Sunday, September 11, 2011

And then all hell breaks loose

I posted this on my happy blog yesterday:
Grief has widened my perspective. I feel like a funnel, taking in more than I have the capacity to contain. I move forward with open arms, vulnerable but receptive.
A few hours later, around 4pm, I got a voice mail from Dad, saying he was taking Mom to the emergency room. They had gone grocery shopping and he left Mom in the car for 10 minutes. When he came back, he thought Mom was having a seizure. She was crying and complaining of back pain. He asked if she wanted to see a doctor and she said yes.

They were stuck in the ER waiting room for two hours (my husband and I met them there to pick up the groceries from Dad's car...he was worried the meat would go bad). I kept saying prayers asking for strength,  patience for Dad, and comfort for Mom. So grateful I'd had a reflective moment earlier in the day. I know it kept me from being completely sideswiped by panic. I wanted to help, and a cold fridge was all that was needed from me.

A CT scan, X-ray, blood work, and urine test later, it turns out Mom has another bladder infection. What Dad thought was a seizure was just squirming in pain (and the totally disorienting feeling of not understanding the pain or being able to describe it to him).

I can't imagine how hard it must have been for Mom to describe her symptoms, or for Dad to bring the doctor up to speed on Mom's medical history (doesn't dementia trump all? How can anyone tell the difference between physical pain and emotional bewilderment?). Dad said the staff was great and took really good care of Mom.

It was 11pm when Mom and Dad got to our house to pick up the groceries on their way home. Mom had been given pain killers and Dad was eager to get some dinner and go to bed.

Just another day in the life of Alzheimer's: total upheaval.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Need to vent

  • I have one friend, a co-worker, who also lost a parent to Alzheimer's. We talked today at lunch, and it helped. People who understand are hard to come by. 
  • Seeing my mom-in-law and sister-in-law interact makes me jealous. I'm grateful to be included in the sisterhood on my husband's side of the family, but nothing replaces the friendship I had with Mom.
  • It frustrates me that I can't be the "strong one" all the time. Sorrow feels like being out to sea with a half-inflated life ring. 
  • I simultaneously love and hate visiting the house I grew up in. It brings back so many familiar sensations: safety, comfort, definition. But seeing it in such disrepair is heartbreaking. The house, Mom's domain, has been out of her care for almost five years. There are no pens or post it notes on the kitchen counter. The cupboards are all disorganized. Nothing is how it should be, even in the junk drawer. It's those realizations that kick me when I'm down. 
  • Mom's been having a hard time falling asleep. She can't get comfortable. Dad said she needed him seven times the other night before finally getting to sleep. She's terrified of hitting her head on the headboard or wall (legitimate fear? I don't know). She was panicked, even just describing it to me and my sister. She feels like she's drowning, or falling, or sinking. I think she really believes that her life is in danger. She's completely overwhelmed and bewildered. She leaned on my sister's shoulder and sobbed. I've never seen her cry so bitterly. My heart broke, obliterated, smashed to a million pieces. My sister and I both rubbed her back and cried with her. She looked like a very old, lost, frightened woman. She cried like a child, completely overtaken by her circumstances, with no ability to step back and look at a bigger picture. She is loved. She is safe. She is being cared for. But her 30 and 22-year old daughters couldn't convince her. 
  • Dad told me that she woke up the other night, asking what the people outside her window wanted, and why they were giving her something sweet in buckets. ????????????? I don't know if it was a hallucination or a really vivid dream. Dad told her, "there's no one outside your window." She burst into tears, angry and frustrated that Dad didn't believe her. It made me angry, just hearing the story. Why wouldn't Dad reassure her? Why not just go with it, and soothe her? Why not pretend the people outside her window are harmless, chuckle about buckets of sweetness (how odd!), kiss her forehead, and tuck her into bed? It sounds like a battle of wills. I wonder how much longer Dad can be her caregiver. 
  • I'm afraid for Dad's health. What if he finally loses his patience, his temper, his cool? What if he breaks an arm trying to keep Mom from falling in the bathroom? We're all sunk without Dad. Is putting Mom in a nursing home the final victory for Alzheimer's? We can't lose sight of what's best for Mom, just because it doesn't look the way we want it to.
  • Are my brothers grieving? They haven't visited Mom much lately. Do they notice huge changes when they see her? She's changed a lot even in six months. How can I be the best big sister possible to them? I feel the weight of first-born responsibility heavy on my shoulders, tight around my neck, aching in my heart. I want them to know how much Mom loves them. Somehow, I feel responsible to tell them but I don't know why or how. 
  • Too many tears to keep typing. I need to go to bed.