Licking my Wounds

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Day 2 of mom’s adventures in her new care home. Last night was such a good time with mom laying happily in bed, looking at the quilt with our baby photos on them and commenting on them over and over again. Clearly they brought her joy, love and peace.

Today, however, was another story. I felt like I ran from there as fast as I could but not without wounds that will likely turn into scars that only forgiveness and love can heal. Right now I am still nursing and licking my wounds. I have retreated into protection mode but messaging with my sisters, who know me and what we are all going through, has helped me. But it will take a little time before the wounds will heal and fade away.

What has caused such a retreat and images of wounds and scars?

My mother was not the same woman whom I spent time with last night. This woman was caustic, argumentative, paranoid and convinced men were coming to take the children including her baby, a doll. She didn’t seem to comprehend that I was her daughter and acted as if I was of no consequence to her. I found her in another man’s room trying to put his shirt on over her own. She tried to cover him with various items but he didn’t respond at all. When she wheeled towards his bathroom, I decided the charade was up and wheeled her out and directed her wheelchair down the hallway. She wanted to go into every room, even if the door was shut, and I patiently pointed out the pictures at each door to show whose room it was and reminded her she couldn’t go in there. It was like she heard me, but deliberately ignored me, and I would have to wheel her back or keep the door shut with my hand and she would be angry and argue with me.

Then, suddenly, she turns to me and says “shut up stupid bitch!” I whirled backward as if slapped and the tears came moments later. I tried to keep them in but she saw them but didn’t say anything and tried to wheel over my foot. My mother has called me a bitch one other time during my teenage years that stung like a slap as well. This felt worse. I guess because I had been spending all this time and experiencing much emotional angst for her well-being only to be treated with contempt.

In my brain I know that this is not how my “normal” mother would act and that it was the Alzheimer’s forever altering her brain. But my heart is not so willing to let go of the tight clench after every beat.

After talking to the nurse and aides, I decided to just go home. There is no helping her when she is in this state and I should have known that. Really – it is my own fault. I’ve seen signs of this behaviour before but I haven’t learned to retreat fast enough. My bruised heart reminds me that next time I will. She can’t learn to adapt her behaviour, but I can.

Such thoughts seem logical and reasonable, but my heart hasn’t allowed them to penetrate yet and tears continue to fall quickly down my cheeks.

Thank you, God, for sisters who know. Sisters who care for the same woman changing and fading before our eyes. Sisters who let me vent and share the agony even though it must hurt them, too. It is not only MY mother that has changed, but theirs, too. I wonder if their heart aches, too. I wonder if they try to protect their hearts from the pain of this maddening, incurable disease called Alzheimer’s?

Expelled at 77

John and I are in the depths of raising teenagers. We expect rebellion, arguments, tantrums and possible expulsion from school. Heaven forbid the last one! However, it is not our teens that we are dealing with on difficult issues. My mother, with her daily experience living with Alzheimer’s, has been more of a challenge than I expected. In fact, she was “kicked out,” “expelled,” or “given her walking papers” from her care home. My historically gentle, kind and undemanding mother (albeit with red hair and  occasional fiery temper) has become aggressive towards her care givers, other residents and sometimes family members, and her home was unable, unwilling, unequipped to deal with her and too impatient to figure out a solution.

My patient father was getting phone calls upon phone calls of incidents she was involved in and he was getting stressed. He was exhausted and having to “guard” her for 8 days has made me exhausted as well. The care home had no extra staff to be on stand by with her in the evenings so that fell to us, the family. Thankfully, we have some family in the city and each is able to do what they can. Interestingly, I have not seen any acts of aggression myself and she was very calm each evening I was there.

During the intake at her new home, the RN did a thorough assessment. When we spoke about her unusual behaviours she said that something as simple as an infection or illness can cause a change in behaviour. She did have 2 bladder infections in the past 6 months so that could be a strong possibility as a cause for atypical behaviours.

If you think that having a child expelled from something would be frustrating and embarrassing, try having your 77 year old mother expelled!! I almost felt like I was trying to sneak in to visit her as I was embarrassed by her. I felt terribly apologetic to her nurses and aides and felt like I was there to protect them from this wheel chair bound woman and her shocking displays of hitting, scratching, pushing or, my personal favourite – hair pulling.

Over the week I have come to think of it in a slightly different way. After 10 days with no negative reports, I was starting to wonder if her care home had jumped the gun. I started to remember whose side I was on and that the staff didn’t need my support, my mom did. “Honour your Father and your Mother.” Exodus 20:12a came to mind. I began to walk in with my head held high and a cheery greeting to the other residents sitting nearby. As I left her home, I actually felt sad that I would miss all the special characters there, but after spending several hours at her new home today, I am sure there will be many characters to get to know here, too.

After much preparation and worry over the transition to her new home, she seemed happy and easily settled. We rolled through the halls again and again (it’s always new to an Alzheimer’s patient!) until she was ready to settle for the night. I’m on first name basis with one resident already as she came into mom’s room 5 times tonight. lol  I am certain mom will repay her and many others with surprise visits. Can you blame her? Most of the rooms are very similar with only the bed facing alternate ways and a chair or two added in.

I have wanted to write this entry for 8 days now and it isn’t coming out as descriptive or theatrical as I had thought. I think it is the emotional and physical weariness that has sapped my energy and eliminated any wit or humour I usually have. I will have to tell the story of the lunch room fight another night.

If you visit an elderly person or pass by one in a store, say “Hello” and give them a cheery smile. They may or may not respond, but to many it is a drop of fresh water on a dry and lonely soul. I am certain that many of mom’s fellow residents at her first home thought that I was coming to visit them and they were ready with a smile or a greeting. I’m sure they didn’t remember me each time, but I was a friendly face who took time to speak with them. Don’t ask questions as they may be confused and embarrassed if they can’t answer them. You really have no idea how a friendly face  can be like a breeze under their soul, lifting them closer to God and closer to the person they once were. Isn’t that what we would all like to be? Closer to our best self whether that is today, in days gone by, in a hope for the future or when rejoicing in heaven with a healthy body, strong mind and joy-filled spirit!.

~ Tracy.

 

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Have no fear.

Wise insights, Camilla. You have a wonderful way with words.

figs grow on trees

Terrorism has one goal: to produce widespread fear, or to spread terror. Last night was an upsetting night for many. Many people became victims to the terrorist attacks in Paris. However, the victims were not only the ones who were in Paris at the time but those of us who read what had happened and became fearful.

Fear is a gift from God. Fear is our bodies’ survival mechanism, it can help us discern dangerous situations and protect us from putting ourselves in an unsafe position. But at the same time our fear can be abused and then used to control us.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

The gift of fear is a physical response, but as the verse states, God did not give us…

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Forgotten

Today I visited my mom once again. Truthfully, I hadn’t been to see her in a week. I had this dry cough / sore throat going on and it seemed like a reasonable excuse at the time. Up to very recently, I have worried about her endlessly and beat myself up about going to visit her or not. However, this past week I am ashamed to admit that I barely thought of her since Tuesday and I really didn’t worry about her. I felt little guilt this week as well. I hope this will continue but at the same time I feel guilty about her being in the home all alone.

I went today and she was very sad and well, drugged. Staring into space, fading out, didn’t try to have a real conversation. She just really seemed depressed.

She said “I don’t want to be myself.”

“Why?” I ask as I sit on the edge of her bed and take her hand.

“Because I am so lonely. I am by myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me or how to fix it.”

“I don’t know either mom,” I reply hopelessly. How can you tell someone it is not going to get better, only worse?

I tried to get her comfortable in her bed and encouraged her to rest. It was mid afternoon and rest time. Really, it was a selfish purpose. I wanted to see her at peace, sleeping, so I wouldn’t see the pain and sadness in her eyes. And so I could leave. After all, we had several errands to run and time was quickly passing. Really, Tracy! Is a half hour or an hour too much to ask to give her company? This summer I vow to try to visit her every day, to hold her hand, to show her pictures, to talk to her and sit quietly beside her. Maybe I will bring some peas to have her help me shell. Or some beans to snap. Something comforting that she used to do. Maybe she could grow a tomato plant in her window and eat it’s fruit.

I don’t know if my visits will bring her any joy or an end to her sorrow or if the visit helps her for the day as she likely forgets minutes after I’ve left.

But I wish this guilt would turn into something else. Something more positive. Something less selfish. Something I could eliminate and replace. What that is – I don’t know. All I know is the stained glass is quite grey today.

And it gets worse

After my experience with my mom’s bullying and stepping on a lady’s foot on purpose, I thought that was the worst it could be. Ha! I was wrong.

Being forced to step out from behind the stained glass and to see clearly was not desirable. Can’t I stay behind the softly muted window and see things through a rose coloured pane of glass a little longer? A shocking episode seen through clear glass is not at all comfortable but there is nothing about Alzheimer’s that is comfortable.

My dad got a call from the day nurse at my mom’s care centre yesterday – twice. My normally gentle mannered mother was violent against an aide. Apparently, she was getting some help toileting and wanted to go for a walk before fully dressed. The aide said she wasn’t going anywhere until she pulled up her pants. When the aide bent over to help her pull up her pants, my mom took two handfuls of hair in her fists and pulled. The aide eventually got my mom to let go of her hair but as she stood up my mom slapped her hard across her face.

This is shocking! Horrifying! Embarrassing! Concerning!

Tomorrow we will find out more when we meet with the nurse to talk about it.

My instinct is to be apologetic, embarrassed and reassuring that this is NOT the woman we know and love.

But what if something was going on and she had every right to defend herself? How would we ever know? She can’t remember 10 minutes ago nor does she often speak in understandable sentences. She is at the mercy of these people hired to care for her. With that thought I think some lessons in martial arts might be necessary for my mom to protect herself. ; )

What is to be done? She just had her medicine adjusted 2 weeks ago and is so drugged that she sleeps through breakfast and lunch and is usually drugged and quiet when I come to visit in late afternoon. The violent woman reported about here is not the docile, drugged, quiet woman I see at the home when I visit her. Minus the foot crushing incident of course.

I am going to go and talk to the nurse with my dad but I have no illusion that I can stay behind the stained glass then.

My Mother the Bully

The stained glass has been spun in a new direction – one that I really didn’t think I’d ever be contemplating. My mom a bully? Could it be? Is it possible? As a mom who has been a scaredy cat most of her life to a woman enjoying bullying someone else? Well, you judge, if you will.

During my visit the other day, I was caught by surprise when my mom did something totally out of character. Supper is at 5pm at the home but everyone gathers and sits at the tables in their spots at 4pm.

I am visiting at the usual time 4 – 5ish and arrive to the ladies already sitting around the table silently. I pull up a big chair beside my mom and the lady right next to me, but at the end of the table, slowly scoots her chair away. She is a little lady who kind of sinks into her wheel chair and looks very, well, old. I am slightly amused as I watch her slowly move her place mat, silverware and angle her chair away. After visiting with my mom for a while, I see movement under the table and I see my mom slowly move her foot over to this little old lady’s foot and she presses down on it. The little lady turns her head (kind of like an owl, really) and looks at mom who is sitting there with a smirk on her face. Appalled, I say “Mom! What are you doing? Why did you do that?” and mom says “She likes it.” What was I supposed to say to that? I look at the other lady and she does have this slight impish look but I say to my mom “I don’t think she liked that. Look at her face. Does she look like she likes it when you stomp on her foot?” My mom, very smug, says “Yes, she does.” I feel like I am back at work and dealing with 3 and 4 year olds. “I’m just teasing her.” Yeah, well, teasing is not fun for the one being teased. My mom is not at all repentant and I send an apologetic look to this little old lady. I spend the next few minutes watching for mom’s foot to travel under the table again and this time I would intervene. Who knew she would be her own worst enemy and become someone she always despised – a bully? Shocking.

Maybe now the one day a few weeks back when mom was saying no one wanted to be her friends (again – flashback to preschool) is more understandable. If she’s stepping on people’s feet or goodness knows what else, of course they wouldn’t want to be her friend. How do I help my mother, the bully, who can’t remember what happened 15 minutes ago?

I want to plead with the little old lady, “Use your words! Tell her no in a strong voice. Tell her how it makes you feel! Tell her how you want to be treated.” But alas, she won’t remember 10 minutes from now anyways.

Where does this bullying behaviour come from? She’s been the victim of bullies growing up, hates hearing about them and yet she is doing the same sort of thing. I consider the little old lady – she definitely would seem like a vulnerable victim. Finally power over another person from my mom’s perspective? Something still resonates in her to right the situation and be a bully because she was always a victim? It seems that it would make her more empathetic and certainly not take on the bully role.

This is just all sickening to me. Another thing that I didn’t anticipate with my mom in her senior’s home.

Another piece of jagged glass by Tracy

I found another piece of jagged glass and when I pulled it out of my heart, tears fell instead of blood. I let myself give a yell of anguish as if giving voice to the pain in this way would lessen it somehow.

I was suddenly struck this past weekend as I was planning my garden and walking around my yard that my mom wouldn’t ever see it. She has loved flowers and gardening her entire life and took great pride in having a marvelous garden to enjoy. There is something in her blood that yearns for beautiful and productive gardens. I have that yearning, too.

The call of farm life I experienced during my school years, still echoes in my heart. I yearn to watch the young lambs run and jump so full of hope and potential. I want to feed the chickens and even scrape off their roosts. Feeding calves milk in big buckets or stopping turkeys from fighting. Waking up at 2 am to go check the ewes to see if any were lambing in the middle of a dark winter night. I didn’t enjoy waking up early to weed the garden before the sun shone too hot, but even that gave satisfaction in getting a job done and seeing progress. I loved, really loved, picking peas and beans from the garden rows and then sitting in the shade snapping beans and shelling peas along side my grandma. I have even found myself stopping on the road to take a look at a young foal in the field twice this spring.

I don’t know if my strong yearning for the farm life is because it represents a time when my mother was strong, hard working and happy. She seemed to know how to do so much on the farm and with the enormous garden she always had. Is that the reason gardening has been such an emotional experience this year?

Maybe instead of missing and longing for my mom’s input, approval and appreciation, I should soak in all the positive memories I have of her gardening and count those a blessing. Maybe remembering being a teen and hearing her call for me to get up to pull weeds at 7:00 am will remind me of the irritation I felt and bolster my heart against pure sadness!

Although my garden is still very young, and nothing like hers in years past, it might have been something we could talk about, sharing gardening tips and ideas and, most of all, enjoying each other.

“Have you seen the tulips at the house this year?” she would ask with excitement in her voice.

“No, are they beautiful? I’ll have to come by and see them.” I would answer.

I miss her.  I want to enjoy the tulips together.