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I realize that by posting this message, I am opening myself up to criticism from people who cannot possibly understand what I’ve been through for the last 3 1/2 years. But the writer in me feels that it is important to continue the story-just the way it played out. To do differently is to deny the pain, the heartache, and the sorrow that I am now experiencing. Not because of the decision that I have made, but because of trying to please my mother for my entire life, and never managing to feel that I truly did. The past few days have been filled with the deepest hurt that I have ever known. I don’t know how I have managed to get through them, other than by the grace of God, and with the help of my husband. For those who have been following this blog, you know the tremendous challenges that I have faced with my mom in the past months and years. I felt overwhelmed every day of my life, since my dad died 3 1/2 years ago. I developed a sleep disorder, because the responsibility of her care made me on edge every moment. I have responded to so many emergencies with her lately, that I have lost count. I felt so pressured to keep her alive (and reasonably happy), that I could not focus on anything else. Therefore, I would often find myself staying up all night, trying to find some time to call my own-writing out my feelings, and praying that perhaps I would connect with someone–anyone–who understood my plight.

I tried in every way possible to please her, but I don’t think that is possible.  I have sacrificed my health, my marriage, and my sanity to be at her beck and call, and I can’t do it anymore. What follows is a letter I wrote to an elder care group about these last few days. For those of you who know the story already, you’ll have to endure some background information that you already know, but read on for the conclusion. (Please forgive the formatting. I couldn’t get it to come out right when I copied and pasted.)

I Have To Save My Life

My dad died 3 1/2 years ago, and I have been the primary caregiver for
my mom for those years. While she still lived independently, she is an
insulin dependent diabetic, prone to going low unexpectedly, and we had
to be in touch with her continually. (I saved her life many times by
giving her OJ or something sweet, to bring her blood sugar back up. Each
time it was frightening.) I kept my phone by my side at all times, and
developed a sleep disorder, because I could not sleep at night,
since her care became my responsibility. It wasn’t really safe for her
to live on her own anymore, but that is what she wanted. I did offer
initially to have her move in with us, when my dad died. (I am so glad
now that she didn’t, as she would have driven us totally crazy.) But we
had a good system. She called when she got up, and when she went to bed.
I called in-between. I did all the errands and doctor appointments-(a
different doctor for every body part.) I took her shopping, to the post
office, hairdresser, and everywhere else she went. My brother has only
taken her somewhere once or twice ( perhaps to the pharmacy) that I remember, and
that was when I was out of town for a couple of days, and he had to.
Because I had a torn rotator cuff (shoulder), he did the heavy grocery
shopping, though I did all the supplemental buying of additional needed groceries. (Still
lugging in cases of diet cokes, and gallons of heavy milk, late into the
evenings.) I did all the prescription and pharmacy runs, etc.

My brother did very little else, but visit for lunch every day. But he is her Golden Boy,
since he came from the man she loved, and I am her slave, since I came
from the man she didn’t (and I look like him.) I took all this for all
my life, and treated her with more kindness and compassion than I am
even capable of. It was like God was loving her through me. I was always
gentle and loving with her. I can only think of possibly 3 times in my
life when I really stood up to her, and one time I ended up checking
myself into the mental health unit, feeling suicidal. (It was because I never felt any
compassion or support from her, concerning anything that was going on in
my life. I desperately needed a mother. But it was always all about her.
I felt like I was the mother from the time I was little. I had no
nurturing, except from my grandmother, and the lack of it has damaged me
terribly.) Well, about 4 1/2 months ago, she fell (while I was holding
her hand coming out of a Waffle House) and broke her right foot, and her
left leg. She was in a nursing home for that, and completed her rehab,
and was about to be released. Then she fell while trying to get to the
bathroom, and broke her right hip. This time surgery was required, and
the anesthesia really took a toll on her mind. She can’t remember
things, has hallucinations (seeing and hearing things), and seems to be
paranoid to some degree. At any rate, she was always outspoken, but now
all her inhibitions (if she ever had any) are gone, and she is very
belligerent and angry. One nurse’s aid would come out of her room almost
crying, from her bad temper. (She looked like she had been in The Lion’s
Den.)

After my mother’s hip surgery, she was no longer capable of living
on her own, and was told she would either have to have someone watch her
24 hours a day, or go into assisted living. She didn’t want to do either
of those, but finally agreed to assisted living, after making everyone
crazy in the mean time. She hated the nursing home (even though the
staff, for the most part, was wonderful.) I visited her faithfully every
other day, sometimes every day. (My brother visited her sporadically-on his way fishing.)

But he’s her hero, and I’m Cinderella (before the party and the prince.) She
babies him all the time, and shows a big difference in the way she
treats us. She comes to his defense always, even when he treats me
badly, and doesn’t pay back money he’s borrowed. (In spite of all this,
I also treat him very kindly, with the exception of one time recently, when I’d had enough.)

He can basically do no wrong. If I disagree with him about anything (which I almost never do), she jumps all over me.

I took her on elegant picnics to the Atrium, complete with battery
operated candles and white tablecloths. I made food to bring in, since
she hated the nursing home food. (It was bad.) I listened to her
complain continually about everything. I comforted her, encouraged her,
and was a good, attentive advocate for her with the doctors and nurses,
etc. I did all that I knew to do. Then I went home and cried.

She was moved into a temporary room at the assisted living, until her
permanent room became available. I was going to decorate it for her, and
surprise her with everything wonderful. This had to all be purchased very 
quickly. I told her that I would decorate with the basics, and then we
would go to her house, and get her pictures, and all the things that she
wanted around her. She criticized the color of the furniture I got, the
fact that we painted the room white, (I was trying to recreate the feel
of a room she had (that she loved) when she was younger.) The room she had then, was
painted red with white trim. I knew a one room apartment would be too
dark with red walls, so I had them paint the room white, and I am going
to do red (almost crimson) accents-bedspread,  red recliner, beautiful
artwork, white lamps, white furniture, and touches of gold here and
there. Believe me when I tell you that it is going to be gorgeous. The
ALF Director already stopped by and loved it, and we hadn’t even gotten
started good. My mother and I fought yesterday because she got someone
to let her in the room, and I had asked her to please wait until we got
it decorated, and then we could be with her, when she saw it completed.
I didn’t really mind that she went in that time, and a previous time,
when I showed her the room. I just asked if she would wait one day until
we finished it, so we could surprise her. I have shopped and worked
myself to death, getting all the things for  a couple of weeks. She was
angry that I wanted her to give me a day to finish it. She snapped at me.

She won’t cooperate with anything. She fights me on everything! We had words,
because I was in tears. Then we really had words. All of her
mistreatment of me came to the surface, and I told her what I thought
finally. (I had to, or die.)

She refuses to use her walker. She fell the
day we went to check her out of the nursing home, because she wouldn’t
use her walker. She fell her second day in the assisted living, because
she went to the door without her walker. She will not listen to anyone!
She acts like a Prima Donna. (This is her basic nature.) She says she is
not going to be attached to that thing every minute. If she falls 2 more
times (and is fortunate enough not to break anything) her care level
will go up tremendously at the ALF. (And of course, so will the money we
have to pay. We are already paying almost $4,000 a month.) But if she
falls, and has to go back to the nursing home, she will have to remain
there for the rest of her life, as there will be no more money, and she
does qualify for a nursing home right now. She will have to go on
Medicaid, if she becomes a permanent resident. (We owe the nursing home
a lot of money now, because her Medicare and supplemental insurance ran
out before her 4 1/2 month stay there did.) We can only afford to keep
her in assisted living for about 2 years, if she doesn’t fall again, and
break something. But if she does, and requires rehab, her somewhat
independent living will be over, because she won’t have the finances,
and Medicaid will take all her income, including any from the sale of
her house.

I am at my wits end. She is rebellious and defiant. She needs to realize
that this has not just taken a toll on her, but me also. I am
exhausted beyond description!!!  I spent 6 hours with her in the ER, while she screamed in
agonizing pain (after breaking her hip), and even morphine could not
control it. (I don’t want to go through that again.)

But even after all that, she still refuses to comply with using her walker.

I told her she was acting like an unruly child by refusing to use her walker, and that she was going to fall, and have to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home, because of her rebellion.

Everyone (doctors, nurses, aids) have repeatedly told her to use her
walker, and she will not, most of the time. She resents being reminded
by anyone. We frequently find it way across the room from where she is.

We have continually tried to tell her the consequences of
another fall, but she is stubborn. She will not listen to anyone! She
understands what she is doing.

In our heated discussion, I told her that no one could have taken better
care of her than I did (since Sam died.) No one.
She said, “Not always. Not always.” (That really hurt.) Before God, I can
tell you, that I have NO REGRETS.

The call ended with her telling me that I was mean, bitchy, and jealous.
I replied, “I’m so glad that you said that, because now I am gone from
your life.”
She then taunted me with, “Oh yeah? Yeah..yeah..yeah…”
My final words were, “You just watch me. You just watch me.”

So Saturday and Sunday night, I spent two surreal evenings, decorating her assisted living
apartment. Can you imagine how difficult that was for me? I had ordered
special hanging hearts (hand painted) that said, Betty’s Place and Sweet
Dreams-by her dresser. (I hope she feels bad when she sees them, but she
won’t.) I was numb to a degree, as I put things in place for her, and
weepy and distraught earlier in the day, last night, and on the way home. (I wasn’t
sure I was strong enough to finish the decorating, but thank God, I somehow was.)

She has hurt me for the last time. I will not be there to hear her
reactions or complaints. I am done! I can’t do anything right, and I
think the reason that I have perfectionist tendencies, is because nothing
is ever good enough for her. Nothing.

She made me feel guilty for trying to surprise her. I was thinking of
her–picking out the color she loved, and fixing everything so
beautiful. But what do I get in return? Cruelty!!! I cannot do this
anymore…

I simply cannot take anymore. It is time for my brother to step in and
take over. She is ruining my health (mental and physical), my marriage,
and my life. All he has to do now is get her to her doctors, and buy her
personal items-the least he can do. If I am going to survive, I must get
away from her. I do not intend to go to her funeral. The hurt is too
deep. I have had it.   (End)

So there you have it. I finished decorating Sunday night. It took us till 11 p.m. We were working as fast, and as hard as we could. I received a couple of irate messages from her on my cell, during that time, asking when I was going to show her the room (If Ever.) Once again, I felt the incredible pressure that she has put on me all my life. (I had decided to let my husband show her the room, after I left.) The last thing I did was unpack her clothes, and place them in her closet. As I realized the time to leave was nearing, I kissed her blouse, and blew a kiss into the room as I left, thinking, “I’ll always love you.” (But wondering why I was not worthy of her unconditional love and kindness.) I closed the door behind me, and it was over. But the pain was only beginning…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

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

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12 Comments

  1. Lonnie, all I can say right now is, I LOVE YOU TOO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP THE FAITH & TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU. PLEASE THINK OF LONNIE. I LOVE YOU GIRLFRIEND.
    LOVE PEACE& FOR GOODNESS SAKE STRENGTH
    SANDY

  2. did you get my message hun.

  3. Wow…and I thought I had it bad with my adopted mother. I ran across your blog by accident searching on the web. I am an adopted child and reunited with my birthparents but do not continue a relationship with my birthmother by choice (she is not healthy). I could never do right by my adopted mother and I can feel your pain through your writing. My adopted parents had their own issues and I used to feel so guilty if I didn’t do anything. I was always the black sheep and my brother “the golden child” so I completely understand where you are coming from. I guess the most important thing I have learned is that you have to believe in your heart and your mind that you have done THE best you could do – and all that you could do – for your mother. You do not need to take abuse or insults from anyone – least of all your parents. Your strength must come from within. You must believe IN YOU. Let go of the need to have a “parent” and please that parent. Those days are over. You are responsible for YOU nobody else but YOU. Do what you can and when you can but do not overdo things in an attempt to please someone you will never quite please. God knows your spirit and God knows you have done right by her. Take some time for YOU. Stop trying to control that which you cannot control…and God Bless You for being so patient and so kind and so wonderful to someone that has hurts and pains in their life and never could take a good hard look in the mirror – I am speaking about your mother. Be kind to yourself – be good to yourself. Doing this requires the will power to step away from those that hurt us.

    Good Luck to you..

  4. Wow!

    I transitioned my mom to assisted living after she had a stroke in 2005. At the time, I was 33 years old and found very few resources to help families understand the benefits of assisted living, evaluate communities and transition their loved one to them. So I decided to create them!

    To help families with this issue, I created Inside Assisted Living – a blog focused on helping families evaluate and transition a loved one to assisted living. I was also curious about what other families were concerned with, so we decided to ask them. We surveyed 195 families about their concerns and preparedness and put them into a free report. Anybody can download it off the Inside Assisted Living blog. All are free.

    I hope this helps your readers. We’re all kind of connected in this strange way, so we have to look out for each other!

    All the best,

    Ryan Malone
    Inside Assisted Living

  5. Lonnette, I wish I had the time to go to your other site but i am really behind, but I am so sorry I could not have seen this the day it was posted because I have many comments for you and by now your hurt has begun to heal and most likely you have mellowed toward your Mother.

    If you have mellowed, as I think you probably have, it is the thing you need to do for the present couple days, but just as soon as you can you need to sit down with your husband and decide what you are going to do and pay for and let her know that she is at the end of her rope.

    Lonnette, caregiving is hard enough without doing it for a person who does not appreciate you. The facts are there. I guess what you need to do is present your mother with the book of rules and regulations.

    List what you will do
    List what you will not put up with.
    continue making a list so that there is little that is unknown. Its time you held your ground and let her have it.

    I know I am harsh, but Lonette you are trying too hard. You won’t get her love as long as you let her get by with stuff. She is a bitter, manipulative woman. Let her go on Medicaid. I think she may crumble for a show. Let her fall and feel very alone. She’ll come around believe me.

    I do wish you are okay. She may be your mother, but she still isn’t worth the trouble she causes you. I would tell yout brother to back off also, or pay a little to you for your time. These two are a real pair.

    Take care Lonette,
    I think of you often, and now I know the present trouble!!
    Frank

  6. Sandy: Thank you so much for your love and understanding. This has been the most difficult time of my life, and my physical health (and emotional) cannot take anymore. I am truly done. I have to save my life now…
    Love, Lonnette

  7. Adopted Child:
    Thank you so much for your kind words, and for your understanding. I am so sorry that your life was difficult, and I hope you know that you weren’t the problem. So many times innocent children suffer because of someone else’s problems. I take great strength from the words you wrote to me, and I am determined now to get far away from this situation, as quickly as I can. I am afraid for my physical and emotional health. Please stop by again, Sparkle

  8. Frank: Thank you so much for writing to me. I value your suggestions and support. This time it truly is over. I cannot take anymore and live. I know that I am close to a heart attack, or something worse, if I do not remove myself from this situation. I have had no further contact with my mother, and I changed my cell number. I will also change my home phone, if that becomes necessary. Apparently she has tried to reach me, asking where her money is, and about the Power of Attorney. My brother called my husband, saying she was upset because she couldn’t reach me. The truth is…there is no money. She makes $2,000.00 monthly with her Social Security and retirement, and the assisted living costs $4,000.00 a month (if she stays at her present level of basic care, and a few extras.) The extra $2,000.00 this month came out of her savings, and from now on it would come as a result of the sale of her house or a mortgage.
    At any rate, I am letting my husband handle those things. I told him to get us out of any legal entanglement with her. I don’t want anything from her, and would never take anything that wasn’t rightfully mine. I would prefer that we no longer have the POA, and of course, she can revoke it at any time anyway. I just want out of all of it. My brother and husband will have to iron out the details. Whatever time I have left on this earth, I hope to find some peace (if that’s possible.) I am very proud of the care I gave her, and I laid down my life for her for the past 3 1/2 years. But it was never enough, and it never will be. I cannot do this anymore…
    Many thanks, Lonnette

  9. That’s had to be really rough on you. I’m glad that you were willing to help your mother as best you could despite all that happened. It definitly sounds like you’ve given everything within reason.

  10. Lonnette, thankfully you have held your ground. I was very concerned, cause I thought, well maybe you let down and went back. I do feel this woman, who by some little sperm, is your Mother, has always taken her marriage decay out on you. How very sad and how very sick. I hope you are getting some rest, and find a laugh or two on tv to share……or do something you would never do and smile on that! “Kid, ya did good–I’m proud of ya!” says Bogie, leaning on the bar.

    Take care Lonnette, keep us posted please.
    Frank

  11. Thank you, Frank. My body is trying to adjust to the present and past stress. For the first time in 3 1/2 years, I no longer sleep with my cell phone on, by my bed. I was forever getting calls about falls, other emergencies,and so many crisis situations. My body doesn’t yet know how to relax, but it will learn again, hopefully.

    It appears that my brother may try to take her out of the Assisted Living–after all that we went through to get her in a safe and beautiful place. All that work–the move, the decorating-the blood, sweat, and tears–all for nothing.

    If he takes her out of there (and home) we are truly finished with any financial aid, etc. She is already demanding her POA back, and we will gladly give it to her, and that’s it. I no longer want to be responsible for her in any way. He seems to be intent on undoing anything we accomplish.

    So, I hope they’ll be very happy together, though she can NEVER be happy, I’m convinced. Thanks for your support and encouragement. I have treasured those who “get it.” Lonnette

  12. That’s a long, traumatic post and there’s no need to read between the lines. My heart goes out to you.


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