Monday, January 21, 2008
If it's not one thing, it's your mother.
Okay, one of the life-changing things that happened last year was that my 81 year old mother had to leave her home where she had lived for over 45 years to come live near me.
To make a long story short, Mom has been having memory problems for several years now, and these have caused some major problems. So much so that she really needs someone to help her with her medications, money management and a few other minor details of daily living. She wants to remain independent for as long as she can, and we want that for her, too.
So we found a senior apartment complex about 15 minutes from my house. Only those "55 or better" can live there. It's been a nearly impossible adjustment for her. She misses her house, her yard, her neighbors, extended family and the city where she lived for so long. She misses being able to open her back door and let her little dog run and play outside. Now she is forced to walk him several times a day. She is terribly homesick.
It's been a big adjustment for me too. Married to a military man for nearly 39 years, my life has been one move after another. I haven't lived close to family for most of those 39 years. My husband is retired from the military, although he still works for the Army, and we are settled in one place now.
I drive to Mom's twice a day, in the morning and evening, to take her medications to her, to take her dog's food to him (she was feeding him several times a day because she would forget that she had fed him at all, and he was getting too fat), and just to spend time with her.
It's hard to see my mom losing her memory. I worry that she will forget to lock her doors, or that she will forget about a pan on the stove. We have become the double talking team of all time--she repeats the same stories over and over, asks the same question a half dozen times, and I repeat the same answers each time she asks. :o) Through prayer and the grace of God, I have learned to be very patient with her.
My sister loaned me a book someone had given her, The 36 Hour Day. It is helpful and terrifying all at the same time. Mom already does many of the things described in the book, but she has not yet reached the point of some of the people the book. She doesn't wander, she's not mean to anyone, she still takes care of her apartment, eats reasonably well, and takes showers. But I am fearful that those things are coming. It's also scary to think that these same things could (and probably will) happen to me one day.
In spite of the stress of being a "caretaker," I am enjoying having my Mom near me. We go shopping, go to lunch, take her dog for a walk. Recently we started going to a Bible study at our church, and Mom enjoys it very much. She especially enjoys doing the lessons with me at her place in the mornings. I am learning more about her as we answer the questions in our workbook. We loved having Mom here with us for the holidays, and she loved seeing our family, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We talk a lot, and we laugh a lot. And sometimes we cry.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for me has been the loss of time. Two big chunks of my day are now spent with Mom, and I can't seem to get everything done that I used to do. My house is messy, I'm always behind on laundry, shopping, cooking and errands. And I think about her all of the time. Her medical care, her social security, her bank account, her insurance, her safety, her feelings--I am constantly thinking about those kinds of things. I pray that I will get everything under control and get my life back on track soon. I suppose it just takes time.
Anyway, my prayer is that my mom will be happy here in time, and that I will always be able to do whatever I can to help her. My husband, BTW, is a saint. He has done so much to help her, from moving her belongings here from 550 miles away, to hanging drapes, hooking up her washer and dryer, painting some patched spots on her walls and ceilings that the contractors didn't finish, helping with some of her bills and dozens of other little things. He's the world's best husband. :o)
Well, I didn't mean for this post to be so long. It's really the short version, believe it or not. :o)