The Elephant In The Room

Me and my Mom, June 28, 2008

So, there is this elephant in the room. The thing about the blogosphere is that you would have no idea about the elephant if I didn't tell you. But the elephant is big and I haven't been talking about it for months. And I think that it is starting to drag me down and make blogging and talking and interacting with anyone over two difficult. So...here goes.

You know that saying about lemons right? Well, sometimes I think life just gives you lemons and maybe they are moldy and gross and you can't make lemonade out of them. And that is where I am at.

My mother has dementia. It has been a rapid and slippery slope. If someone knows a way to take those moldy lemons and do something with them, please let me know.

Here's the thing about my mom and I--we never had the greatest relationship. We weren't that close. And I am fine with that. I am not struggling with regret over what could have been. I am struggling with the fact that my mother is miserable and there is nothing I can do about it.

I don't really talk to anyone about this. So why not just throw it out there for a bunch of strangers? That's the healthy thing to do, right?

Here is a brief timeline of the past year or so...

A year ago (having already been diagnosed with dementia), my mother was confused. She said things that might not make sense. She repeated herself. A lot. But you could have a conversation with her. As time progressed, those conversations got increasingly more frustrating, but you could still talk with her.

The critical point seemed to happen over this past spring while my parents were in Florida. Phone conversations got more disjointed. She was agitated and secretly telling my sisters and I that our stepfather (a saint if there ever was one) was abusive and mean and stealing her money. When they came back from Florida in April-ish she didn't know who he was. She got more and more agitated and angry with this "stranger" in her house.

This progressed and progressed until she was combative, angry, and threatening. She was no longer continent, she wasn't sleeping and she started wandering. My stepfather was no longer able to take care of her on his own and she was admitted to a psych ward due to threats of violence. As of last week, she has been transferred to a nursing home in my home town.

So...those are the abbreviated facts. Here is how that make me feel...

I am 33 years old. I can call my friends and ask them "Hey, what did you do when your kid was ready to potty train?" I can't call my friends and ask them "How did you deal with putting your mother in a nursing home?" because people don't do that when they are in their thirties. Besides my family, I feel alone in this. I don't talk to my husband. People ask how my mom is and I don't even know how to answer. I usually just say "Not good" and avert my eyes, hoping to end the conversation. But here is the real answer:

She kind of doesn't know who I am. She looks like just another old crazy person in the nursing home. She is young, seventy years old, and she looks like she is about 90. She looks empty inside, like she is just a shell of a person. There is no life in her eyes. There are ever so brief moments of clarity, which usually lead to her crying. She can't put enough words together to make a coherent sentence. She pees herself. She just met her new granddaughter for the first time (at 3 months old) and it made her happy, but she couldn't understand it, and for the second that she did, she wept. She wouldn't want to live this way. She is in the same nursing home that my grandmother was in, the one she died in. My mother will die there, too.

I worry every day because here is my family history: My grandmother had dementia. Her two sisters had/have dementia. My aunt has dementia (and is also in a nursing home and younger than my mother) and my mother has dementia. The odds are pretty good that between me and my two sisters, one of use will probably end up with it. I certainly don't want it to be me, but then it will be one of them--which I don't want either. I cry even thinking about not remembering my children. I cry thinking they would ever see me the way I am seeing my mother.

My mother lives two hours away. I can't get up there very often because of the kids. I am torn between wanting to get up to see her more often and knowing that she probably wouldn't want to be seen like this, and what good is it doing because she isn't her anymore and won't remember me or the visit anyways. I don't know if I can handle the emotional roller coaster of thinking that the next visit will be different, that she will remember, that she will be a little bit happier and then being faced with the truth that things are just as bad, if not worse, than the visit before.

I am sad. I am sad for my mother, who despite us not seeing eye to eye, is (was?? I really feel like WAS is more appropriate) a wonderful, loving person. This isn't fair. No one deserves this. I am scared. For my mother, for me, for my sisters. I am nervous to publish this blog and put this out there for everyone. I feel like I need to protect my mother from people knowing how bad it is. Also, I am so not a "Poor Me" and don't need people feeling bad for me, that is not what this is about. Maybe some of you have been through this too. I can't be the only 30-something who's dealing with this, with this total juxtaposition of starting new life and watching another fade out, of mothering my children and mothering my mother...

I promise my blogs will be back to rainbows and unicorns and sunshine ASAP (ok, let's be honest--it will probably be back to talk of boobs, and toddlers and baby milestones--Little Lady rolled over this week!). Thanks for being my virtual therapists.

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