Taking Care of My Elderly Mom

Tara

Taking Care of My Elderly Mom

Tara

I Always Knew I Would Become Mom's Caregiver

So—FYI—if you're looking for what I'm referring to as the "Small Miracle", it's the fact that I found this website and the ability to create a blog to chronicle my real feelings on a day when I felt so desperate.

And, back to the context of my situation—and then on to why I felt so desperate today. Perhaps some of you can relate to this!

Okay — so, all my life I've known that I would have to take responsibility for my mom someday. And I watched my grandparents do their best, and watched how stressful their efforts were for everyone—themselves and my mom included.

So, I was determined to do things differently. I read every self-help and armchair psychology book I could since I was 22. I went to therapy starting at age 29. I attended classes hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness called Family-to-Family. I began a support group for "Children of", all with the intent to help my mom carry out her own decisions and live as independently as she could for as long as possible. Oh—and also to be sure I could be as functional as possible given my Jerry Springer show childhood (Dad is an alcoholic with a rage problem...separate issue).

Several things happened that shattered my illusion of our mutual independence.

Mom and I's Story: The Beginning of My Caregiving

First, after 18 years of working at a good company, she had an episode and wrote a company-wide email that was inappropriate, conspiratorial, and downright scary—and they insisted she take permanent disability. This was the event that led to me becoming her Power of Attorney. I also encouraged her to do a Mental Health Advance Directive—which she did.

Financially, she was in debt and running a monthly deficit of $500 because disability does not pay 100% of a person's former income. So, I began monthly subsidies so she could stay in her home. And I paid off her debt.

This arrangement worked for awhile and saw us through a few manic and depressive cycles—until the pendulum swung hard and long to the depressive side of the equation. Mom wouldn't eat, stopped bathing, wouldn't get out of bed—even for toileting. Wouldn't leave the house, wouldn't open the door, wouldn't let anyone in my family help her at all—including my grandmother. I was living 3000 miles away. She did have a friend helping her with groceries, (okay, Vodka), meds and bill-paying. Her friend was also manic depressive.

This was the incident when she was malnourished and drinking excessively. Oh, and she was still smoking heavily and was on continuous oxygen. And her eyesight worsened to the point it is now. She refused to even talk about alternate living arrangements and insisted she was fine alone in her home (she still thinks she would be fine on her own). I tried asking her landlord to evict her and tried pleading with her to stop smoking because she could cause a fire or explosion that might hurt the other people living in her building.

We had to have her involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility. This involves the police, the EMTs, the court system. It was NASTY and awful. My grandmother took the opportunity to dump all of her negativity and criticism on me. It was harsh and unwarranted. I am proud of myself for not unloading my stress on her.

She and I made the decision to place my mother in an Assisted Living facility. We (or I?) organized her move and placed everything in storage. My grandmother was widowed and in her late 70s by this time. I was still subsidizing my mother—only now it wretched up as her monthly expenses far surpassed her income.

Must go pick up husband from train station—more in next installment.

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