April 28, 2011
Placing my mother in a nursing home has become, at least initially, more draining than caring for her at home. In one week, she has gone from mildly confused to full-blown dementia. She is fearful of the small children running around her, the bugs on the wall, and the water splashing off of the roof – none of which exist. She calls us at night wanting us to come to her, fearful of being alone although she’s surrounded by other residents and staff. She tells my father that she’s going to jump out the window. He tells her it’s a four foot drop. Today is day ten of her stay.
We requested that her doctor be changed and the new doctor has seen her now. It seems that the pain meds that she is on could be causing the hallucinations and sudden fall into dementia. We are hopeful that she will improve. If not, she is where she needs to be.
My father asks me, “What did we do to deserve this?” It makes me angry, furious in fact. I ask him, “Did I do something wrong to deserve the life-changing challenges of raising Lauren? Did people who suffer with cancer do something wrong?” He is, no, they both are, so ungrateful for the life that they’ve had. They have not been rich or famous but they have been comfortable, healthy, and unchallenged by adversity. They have enjoyed thirty years of retirement. I am about to enter into a time of unprecedented freedom in my life. I will still be involved and responsible for Lauren’s life as she moves into her own home, but it will be in an “as needed” capacity instead of a 24/7 capacity. I feel that my parents expect me to take on the responsibility of dealing with the results of their poor planning and selfish assumption that they need not plan for their declining years. I have been so caught up with the crisis mode that my mother’s sudden decline sent me into, that it has taken me awhile to be able to clearly think about the situation. I will, of course, always be here for them, but the extent of that help will have limits. Just as they had their priorities, I must have mine.
I had a long drive to and from a meeting yesterday, lots of uninterrupted time to think. I was thinking about my own mortality and how to avoid the pitfalls with which my parents are now dealing. I won’t have a daughter to care for me as they do. I hope that I will always remain grateful for the life that I have had. I hope that I can always find a way to contribute to this world. I hope that when I die my loved ones will mourn my passing....not feel relief. I hope that I accept the declines of age with grace and humor.
Throughout the years of raising Lauren and now with the crisis that has arisen with my parents, humor is often the one thing that carries you through, gets you over the hurdles, preserves your sanity. Sometimes its hard to find the humor in things. Today, it was staring me in the face as soon as I walked into the nursing home. Poor Mom has been hallucinating about children running around her...and today is “Take Your Child to Work Day” at the nursing home. Children are all over the place.