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Caregiving and working fulltime – 2 jobs….

Through the five years I took care of my mother, as her dedicated caregiver, this will be the first blog I write to share my exhaustion and frustration – since I also worked full-time with a family of my own.

I can honestly look back at those years now and wonder how on Earth did I ever do it?  How did I work full-time for a school system? (We) Raise a 14 year old son?  Take care of our home, chores, family and myself?  Have conversations and hugs with my husband and best friend?  Mom always took first fiddle.  Everything else was brushed aside.

When my Dad passed in April, 1999 I was employed full-time with the school system in Gloucester County. The job location was a good 20 miles from my home. My mother lived in adjoining York County to the south of Gloucester and her home was approximately 15 miles from my home. Many a day after work, my presence was needed by Mom. Needless to say, it was a great deal of back and forth driving after a long day at work.

The employees (my bosses) I worked with were wonderful, understanding and very supportive of me. I missed all of them tremendously when we moved to Hampton in June, 2000 a little over a year after the death of my Dad. My husband commuted back and forth from his job in Newport News/Hampton to Gloucester now, for over 14 years. It was time to move closer, so his long days would be shortened. For over a year – my caregiving duties were made much easier by understanding and sympathetic bosses. I will always be grateful to them for this time. I still have the plague that was given to me stating: “A Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Woman Works Here”. I miss them all dearly.

We were in the process of selling Mom’s home….in addition to selling our home in Gloucester and buying a home in Hampton. Mom’s house required minor repairs, work needed to be done in her yard, her roof, the floors, etc. That was a very rough month. But, I finally got Mom into an assisted living facility in Newport News and as her DPOA – repaired, painted, fixed up and sold her home. This money went into her account and was used for “self pay” to the assisted living facility.

We were also now settled in our new home in Hampton and Mom was settled in at the ALF. I hated leaving Gloucester School System, but due to the round trip drive of approximately 47 miles each day, I had no choice. I would miss my co-workers more than I ever dreamed of…. particularly when I found employment with the school system in Hampton.

Aiming my future was an important factor in finding employment once we re-located to Hampton. I had over 15 years with Gloucester Schools – and I really enjoying the field of education. I pursued the school system in Hampton and was elated to be hired by them in October, 2001! I was so very excited. My Virginia State Retirement would continue and the years ahead of me would allow me to retire and receive a VSR pension. (Virginia State Retirement). Most of my sick leave and vacation leave was gone, (some could be carried over from other school systems) – most of it had been used up for Mom’s care. Her doctors appointments, IEP meetings at the ALF, etc.

It became apparent fairly quickly that this particular job would not permit me to leave to simply “take care of my mother” as readily as the school system in Gloucester. Co-workers were nowhere near as understanding as my co-workers in Gloucester, nor were they supportive of my plight and situation as a caregiver. I was guidance secretary and it was a demanding position. Many disagreements ensued due to the fact that I was Mom’s caregiver. I received phone calls at work from physicians, the ALF, mom’s friends, my family, banks, credit unions and concerned individuals. Even though Mom was in an ALF, there were phone calls and requests for her care that simply had to be taken care of. Many instances could and would not wait until I got off at 4:00 p.m. causing me to insist on leaving. I could feel the resentment from certain personnel – and it escalated to the point where my phone calls were screened. I started being asked if I was on a “personal or work related call” and “who was I speaking to”. Then I was informed that my personal calls were not allowed at work, even after I explained that they were regarding my mother.

My desk was in an open area in the department. Three guidance offices were beside my desk, equipped with doors that could be closed allowing them privacy. I had no privacy. All my phone calls could be heard by anyone walking by headed to the main office, students or teachers sitting in guidance waiting for an appointment, a parent that stood by my desk until I acknowledged them (many were rude as they could see me on the phone) – it was a hopeless situation indeed.

I grew quite resentful of the constant questions and grilling regarding my personal business that involved the care of my mother. What CAREGIVERS need most is a working environment that bends to allow employees breathing room for caregivers taking care of a parent or loved one. I didn’t expect sympathy, extra pay, hours upon hours of free time off, being able to talk on the phone all day or a “free ride” at work…. I did hope for a small amount of understanding, allowing me time off when needed, with NO pay in order to take care of my Mother’s personal business.

Caregivers should NOT be singled out and micromanaged by management on a daily basis. They should not be ridiculed for their time on the phone, time off without pay, needing to leave right away due to an emergency, or appointments that require a caregivers presence. Caregivers should not have to go into detail regarding their loved one’s medical needs, it should suffice when a caregiver explains that they are the designated DPOA and caregiver of a loved one/family member – that may require time off work. If necessary, provide the employer a doctor’s note explaining in minute detail that the caregiver will and does need time off due to circumstances out of their control. I would have been more than happy to supply this documentation had I been asked.

It was stressful enough being Mom’s caregiver. The added frustration of being quizzed at work, merely added to the level of rage, anger, angst and stress. Some days, it was more than I could handle. I tried to make meetings after 4:00 p.m. as often as possible, including; doctor-dentist-elder attorney-meetings, etc. Many times these hours did not work for the other parties, so I had no choice but to take off work, with no pay.

I didn’t want to explain my Mom’s condition to any of my bosses at work. I honestly felt it was none of their business. Mom’s privacy and dignity were two things I vowed to keep sacred, for her. I explained to the bosses the bare minimum, simply letting them know that my Mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by medical professionals, that I was her DPOA and caregiver. I let them know that at least now she was in an ALF, safe and taken care of, but from time to time certain episodes occurred that called for me to leave and be by Mom’s side.

My needs were simple…to please allow me to simply take time off without pay when I needed to leave and be by my mother’s side. I didn’t expect any special favors. There were many issues that could not be dealt with after 4:00 p.m. as my employer continued to let me know that I was needed at my DESK. Homework was picked up after school and it was my responsibility to have it ready for parent’s to pick up, the phone continued to ring after school was out, teacher’s would come in and want schedules–copies of records-changes made in the computer on a student screen, there were papers to file in student folders – I could go on and on.

Caregivers need to be trusted – encouraged and supported. I do know this does not happen with many other employers as in my case. My stress level grew to the point that I thought I may have to be out of work for a couple of weeks due to my high blood pressure, pounding head, muscles so tight in my neck and shoulders I could hardly stand it–of course it would be without pay. Being micromanaged by my bosses accomplished nothing – and simply made me angrier and more uptight. I needed breathing room – I needed a kind word – a hug – none of which I received. My mother’s personal medical history was none of their business. What happened at the assisted living facility was also none of their business. They needed to trust me knowing I did not want to leave work again, without pay. I needed my paycheck and it was cut short many occasions due to taking care of Mom and her dilemmas, it had to be done.

I was my mother’s voice. I was her protector, her daughter, her safety net, and her DPOA. My job was to allow my mother as much independence as possible and maintain her dignity at all times. I had to work fulltime. We weren’t financially able to allow me to quit work to spend 24/7 as Mom’s caregiver. Give me a break at work, get off my butt, give me space. My responsibility as Mom’s caregiver was difficult enough, I did not need the additional pressure of micromanagement at work.

In 2003, I could no longer contain my distain of the “control” that was exerted on me. I took the Para-Pro test issued by the State of Virginia, passed it with flying colors, and became an Instructional Assistant in the classroom. I was no longer confined behind a desk all day long, with each and every phone call being micromanaged. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the teacher’s as their assistant in the classroom. Much less stress, and no longer sitting all day in an office chair. I could actually make a phone call concerning my Mom’s affairs in the teacher’s lounge, allowing me privacy, finally. The teacher’s all liked me, and we all worked well together. No more micromanagement. I loved it !

Employers, please – I implore you – have some understanding and human forgiveness for those caregivers that on occasion may need time off from work to care for an ailing loved one. If you have not been in this position yourself, the stress is unbelievable for the caregiver and leaves a permanent scar on their shattered spirit. Please don’t make it anymore difficult for the caregiver, who will not expect special favors from your company, for a meeting they have to attend, their loved one has been admitted to the hospital, a doctor’s appointment is coming up, or a crises arises that simply has to be dealt with.

My body and my spirit buckled under the strain.  My mind caused physical illness as it fought for sleep, relaxation and freedom from frustration.  My spirit crumbled on more than one occasion and caused guilt on my part for not being the perfect caregiver for my mother.  I shed tears out of everyone’s sight when I got home, and snuggled on our bed in the fetal position…hoping for some sort of break – a break that would never come.  It was an intense five years, but also 5 years of loving and appreciating the woman who gave birth to me.

I miss you Mom….

SUZ

Caregivers…spirit, mind and body.

Through the five years I took care of my mother, as her dedicated caregiver, this will be the first blog I write to share my exhaustion and frustration – since I also worked full-time with a family of my own.

I can honestly look back at those years now and wonder how on Earth did I ever do it?  How did I work full-time for a school system?  Raise a 14 year old son?  Take care of my home, chores, family and myself?  Have conversations and hugs with my husband and best friend?  Mom always took first fiddle.  Everything else was brushed aside.

The first honest clue I can offer – is I neglected myself.  I thought I was super woman and could handle anything.  It took a physical and mental toll on me – as I realized toward the end that I had to start telling my mother “NO” I could not visit her and again bring her money…I was just there yesterday and the weekend before….no, I’m not going to the bank and drawing out cash for you….I was just there.

My son had just entered high school.  He was very active in school sports and outside activities.  My husband who is and has always been a hard worker, worked 13-14 hour days until we finally moved back to the Peninsula from Gloucester, Virginia making it much more feasible for him.  He was exhausted with his long work hours – and then the long drive home, each and every night.

My dad passed in 1999 leaving me with no idea as to the desperate situation mom was in.  After he passed, the nightmare began.  Mom was apparently well into the confusion phase – unbeknownst to myself and her friends.  The phone calls started within two days of dad’s passing.  Those phone calls asked me if I knew where my father was?  Mom said he wasn’t home yet and she was concerned about him.  This was merely a sign of things to come.

Mom was not moved to ALF until a year after dad passed.  That was a joyous day in my life, and I can thank mom’s elder attorney, doctor and adult social services for this progression in her status.

After dad passed, the severity of her illness became apparent immediately.  The phone started ringing each morning before I even left to go to work.  My neck tensed up as I walked out the door.  I had to get a teenager up and ready for school as well as myself, two dogs, and straighten the house.  My stomach stayed in knots during the day – I knew what was awaiting me when I returned home.  I was not disappointed, there were over 15 phone messages, each one from Mom.  I tried to help her, I called her back and many times, I drove to her home or the ALF after work to console and help her.  When I returned home, she had already called the house again while I was on my way home.  An instant and unrelenting headache began.

I could not appease her, talk to her, or have a discussion.  She was no longer capable of retaining a single syllable I said to her, thus she would call back again.  There were nights that by 10:00 pm I was ready to throw the phone receiver out the kitchen window.  We got “caller ID”, we had no choice.  I let it ring. I let the messages pile up, I had to – my head was pounding and I had gotten nothing done, and none of us had family time that night and many nights after that.  Mom’s care was actually consuming me, my husband and my son.

There were many times before mom went into the ALF that she would simply show up at our back door.  My mother was a proper lady and never popped in on other’s – instant red flag when she drove to our home, especially at night.  I would offer her something to eat and drink and have my husband follow her home so she would not get lost in the dark.  That was another issue that had growing concerns, her driving.

I did not get enough sleep – and the phone calls from Mom would go until midnight and later.  We had no choice but to take the phone off the hook.  There were many nights I sat up alone doing her paperwork, bills, taxes, and filling in my journal for the elder attorney’s files.  My sleep was even more depleted with many late nights of paperwork.  Still, I knew I had to go to work the next day.  At 2:00 a.m. one particular night, I made up my mind to call in “sick” the next day, I just couldn’t function.  I needed a day of peace and quiet and more importantly, serenity.  Yes I felt guilty taking a “sick” day – but I earned them and needed one desperately.  What a wonderful day it was….I’ll never forget how much it refreshed me…just that one day.

I’m sure my blood pressure was elevated, I had no appetite, I was tired all the time, my neck and shoulders ached constantly from the stress, I was “snappy” with my family and friends, and I was very resentful of my dad.  How could he do this to me? How could he not let me know mom’s condition?

Once I got over my self indulgent pity party – I sucked it up and continued to be the voice for my mother.  I protected her, kept her safe, maintained her dignity and independence, and enveloped myself into her care.

When we moved to Hampton in 2000 – I had not only our household to move, I had to pack up and sell mom’s house as well at the same time.  This was a tremendous burden for myself and my husband   But, mom, was finally in an ALF.  She was safe and well taken care of.    The previous year’s strains on me physically were starting to show. My stomach was upset, my head ached all the time, and I had no time for myself.

I deeply missed the Gloucester School employees I had to leave.  They were “rocks” to me on days I didn’t think I could go any further.  One late night on my last driver over the Coleman Bridge the cold and dark water below, beckoned me.  If only for a second, I contemplated driving over the concrete barriers and into the cold water…..I had reached my limit.  Instinct and common sense took over – my husband and son needed me – so I continued my straight drive down the bridge into Gloucester.

I did tell mom’s doctor that mom was not going to live with us.  He had proclaimed that mom was a “danger to herself” and should no longer be living alone.  My answer was a swift and firm – NO mom cannot live with us.  I would have suffered a nervous breakdown – I could not handle her in our home.  I knew that if we had taken her in, that as soon as I left for work (husband and son already gone) – that there was a good possibility that she would walk out the front door and get lost in Hampton.  She could accidentally set our house on fire, let my dogs out, lock herself out of our home, get attacked by a stranger as she walked around searching in vain for her husband, or worse yet – find herself on a busy road – with dire consequences.

I would never have been able to live with the guilt if something had happened to her.  I had to work, I did not have the financial freedom nor option to quit my job and be mom’s 24 hour caregiver.

I salute each and every caregiver.  I send them all love, encouragement and support.  I have been there…and know the strains on my body, mind and spirit.  It made me a stronger woman and more determined than ever to be the best caregiver and DPOA that my mother could have.  Working full-time with your own family to care for – causes a strain to not just the caregiver, but the entire family unit.  Thank goodness I had a strong husband who was my staunch supporter and friend during this process, without him it would not have been possible.

My body buckled under the strain.  My mind caused physical illness as it fought for sleep, relaxation and freedom from frustration.  My spirit crumbled on more than one occasion and caused guilt on my part for not being the perfect caregiver for my mother.  I shed tears out of everyone’s sight as I snuggled on our bed in the fetal position…hoping for some sort of break – a break that would never come.  It was an intense five years, but also 5 years of loving and appreciating the woman who gave birth to me.  It was no longer mom speaking, it was the disease, nemesis of Alzheimer’s.

I miss you Mom….

SUZ

Support and encourage Caregivers…..or become one.

CAREGIVING  is not a one person job – but it can be for those of us who virtually have no support.

When my mother needed to be assigned a Durable Power of Attorney for all her future needs, the duty fell on me as the daughter who lived locally.  Don’t get me wrong, I was proud and honored to “speak” for my Mother, but little did I know what I was in for.  As a mother of a teenage son, a fulltime employee for a school system and a husband who also worked fulltime and long hours – my time allotted for family was treasured on the weekends and whenever the three of us could get away for a break.

Taking over as my Mother’s DPOA, smashed any weekend plans we made, peaceful evenings, and time spent together.  The job was fulltime in itself – just in Mom’s demands alone.  Her incessant – constant phone calls nightly drove me to the point of almost slamming the phone against the wall hoping to leave a big hole and wall stuffing on the floor.  We had to get caller ID, we had no choice.  By the 16th phone call of the night, I stopped answering.  For my sanity, I had to.

Now of course I know that this IS what it really takes to be a an effective, honest and reliable DPOA.  Supporting my mother, caring for her, and standing up for her independence and dignity.

What a fool I was – being naïve enough to care what other’s thought.   How their words sliced through me like a sharp implement.  Insinuations that I was out to get Mom’s money and belongings.  The question WHY? do you take away her independence?  You already moved her out of her home !  You sold her house and put all her belongings in storage.  All her money is gone and why are you on the account with her?  Why can’t the “clan” all get along?  How do you know it is Alzheimer’s?  Mom sounds “fine” to me when I talk to her—my personal favorite.

She can still drive some argued – all you have to do is MAKE/DRAW a big black RIGHT arrow on a piece of paper and tape this sheet of paper to her steering wheel – that way, as she looks at the drawing of an arrow pointing to the right,  she can ONLY turn right on the one-way street when leaving the Assisted Living facility and she won’t turn LEFT into oncoming traffic.  How dare you take away her driving privileges…. that’s the last shred of independence she has.  What are you going to do with her car? Are you going to keep the money for the sale of her car?

Even after informing this genius that I would be held legally/morally responsible for ALL consequences-monetary and otherwise should Mom get into an accident, and God forbid injure, maim or kill someone….I could also lose my home if Mom accidentally killed an innocent person, it would be my cross to bear. If Mom had killed an innocent person while she was driving with the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s, the burden would be directed to me as her DPOA – having full knowledge of her diagnosis and still allowing her to drive.

I should not have allowed her to continue to drive. Mom was now medically diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s Disease”, documented in her medical history.  I have the car insurance guy begging me to get her off the road – a very concerned ALF administer – Mom’s PCP – Mom’s elder attorney and Adult Protective Services officer asking me why is your Mother still driving?  Why does she still have a car here at the ALF?  She has no need for one.

This genius that I mentioned – indicated on several occasions that they would love to have Mom at their home for a weekend or so – to give her a break.  I was very excited for Mom, to be able to share her confusion and actual decline with someone who insisted there was nothing wrong with her, or maintaining that Mom’s Alzheimer’s decline was not as serious as I was stating…..  It never panned out of course – but they insisted their intentions were good.  There was always a lame excuse.   Mom would have enjoyed getting out of her ALF room and spending valuable time with these family members.  In order to understand the severity of Mom’s decline, since our conversations were no longer effective and merely sufficed to make me feel like a complete failure  – a few days with Mom in their home – surely would have enlightened.

I had one family member goes as far as to outright inform me that maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with Mom – maybe it was me ….who had the problem.  Today, 10 years later, I would have no hesitation telling this family member to kiss where the sun doesn’t shine, followed by don’t contact me anymore.

The negative comments, insults and  suspicions all directed at me, did nothing to help my ailing Mother.  They only served to piss me off further and push me closer to wondering about my sanity.  Support?  I don’t think they knew the meaning of the word.  Finally after I simply couldn’t tolerate innuendoes any longer – I offered (2) separate family members complete control and take over of the DPOA.  This would relieve me in more ways than one – of Mom’s physical, mental, emotional and financial duties.  The (2) family geniuses surely could do a more apt job than they apparently thought I was doing.

I could be free of caregiving duties.  Spend more time with my own family, give my body and spirit at rest at last.  We could return to our calm lifestyle and enjoying long family weekends….with no phone calls from Mom.  No Mom showing up at the back door any time of day or night.  No more complaining relatives and friends. The exhausting trips to the ALF, shopping for Mom, and doing all her financial bills, paperwork, documentation late into the night would dispense. Being relieved of this huge responsibility by a complaining and annoying relative would have indeed been sweet.  I couldn’t wait.

I contacted each of them, who were both out of state (Virginia) I might add, and asked them to give me a convenient time in order for me to make an appointment with Mom’s elder attorney.  I would pay for the elder attorney visit – and ALL DPOA duties and responsibilities will be legally switched over to them.   The elder attorney would fill them in on the requirements, record keeping, filing, and all else the “job” of DPOA consisted of.  What a great idea this is I told them.  Hopefully, even though I knew I did a great job – maybe they could do even better taking care of Mom on a fulltime not to mention daily, basis.  Of course, this will eliminate any more bitching and moaning on their part.

Excitement weaned as it grew obvious each had no inclination or desire to take over as DPOA.   It never happened of course.  I was Mom’s caregiver, guide, friend, daughter and DPOA until the day of her death.

Word to the family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers of a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – please – if you can’t support a caregiver who is already stressed to the point of barely being able to sustain their lives as it is – and then being overwrought with caregiver duties and responsibilities that weigh down the human heart and soul – then either leave them alone completely or keep your nasty, negative, destructive comments to yourself – and HELP them.

Caregivers need support, encouragement, guidance, solace and love.  A big hug and kind words every day goes a long way !

SUZ

Pet Therapy – honored to be a part of it….thank you RebelMouse !

https://www.rebelmouse.com/suzette/my-tdi-girl-flower-742194758.html?xrs=RebelMouse_fb

MOM, stop screaming at me….please

     OMGOSH – MOM I’m going to hang up the phone if you don’t stop screaming at me.  Please stop.

How I remember those words – day after day.  I was all worked up, upset and on the verge of tears….. seems like every conversation we had.  I was clueless, frustrated and did not know what to do.  My Mother was never like this.  She was kind and loving.  What has happened to her?   Alzheimer’s was the answer.  It was the disease speaking, not my Mother.

I tried to help her each and every phone call, each unannounced visit to our home….but I could not placate her.  She asked about her money, her accounts, her car accidents, doctor’s appointments, statements she received, phone calls she received…none of which I could answer.  I tried, God knows I tried.  But that was impossible, nothing worked.  Was it me?  Why was she screaming at me?  I was her caregiver, but also human and unable to tolerate being screamed at.  I had my limits as well.   

Our phone starting ringing while we were at work.  By the time we got home – there were at least 15 missed phone calls, all from Mom.  I took a deep breath and sighed.  The worst was yet to come.  The phone’s shrill sound grew to be a noise that I dreaded hearing.  I could feel my muscles tense up, my jaw locked and my blood pressure soared.   I kept repeating to myself in a whisper –please please don’t call…please give me a break.  To no avail-and honestly I knew the nightly routine.

Mom was still living alone in her home after the passing of my Dad.  She was afraid, vulnerable and confused.  She would soon be in Assisted Living where she would be SAFE.  By now, her elder attorney had become involved and was a tremendous help to me.  Department of Social Services, Adult Care Division had visited Mom and filed their report, her doctor had now declared with certainty that Mom was unable “to live alone anymore” and my DPOA was about to go into effect.  Mom had been tested by a Neuropsychologist at a local hospital and the results of these tests were clear – Alzheimer’s Disease – so the process had begun.  She presented a danger to herself living alone.

I did not however, yet have her DPOA and I was still unable to legally help her with her banking, bills, financial issues, etc.  I tried to explain this to Mom – but she was unable to comprehend it.  By now, Mom had gotten into several small car accidents, she visited the credit union and banks up to 7 times a day, she called her doctor’s office non-stop daily, friends started worrying about her chronic and constant phone calls to them, relatives in other states called me asking about Mom and “what was wrong with her”, my household was stressed to the breaking point, the doctor was calling asking if Mom could come live with us – but help was on the way.  Mom obsessed about the phone calls and visits because she could NOT remember the previous phone calls or visits. She could not remember how to drive, the directions to our house that she had been visiting for 15 years….it was heartbreaking.  This was her disease speaking and taking control of her brain.  This malevolent nemesis called Alzheimer’s was robbing my Mother.

I felt better somehow after slamming the receiver against the wall or throwing the phone on the floor.  After answering the phone for the 12th time at night – Mom and I were emotionally spent.  I had nothing left to give her.  Her voice continued to rise during our conversations – and I admit, I had a very difficult time listening to her scream at me.  She screamed out of frustration and also to try and intimidate to get what she wanted.  The brain was able to try to “protect” itself and cover up shortcomings. 

I knew – that this was not my sweet Mother speaking.  My Mother was long gone.  She clung to her independence and fought using whatever method her brain dictated,  I tried relentlessly to change the subject.  Asking Mom, what she did that day?  Did she want to come over for dinner?  (I knew when she came to my home for dinner, she got a good meal in her).  Did she want to talk to her grandson? My husband? I let her know I was coming to visit in a day or so.  I made sure I kept my voice level and tried, tried hard to not get upset.  The more upset I got, the louder her voice got.  Sadly, it ended up being a screaming match – and I as her daughter should have known better. 

I can ascertain this of course NOW,  looking back 10 years ago……at the time, it was simply not that easy. Thank goodness for the resources, organizations, individuals and information available to caregivers these days. 

I am a survivor.  I learned all of this on my own.  In my book, I list many valuable resources and organizations available to caregivers and families.  I state emphatically what I “should” have done, and what I “could” have done years ago.  My feelings and coping mechanisms  were lacking in many respects – but I loved my Mother and was fiercely protective of her.  She deserved my respect my love and my full attention.  She was treated with dignity and respect by all involved.

That is what I gave her.  I would do it all again for Mom.

SUZ

 

 

 

 

Can your Mother come live with you ?

     MOM could not live alone any more.  I was frantic.  My heart sank each time I visited her home.  I visited Mom as often as I could during the week and spent most of Saturdays helping her out, taking her shopping, out for coffee and muffins, etc.  I loved my time with her.

She had lost a tremendous amount of weight.  Her refrigerator held no sustenance in the realm of food items.  She was eating egg whites and applesauce. Her clothes, once crisp and clean, were stained, torn and unkempt.  The pieces of paper, notes, calendars, and writing pads strewed the den, kitchen counters, and stairway.  The front yard showed grass and weeds almost a foot tall.  Her living room floor displayed random pieces covering the surface of the carpet.  Mom had not washed her hair in a while.  I do not know how long it had been since she had showered. She was still operating a vehicle.  The house was quite dusty and in total disarray.  Used plates, utensils, cups and frying pans sat on the kitchen counter.  There were stains all over the kitchen floor.   I had to take a minute, excuse myself and go outside so Mom would not see my tears.  I did not want her taking on my emotional state.

When I got myself together, I went back into Mom’s home and offered to help her clean up.  I washed all the dirty dishes, cleaned up the kitchen floor, got the washer and dryer going, cleaned her bathrooms and then took her out to get a decent meal – which she devoured.

I got ready to straighten up her belongings on the living room floor,  but she said she had a “system” and didn’t want me touching her items.  To her, these items belonged on the floor just as she had placed them.  She mentally fought to organize a house that used to come second nature to her.  I could see the agony on her face and watched her struggle to try to keep her independence.  It was heartbreaking to witness.  I hugged her and told her it would all be good !   After giving her many a cheery word – and upbeat nuances – I continued to pick up and do what I could in her home. 

Help was in the near future, thank goodness.  I had a difficult time leaving Mom to go home – knowing she was barely making it in that big house without her husband to take care of and guide her.  I offered to bring her to our home for a couple of days, but she refused to leave.  I look back now and can honestly understand her hesitance to leave her home.  In Mom’s mind, if she left her home – even to come stay with us for a couple of days – she may never be back in her home.  This was her home.  These were her belongings, her memories, her safety net.  She did not want to leave.

This vile disease, Alzheimer’s had my Mother in it’s clutches.  It was not letting go nor giving her a break.  Her decline was rapid and devastating after her husband passed.  She had no one to look out for her any longer—no one to protect her…..Dad was gone.

Many were expressing grave concern for Mom’s behavior. The credit union was beside itself trying to protect Mom and her interests.  She would visit the credit union up to 6 times per day, never remembering the previous visits.  She would go into her safe deposit box each time.  Mom was phoning the doctor’s office equally as many times daily until her dedicated doctor called me at home.  Her insurance agent for both home and vehicle were contacting me, telling me to get Mom OFF THE ROAD.  Adult Protective Services had been contacted.  The caller surmised Mom’s situation and a required follow up by Virginia state law ensued.   Friends were calling asking if my Mother was OK?   The wheels started turning.  Mom’s plight could no longer be ignored.

Mom’s doctor’s words hit hard.  But they were true.  Your “Mom should not be living alone anymore”.  He immediately scheduled a series of tests for Mom – to be given by a licensed experienced, Neuropsychologist at our local hospital. Mom’s elder attorney was expressing grave concern as well as her role in Mom’s life was beginning.  She worked together with Mom’s doctor, APS officer, and Neuropsychologist. The goal was for all concerned was MOM and her safety.

Many of her friends were concerned sure–but most felt she was “fine” and just missing her husband.  One friend that our families had known for years suggested I move in with Mom on a full-time basis.  Simply quit my job, leave my family, desert my life – to her it was a simple solution.  Mom needed me full-time.  I could cook her (Mom’s) meals, drive her to appointments, the grocery store – errands – the bank – also, I could ensure that Mom bathed, washed her hair, had clean clothes, clean house, spruced up yard, etc.  I asked her where my husband and son fit into this picture?  What about my job?  Who would pay my salary?  Was she going to contribute to our mortgage payment every month?  What about my life?  My responsibilities to my own family?  Needless to say that was our final phone conversation.  

Mom’s doctor contacted me.  His question – “Can your Mother come live with you” – so she will not be alone?  was answered swiftly and without a second thought from me was ….. “NO”.  I knew I could not take the responsibility of Mom 24/7 in our home.  My husband worked fulltime, I worked fulltime for a school system.  I had a teenage son in high school that included a busy weekend schedule of athletics.  Being Mom’s caregiver now was overwhelming, I could not even begin to fathom the additional strain on her as well as my family if she were in our home.  She would be in a unfamiliar environment compared to her own home.  As her designated caregiver and DPOA, every minute available in my time slot now, already, went to Mom’s care.  How could I take on more?  My blood pressure was already high and stress most days, was more than I could humanly tolerate.  If Mom had moved in with us, I would have ended up with a nervous breakdown.

Knowing that Mom would be alone in our home during the day opened up many possibilities.  What if she decided to cook something to eat?  There was the chance of our house going up in flames.  What if she accidentally let my two dogs out?  One of them was a 130# German Shepherd.  The worst thought was of Mom walking down the street looking for me or for her husband.  What is she got lost?  What is she had been accosted?  Oh my – so many scenarios to take into account.

The only way it would have worked for all of us, would have been for me to quit my job with the school system and stay home with Mom all day.  Financially however, was impossible.  My income was necessary for our household.  Me quitting my job was not even considered as a viable option. 

The outcome for Mom was very positive.  She was in the position to be placed into an Assisted Living Facility.  Within a few days, she had forgotten about her home and melded into the ALF environment and other lovely ladies of the facility.

Thank goodness.  Mom was now supervised by medical professionals, she was well fed, treated with respect and dignity,  Most importantly, Mom was now safe.

Suzette