Monday, March 28, 2011

Day Care

Day three of day care.  I am beginning to relax.  Mom is making friends.  I am going to take a nap.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The melting (down and otherwise)

  It has been an intense time in our home for the last month.  As the weather here has finally eased, the walls of snow slowly dissolve, revealing huge potholes in what  was the road to our house last fall.  This is the wrath of winter in all its destructive power.

As Mom has weathered the winter, I have grown more physically and spiritually drained.  My own sanity besieged.  With this sluggishness of spirit and cognitive function, I realize that I can no longer leave Mom unattended.  I have seen her thought processes decay this last season.  Little things, like going to the store for fresh vegetables or even out coffee and doughnuts, things that we did so joyously together at this time last year,  now have a muddy, murky quality.  Although I have watched it happen, it still comes as a surprise that her world  has now become so small and measured.

Sometime this winter, almost unnoticed, Mom quit trying to use her computer.  She had been saying my husband had "unhooked it and not put it back".  He did borrow her monitor a few times to use with his laptop, but I had reconnected it several times.  She just...stopped.  No fanfare.  She stopped, and now...? Just...gone. Mom quit initiating phone calls over a year ago. She was not able to sequence numbers and was getting too frustrated.  She quit answering the phone, even with caller ID, months ago.  I now hand her the phone when folks call. She hands them back muttering "I cannot hear on these things! You do it!"

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, this is just one more complication of a deteriorating mind.  The consequences of this change are enormous.  It has cut her off from her family.  Her whole social life has suddenly been reduced to my household. Now, most days, my husband and I, along with the two ladies that I employ to help out, are her only human contact. 

Mom's children and grandchildren have settled all over the world. A lifetime of welcoming the lonely stranger into the family has created a vast web of relationships, only some by blood. All of these people are her family of the heart. Now that Mom no longer uses e-mail, or the phone, they have no way to stay connected with her, except to physically visit.  Not all of them understand Mom's condition. Some that do, especially the younger ones, do not have the means to come see her in person. If they do not reach out to her soon, I fear it will be too late.  This disease is rotting her memories.

My own children live close by, and visit frequently enough, so she knows them.  What is becoming painfully clear is that Mom is losing her ability to recognize even those she loves when they change appearance. Although she knows they should age, that a child she last saw as a toddler is now a pre-teen, the image in her heart overrides all attempts at logic. She knows us by what we looked like were when we lived with her.

This inability to utilize electronic communication, and the telephone, became starkly clear in the last two weeks. We have one part of the family living in Tokyo. When the earthquakes and tsunami hit, and the nuclear accidents filled the news, our entire scattered family's thoughts were with them.  Ironically, our only communication with them has been through Facebook posts made from my "sister's" smartphone.  For those of us glued to our computers, we have followed her detailed posts of her experience with a mix of hope and terror. They have been having a harrowing, life altering time. Thank God they are doing okay.

Since there was nothing she could do, and she was already so sad, I tried to protect her from the anxiety of the situation.  I did not immediately share with mom what I was doing always online.  I forgot that Mom still reads the paper and that she understands most of it. Once I realized that fibletts were going to be useless, that her depression was growing, I relented. I diligently read aloud each of  those posts to Mom.  She knows all is okay with her "girl"and her baby (he is now 10 years old I think) and no longer asks.

Once again, it is surreal to share such intense and life changing events with a mother who cannot hold it in her memory.    Mom pines for her family and they are always otherwise occupied.  It is all so sad sometimes.

Most of her only son's family lives over 1500 miles away. They had two big events this month.  One of mom's grandsons got married, adding both a granddaughter in-law and, with her daughter,  a new step-great-granddaughter.  Meanwhile  a new great-granddaughter  was also born this month to a different grandson and his fiancee.  While Mom is delighted with the new additions to the family, she is also agitated. She cannot remember their unusual names, or recall who belongs with whom.  Mom has no concrete context. She has no way to hang onto their names or faces. We have no pictures (they are all on Facebook or attached to e-mails she doesn't open). While I repeatedly show pictures of my brother's growing family to her on my laptop, she says things like "That doesn't look like him" while looking at current pictures of her only son, or "She is cute, which one is that?"  She knows she has more family than she sees but they might as well be invisible. Now they are reduced to confusing people she yearns to know, but holds no hope of meeting.

It robs the happiness out of what used to be so joyous. It makes me whine.

It isn't just Mom that is hurting. My family's self protection habit of keeping physical distance from Mom also isolates me. That has been difficult to navigate. When I expected to be happy, instead I am flooded with negative emotions.  I am angry that I could not go see the family when they gathered to celebrate the wedding.  Mom's family is also mine. It is normal that miss them too.  I want to embrace them too. I want to smell the sweet scent of the newest baby.  I resent being left out.  It is making it more difficult to find that Love that sustains me.  I am so jealous of my local sister's freedom to travel, it is currently difficult to contain. I fear I am growing bitter.

Then I remember ...Mom.

How petty of me because I can at least have hope of meeting them eventually.  I can friend them on Facebook.  I can have some form of relationship with them other than  just words that fall through the holes in my memory.

The intensity of all this has taken a toll on me.  These are my family too.  I process all these feelings at support group, with my colleagues at the hospital, with my therapist, even here in the blog.  But mom only has us.  And I fear , right now, it is too much for me. I am hoping to help both of us by getting her in an adult day program.  I  pray she gets some new friends.  Someone with whom  she can find joy again.  Someone with whom she can  grieve. Someone to share a meal who isn't obsessed with her nutrition. Someone to talk to that isn't always overtired and distracted.  Someone else.  Not forever, but for a little while.  Someone not me.

On this second day of Spring, we have just had still another new snowfall.  The sun is rising and so is the household.  I was just beginning to see the hope of lawn under the glacier pack outside. The new snow hides the potholes temporarily.  It will not last.  It cannot.  But it is inspiring anyway.  I will now allow Hope to soothe my tired bones. 

Holy spirit, I pray for containment of all these "melt downs".  For the safety of all loved ones, even those I have yet to meet.  For the reconnection of human souls through friendly communion, for the strength to persevere as things continue to fall apart, melt, transform and redefine, and with hope for all, a good nights sleep tomorrow.