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Warning…this is long, so you may need coffee. (Several cups.)

A few days ago, I told my husband that I could not continue on with the full burden of the care of my mom, without some help. I am exhausted. Ever since my dad died a little over 2 years ago, it’s been me and my mom against the world, (and yes, sometimes my mom against me.) LOL! So what else is new? Right? 

But honestly, I have had a heart of love and compassion for her, and I pray that I always will. Someday I will be old, and I doubt that my daughter will be involved in my care, as much as I have been there for my mom. It’s a different world these days, and children can be caught up in their own lives, and with their own dreams.

But I cannot ever abandon my mom. I never would. I guess what I am working through right now, is what is abandonment? If eventually I have to admit that I need help, and she might have to move into assisted living, is that abandonment? In my rational moments, I say of course not. (But I’m not all that rational lately.) I have put so much pressure on myself. When my dad first died, I invited her to come and live with me. But there were so many logistical problems. My kitchen is upstairs (we built the house, so just chalk it up to young and foolish.) We wanted a lake view from the kitchen. She can barely ever navigate my stairs. On Christmas, she could not make it up to the food, so we ate downstairs in the family room. Since Christmas, we haven’t dared try it. She will be coming for Valentine’s Day, and we will eat in the family room again, and watch a movie down there. I always bring her a heated throw and plug it in, as she’s always cold. (I on the other hand, am always hot, as I am the hot flash kid, and going through a late menopause.) We keep our house very cold. She keeps hers very hot. So temperature is a huge problem also. Believe me, when you are menopausal, it is a big issue.

And then there’s my commode. (I can’t believe I’m discussing it.) She says it’s way too low, and for her, it is. At her house, my dad installed those bars to help her pull up. I don’t know if we have the right walls to do it at our house. It’s not situated right, and that is frustrating for her. So she is constantly complaining about the toilet. My husband is a lawyer, and not the handyman type. This has been cultural shock for me (since 1978), as my dad could fix anything. My husband is brilliant, just not the mechanical type. So what would seem easy to you, is not for him. (But if the walls aren’t there, they aren’t.) I know there is a solution for this without overhauling our bathroom simply for her visits.

Even having the bathroom right down the hall from the room where she would stay, is not really close enough. It’s simply too long of a journey at this stage of her walking. She would really need a bathroom adjoining her room, as she has at home. She is greatly off balance. I keep asking the doctor why, but he ignores it pretty much. Though finally last week, he ordered a brain MRI. As we all know, there are so many things that will never show on an X-ray or an MRI. But at least he’s doing something.We will go on Monday to get the results. But we won’t get to talk to the doctor-just his nurse practitioner. It seems to be the way these days.

My mom and I decided that she could live in her own home (with her memories of my dad-they were married for 44 years), until she was no longer physically able to. That is what I would want, and that is what she desires. She is an insulin dependent diabetic, and she goes low (blood sugar) without warning at times. That makes it risky. But I could not be with her every moment even if she lived with me. It took me a long time to understand and accept that.

(But about admitting that I need help.) I feel that I hit bottom last week, trying to hold her hand everywhere we go, until we can get a buggy, or into restaurants, because she will not use her walker. She is very shaky most of the time, and she drifts off to the side, and nearly falls over whenever she walks alone, (or with me). She holds the walls for balance at home in her hallway. I try not to ever let go of her hand. The only time I really feel safe is when she pushes a shopping cart, or buggy.  When we are walking, I am afraid that she will fall, and we’ll both go down. I already have a torn rotator cuff (shoulder), and trying to lift her is impossible, (I’m only 5’2″), though I often try when she cannot get up from chairs or benches. My greatest fear is that by not using her walker, she will fall and have a terrible injury that will change her life (and mine) forever. I cannot make her see this though. She is stubborn.

At any rate, my counselor told me that I need to make some changes. I finally got through to my husband about needing some help. My brother goes to her house every day for lunch because he works near. She feeds him, and he eats! LOL! He does do the main grocery shopping, though there are many supplemental trips that my mom and I make, and he does a few handyman things. Other than that, I have her on my own. This means that I do all the doctor appointments, errands, hair appointments, clothes shopping trips, post office runs, pharmacy runs, bank runs, etc. I dont’ want to bore you, but you get the picture. Would I trade having lunch, grocery shopping and handyman things? Oh yes, I would! I would! LOL! Sometimes it’s hard not to get angry, but I know my brother is working hard, and raising a teenage boy alone. He has come so far from the days he was on drugs, and useless. I cannot say enough about how far he has come. But the care of an elderly, sick parent is so much more than anyone can imagine, and I am so very, very weary. (Okay, if I’m going to be honest, I’m totally exhausted and on the verge of losing it.) Until a few months ago, I was also dealing with a very rebellious teenage daughter who knew how to turn our lives upside down daily, and I have been through that stress with her for 15 years! We adopted her when she was 3, and she came strong-willed and ready to rumble. I was prepared to comfort her, and she was prepared for war! LOL! In my heart, I understood, but the journey was unbelievably long, and stressful. About the time she was ready to leave home, my dad died, and I took on the care of my widowed, sick, and aging mom. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, I haven’t had a life for years!!!  It is too hard to tell you the struggles and heartaches involved with my daughter, but now I have taken on another child of sorts. My dear mom. It’s the time of life when the child becomes the parent. I identify with her so closely. I can’t seem to separate myself, or find myself in any of this. It still becomes-me trying, like I did as a child, to please her and make her happy. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. My counselor has repeatedly told me that I can’t do either, but I am a slow learner, and keep on trying. My husband finally seemed to “get” my distress one night last week, and begin to offer solutions. Don’t we all know how this goes? Someone else sees a simple solution, but they don’t know our parent like we do. They don’t know the stubborn resistance that accompanies every rational suggestion, that would perhaps make things just a little easier. (Had to copy and paste-it’s a long story. LOL!)

So I called her yesterday and told her that Rob, my husband, was going to dinner with us. (He offered to help me get her in and out of places.) She also can’t see very well, especially in one eye, due to diabetic problems and scarring from laser surgeries. I told her that he would have one of the girls at his office buy her stamps, and that we would no longer try to do those type errands together, because it was too difficult (and risky) taking her in and out (and she insisted on going in.) Tonight I asked my husband to please sit and talk with her before we went to dinner, and together we could explain a few necessary changes. I am so proud of myself because I said that I needed help with some things.  I actually said that to my mom. This is a great achievement. He said that after we go to eat each Wednesday (our special day that I take her out), he would then drop us off  at Walmart, the mall, or wherever we needed to go, and after we safely have a buggy, we can shop as we normally do, and call him when we are finished, and he will pick us up.  He will help me get her to and from the car. He offered to help with the errands that we usually do, that are wearing me so very thin. The way I explained it to my mom was that Rob wanted to eat dinner with us, and that he needed an errand night for himself.  I tried to reassure her that everything would be the same, but that he would help us load groceries (when needed), and carry them in the house at night, etc. (Something I have been doing at the end of our evening together, and sometimes not getting home till close to midnight.) This particularly has worn me out.  I had to take all of hers and mine out of the buggy and put them on the check-out, load them back into the buggy, load them into the trunk, and then unload them at her house and mine. Remember the steps? (My husband is often times in bed by the time I get home.)

I told her that if I wasn’t so exhausted, that I could come and watch TV with her sometimes in the evenings like we used to, and that our time together should be a happy, enjoyable time that didn’t exhaust both of us always. She looked a little disturbed at first, (any changes are so difficult for the elderly-even good ones), but then I think she saw that it was a good idea. I hope she did.

Well, almost everything that could go wrong-did. It’s almost funny now as I tell it. If you are a caregiver, you know that you have an established way of doing things. How to hold onto your parent or loved one, how to use the disabled slanted walks, and not have them step on or off a curb, how slow to walk, how to warn about thresholds, etc. My dear husband is having to learn it all now, and there is a lot to learn. I have to learn to let the perfectionism go, and allow him to help me.

We ate and the meal went pretty well, though a little tense. But she like her food tonight, and that was so pleasant. We went to the mall, and he let me off at the entrance to get a stroller/buggy. I had an idea that if she wouldn’t use her walker, maybe she would use a stroller, which was set up like a buggy with high handles, etc. But much to my surprise, all the buggies, wheelchairs and everything in the rental area was gone! I walked all over the mall, and finally found a stroller/cart in Belks! By the time I returned to them ( sitting on a bench in Penneys) I felt like I had run a marathon. But at least we had a buggy. (My husband left us to shop.) On our journey to another store, we saw a sign that said “Customer Services”, and in very, very small print it also said “Strollers” and “Wheelchairs”. My mom actually saw it. (I don’t think I ever would have.) So down a long, long hall I went (by the bathrooms), to find a woman sitting in a closet office with a computer and a light. I asked her if this was where the strollers and wheelchairs were, and she said yes. I said, “Where?” She pointed to a room around the corner. “But no one will ever find them there,” I said with dismay and perplexion. “I know,” she said. (Such is the way with things that people really need.) Especially for poor mothers, the disabled and seniors. Unbelieveable.

When my mom and I finally reached the second store, it was almost closing time. LOL! (But we had fun on the journey, and got a cold drink along the way.) She seemed to be a little stronger tonight, to be able to walk that far.

We still had 30 minutes, so she shopped a little. I found a beautiful red top for her, and asked if I could buy it for a Valentine’s present. (When my dad died, there was no insurance, just social security, and her finances are low.) She hesitates to buy personal things she needs, though she will buy things from Publisher’s Clearing House…but that’s another story, for another day. But it’s okay, as it keeps her mind active, fooling with the stickers and forms they send constantly, and it’s fun for her to get a package now and then.

She bought a pair of pants to go with the top, and we proceeded to go to a little area with a bench, and wait for my husband. (I promise this ends soon.) Remember that book The 36 Hour Day? (This one was 52 hours.)

Okay, the problem was that the bench was way too low. She dropped herself hard onto it, and sadly, it was the lowest bench we’d ever seen. (Are they making things lower these days or what?) Before too long, the girl came out to lock the doors. (It was not 9 p.m. yet.) I asked if she would keep one door unlocked for us to get out. She obliged, but not happily. (I told her my husband would pick us up at 9 p.m.) A few minutes later she came back, and she grabbed our stroller (our lifeline), and I said nicely, “Ma-am” (I’m Southern), “I don’t think we can get her up without the stroller.” My mom then struggled to get up (no go), and I struggled to lift her. (No go.) Finally she turned sideways and grabbed the back of the bench, and the salesgirl  held the stroller, and I was still struggling to lift her up. She now saw the tremendous challenge that I knew we would have. (But all of this trouble did not soften her heart.) As soon as my mom finally got to her feet, she sent us quickly out the door into the cold-(buggy and all.) (Well, at least we got to keep the buggy.) It was cold, but not as cold as it had been. We live in NW Florida, but it has been very cold this winter. My phone rang, and it was my husband. (There was a problem checking out, and he was just now leaving Walmart.) My mom was shivering, and I was rubbing her shoulders, and hugging her. Her nose started to run, and she was suddenly getting very hoarse as she spoke. Her legs were giving out, and there was nothing to do but stand and wait. (This was going very well, don’t you think?) Finally he gets there, and we thaw out in the car. (I try not to be a B-I–itchy.) 🙂

At home we examine her red “cadillac” walker that has only been used for me to transport groceries into the house. For some reason, she decided that she would give it a try tonight. My husband showed me how to fold and unfold it-(it is the kind with a seat.) I try to lift it, and to my surprise, it is very light! She says that she will use it shopping in the mall (where there are not the normal shopping carts.)  “Are you kidding me?”, I think to myself. And I thank God (silently)! I call it progress…

Please view other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Lonnie,
    Well, it was long, but you have a way of writing, that makes it all interesting. I can imagine that all you are doing is leaving you exhausted. I also wanted to say one more time, that you may never know how much you are missed or needed on the grief board. I hope that there will be a day that you rejoin.

  2. Irene: I think I am using this blog for therapy these days. I just pour my heart out in hopes of getting healed and staying sane.
    I miss everyone so much at the Grief Board, and at least many have written me, and I have their emails and they have mine. Things got so cruel there that I could not put myself through that one more day, and Tom refused to stop it. I even asked him to delete or lock the threads so that new people would not come into so much cruelty and strife. But he refused. Finally, he did lock some I’ve heard. He did not think the lady was being attacked, and he could not see that I was. So I lost hope in him totally. I believe he is under the control of some very manipulative mean people. So he and I parted ways for good. I will not go back. I need to begin to heal now, as it has been so painful. I had chest pains and cried myself to sleep over it. I never want to end up angry and bitter like a few there are. They just want to lash out at everyone, and it is so destructive and needless.
    I will always remember my time there as a ministry of love and compassion, as well as a place on my journey, with the loss of loved ones, that I found healing. You were a part of that, and I thank you so very much. Stay in touch! Love and Hugs-Lonnie


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