Wednesday, October 21, 2009

tick tock

My friends D&K arranged for D’s elderly mom, R, to go live in a very nice assisted living facility at their expense.  They took her today.  The whole thing was cloaked in subterfuge, carefully not telling R the truth.  The reason for this is because R has become unreasonable about her capabilities, is suffering from some form of dementia mostly related to her memory and is unwilling to cooperate with anything she doesn’t want to do and she can get very ugly about it.  What she wants to do is go back home to NY where she lived alone in a high rise condo downtown up until last year when she fell and dislocated her shoulder.  This isn’t possible due to her failing health and memory.  To tell R that she cannot and may not go home is to make things unbearably unpleasant.  So the story is that this is only a temporary arrangement so she will be looked after while they go to Wisconsin for a family emergency on K’s side (true).  The lie is that it is not a temporary arrangement.

When she first fell and the shoulder would not stay set, R went out to live with one son.  After she burned her bridges there, she came to live with her other son, my friend.  D’s no spring chicken himself and he is worrying himself into another stroke.  All their bedrooms are upstairs and R gets up in the night and goes downstairs into the kitchen.  No one is getting any sleep and K is worried for D and their once active world and activities have basically come to a halt and now revolves around R.  That’s just not healthy.

They feel terribly guilty and they are exhausted, physically and mentally.  I sympathize with them and tell them they are doing the right thing.  It is reminiscent of my mother, when she got to the point of no longer being able to live alone and she, too, was unreasonable, unwilling to cooperate and ugly about it.  

I’m going to be 60 next year and although I expect to have another 20 good years, realistically, what’s the chance?  I never wanted to be like my mother and I have tried hard to NOT be like her.  Still, I see her slipping out now and then.  I hope, when I get to that point, that I will be VERY much not like her and R, that I will have the presence of mind, the wit and wherewithal to recognize when I become a danger to myself and accept it gracefully even if I am not ready for it.


  1. I am so frustrated with my Mother right now for reasons similar. She doesn't have memory loss/dementia but she is incapable of taking care of herself and has put my sister in the unteneable position of driving 50 miles a day [after work] to tend her needs. [We are 400 miles away]

    My sister's boss offered my mother a lovely condo next to my sister's condo RENT FREE so my sister could be near her and visit at lunch and be there in the evenings.

    My mother [who is on oxygen and can't walk] refuses. She wants to stay in her house.

    When do you draw the line? We both want to take care of her, but she has to bend at some point - my Sister is a decade older than I am and this just isn't good for her to have to go over to Mom's because Mom's dog is acting up [yes my Mom called about this].

    Give your friends my best and tell them to take care of themselves first so they can take care of R. It is all they can do.

    I apologize for venting about this here, but it just opened it all up again.

  2. Your friend is doing the right thing. The only thing.

  3. It's such a sad and difficult time, most definitely. I agree with JC, your friend is doing the right thing. We can't personally care for others if it means putting our own selves at risk. What is the point in that?

  4. Dr. M's mom was put into a nursing home this year after she had a car accident. She had been showing slight signs of dementia before that, but now it's much worse. She hates being in the nursing home & yells at her husband & everyone else - but there is no way he can care for her at home. It's heartbreaking. And I feel like a heel because we live 8 hours away & are separate from the drama.

    I also hope that when the time comes I'll be able to be graceful. I'm not all that active to begin with - I think as long as they let me play on the computer I won't care where I live!

  5. I'm kinda into that with my Dad now--he's got the beginnings of dementia, won't take his medication, cancels appointments to the doctor, etc. He's a doctor, always been a lousy patient and in many ways a wonderful guy..but he's pretty much decided that any treatment would only prolong the agony and so he refuses. If you can get him to do anything besides watch court TV, he makes great strides...but it's getting him to do it that's hard.

    Which means my mom has about 10X more stuff to cope with. They're an hour from the nearest kids, I'm up there regularly as is my sister...but this isn't going to get better. I'm slowly clearing out my house, not getting pets, etc., because I can see a time in the future when I move in with them to help. I just don't know when it will be. Sigh.

    About the only virtue I see in dementia is that--if it happens to me--I fervently hope the real me has gone someplace else and doesn't know how much of a pain I've become.

  6. It's not that easy. Seniors who have dementia or have other mental impairements do not act rationally. They do need care, though they may ignore or deny that need. Someone has to be in charge, and a doctor can help immensely with a prescriptive diagnosis.

    Most folks who can't afford residential treatments can be referred to social services agencies for home visits and other in=house treatments and assistance.

  7. Wow, this does bring back memories. When she began the dementia decline, my mom would often say: "It's hell getting old." And she was a vibrant, positive, charming, gracious older woman who drew love around her like bees to honey. My heart goes out to the whole family. Not an easy path they're walking together, that's for sure.

    And Ellen, I hope I get a chance to meet you in person between now and 80. I have no doubt you'd be a kick to hang out with!

  8. It is a tough situation. Old people like to stay where they are comfortable, and many simply don't make a heathy transition into care. But family members who care for them also have to think about their own health. There is almost always heartache - no way around it. Hope everything works out for them.

  9. Hmmm. Lakeviewer, don't believe I ever used the word "easy" about this. Short of tying him to the bed and force-feeding him pills, what would you suggest?

    He has those resources already, he is not far enough along in the dementia processes yet to warrant stronger interventions, they say. And so, for now, the decision not to be treated is his choice, not ours, in just the same way as it might be the choice of a terminally ill cancer patient to forego chemotherapy.

    This is a terminal disease, he knows it. We know it. He knows it better than most, since he treated such patients for much of his professional career. When he was diagnosed he made the choice not to prolong the course of the disease. I disagree with his choice but for the time being, it's not my call. When it becomes my call (or my mom's), it will be too late to do much more than palliative care. He knew that, too, and made it clear that's the way he wants it.

    We've discussed it at length, the pros have talked with him and us, we've done the counseling thing...and they say at the moment all we can do is respect his wishes. The forgetfulness is accelerating, but he very definitely remembers his treatment choice. He is visibly better with medication, and at one point I suggested slipping it into his food. The experts and Mom were against it. I'm learning to live with the choice thing, whether I like it or not.

  10. It's such a difficult situation and I know of several women who are in assisted living centers. Thankfully most of these ladies came to accept their limitation and made their own decisions to make the move. Those are the ones who are/were the happiest in their new dwelling. They make friends, join activities and get involved in events. There's something to be said about acceptance and happiness.

  11. This is powerful and so timely, Ellen. I know SO many people who are struggling with the same issues with their parents right now.

    I think the generation before ours was quite different in many ways but especially in terms of their expectations.

    Don't worry about how you'll be in 20 years - you'll be just as you are now, only older.

  12. Oh gosh, this sort of situation is so hard...for everyone. I was the one to find my father an assited living situation at the end of his life. He had had several mini strokes and could become irrational and unpleasant. They miss their home, and fight not to lose the independence they're used to. But their deficits aren't clear to them, they don't understand their own condition, and so the very people who love them and are trying to help them become the brunt of some very difficult stuff. My heart goes out to anyone on either side of this situation.

  13. We've been going through a similar situation with my MIL - she's no longer able to take care of herself, and can't safely live alone anymore, but she refuses to move into assisted living. I can understand her unwillingness to give up her independence, but at some point she will have to face the reality.

    I think we all hope that when our time comes we will have the presence of mind to accept it, but it never seems to work out that way for most people.

  14. Boy, you and me, both! My biggest fear is to be like "R"!

  15. We get to a point in life where we can enjoy our kids and grandkids and elder care smacks us in the face. Nope, I did not say we don't love our parents down to our toenails but it does become life consuming.

    My MIL is a dear sweet lady but she can get violently mean like a badger. There comes a time when it is best for everyone to commit to professional care. We are not there yet with MIL but it is coming soon. We went through this with my FIL and my parents are approaching added supervision.{SIGH}

    Ya'll have just the best day filled with calm blessings!!!


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