Picking Up Where I Left Off
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
My mom died a couple of weeks ago. By the time my dad died two years ago, I had almost 3 years of caregiving behind me for both parents with multiple medical problems. This was done while living 20 miles away from them. About two weeks after starting Spark People in 2012, I found out that my mom had Alzheimer's. They didn't tell me that Dad also had dementia, even though they knew it. Both of them had other serious medical issues that are common to seniors, which also complicated matters quite a bit. If it wasn't one thing, it was another that required attention, again, either for one or the other.
Three months before Dad died, Mom moved in with us. She lived with us for 18 months, at which point we moved her to a wonderful assisted living facility. Even though they are a RCAC, they kept her until her death. They cared for her like they were a CBRF, and even a nursing home at the end. They stored a Hoyer lift in her kitchen. Hospice started helping exactly 6 months before her death. The assisted living director said that her apartment was her home, and they did not want to move her out unless they absolutely had to.
The last almost 6 years has been a marathon in which I had to give up taking care of myself almost completely. I didn't even go shopping for clothes except online and at a Walmart and Goodwill that are in a town 20 miles away in the opposite direction from my parents. This was done during my grocery shopping trips, of course. Online shopping can be a blessing, but can be a pain too when you have to return something. For example, I would wait until I had to go to my parent's home medical equipment company or doctor appointment to return items. Mom's ophthalmologist appointments were always at least a 1-1/2 hr deal, so I'd dash to the store to return my stuff on those days. It wasn't "cost effective" time-wise to do things any other way, so I congratulated myself on my efficiency at least. Her ophthalmologist was an hour away from my home.
I put off dentist appointments, haircuts, you name it, because my parents had needs first. I started grinding my teeth later in 2016, prompting my dentist to ask, "What are you eating, rocks?" That was at an emergency visit when a part of my tooth flew off during a meal. Of course, I didn't know that I was grinding my teeth until it was too late.
While taking care of my parents, I spent 1-1/2 years during this time helping my niece get through college. I won't go into that; it could be the subject for another blog, the stuff I did for her. Now she has a job she loves and has her life on track. I was the ONLY older relative she could rely on, and that includes her parents. She lived 115 miles from us, so I spent a night or two at each visit supporting her. Now she organizes her life well and is so proud of it.
Our son was attending high school virtually all this time, another task for me, as I was his cheerleader, coach, and communicator with his teachers and guidance counselor. He won awards his last two years of high school for his performance and persistence. He was determined to finish, and didn't like being alone through it all. Today, he is a very nice young man who also has made loads of sacrifices for the older generations. He is a big help to us now. He has been out in the yard and flower beds alongside us, cleaning up winter's mess. He gets a lot done!
SO, I'm wondering how long it will take me to get back to normal, whatever that is. I'm not sure I know what that is any more. Will it be fast, will it be slow?
One thing I know, our family is undergoing more changes. We are building a new house this summer (positive) and my husband spends 3 days a week now caring for his mother in her home (negative but positive). His dad died 3 weeks before my mother of the same cause. Our kids lost 2 grandparents in 3 weeks. Even though they're all adults, it still hurts.
I'm just glad to have options again in how I spend my time. I feel good about helping my family and feel no regrets. With winter in the past, exercise obstacles are not a problem. I just now heard a Cope's gray tree frog for the first time this year, right outside the window...he’s probably on the siding but could be in the bleeding hearts.