I started a new job so I have had little time to post anything! I so much loved to write and keep track of the goings on in our lives – it helped to sort out my feelings and the process of learning and adjusting.
We had a little incident that happened this week that is stuck in my craw. The aunt that was moved into a new care home was “visited” by her former caregiver. At first glance, it actually sounds like a nice gesture. The caregiver had opened up her home to our aunt, yes for a price, but it seemed like such a nice arrangement at the time.
At first, life seemed so happy for our aunt. She settled in and started calling her caregiver her “daughter”. I should say that we are grateful that this was the case for quite awhile. Then it started. Our aunt’s cell phone would be taken away from her. We couldn’t have conversations unless the caregiver was home to be in on the conversation. During visits, extended family could not really detect anything was amiss.
To explain a little further, this caregiver rented out a couple of rooms in her house as the cost of living in that part of the country was pretty steep. Those that rented space were happy to have a room while they got on their feet enough to find a place of their own. It was through these folks that my sisters started to get a different story than what was being shown during visits. Though no one could really prove anything, some of the tenants were saying that the caregiver was abusive, abrasive and uncaring.
So, there was an element of surpise when my sisters found out that our aunt had been visited at her new home by this caregiver! It was during this visit that the former caregiver asked our aunt to sign a document. Exactly what it was, we have no idea.
So many unanswered questions for now, but we all need advocates. We all need to know to say “no” if we are not sure of something. Even the best of us – nevermind the elderly or those like our mother that is suffering from dementia – need trusted advisors to help make decisions. I feel like I am of sound mind and judgment, but still ask for help. It is never a sign of weakness to ask for help, but it is a sign of love to be one who helps. I wish my aunt had known this – that she is loved and can always ask.
I had planned to write all about the happenings on our trip home and I still will, but with all the tragic events it is hard to even stop to write because what I have to say seems mundane and unimportant in comparison. With the technology of today it is truly amazing to feel like you are transported to the scenes flashing across big and small screens. Despite how paralyzing these events are, we still have to face what is in our own lives.
Our family has had much to contemplate these last couple of weeks. Our mother comes from a family of seven children. Out of the seven, five are still alive – all of them being at least 80 years old. The spouses of the two that passed on are also still living so because our family is fairly close, I will include them. Our whole family to include the seven (living), their children, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren ought to pause and just contemplate the enormity of this. As far as I know, of the 23 children born to these folks, 22 are alive and kicking and of course these “children” have had children – I am one of them and I am a grandmother!
But now, we are seeing their decline. I am not geographically close to our family, but I am feeling the pressure of this seemingly sudden change. I know in my heart and mind that the changes have been gradual, but no one really keeps track of the subtle shifts until it finally gets to a point that now we are the ones making changes.
An inevitable question has hounded my heart and mind – one always appears when I am faced with these types of thoughts. Here it is: How am I going to be different – how will contemplating this change me? Well, I need to spend more time with my siblings – value them – share my life with them. I want them to know I love them before I can’t tell them anymore. Busy is no excuse because they are family. I know this includes all the people God has blessed me with by putting them in my life.
We are very blessed in that each of these precious older siblings are surrounded by their families, but we are busy – too busy to stop and maybe bring them together for one last hug and kiss and let them say goodbye to each other. Just a thought and a dream.
Mom is now “home”. She is in the house she has lived in for the last 20 years – the place she knows the best, where all her things are. We made the trip a week and a half ago. My next few posts will be about the preparation for the trip and all the experiences we had in that short time.
My heart is stuck though. I have written about needing to hear words of affirmation from the woman I know of as my mother, but none will be forthcoming. I wanted her to miss me even a little. I wanted her to hug my arm or touch my face. No. Nothing.
Yet, I had an “aha” moment the night before I got on a plane to go back to my house. We were piled up on my sister’s bed just having a girl chat when she quipped, “I don’t want to live in California!” For the next few minutes, neither my sister or I could redirect her. Mom was adamant, argumentative, spouting nonsense, and downright angry. She got her geography mixed up and actually asked me, “Where do you think you got your brain?” – meaning where did I go to school. Her question had nothing to do with genetics.
Her rant was eye-opening. As we tried several times to redirect, I got a revelation. Mom was trying to tell me she loved me! She was trying to communicate her dismay over the fact that I was leaving. My mom could not find the words to say nor could she express the feelings roiling around in her heart. Though she was dismayed for a few minutes, I ended up understanding that she may not be able to say the words, but it was there – buried under her inability, almost disabled by her condition, but it was there. She loves me!
I am with my mother virtually 7 days a week, 24 hours a day so I get many opportunities to observe her. I watch her while she eats. I watch her as she takes her walks. I watch her as she rides in the car. You get the idea.
As of this moment, I am also watching the progress of Hurricane Irma. We have family and friends in the great state of Florida so after the Hurricane Harvey results, we are worried. We can open our home up to anyone who needs a place, but we are so far away, it would not be feasible.
There is so much we don’t know. We have no idea how folks are really coping. What of all the people in care homes or hospitals? What of the ones who are elderly and far away from family? What will happen? There are so many questions, but I know this – there are efforts underway the likes of which I have no idea of. The scope of what is being mobilized literally takes an army and what about the families of that so called army? You get the idea.
In the same vein, mom has no idea what happens in order for her to be provided for. She has lost the ability to see past the few feet in front of her and in some cases she can’t even see that. This morning, in her haste to cross a street during our walk, I had to physically hold her back because of an oncoming car. Mom does not eat unless a plate is prepared and placed in front of her. She does not snack unless her snack basket is replenished. She does not take her medication unless I administer it.
Here is what I know she knows:
- How to do simple tasks like brushing her teeth or washing the dishes
- Some of her past in little tidbits that she strings together
- Enough to create conflict when she insists on her way
Here is what she doesn’t know:
- Her present – what day, time, date, season, or even when it is mealtime
- We work around her – even when we shop, she can’t make the connection between what we purchase and why
- She is protected and cared for tenderly and with great patience and love
My heart goes out to folks in situations like ours because like mom, there is so much we don’t know! All the research I have done has helped me personally cope and understand some of mom’s condition. I am grateful for the researchers, doctors, and people who have a mission to inform those like me who have no idea. For our family, we ultimately believe that God will take care of us and that He knows what we don’t know. Oh the peace that comes with knowing that.