AN ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVER DAY FROM HELL
Pt. 7 CAREGIVER SERIES
“HOW WE GOT HERE”
This part, actually parts 7-10, has been my nemesis since I started part one months ago. It is about one of the most painful few days in my life. It was also the day I decided to change all of our lives. Some stuck, some I’m sad to say didn’t, but here it is:
January 10, 2014. Just a date on a calendar, nothing special really. Two days after I had gotten out of the hospital, after spending 5 lovely days laid up being waited on hand and foot. Yes, hospital stays are generally thought of as a nightmare…not this one. You see, my nightmare was at home. I didn’t want to leave this 10 x 20 room. It was safe here. Here people took care of me, made my decisions for me, brought me my food (oops that was my hubby coming back from McD’s) 10 days of no food will make you pretty hungry. I DID NOT WANT TO GO HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL!!!!
I know that sounds crazy, but I was going home to crazy and I just didn’t want to go. Alas, hospitals are not the Hilton and check out is not optional (especially NOT at $2000 a night). I arrived back at the asylum late on January 8th. They came and set up the machine that would help me to breath and I laid in bed that day and the next, unable to talk…still.
On January 10th I decided to get up, get dressed and go out into the world if only to the CVS drive thru and a follow up Doctor’s appointment. I hadn’t been in public for days,14 to be exact. We woke up early and told mom to get ready to go. She had been alone much of the last 5 days so she was not a happy camper, although she was trying her best.
We got into the car, after locking the doors and sat there. Where are the keys? We hadn’t seen them since I handed them to my brother at the hospital (of course, we didn’t think of this until after we locked the door). It was 3 degrees that day even in sunny SC, damn polar vortex! I looked at mom and asked where the house keys were, she didn’t have a clue. I called my brother, “I gave them to mom when I dropped her off”. What? No please tell me you didn’t… he did.
I called the owner of the house we rent and he graciously offered to come and unlock our doors, he was about an hour away and thankfully we had the car keys. We went on with our errands while I silently fumed in the front seat. We got back home and the doors were unlocked. We went searching for the keys that mom didn’t have and somehow, someway she had managed to lock them in her safe. A safe that as far as I know has no valuables in it, some checks and receipts for bills that she paid 15 years ago. That’s just my mom. “Oh, I remember now I was afraid someone would break in…so you locked the house keys in the safe? Only in Alzheimer’s World does this make sense (as Bob DeMarco puts it, although at this point I had yet to meet him).
We made it through the Doctor’s appointment, picked up the prescriptions and had the doors unlocked. It was going to be okay as long as I would NOT TALK! Easy for them to say.
I decided that I felt up to a little grocery shopping , the food pantry was getting very low Mom was down to only one box of poptarts and 12 cans of Chicken and Wild Rice soup. So off we went, at around 3 in the afternoon, to Walmart to get food. I would ask mom what would you like “Nothing”. She was following me through the store like a heat seeking missile. Right on my ankles, again I calmed myself down. I was getting tired and I just wanted it over with. Do you need coffee “Nothing”. I just started throwing stuff in the cart that I knew she would eat and called it a day before I collapsed in the middle of the checkout aisle. Okay, I get it she was angry but why, I had no idea.
We went home and I offered to cook. Mom what do you want? “Nothing”. Okay at this point, I lost it! I asked her what was wrong with her. She looked me dead in the eye and said “I hate your house. I hate being here with you and damn it I am going home!” What? I have never been screamed at by my mother, she gave us guilt trips not screaming binges, that was me not her. I had never been talked to like that from her and I will blame it on the shock, but I looked at her and said “You can’t go home, you can’t even take care of yourself for one day without causing a catastrophe”. I cringe at that memory even now.
She went running to her room, I sat at the kitchen table crying and shaking myself. When I looked up my husband was stepping out the back door with tears in his eyes. We were all miserable and going crazy.
About 15 minutes later she came back to the kitchen with red puffy eyes, snot running down her nose. In the smallest voice I have ever heard, she said “I’m scared”. Anger…vanished, gone what could I say. I looked at this woman who has gone through so much with me and said to her “Momma, I am scared too! But the one thing I do know is that the only way we can get through this is to do it together.”
Later I learned that the stress from being alone those 5 days, even though someone was with her most of the time, it wasn’t me and I am who she had come to depend on. She thought I had abandoned her although she knew how sick I was, she doesn’t understand it.
Another big mistake I made was the late afternoon grocery trip, yes I felt up to it, but did she? I didn’t even think to take that into account. She had been through quite an ordeal herself. She was left alone to much, the pipes had frozen (again damned polar vortex) and she couldn’t even talk to me on the phone. While Pat took care of everything he isn’t me and that’s what she needed most. I was only trying to get things back on track. It was a combination of bad timing, confusion, frustration and just being scared to death.
After that I fixed her a bowl of her favorite soup and a grilled cheese (she eats like a 12 year old these days) we somehow ended up watching UFC girls fighting and laughing about it. I had a reputation when I was younger because I liked to fight…mostly boys, but that’s a different story. We talked about old times and had a wonderful evening.
January 10, 2014…My 44th Birthday
Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy and deal with the rest!
I love you, momma!