Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 7, a really tough day...

Day 7 at Assisted Living...and today was really rough. Mom was feeling despondent and like she was on the verge of a seizure but a treat, a chat with an old neighbor and another with an old acquaintance helped.

Mom's had epilepsy since a stroke during my birth. She has grand mal seizures under two conditions: high anxiety situations or a lower than desirable level of dilantin, her anti-seizure medication. When she feels a seizure coming on she gets scared which elevates her anxiety and exasterbates the situation. Often these may be stopped if she gets some rest or if we can quickly make her anxiety go away. The latter is usually impossible.

When I arrived at her apartment about 11am, she was crying in the bathroom. "I don't belong here with these dunderheads! None of them can hold a conversation. I want to go home.!" I felt a rush of emotions - anger, worry, saddness and frustration. I feel an enormous sense of guilt when I feel angry or frustrated with her. Even writing about my emotions here makes me feel guilty - this should all be about HER. It's a huge change for HER, SHE needs the support. SHE needs the adjustment; She must be comfortable. But - she trusts me and relies on me for help with business matters and emotional support more so than anyone else. Sometimes it's too much - I can't take care of two households and a full time job. It's a lot to do and I can't ask for much help from family for a variety of reasons. I'm not trying to be a martyr - I'm too lazy for THAT.

So - what to do for Mom without moving her... I did the thing that would distract a little kid - I plied her with soda pop and junk food. I loaded her onto her walker/seat and took her out in the sunshine to have a cold drink, BBQ chips and watch the valley view. We talked for a while and as her voice grew stronger, I reminded her of my brothers health problems. I wanted to spare her this conversation so that she'll concentrate on herself but this situation pushed me into it.

For more than 10 years my brother lived at her home. While he was helpful at first, over the past 3 years, I've watched his behavior deteriorate to verbal abuse, impatience and down right meaness. He drinks more than ever and, as a heavy smoker, he can't walk across the yard without stopping to catch his breath. His health issues make it impossible for him to care about anyone else. After only a few days we see a huge sense of relief in him now that she's living elsewhere. I had to tell Mom that he can barely take care of himself now so helping her will just make him deteriorate faster. She seemed shocked but understood.

About this time, a high school classmate, Sue, strolled by with her elderly father, Jim, during a tour of the facility. He is considering a move from his home to a studio down the hall from MOM. After introductions, the elders found some common ground. MOM and DAD purchased their first Philco refridgerator from Jim just after WW2. Jim grew up in North Dakota, the same state as my Mom and Jim remembered making my dad a great deal on a 1940-something Hudson sedan. This is the reason I wanted Mom to remain in her home town instead of moving with me to S Indiana. These sort of connections give her a sense of belonging, of rootedness and comfort. It is just what she needed.

Now to help her find it again.... tomorrow and the next day and the next.... I hope to help her find them on her own because soon I must return to my own home and work. I got a list of other residents and tomorrow we'll go over it and wheel around to their room and look them up. God, I hope they can carry on a conversation!