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You can take over….anytime you choose

     I grew to despise the word…..FINE.  Starting out in the early stages of progressive Alzheimer’s with my Mother, I too, believed she was FINE.  After all, her husband of 44 years had passed and now she was alone.  Still, FINE was not a great word to describe her status, it was an OK word to use.

As the weeks turned into months however, her phone calls to me escalated and I could not see anything positive in the word FINE.  NO now, she was not FINE.  “Oh, your Mother is FINE”, she just misses your father.  She “is still grieving”.  “Leave her alone, she will be OK”.  DUH – if I had indeed left alone, she would never have made it alone being FINE.

The friends/family that used this word frequently did not partake in Mom’s care as closely and frequently as I did.  They did not go to her home 5 out of 7 days a week to check on her/bring her food/help her in her home,  they did not answer her 20 phone calls per night.  Mom did not show up at their backdoor frantic and panicked because she couldn’t get me on the phone.  They didn’t see the declining issues with cognitive impairment and memory (oops maybe they did) – let me reword that – they probably did notice it, but they didn’t have to DEAL with it as I did.  Her eating habits had caused her to lose weight, her once impeccable hygiene was lacking, the front yard had grass over a foot high, her physical appearance was deteriorating, her mood swings were now obvious (well I can speak for myself), and her short term memory had plummeted.

Mom was FINE?  I think not.

Then there are always the family members that want peace and tranquility for all. The Clan needs to stick together.  It sounded a little lopsided to me – but OK I tried.  But I have to refer back to the FINE word.  Now it is not even listed in my words used to describe Mom. 

I am stressed, frustrated beyond human endurance and all that is needed is tranquility and for us all to get along?  Meanwhile I continue taking care of Mom, my own family, working full-time 30 miles away and driving to Mom’s house to check on her at least 4 times per week.  I straighten up her home, I wash her clothes, I clean her bathroom—because I love her and it needed to be done. 

Then, I had a great idea.  I offered those who verbosely expressed that I needed to “leave Mom alone and get off her back” full care of Mom.  I told them we could drive to the elder attorney’s office and I would gladly switch my DPOA over to them !  Great idea, I thought.  Then, we will see if they still think Mom is FINE.  I can guarantee you, they wouldn’t have.

But to my disappointment, none accepted my offer!  But why not I asked?  You are more than happy to take over Mom’s care….full time care.  Judging by biting comments, I assumed they could and would be more competent than I was.

I even had one friend of my parent’s whose children I grew up – suggest (and she was serious) that I move IN with MOM on a full time basis.  Simply she said, quit your job, pack up and move in with your Mother.  She needs you.  This way I could take care of Mom’s hygiene, nutrition, errands, housework, appointments, and yard.  OK I said….one minor problem.  Are you going to pay my SALARY after I quit my job to move in with MOM?  This in turn helps make our mortgage payment.  Well….if you guessed her answer was no, you would be correct.

I asked her if she had F*#@ing lost her mind – ?  The sad thing is, she was serious.  She had done this with her Mother – but one huge difference, she had never worked outside the home.  We never spoke after that conversation.

Being scrutinized as caregiver was one of the hardest issues I had to deal with.  I received complaints and comments – but when I offered – no one else wanted to take over the responsibility.

You know what?  I will go to my grave knowing I did the best job humanly possible taking care of my Mother.  Loving her, protecting her, standing up for her rights, and treating her with the dignity and respect that she deserved.

I know she is watching me from above, and is very proud of me.

SUZETTE

 

 

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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