Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Planet

My mother's mind is now another planet. And sometimes that planet goes out of orbit.

Dementia is a horrible process. I went through it with my best friend. He had AIDS-related dementia. The day I walked in and he had no idea who I was, I felt little bits of my heart break inside of me.

Mom has senior dementia. At times it just manifests itself as having absolutely no memory. At times it's worse. Last weekend she took me on a tour of the home I grew up in because she thought I'd never been there before. She also talked about her kids like I wasn't one of them.

Saturday night the switch flipped and she turned aggressive, paranoid, and violent. I wasn't there. My poor nephew and his girlfriend were on grandma watch and went from being fine to asking who they were and what they were doing in her home. She accused them of trying to rob her. She said she hated them. She threw things. Worried she might hurt herself or someone else, they called 911. That made it worse. My mother, my nice mild-mannered mother, bit a cop. (Somehow I always thought if a mom bit a cop it would be Husband's mother. The ex-hippie and still political activist. I can see her biting a cop as he tries to drag her away from a protest.) But my mom? Nope. Too much a scaredy cat to cross authority.

Apparently it took a cop and two EMTs to get her to the ambulance. And once at the hospital she calmed down a bit and then went off again. She ripped out her IV and her ID tag and yelled at the nurses. They sedated her and she was able to go home a few hours later.

The siblings and I are working out when we can all meet up to have "the talk." We've come to realize she needs more care than she has now. My exceptional big sister lives with her, but I don't thinks it's just a matter of making sure she has company. She's getting worse. Unfortunately my mother's insurance doesn't cover in-home care. We've looked into care agencies and they charge $25 an hour. I'm not sure even with all of us chipping in we can afford that. Nobody wants to put her into senior care but we may have no choice.

It's tragic, because there are times when she's her. When she knows us. When she loves puttering around the home she's live in for close on 60 years. Where she was so happy with my father. And when she's her, she'll hate not being at home. She'll hate being someplace strange, surrounded by strange people. Of course we'll all visit and make sure she has as much family time as possible, but there will be times when her kids aren't there.

I am staying detached. Partly because I am and partly because I know from sad experience that in times like this, someone has to be. When I was Steve's primary caregiver I had to force myself to stay detached. If I let on how much it hurt, I wouldn't have been able to sign the papers to have him put into an AIDS hospice. So I put my feelings in a hurt locker and carried on.

This is easier. I've never felt exceptionally close to my mom, not like my siblings. I know it's much harder for them than for I. While they do what they can for mom, I'll do what I can for them. I'll go to the family conference, I'll give an opinion, I'll check my budget to see how much I can chip in for care. If necessary, I'll give up my volunteering and go back to work to be able to contribute more. But my job, as I see it now, is to whatever hard work I can. I'm OK with signing papers and being the one who makes the hard call. If my siblings will let me.

But they won't. Because to them I'll always be 9 years old. I will always be the baby of the family and incapable of being a responsible adult.

And for now we take care of mom as best we can. And hope her planet doesn't spin out of orbit while we're on duty.


Duke said...

You're having to deal with a terrible situation. I wish you the best and hope things work out well for you and your mom.

Molly said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mom. I will keep all of the family in my thoughts and prayers!

Decca said...

Thank you both. It's a horrible situation but we're just focusing on what's best for mom. Unfortunately what's best for her is probably not what she wants. It's going to be a rough couple of weeks. Thank goodness for my dear friends Ben and Jerry.

Kittie Howard said...

Decca, this is a really bad situation with no easy solution. My heart goes out to you. Stay strong!