us more than we can handle.