Monday, April 28, 2008

The One Where We Are Overwhelmed...

Still, the remodeling continues. Most of the remaining work, however, is now outdoors, and so I have begun the task of trying to get everything sorted out and put away. It is a daunting adventure, because we still have a truckload of "stuff" in storage. I keep trying to remember what is in storage, so that I can allow for it. I think I am probably failing miserably; I'm sure when the truck pulls up, and the boxes are unloaded, there won't be enough room for everything.

Oh well. I can't worry about it right now.

I have greater challenges to face.

Like what is happening to my Mom.


We knew that my Mom was quite ill when we brought her home just over a year ago; all of the medications that she was taking, combined with the stress, and the fear, and... she wasn't herself. Not all the time, anyway. Reluctantly, I had to begin to admit that there was something wrong, something missing. I knew there was some significant stroke damage, but I also knew that we had been lucky; her motor skills and mobility seems to be completely unaffected, but she was increasingly unable to access short-term memories. She also had begun to exhibit a rather lengthy list of disturbing symptoms; the list (and the severity of the symptoms) nearly doubled just in the past 90 days.

Last Monday, I took my Mom to the doctor, and before I left his office, I scheduled a "caretaker conference" with the doctor. I returned for the meeting on Wednesday.

The news was, as I had feared, not good. At all.


When my Dad was dying from cancer in 1990, it happened (relatively) quickly. He was diagnosed in July, and exactly 90 days later we had his funeral. His body was ravaged by the disease, but his mind, which was spared until very near the end, continued to function. He became a sentient being trapped in a dying body, and it was terrible to stand by helplessly.

Until the end, he was sharp - brave, loving, witty in the face of the cancer that was consuming him. He and I talked for hours, conversations that I never wanted to have, but knew were unavoidable. Practical things like where to find the water shut-off for the house, and where he kept the key to the safety-deposit box. Funny stories about when he and Mom met, and things I never knew, like how he came to be in the delivery room when I was born - in 1960 it was unheard of, but he was there to see his first child born.

We laughed, and cried, and talked, and planned and cried some more. The Wrench and I had only been married for four years, but he and Dad were so close by then that TW would sit by his bed during the last days, refusing to leave because he wanted to care for his "Pops". With the few words he had left, he told TW to help me care for Mom, because she was so fragile, so precious to him.

We were all there with him when he died. TW and I were on his right side, Mom was on his left. We loved him away - TW cradled Dad's broken body, holding him gently, while we all told him it was OK to go on before us.

After the funeral, after everyone had gone home, and it was just my Mom, TW and I sitting around the old kitchen table, Mom said "It was like watching a slow motion train wreck, wasn't it? You knew it was coming, you knew it would be terrible, and yet you were totally unable to stop it. At all".


Now I am facing another "slow motion train wreck", but this time it is my Mom who is going down the tracks.

The official diagnosis is "multi-infarct dementia". Probably caused in no small part by the little strokes that have been ravaging my Mom's brain for the last 3 or so years. Brain scans show the damage clearly.

The last three months have been difficult; TW, Twinks and I have watched as Mom is losing her mind. All of the classic symptoms are there; unlike Alzheimer's, it is not a gradual decline, but it happens in huge "steps". Not much can be done but to try and keep her safe and comfortable now. To be sure, there are times - precious and rare - when we see flashes of what we have come to think of as our "real" Mom. But she has mostly been replaced by someone who is nearly a stranger to me.

And it is breaking my heart.


The doctor tells us that there is no way of knowing how long we have with her, but that we must begin to prepare if we have not already. Luckily, one of the first things we did when she moved in with us was to set up the medical power-of-attorney and the general and durable power-of-attorney, so I can take care of all of her affairs now with little trouble.

I am nearly paralyzed with grief and sadness. I want to find someone who will tell me that this is reversible, or at least stoppable somehow. I want to find a drug, a treatment, a protocol that will take away the symptoms, and give me back my "real" Mom.

I want Twinks to be OK - because she continues to face medical challenges of her own. I want her doctors to - just once - fix everything, and tell us to go home, and you never have to come back. I want to never again have to make that trip to Hospital City, but know that we will likely be going again - sooner than any of us want.

I want - I need - this house to be done. Not just to remove the additional stress it is placing on us, but because I need the time it is sucking away from me to care for my Mom and my daughter. I need the time for my marriage and my husband.

I need to find another vehicle - my minivan is falling apart, and there is no time to place it in the shop. But the "laundry list" for the new car is long - something easy for Mom to get in and out of, something that can accommodate a walker or a wheelchair if need be. Something that can hold at least four adults, and with space for luggage, too.

I need so many things right now. The list is long, the days are too short. My Mom now requires a great deal of attention; on Monday she walked out into traffic and just stood there, waiting for me to come and get her, blissfully unaware of the cars that were stopped - cars that could have so easily run over her. She can't be left alone, and because she is so afraid of everyone who is not Twinks, TW, or me - we have virtually no options for a "sitter" right now. She clings to me, my Mother, like a three-year-old.

It's official: I am overwhelmed.


Suldog said...

God bless, Thim. You're in my prayers.

Kat said...

Sending prayers and strength across the miles.

teneal ann said...

My condolences, Thim. Good luck with this, and stay strong. Your family can handle it, though I wish you didn't have to. Feel free to drop me a line if you ever need to vent; I'm just a kid but I don't mind listening.

Chuck said...

I know how hard it is dealing with an aging parent whose mind is not what it once was. I'm sorry you're having a rough time. *hugs* and I hope things get better once your house is done.

thestraightpoop said...

Oh boy. I am sure you understand that I cannot read this through in its entirety right now. But I scanned and I know what is happening, and I am so sorry. Oh, I am so so sorry.

I cannot do anything but send you love and good thoughts, but since you have done the same for me and they helped, I can only hope I do the same for you.

With love,

The Caustic Bunny said...

I'm sorry. I lost the old man the way you are losing your mom. Please accept my empathy. You will see flashes of your mom in there. Cherish them. I saw the old man as he was three hours before he died.
You are in my thoughts.

teneal ann said...

I'm alright. Better now. Just been sick off and on (mostly on) since October. Finally made an appointment with a specialist cause all the other doctor help was negligible and doing me no good.

thestraightpoop said...

Hi Thim,

Am going to respond to your comment in my blog post - come on over and see it?

Ericka said...

oh hell, thim. i'm so sorry! thinking of you and sending hugs and chocolate and wine your way.

if you need to get away, i have 4 bedrooms - come spend a weekend.