I’m a Good Daughter, I Promise

Okay. I pulled into a parking lot to adjust the camera. I like driving with the windows open. So we’re going to get a lot of, we’re going to get a lot of noise. I guess I could close the windows, but I love the windows open. I close them when I’m with my son because he doesn’t like the windows open, so we have air conditioning. But, when Kitt drives [alone], we have the windows open.

Um. Driving back from visiting my parents. Totally intense. Um. My mom refused to eat their mechanically separated food, which is like an aphasia diet, not aphasia, dysphasia. Anyway, swallowing problem diet to prevent her from aspirating her food, which is swallowing her food and liquids going down not the esophagus, but the trachea and into the lungs. Not a good thing. Leads to aspiration pneumonia. Not good. So, stroke, you know, can cause dysphagia, this swallowing problem. So, she refused that and she wanted the lasagna. So after lunch, or as she was eating lunch. Well, when I was done. She started coughing up her food. So I brought her to her room. Told the nurse. So the nurse listened to her lungs. Said her lungs sounded good.

My mom continued for the next couple of hours to cough up liquid and food out of her lungs. Because [sigh], it’s so horrible. Stroke, you know, makes it so the brain isn’t telling the throat muscles what to do. This is like the non-scientific explanation of post-stroke swallowing difficulties. I think it’s dysphasia. I think that’s what it’s called. Anyway, food goes down trachea to lungs. Not where it belongs – food and liquid. Rather than esophagus to stomach. She coughed it all up, which is good.

And then she wanted to talk to me, and I thought, you know,… She also has aphasia. [Actually, I was told recently that she has apraxia. She may have both. I’m no speech and language pathologist.] She’s not able to communicate very clearly. So, um, she’s thinking, but not able to get those thoughts across because she’s not always able to write the words she means or say… She’s not always able to say… very few of the words she means.

And, my parents have been isolating in their room, and not participating in the activities that are designed for, you know, vascular dementia and other dementias at their memory care facility. Memory care is a little bit of a misnomer, because they care for all sorts of brain injuries that lead to dementia. And, dementia isn’t always memory loss. Or, maybe it is. I don’t know. I’ll have to look up that definition.

What Is Dementia?

While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: Memory; Communication and language; Ability to focus and pay attention; Reasoning and judgment; Visual perception]

But, anyway, brain, you know, they have people with temporal lobal [Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)], you know, anyway, brain injuries [Traumatic Brain Injury] from being football players, brain injuries from surgery, Alzheimer’s, alcohol-related dementia, which my dad has. I’m an heir to alcoholism. I can feel it in me. And, I have to be very careful not to drink regularly.

Um. And, my mom had the stroke. My mom had been the caregiver of my dad. And, she had a problem with blood pressure, a-fib, and, um, well, needing blood thinners. Now, she’s on a variety of medications to prevent another stroke. Her stroke was pretty severe, and she now has what’s called global aphasia.

So, OK, so we met with the social worker. She has a background [MA] in psychology, but she’s getting her MSW. Anyway, met to go over, um, to communicate with the three of us. My dad’s like Dory. He remembers for like a few minutes and then forgets, so he’s always having to be reminded. You can’t blame him. You know, you can’ t control it. He’s like Dory.

So, my mom got out the word “family” in terms of where she wanted to be. And we had to explain to her that I couldn’t take care of her because of my bipolar disorder, I would end up hospitalized. I hardly have my life together, as it is taking care of…this might be a bit too much wind. I can hardly take care of myself, my kid, and my husband, and my house. I mean, it’s a mess. Um, and my mom’s, she can be challenging. In fact, she’s challenged several different places. A lot of places have had trouble with my mom because she’s a pretty strong willed woman. Um, should have been a CEO or something. Anyway, she was the CEO of our lives. She was a mom.

Anyway…  [sigh] I’m… I’m spent. She wanted to continue to talk to me after we had met with Sheila, the liaison, social worker, but, um, I just said I had to go. That it had been, that we had done a lot, and that that was, that was enough. That was enough. I kissed her. When she said.. Oh, she said the word “family.” Did I say that already? She said the word “family.” Clearly, and I hugged her and kissed her for saying the word, and said, “I can’t.”

I know she wants to live with family. Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t be good for her. Wouldn’t be good for us. It’s hard making these decisions. I feel so… I don’t know. I’m not even going to say. Say, like, I feel like I’m betraying my mom. I feel callous. I feel selfish. I’m working so hard as is. I mean, really. Even with all of these professional resources at my behest. Using my parents’ savings, selling their house which I know they don’t want us to do, but we’re doing in order to care for them. I know it’s breaking their hearts, but it’s what’s best for us all. I visit them regularly. I’m a good girl. I’m a good daughter, I promise. See, that’s like my thing. Being a good girl.

[Sigh] Oh, God. This is so hard.

Catharsis

Ok, so, um, I’ve always sort of put myself out there. Way before I ever had therapy or was interested in psychology. It just is my temperament. And, not only is it my temperament, but it’s been something of a defense mechanism. If I put myself out there, then people can’t hurt me with any secrets because I have no secrets. I’m like, “Yeah, so what of it.” I’ve always been that way, since I was a little child. Always been WAY open.

My name is Kitt Kathleen. Kitt is my full first name. Kathleen is my middle name. Redundant name. I love it. My Aunt Kathy. My Aunt Kathleen, I’m named after. She’s my godmother, also. I got a bonus godmother in that my mother’s friend, Annette, best friend, Annette, stood in for my Aunt Kathy during the ceremony, during my baptism. So, I have two godmothers. My sponsor, my aunt, and then my stand-in, Annette. So I’m doubly blessed.

But, anyway, back to my name. Kitt Kathleen. Both names are derived from Katherine, which comes from… Sorry for the background noise. I’m driving with the windows open in order to dry my hair. Anyway, Katherine… Catherine derives from catharsis, which is, you know, change through emotional, well, okay, I don’t have the definition in front of me right now, and I’m a little scattered, but think catharsis, think Kitt, you got it. You know, change through an emotional outpouring, through cathartic, through catharsis. So, Kitt is cathartic.

So, here I am. I’m driving to have lunch with my parents. I’m apprehensive. It’s challenging seeing my parents. They’re not happy with the decisions I’ve [we’ve] made for them. They want to be back in their home, which is in escrow [has since fallen out of escrow]. But, they’re not able to take care of themselves. And, I’m not able to take care of them either.

I know they had wanted us to stay in their house, to have us take care of them. But, I have bipolar disorder. My son gets migraines and has social anxiety and depression. My husband would do anything, is willing to do anything. But, I don’t think it’s good for him either to be put in the position of taking care of everybody. He’s got some anxiety himself – claustrophobic, and he’s an engineer, so he’s a little tightly wound.

None of us is kind of chill. Let’s just put it that way. None of us is chill. We’re thoroughbreds. We’re tightly wound. We’re a little over-bred for intelligence. You know, sort of the Jack Russell terriers of the world. Anyway, I guess that’s it for now. A little cathartic sharing.

Anxious about Dementia

So here I am, in my car, which is pretty hot. Probably have to open the windows to let in some air. Just going to make it hard for anything to be heard. Oh, oh, that feels good.

Okay. I’m on my way to the Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County, or whatever it’s called, Alzheimer’s dot org of Orange County. ALZ.org for those who want to check out the national Alzheimer’s US group. But I’m going to the local OC chapter’s educational series. The first one is Basics – Dementia Basics. I’m driving, so I’m not necessarily getting the title totally correct.

I’m actually pretty anxious going to it. Anxious because, well, this is pretty emotionally trying for me having both my parents with dementia right now. My mom’s struggling with what’s called vascular dementia, which is secondary to her stroke, and can be caused by heart problems, blood pressure, high blood pressure. All those things can damage the brain. Right? High blood pressure goes up, damage to the brain. So, and her stroke was the most damaging to the brain. Just horrible.

And, my dad has been struggling with memory loss for many, many years. This last year it’s just taken a real dive. He still has his social skills, but his memory is pretty fried, especially his short term memory. But he’s able to reason. His intelligence is there. It’s alcohol-related dementia. Some people are more susceptible than others. Have people drinking the same amount of alcohol. One gets cirrhosis. The other gets alcohol-related dementia. The other gets nothing. So, you never know what you’re playing with in terms of your deck, and you better take pretty good care of it.

I try to do my best. Well, I don’t do my best. I try to do my better. (Laugh) I don’t exercise enough. I know that. I’m taking cholesterol meds rather than strictly adhere to a low fat diet. I try, I look at the fat content in everything, but I just have my weaknesses, especially since my mom had her stroke. I’ve put on at least ten pounds, maybe fifteen. I think it’s about ten pounds according to my physician since her stroke, and it’s pounds where you don’t want to have it, on your stomach. That’s the area that’s not good for your heart.

Heart health is what I really have to take a look at now as somebody who is susceptible to stroke. My grandmother died, my maternal grandmother, my mother’s mother, died of stroke, and she’d had several TIA’s, which are like mini-strokes, before that. So, anyway, just checking in.

I Am Not Ashamed


I am not ashamed that I live with bipolar disorder, a mental illness, a brain disorder. I am not ashamed that I take psychotropic medication. I am not ashamed that my parents are struggling as they age, as their brains and bodies fail them. There is no shame in that. There is no need to hide. No need to keep it a secret.

As I love and respect myself, I love and respect my parents. I assume that my love comes through my writing. I know that others identify with their struggles and with my struggles. I know that it helps to have others for support, to know that you are not alone. There are support groups. Reach out. Get help. Do not try to do it all alone. It’s too much to do alone. 

Alzheimer’s Association 

Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association advances research to end Alzheimer’s and dementia while enhancing care for those living with the disease.

National Institute on Aging

NIA, one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of NIH, leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. NIA is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.