Time to Write Again?

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Pre-Christmas Travel Writing

I jump from one app to another. Jigsaw puzzle to reading to writing. Back and forth, writing and jigsaw. Uneasy. Jittery.

Uneasy. Not at ease. Tense. Guilty. Dramatic, yes, but so fucking what. That’s who I am. I have no desire to change that about myself. Besides, honestly, I keep most of my drama inside.


Back Home Organizing My Thoughts

Haven’t been writing much over this past holiday season. Left my time and energy for family and myself. Since my post-Thanksgiving chest cold, I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles and not engaging in as many verbal activities.

Kind of like my mother. She nods yes, shakes her head no, or stares blankly not seeming to understand. She no longer reads the newspaper. Just turns the pages, pulls out the ads, and organizes the paper by section. Reassuring daily routine, even if she can no longer read.

Although I visited both my parents before both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I felt guilty leaving them behind when I visited my sister and in-laws. Broke my heart. So much guilt, even though I know after trial and error that we are giving our parents the best of care. Just can’t be in two places at once.

Last year around Christmas time, my Mom was psychiatrically hospitalized. More to the point, I had her psychiatrically hospitalized. Heart breaking decision, but I tried to do the right thing every step of the way.

We had hoped to have them living together back then. Our mother went from stroke rehab to the psychiatric hospital, then to another stroke rehab before moving into a board and care with my father. They did not do well in the board and care, so we ended up moving them into a high-quality memory care community.

Since that time, we’ve found that they do better apart in separate communities. I feel terrible that I’ve had her in so many places, but she’s stable now and my father’s health has improved. They both seem to be happy, even though they miss each other. Their memory communities arrange a weekly Skype session so they can “see” each other.


Visited My Parents This Week

The new year begins. I visited my parents before and after the holidays. When visiting my mother on Sunday, I took her out shopping. We terrorized fellow shoppers as we tried to navigate using an automated cart.

Once I got back home I debated whether I could bring her home to live with me. Our house, though, is not well suited for a stroke survivor. Bedrooms are upstairs. Our flooring is tile and hardwood. Our stairs steep and without a landing.

Just thinking about moving my mother in, I started to ramp up, to get mildly hypomanic. I found myself unable to sleep. Instead of sleeping, I researched stair treads, hand rails, stair elevators, and purchasing a single-level home.

The fact remains that my own mental health is stable because I avoid stressors that trigger symptoms and cycling. I give myself time to recover. If I was a full-time caregiver of my mother, I would not be well.

Yesterday I visited my father and brought my teen son along. My son continues to miss far too much school due to illness and migraines, which frustrates me. I try. I really do. But, I can’t carry a sixteen-year-old adolescent to school when he has a fever, is vomiting, or is coughing. I’m at my wit’s end.

My sister and I decided to give our parents’ living situation a year. They are both doing well. The quality care they receive is why.

Caregiving Can Wear You Down #RealTalkAboutCare

My mother, father, & I in watercolor filter

Since Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve been sick with an upper respiratory infection (URI). As an asthmatic, URI’s tend to go to my lungs. My son, too, is sick and in bed (no way for a teenager to spend the weekend). URI’s are highly contagious. We tend to share far too many illnesses in my family. Even our labradoodle Thumper is taking antibiotics for a cough.

Until my mother had a stroke November 2015, she was my father’s caregiver. Since then, caregiving has become my responsibility, as now both my parents have dementia. My father has alcohol-related dementia (alcohol is a neurotoxin). My mother now has vascular dementia with behaviorial complications (brain damage can do that) and she cannot speak.

As I live with bipolar disorder while parenting an adolescent migraineur, I couldn’t care for two aging parents with dementia without help, for doing so would likely put me in a psychiatric hospital. Finding long-term care that could address their needs proved challenging. For now, we’ve had to separate them – heartbreaking, but necessary for their health. To pay for their care, we had to sell their beloved beach house, for memory care is extremely expensive.

If my mother had more caregiving support before her stroke, perhaps she may not have had a stroke, perhaps she would have received more timely medical care. My mother was exhausted, stressed, and taking antidepressants (caregivers are at risk of depression). My father just thought that my mother was napping. His dementia interfered with his ability to respond to her stroke appropriately.

My mother, a caregiver, needed help, needed respite, needed care herself. My sister and I had been talking to our mother about downsizing and moving closer to my sister. But, my father fought the idea of moving out of their beach house, leaving our mother essentially trapped.

Thankfully they are doing well now, given their current life circumstances. Take care of yourself. Take care of your brain. Take care of your heart. Good health is a blessing.

Caregiving Resources: AARP Caregiver Resource Center

Mini Thanksgivings

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This weekend my sister visited and we celebrated Thanksgiving twice with our parents. Friday we joined our mother at her memory care community and joined their festivities. That afternoon and early dinner went very well. We had fun decorating her room and organizing photos.

Saturday we brought our father to visit our mother for lunch. The visit went well until we left them alone for a few minutes while we got coffee in the lobby. By the time I returned to our mother’s room, they were planning their escape back to their old beach house (which they no longer own – we had to sell it to pay for their care).

Big sigh. Clearly they wish their lives were as they were before dementia, before stroke. We all do.

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Shedding a Few Tears

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It’s been a year. It’s been a year since I noticed that my mother hadn’t taken her turn in Words with Friends. It’s been a year since my mother was verbal. It’s been a year since she could use language.

Her passion was words. She spent her days playing word games. She was proud that she had been debate team captain in college. She could and would and did slay with words.

Last year she had a stroke. Life hasn’t been the same since – not for her, not for my father, not for my sister, not for me, not for my son, not for my husband.

Finally, I allow myself to gently shed a few tears, a few soft tears. Finally, I allow myself much needed mourning the loss of my verbal mother. She is still with us, but she is different. Her brain permanently changed, permanently damaged.

I can no longer talk on the phone with her. I can no longer play word games with her. And, so, I’m sad. I miss the old her. Even if she did slay with words.