Who Do I Care For, Really?

Definition of caregiver: a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caregiver

I spend way too much emotional and physical energy toward the care of others, aside from myself. Why do I care so much, too much? No doubt due to my upbringing, to my relationship to my parents – trying to please, to earn their love and approval. Why, after decades of therapy, do I still feel and act as an enmeshed parentified daughter? I’ll just leave that question hanging there for now. Not up for explaining alcoholic family dynamics. Too tired. Adult Children of Alcoholics has a good concise description.

Who do I really care for? Good question. My husband and my son are the most important people in my life. I have devoted a great deal of time and energy trying to help my son. Too much, perhaps. No, not perhaps, without doubt. Now, I need to step back, to neglect a bit, to allow for more independence. Time to do just enough. To be just good enough. Just enough. Enough.

My sister, trying to help me set boundaries and stop taking on too much emotional responsibility, reminded me that I am not our parents’ caregiver. They are in memory care. The memory care facility provides their daily care. That’s what we pay them for.

I am not my parents’ caregiver. I am my son’s caregiver, and even he could use less of my care.

Now that my parents both have dementia and live in a memory care community, aside from being their daughter, my role is to be their power of attorney. With my sister, I make decisions on their behalf. I pay their bills. I coordinate their care, which is not the same as giving them direct care.

Before my mother’s stroke, I did not visit my parents regularly. I did, though, talk and play Words with Friends with my mom daily. I miss communicating with her. I miss my parents as they were before dementia. I’m grieving.

Living with bipolar disorder, I must take care of myself. This season, springtime, is a time when I often start mood cycling. I’ve feel particularly vulnerable and fatigued. The longer sunny days trigger hypomania and irritability.

On a more positive note, in January and February and again next week, I’ve been a NAMI Provider Educator for the staff at the hospital where I received both inpatient and partial day treatment twelve years ago. I enjoy educating their staff on what it is like to live with mental illness and to be in mental health recovery. Wish me well next week. We’re increasing the time that we devote to our personal trauma stories, so I must rewrite mine. I may edit my In Our Own Voice presentation for content, or I could take a look at what I have shared here.

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Shedding a Few Tears

tears-on-plant

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.

Hot Flashes

image

Hot flashes

Warm flashes

Tears held inside

Emotions fragile

Menopause is a bitch

But this bitch can handle it

Flight Back Home

Friday, July 15th

Last Saturday, the day after we returned from Oregon, my mother was psychiatrically hospitalized for the third time since her stroke last November. Yesterday morning, I met with the treatment team at her psychiatric hospital. They do not think she needs long-term psychiatric placement. They believe her memory care community is the best placement for her and that she’ll just likely need regular “tune-ups,” returning to the psychiatric hospital when she refuses to take medication and her mental health deteriorates.

Luckily my parents’ house sold, with escrow closing yesterday. This morning I met with a financial planner to invest the proceeds from the sale on behalf of my parents and schedule regular withdrawals to pay for their care. Long-term memory memory care is expensive.

OR Trip
Oregon was beautiful and offered a relaxing break.

Flight Back from PDX to SNA – July 8, 2016

Before returning our rental car at PDX, we stopped for gas. While making a pit-stop, I received a call from my mother’s memory care community which I let go to voicemail. Inopportune time to take the call, as my purse hung on the restroom door handle out of my reach, and I didn’t want to dribble, squat and waddle over to answer my phone. Instead, I’m sharing the impolite (and perhaps amusing) imagery that came to my mind as the phone rang (to temper the vulgarity of the scene, my ring tone is Take Five by Dave Brubeck – yes, I love jazz).

The voicemail confirmed that once again my mother refused to take her medication and threatened violence against the nursing staff at her memory care facility. Once again, time for psychiatric hospitalization. This is getting old. Really old.

I fear my mom may need long-term psychiatric placement. Locked psychiatric care 24/7. Do not know what is available. Time to reach out for help. Time to research geriatric psychiatric residential placement for mom. Fuck.

That’s all I have to say on the matter. I do feel myself coming to tears. I fear, too, ending up like mom. Crap.

Shit.


Now I’m just spent. I did have a good time this week in Oregon. It was a nice break from my life, from my responsibilities, from the mess and clutter that is our house, from the mess and clutter that is my life.

We went to the wedding of one of our many nieces last night. They wed under Cathedral Bridge (St. John’s Bridge). The bridge is built with stunning Gothic arches and a backdrop of trees along the river. Then we had an incredible dinner at Plaza Del Toro. Very upscale and gourmet. So delicious. Loved it. Wish we had that kind of food in our neighborhood.

I look forward to getting away again and again and again. I need these breaks, these respites.

 

What If I Don’t Blog About Bipolar?


Recently I’ve been blogging about caregiving and about exhaustion more than about living with bipolar disorder. That said, obviously coping with major life events, such as taking on the role of caregiver of two parents struggling with dementia, is a HUGE stressor and potential trigger for mood cycling.

Cocooning in bed right now. Treated myself to two luxurious nights on two separate weekends as payment for all the work I’ve done. I coordinate my parents’ care, pay their bills, cleared out their house of their personal belongings with the help of an estate sales company, took multiple construction bids while we considered remodeling and leasing it, and now I’m our sales agent’s main contact. Luckily my parents made an excellent decision when they bought their beach house in the 70’s. The proceeds from its sale will enable my sister and I to take care of our parents.