Krissie:If it’s Tuesday it Must be Trouble

Ah, may you live in interesting times. I was in church Sunday morning, rehearsing with the choir, when Richie appeared (and trust me, it takes an act of God to get Richie to set foot inside a church). My mother was freaking out. Off I went, to sit with her while she calmed down. Went home for a bit, came back and sat, started to fall asleep. Went home for a nap, only to wake up with Ma in hysterics again. Went back (I’m approximately two minutes away) and took her to the hospital. She was so weak I had to lift her off the toilet and into the wheel chair, lift her into the car and then out again. And she was 150 pounds.
So they took her right in at the ER and once more couldn’t find anything wrong, but this time they admitted her. And at this point we’re all in agreement (me and the hospital) that she can’t come home until she’s in better condition. So they’re looking into getting her into one of the two extended care places of choice (the assisted living one town over or the nursing home just down the hill from me) for a couple of weeks of rehab with the hopes (their hopes) of getting her back into her apartment.
I’m ambivalent. Because there aren’t a lot of good outcomes ahead. If she goes back to the apartment we’ll either be going through this again or I’ll walk in to find her dead one morning, which won’t be fun. I think she needs the help and the socialization that a different living situation can provide, and I figure there will be three possibilities.
1. She’ll hate it so much she’ll get better and get out
2. She’ll hate it so much she’ll decline and fade away. At 98 it’s hard to come back from things.
3. She’ll be happy there.
If number one is the answer I see a lot more work for me, and I don’t know if I can do it. I was already just about at my limit.
But we shall see. It will work out as it’s meant to work out.
So yesterday I was on the phone with the assisted living place, the health center, the social worker, the Agency on the Aging, my niece, my cousin, the hospital, and it seems others as well.
Then I went off to get my eyes checked because I can’t read, and for the first time the eye doctor (whom I’ve seen for 20 years) had to lift up my sagging eyelids to do one of the checks. Sigh.
Then I drove across a twisty mountain road to the hospital to see my mother, who wasn’t in good shape.
So who knows what will happen. I’m stressed beyond measure — when I was talking to my niece on the phone I noticed how tight my voice sounded. I’m not so much upset about my mother (though I could be in denial about that) but overwhelmed by the stress.
My mother and I have had a long and difficult relationship. She’s had mental health issues most of her adult life, resulting in uncontrollable rages at everyone around her. I think these panic attacks may be the geriatric version of those rages (just as her legendary temper tantrums as a child were the juvenile equivalent). But who knows? All her tests come back normal, except for her blood pressure.
So, to quote the Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times.”
However, one must snatch small victories where one can. I got to the hospital at three, having had two breakfast bars and a bowl of cherries for breakfast. When I left McDonald’s was there, gleaming in the sun, and I gave myself permission for a hamburger (I’ve been dying for a hamburger). But I still didn’t go. Not even to get a DC as a pick-me-up. I waited until I got home and had a piece of Anadama Bread to tide me over till dinner (curried chicken on brown rice — bless Richie).
So today I see what answers we can come up with for my mother’s immediate future. And see if I can find some sort of life for myself mixed in with all that.
Maidens of St. Trinians, gird your armor on …

60 thoughts on “Krissie:If it’s Tuesday it Must be Trouble

  1. Kieran says:

    “Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” –Dylan Thomas

    It sounds like your mother’s doing just that. I’ll never forget observing it in my peaceful priest uncle. He was never diagnosed with dementia, but he acted that way when he came near the end of his life. He’d rage…it seemed he was fighting to live. Or maybe he was connecting with the powerful Source that brought him here and was to take him away. I don’t know. But they were magnificent outbursts, terrible and awe-inspiring. Holy, in a way, on the day he died. I don’t know if that’s how it is with your mother, but I couldn’t help thinking of Dylan Thomas as I read your story.

  2. Sharon says:

    My friend just went thru this with her 92 yr. old mother. She would call my friend at all different times, day or night, and rant and rave. Lots of the things she talked about happened years ago and my friend did not know anything about the event or the person but she listened and rarely made any comments. Her mother was in and out of the hospital and re-hab centers several times before dying of congestive heart failure.

    Some people face the end of their life quietly with serenity and peace. Others, not at all. My mother knew she was dying, wanted to say goodbye to people, planned her funeral, gave away cherished items and went calmly. My MIL was in denial even when in the hospital on her death bed-she could not accept the fact that her life was over and fought with everyone.

    Is your mother accepting of death and dying? Can she talk about it all with you or does she need a counseler? These panic attacks may be anguish over the fact that she can not stop old age and death. The ranting-who knows what goes thru people’s heads-it’s good she has you to be there and help her. She should count her blessings that she has such an attentive and loving daughter.

  3. This is bound to be a stressful process for everyone involved but it will be best for both of you in the end. Make it very clear to the social workers that you can’t take care of her alone anymore. Repeat as necessary in simple clear terms. Stay strong. One foot in front of the other. Hugs.

  4. Krissie — yeah, I would have eaten the hamburger, too. Because I’ve been there. Just two years ago, in fact.

    My mother and I had issues, too, although the rift was more subtle. IOW, she had no idea there was a rift. But let’s just say she was…adamant about things. And when God forbid someone — say, me, her only child — disagreed with her, her jaw would set and her eyes would glaze over and that was that. She was also deaf as a stone, and no wonder, since listening was never her strong suit.

    But I digress. She, too, insisted on living on her own, although dementia wasn’t an issue until after my husband became terminally ill (she adored him, and took the news very badly). So, one day I stopped in to see her (she lived a few minutes away) and she had no idea who I was. And could no longer take care of herself, as witness the stains I discovered on her carpet. And I’m not talking food.

    Long story short,after two hours of fighting with me, and with the ambulance crew I’d called when I found her with a shiner the size of Cincinnati from a fall, I got her into hospice, too (she was 98, as well, and clearly exhibiting end-of-life symptoms). Even then, during her lucid moments she *still* argued with me about going home, saying she “didn’t want to be a burden.” Because, she’d say to me, “my daughter’s husband is very sick.”

    I finally had to flat out tell her she wasn’t going back to her apartment (which was her LIFE, man). Ever. Then, and only then, she finally let go, passing away within a few days.

    So believe me, I know your stress, Krissie. (And I was on deadline, too. Oy.) You will get through this, and you’ll be stronger for it, but for right now, if you want a hamburger, eat the damn hamburger.

    Just not the shake and fries to go with. 🙂

    Sending so much love…

  5. Kieran, how bizarre–I was thinking of Thomas’s words when I read Krissie’s post and here you are with the quoted lines. Sometimes our connection is a little surreal! It was what my mom quoted about my grandfather, who also did not “go gentle into that good night…”

    Krissie–hold on and let your mom settle down, although it does sound like she may need to be somewhere else right now. I’ll send “I love this place” energy her way and maybe she’ll decide that being with others instead of alone in the apartment is better. {{Hugs}}

  6. Wise post.

    My grandmother was angry and fearful at the end, and I am ashamed to say I ran away from it until mt uncle said, don’t be kind to yourself, be kind to HER. It made a difference to me. I was divorcing and exhausted and my finances were freaking me out because my son was in college and life was insane. I am so glad he said that to me. Sometimes looking outward, finding peace in service, relieves stress.

    Also, write some pages. Really bad ones are fine.

  7. Ro says:

    {{{Krissie}}} I wish I had words of wisdom to share. Alas, all I can offer is commiseration. From the sound of it, it’s simply not safe for her to be on her own any longer. Trust in yourself that you know what is best for her.

  8. My family went through similar angst last year about my mom needing a facility with care. Most of our stress came from the perception of what it would be like–complete waste of time and energy.

    Turns out, my mom loves the place. Feels like she’s living in a hotel. She’s got a large private room and bath that feels like a suite. And downstairs, there’s the dining room and plenty of rooms for activities and socializing. Plus a party room to host family and friends and lovely outdoor grounds. And the best thing is she still gets to share her space with her cat:)

    Sometimes we infuse places/actions with all sorts of meaning that bogs us down. Sometimes an apple really is just an apple. Our whole lives, we make decisions on where we live based on our needs and the stage of our lives–small when we’re on our own, slightly bigger when we couple, bigger still when we have kids, and then downsized again after they leave the nest. And that’s not even including the other variables like location or what kind of upkeep we’re capable of or want to do, that influence our choices.

    This is really no different, we just pack a lot of emotional stuff on it that makes it hard and colours the experience. I wish you luck with finding a lovely place for your mom. And finding the peace within yourself that this is a good, positive decision that’s right for her stage of life. Old age is really something we earn, it’s only right we should get to relax and let someone else do the daily chores when we achieve it. If I would have known my mom would have felt so pampered in her “hotel,” the decision would have been a no-brainer:)

  9. Carol says:

    Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Find a quiet place to just breathe and center yourself. It got me through the screaming rages and the months of decline. That and crying on husband’s shoulder, wrapped up in his arms and many “why” conversations with God. Richie sounds wonderful, like dh. I wish you strength and wisdom as you walk through this time with your mother.

    This was my walk, perhaps it can help you. I was worried Mama would not do well in assisted living and then extended living. Each move had it’s trials and finally acceptance. Mother’s will and temper was LEGENDARY.

    One lesson, well learned: to stand my ground and keep repeating what I wanted for mother, what would be best for her and me. (As calmly as possible, if I had I to repeat it twenty times, I did, until they got the message.) The Doc had a psychologist work with mom tweaking her meds until she leveled out into calm.

    Take time for yourself. Really important to keep up your health and mental/emotional well-being. You go above and beyond for your mother. Do not feel guilty if you cannot be there. The care-giver/load-carrier needs rest and time away from the storm.

    If I have over stepped, I apologize. Take care of yourself first and then you can help your mother.

  10. St. Trinians is always a good reference point. As someone who’s mother is currently in assisted living, may I say that at this point in your mom’s life moving her there is probably the best thing you could do for her. First of all, she would be in a place where there are people 24 hours and trained staff to help her she freaks out. And as hard as it is for us over-achievers to accept, we cannot provide that for family members who have mental issues like your mom or alzheimers like mine.

    It won’t be easy emotionally for either of you at first but once you have moved past that, you will feel a sense of relief that is almost indescribable, knowing that she is safe. She may not be happy but it doesn’t sound like she’s happy now.

    At 98, she may want to live alone but it doesn’t sound to me from your descriptions that that’s a viable option anymore.

    If you have things you want to ask or discuss, feel free to email me.

  11. I haven’t had time to read the rest of the comments but you’re wrong, number one is not an option. She’s clearly past living alone and it would be cruel to let her emotionally blackmail you into putting her back into a situation she can’t handle, cruel for her and cruel for you. I’m not kidding, Option Number One is NOT an option. She goes into assisted living because she needs to be in assisted living and because you deserve your life back. She’s had you at her beck and call for 98 years, and now her calls are hysterical and terrified. She needs to be in assisted living, period.

  12. I’ve always wondered about that quote and the way people use it.

    Dylan wrote it about his father dying, and it always seemed to me to be a child’s plea to his father not to change and die. It’s not about dying, it’s about resistance to change, about fear of loss.

    When you think about dying (and I almost did once, so I really have thought about it), there are pretty much two reactions, rage or acceptance (and the whole Kubler-Ross range). I’m leaving out regret because that’s a specific condition. I think you either look back on your life and consider it done, ready to see what comes next, or you rage because you’re not finished yet, you’re not “done,” and you’re demanding more time, saying it’s not fair that you should go with so much left undone. If you’re eighteen, that’s a good argument. If you’re ninety-eight, then I think it’s more fear of unknown, a selfish hanging on to this life, not because its good and productive and satisfying or because there are people you don’t want to leave, but because you’re afraid of what comes next. That’s probably too reductive, but a lot of it comes from a story that has my favorite “last words” ever. A man was dying of AIDS, surrounded by the people who loved him, and they said at the last minute, he got this wonderful look on his face and said, “Well, this should be interesting,” and died. That’s how I want to go, looking toward what’s next, not raging over what I’m losing.

    Or there’s Steve Jobs:
    “Jobs, who once memorably described death as “very likely the single best invention of life”, departed this world with a lingering look at his family and the simple, if mysterious, observation: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

  13. JenniferNennifer says:

    And Doc Holliday’s actual last words (just like the movie) were “Damn, this is funny” which always appealed to me.

  14. Kim says:

    I am agreeing with Jenny on this one too. We went through a similar situation with my husband’s grandmother. My MIL was running around trying to do everything for her mother and it was just too much. MIL’s mother only agreed to go into assisted living when my MIL said she couldn’t do it anymore and that she needed to focus on her husband who had just been diagnosed with Stage IV renal cancer.

    It really needs to be done and this isn’t you being selfish, this is about you doing what’s best for your mom. Sending strong and peaceful vibes.

  15. JenniferNennifer says:

    And if you feel yourself waivering, feel us all silently supporting you from all over the world.

  16. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Yes, you can love or hate Jobs — but those have got to be the most hopeful and encouraging “last words” ever… Makes you kind of curious about what he saw, and those are not words of fear.

  17. June says:

    I want to second what katyL said. My family went through a similar process with my grandmother, who was over 100 at that time. Ahe could mostly manage with a little help, so living in her apartment seemed like an option. But it wasn’t a GOOD option. As much as she didn’t want to go to the nursing home, she was much happier. I think it gave her much more to do after years of an increasingly diminished life. Clearly, it seems that this the best and only reasonable option for you and your family. But try to hold on the idea that this is also the best for her as well. Good luck and hang in there.

  18. I completely agree with Jenny here, fwiw. She needs care, both physically and mentally, and she needs the daily stimulation that being around other people will create. Even if she’s irritated at them, or angry, it’s better than her falling and suffering alone for hours on end before anyone finds her.

    My grandmother (93 at the time) had insisted on living alone and she’d been in and out of the hospital/rehab for a couple of falls. I used to tell her that if she wanted to go home, she had to exercise to stay healthy (which she did–she was pretty stubborn for a sweet little old lady). But one day, not five minutes after my uncle left her house, she fell, bumped into the ironing board and knocked the iron off, which hit her in the head. She was unconscious for a while, we think, but even when she came to, she couldn’t get to someone for help. (She had one of those alert necklaces… but she had forgotten to put it back on.) It was almost 2 days before the next person in the family went over there to check on her, and she’d been lying there that whole time.

    She was pretty grumpy about being in the nursing home, but she made friends (and griped with them about having to be there), and she had some creative activities that she wouldn’t have had at home. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best we could do.

    At 98, with the hysteria especially, she cannot be on her own again. That would be inhumane, really, to give into that request. Honestly.

    hugs, Krissie.

  19. pamb says:

    I’ll repeat along with the others until you hear us.

    Choice 1 is NOT on the table!

    And you MUST make that clear to the professionals. If that’s a problem for you, post the phone number of the best professional to contact & we will each call that person for you & explain you can not continue to care for you mom to the extent she needs help. Seriously. 🙂

    The professionals will say the goal is to get her home because they are required (by law, I think) to have that as their goal. But one of my Heather’s tasks in her job as a PT is to do home evaluations on anyone who will be going home alone. She doesn’t have to do home evals if a family member says s/he’ll be caring for the person.

    So please don’t keep “playing nice.” Please be a pain & say you can’t be at her beck & call.

    You know we had mom here thru her process, but at her death we were 6 hours away from moving her to care. I know how hard this is and the guilt, even when it isn’t reasonable to feel guilty. (Still guilty over my grandma when there was no choice.) My kids’ advice was, “Accept the guilt & do what has to be done.” (Although they were more loving than that. 🙂 )

    Mom denied & fought to the end. Was unconscious for the last 20 hours. We were by her bed, hoping the end came before we had to move her. Eric & Heather were sharing their experiences from working in nursing homes & I realized we hadn’t told mom it was okay to go. Leaned over & gently said that, added, “It’ll be good where you’re going, I promise.” She didn’t open her eyes, but she reared up off the bed and let loose a growl they could have used in The Exorcist, then fell back on the bed, perfectly still. We were shocked, then we started laughing. Eric said, “I think she just cussed you out one more time, Mom.” She passed about 5 hrs later, but there was no mistaking her last comment. 🙂

  20. Karen says:

    I had the same situation with my mother. It boiled down to the fact that no matter where she was she was not going to be happy and would work hard to make sure no one else was either. I decided that at least in an assisted living facility/home she would be taken care of by those with skills and patience greater than mine. If she’s not going to be happy why shouldn’t your choice be what makes it easier on me. She’s still going to call and have tantrums but you won’t have to run over there at the drop of a hat. It was quite hard to say “I’m sorry you feel that way, but if you keep talking to me that way I’m hanging up.” One of the funnier [if you’re warped] lines that came out of a temper tantrum my saying she couldn’t move in with me because she wasn’t nice to me. She said “well if you let me move in with you I WILL be.” Maybe you had to be there.

  21. I also agree with Jenny except I’m not sure assisted living is the answer. There are legal limitations to what assisted living can do for residents and still call it assisted living. Your mom may need more than that. She may need an actual nursing home.
    Either way, you need your life back.

  22. Maria says:

    I am voting with Jenny on this one, too, Krissie. She can no longer live alone and “allowing” her to guilt you into that or the assisted living/old folks home to guilt you into it is not okay either. The best option for her is whatever makes it easier for you and none of it will be easy – just easier.

  23. Maria says:

    I was just thinking that too about Dylan’s quote. It isn’t about the dying, but the plea to the dying from the living left behind.

    I want to say on my death bed, “Wheee! What a ride and now on to the next one. Tallyho!”

  24. Lois says:

    My mom was in an assisted living place and it was wonderful until they booted her out because she needed more care than they could give and they weren’t willing to let us do more. She was sent home since there wasn’t a placement in a nursing home available. This meant 6 months of 24hr./day care – much of it by me. So my advice is go for the nursing home down the hill if she can get in.
    It is close enough that you can pop in for a quick visit on your way to the pool (and then swim it off). I stopped in at different times on different days(because I have an odd schedule) but it also let the staff on the various shifts get to know me a bit. I think it helped her get a little more attention and they were mostly wonderful to us.
    Also with the assisted living I was still hauling her to Dr. appts. I didn’t have to do that with the nursing home and it was a big relief.
    Caregivers have to take care of themselves first (hard, hard lesson to learn).
    We can only do the best we can with the energy and knowledge that we have at the moment.
    Good thoughts coming your way.

  25. Hi,
    I think it all depends on whether you fear what’s coming after death or not. I had an aunt who was convinced she was going to hell, and she was terrified of dying. Fought it the whole way and was absolutely miserable, in terrible pain from cancer, but feared death would be worse.
    Another aunt was peaceful as could, contemplating things she wished she’d done better or when she’d behaved better, but not afraid. More like she was going on a grand adventure.
    We had her home with hospice, and I was by her side as she died. Her beloved sister, who’d died years before, came for her, and it was beautiful. Jane’s face lit up with surprise and such happiness, and she whispered her sister’s name in complete awe. I know she was thrilled to see her again, imagine Nancy taking her by the hand and leading her on.

  26. My mother, who specialized in geriatric issues as a public health nurse, maintains that as many people age, the negative aspects of their personalities become more pronounced. As adults, we learn to filter thoughts and ideas, but we lose some of that capacity as we age. I recall some very awkward moments when we would take my 95 years + grandmother out to dinner – she would often use some highly politically incorrect language when talking about different social groups. I’m not sure if she was truly racist or just unaccustomed to living in a multi-cultural world, but she could say soem pretty awful things at times.

    All this to say, it sounds like your mother was a pretty angry/unhappy person throughout her life – perhaps not a huge surprise that she isn’t going “gently into that good night.”

    As others have pointed out, you need to take care of yourself and set limits that work for you. While your mother may not be able to understand them, the various health practitioners will, especially if you are clear that sending her home would put her safety at risk – even if they can’t find physical symptoms, it does sound like she has some mental health issues. The medical practitioners will probably focus on your mother’s physical well-being. It may be worthwile to ask about getting a psychological assessment or at least have a social worker visit your mother. If this is a possibility, you may wish to ask for someone who has experience working with older people. Otherwise, significant issues may be overlooked or discounted just because your mother is elderly.

    Wishing you lots of luck.

  27. She’s terrified of dying, which seems so sad to me. At 98 she’s gonna die sooner or later and most likely sooner. I wish she could make peace with it, but she’s frightened.
    However, she’s agreed to go into a couple of weeks of rehab, so that might help with a transition. Because I just can’t keep doing this.

  28. Bless your heart, Krissie. I’m sending all the FGBVs I can muster. I’ve got nothing else. Except if you need to escape you can join me in my mini writing retreat, or call and I’ll bring you anything you need but can’t get from Richie. I’m not that far away.

  29. Caryn says:

    What Jenny said. My roommate’s mum is at that point (the woman may be totally lucid sometimes but she’s totally barking other times) and yesterday we got word that there’s a bed at a local care facility, with 48 hours to make use of it or it passes to the next on the waitlist. Will she nil she, she’s going in and not returning to her apartment, because it’s just no longer doable.

    But sympathies and best wishes. At least you’ll get a respite yourself while she’s in for two weeks.

  30. Lynda says:

    I pray she finds some kind of peace. The idea of dying in fear is just so…sad. Love and hugs, my friend.

  31. This was my mother — what little filter she had, had completely disintegrated in her last decade or so. Add that to her not being able to hear herself and you can imagine how potentially embarrassing it was to take her out in public! And yet I remember as a child her ramming home to me how bad it was to hurt someone’s feelings.

    I also wonder how many of these ancient ones had their own mothers to care for at that age? In my mother’s case, her own mother died when she was sixteen, so she seemed surprised — and not in a good way — at what being “old” was like. Frankly, I think it pissed her off. And for all the years she talked about just not wanting to wake up anymore, I think she, too, was resistant at the end. Not necessarily because she was afraid, but because she didn’t get to call the shots.

    In fact, the couple at the small facility where she stayed at the end told my son and me that she called them in one night, very angry that a “big black man” kept trying to take her away. “Why does he want me, anyway?” she said. My sons and I interpreted that to be her vision of Death — and then joked (because gallows humor is big in our family) that Death kept calling her name, but she couldn’t hear it…so he finally decided to come back later.

  32. The way things are going, ONE of you is going to need assisted living. I vote her. It’s time.

    My mother lives alone and she’s in her late 80’s. She often tells me that she wants me to move back home. Major guilt.

  33. Susan says:

    Not all assisted living facilities are created equal. Some are fabulous. My Dad was in one of the fabulous ones in Canada. He made the decision himself to move in at a time when he was still pretty independent, but they had 24/7 nurses on duty. Lots of services including personal care, help with finances and medications, etc as you began to need it. There was even a doctor who came to the facility (and a barber, and…). He had essentially a studio appartment but meals were provided and social activities gallore.

    When he hit the point that the care he required was more than the assisted living place could provide they transitioned him to the hospital until a nursing home placement would be available. That turned out to be moot as he decided that he was ready for “what’s next” and let go. There was no point at which I would have had to step back in which was key as I am ~1000 miles away.

    All I ask is that I remember the positives of his(my) experience when I reach the point that I cannot go it on my own.

    You certainly seem to be at the #1 is not an option. The benefits of assisted living far outweigh the transitional growing pains of getting used to it.

    Good luck!

  34. Kathryn says:

    Absolutely!! Think of this as the most extreme version of having to take the car keys away from a parent because they just shouldn’t be driving anymore.
    It’s time to do what is in the best interests of YOU BOTH. You let the social services people know that YOU ALSO are at the end of your rope with her.
    It’s ok to give up that responsibility.
    And Option Number One? It won’t erase any of the previous 98 yrs worth of bad behavior, and won’t change her current behavior toward you one iota.
    Take the reins by giving up the reins. It’s ok.

  35. Reb says:

    Krissie, take a step back. If she was someone else’s mother, what would you think her daughter should do? How much would you think her daughter should sacrifice?

    98 and hysterical sounds too old to take care of herself, plain and simple. If she’s unhappy because she’s scared of dying, she’ll be unhappy at home or in care. Better to have her unhappy and safe than unhappy at home.

    But hopefully she’ll love the facility and be happy to stay there. Sending wishes for that your way!

  36. jinx says:

    Oh yeah. The things you’ll have to come to grips with — the regret that your mother wasn’t a person who gave you what you needed, the regret that you didn’t understand yourself or her better at times when you took a lot of grief from the relationship — those are all regrets that you’ll have regardless of what happens now.

    At this point she’s escalated from the rage & anxiety that used to keep her balanced when she had a lot of energy and a lot of family members to take her bad feelings out on. She’s gone into aggressive neediness that’s all directed at YOU YOU YOU, and it just isn’t fair for the lone survivor of her children to have to carry her around with you in that way all the time.

    I was going to suggest that you make an arrangement with somebody near the assisted living place to store furnishings for you, and then start stealing her things — a lampshade here, some photos there, here a throw, there a footstool, and so on until her home was so stripped down that you could persuade her it would be better to go live in a nice hotel with pleasant surroundings, and then presto! Furnish the assisted living space with her own tschotschkes and let her happily move into a place that looked familiar and homey.

    Then I read your tale and I thought, no — that wouldn’t work at all.

    My stepmom, when she was beginning to realize, NOT that she was unable to manage her apartment on her own, but that my dad was really failing fast, got the bright idea that it would be convenient for them if I would move in with them and do all the little chores, make sure my dad didn’t do anything rash with their credit cards, do the shopping and the laundry for them and so on. It was the utter focus on what she wanted and preferred, versus the complete apathy to what I would have to sacrifice for her, that steeled me against feeling too sad about doing some serious assisted living research.

    And the sooner the better, because living alone and depending entirely on one other person can really reduce her ability to form new social bonds, which are important to making the transition.

    Man, good luck to you. If you can get her into some other place, I think you’ll be very very glad you did.

  37. Catherine says:

    I add my voice to those advocating for your Mother to not live alone again. But to live in some level of long term professional care. Krissie I see you striving to improve your own health. Carrying a 150 pound woman is one thing in an emergency but it could undo so much of what you’re building in your own health if you injure yourself.

    Professionals will be able to help her with this in ways you may not . They also won’t have had decades of experience with her draining them.

    It would be lovely if she blossomed into a happy person in a care situation. From what you’ve indicated of her personality this may be in the miracle category. It sounds like she has emitional needs that no one can fill. However in professional care she would be safe and the pressure of her care would be lifted from you.

    If you have a moment close your eyes and imagine your Mother surrounded by caring people,
    trained to cope with her needs. Think of what it would be like to not worry about her falling…

    From reading this blog you come across as someone that cares deeply. Arranging a deeper level of care for your Mother may be the most loving act you can do for you both. Praying for you all to find some measure of peace in whatever form is meaningful to you.

  38. Catherine says:

    Hah my misspelling of emotional needs makes me think of my own high needs natural mother who emitted waves of something that messed with the force of most everyone that dealt with her. Life lesson learnt with her, manipulative people are rarely satisfied. There is no pleasing them. Truly, never. Sometimes all you can do is hold onto your own integrity and not let them suck you under. I mention this so you know my assvice comes not from a totally rosy place. Although I thank God each day for my adoptive parents and their love for me. They help provide the roses in my life. In life post the death of my adoptive Mum, I realize there are no perfect choices made when caring for others. I think it often comes down to harm minimization and not beating yourself up for not being able be more than you can be. Hugs.

  39. Chris S. says:

    Think of it this way: if a sorrow shared is halved, then between all of us we can smear the guilt into the thinnest, most transparent of layers. I can almost see through it already.

  40. Micki says:

    I just finished reading Imagine last week, which talks about creativity. And about how some patients who have certain parts of their brains eaten away by disease suddenly “find art” — whatever editor was in their brain that didn’t let them see the beauty of the universe was eaten away, and suddenly they were creating. Perhaps, just before death sometimes, that part of the brain goes first, and we’re left with the wonderment of the universe.

    I had one of those “cosmic moments” when I was in high school — came out of nowhere, and went right back into nowhere — and it was a moment of pure beauty and joy. Maybe that’s what they saw before they died?

  41. Kelly S. says:

    Krissie – I hope and trust all will work out for the best. I will pray for your mother and you to find peace with what is coming.

    Also, congratulations on skipping McD’s!

    Hmm, with no kids, I wonder what will happen to me when I’m 92 or so…

  42. Micki says:

    Really what everyone else said. I think one of the harder things in this situation is becoming The Decider. Growing up, Mom and Dad were the Deciders, and one either reacted against it, or went along with it. Now, the child becomes The Decider, and it can be an uncomfortable reversal for all parties involved.

    However, you owe her a safe place. I hate to compare your mom to a schnauzer, but if you lived next to a dangerous highway, you wouldn’t let the puppy go out in the middle of the road, no matter how much she begged to be allowed to. You can’t allow your mother to put herself in danger. You feel guilty taking away her freedom, but you’d probably feel more guilty if she had a serious accident.

    Don’t let this be about what kind of Decider she was. Be the Decider that you want to be.

    *hugs* for these hard, hard decisions that you are going to make. But I know you can do it.

  43. EmmaKatz says:

    My mom had similar issues. I talked to the elder care counselor at work about how to give her the best option possible. She recommended assisted living. Her advice was to not discuss it; just move mom directly to the facility. Studies show that the adjustment takes about the same amount of time, but it is easier for the family to make it fast, like removing a band aid. My brother took about a year to agree with this plan.
    For a few weeks my brother and I were ” the worst, most ungrateful, evil children EVER!”. Then things changed– there was always someone around to talk to, eat with, hang out with; company when she wanted it, her room when she wanted alone time. We needed mom to be safe, and happy, if possible ( it was.) All of our lives changed for the better. My brothers biggest regret was waiting so long to move mom. Hope this helps.

  44. Reb says:

    I’ve got no kids and to be honest, this worries me. I guess I’ll have to put arrangements in place myself while I still can.

  45. Barbara Cameron says:

    It was difficult to put my dad in a nursing home but he — as selfish and critical as a man could get — actually realized that it wouldn’t be fair to me to take care of him. And I was the only one left who had anything to do with him. We had a better relationship after he was placed in a veteran’s nursing home where they even looked out for me and let him know they wouldn’t let me visit too often because I was running myself ragged when he sometimes felt needy.

    Now, while your mom is in the hospital they may discover she has a kidney or bladder infection that is causing some of her symptoms. We can always tell when Mom has one because her behavior goes off the wall. She raved that my jacket was on fire and everyone was in danger when she was put in the hospital to treat an infection a couple of months ago. But the nursing home had misssed the infection so going to the hospital helped her even though it initially disoriented her.

    Mom is in a place that has assisted living, a rehab wing, and a nursing section where she gets skilled nursing care now. She’s 90 and has been there for four years, moving from nursing floor (she came in with one of those infections), then assisted living, then rehab, and now skilled nursing. There are activities, a huge screen tv, people who like her (because she shows them much better behavior than she does me). It was one of the best things that ever happened to her: she is safe there not only from falling, not eating, all that sort of thing, but from some very bad people were around her and took all her money and jewelry before I found out.

    I had a 46 year old friend drop dead of a heart attack recently. I feel he was way too stressed taking care of his elderly, infirm mother on top of his own life problems. Please take care of yourself!!

  46. Same here, Jenny’s so right about this. My mother was 96 when she past away. Had she been living alone it would have been horrible for her and my sisters. If it’s quick, in a snap you’re gone, and that’s fine, but on the other hand…
    Your Mum is better off if she terrified then all she has to do is press a button.
    Oooh I could…but I won’t.

    All the strength and power to you Krissie

  47. My father had Alzheimer’s and stomach cancer. The cancer was untreatable and the Alzheimer’s had progressed. One day my father wound up in the hospital for stomach pain. I will always be grateful to the doctors who told my mother, “No, he is not going back home. He needs to move to a nursing home now.” Perhaps they were crossing a line, but she needed someone in authority to tell her, “Enough is enough and you can’t do this anymore.” My father’s condition rapidly deteriorated from there and he died just a couple of weeks later.

    Perhaps you need someone in authority (someone like Jennifer Cruise, perhaps) to tell you that your mother’s care is now simply too much for you. It can be very hard to see this when you are the care taker.

    When my father-in-law had Alzheimer’s, my MIL was taking care of him. It was such a burden on her. I remember a conversation with my sister-in-law where I said I thought it was time for him to move into a nursing home, that it was too much for her, that it was killing her. The woman had heart troubles. And she died in surgery just a few months later. The burdens of being a primary care-giver take an enormous toll.

    So, my point is, it’s not just your mother’s life we’re talking about. And we’re not just talking about your mental and emotional well-being here, though those are also very important. We’re talking about your life, about being a walking, talking presence on the planet. It’s about taking care of yourself in ways that are necessary. It’s about making sure you’re still around for your self, your husband, your children.

    Your life matters. Your heart (in every sense of the word) matters.

    In any case, this is so clearly a deeply painful time for you. I hope this works out well for you.

  48. Coming in a day late here, my apologies. Sweetie, your mom is like a toddler right now. Would you let a toddler run around eating nothing but chocolate and never bathing and crapping herself all the time, or would you set limits and provide structure and make sure that kid was in an environment that gave her what she needed?

    What Jenny Said. #1 is NEVER going to be an option again. That phase of your mother’s life is over, and trying to deny is that is cruel to everybody involved. Let her move on, and let her reaction to moving on to the next stage of HER life be whatever it is. That’s her reaction, and it’s on her. Not yours. Hugs and love and sexy dancing Japanese men to distract you 😉

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