Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Care giver weariness

We were at Mom’s this weekend to celebrate Dad’s 91st birthday. He looks great, reflecting the wonderful attention he’s receiving at the care home. However, I saw subtle evidences of stress and loss of capacity in Mom. Nothing I can put my finger on, but just a vague sense that she’s less capable than when I saw her a month ago. She’s growing weary. Dad has been in care for eighteen months now, and she still feels she needs to visit every day. She doesn’t like it, but feels guilty if she misses a day. She won’t take a break more than once or twice a month. He’s increasingly dependent, and when she isn’t there, he calls over and over and over. He forgets that she said she wouldn’t be there, so panics. And yet, when she’s there, he doesn’t talk to her. He reads or listens to tapes, just wanting her nearby. Often he falls asleep. She feels frustrated. I feel helpless.

I worry that she’ll get sick or fall. She refuses to take care of herself. Just doesn’t see that as important. I wonder how long she’ll be able to live alone, to continue driving. And then what?

The past couple of trips, I’ve encouraged her to begin thinking about what she wants when she can no longer remain in the house or no longer drive. She says that will never happen. She isn’t going anywhere. But we both know it’s only a matter of time. I’d prefer for her to make the decision, but that may not happen. I may be put in the position of having to make the decision for her. That’s hard when I live so far away.

As our parents age, each day brings new challenges, new decisions. And a new sense of helplessness. Yes, I feel smooshed.

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6 comment(s):

Oh dear. I feel for you, Pat. It's so hard when they have that "this will never happen" attitude; it makes it that much harder to negotiate and to give THEM some decision making power.

Watching my mother go through this has made me determined to make my own plans for later life, as early as possible.

By Anonymous Susan, at 6:57 AM  

Pat, it's so hard to watch a parent given over to denial. When my mother got that way, I finally reached that point of desperation at which I confronted her directly.

I reminded her of times in my youth when I had been determined to do something foolish, even dangerous, and she had called me on it and stood her ground.

You taught me well, I told her, and now the situation is reversed. Because I love you, Mom, I said, I'm not asking you what you're going to do here. I'm telling you.

Fortunately for both of us, she blinked. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. You're the best judge of whether your mother will blink. If she's an intelligent person, I'm betting she will. In the situation you describe, she's pretty far out on a limb. Maybe she's waiting to be told she can finally stop trying to be everything to everybody.

Good luck with this one, and God bless...

By Blogger pete, at 8:37 AM  

I know that feeling that you can't put your finger on. I feel sorry for my dad sometimes, because I'm always looking for those signs in him, but, I think he's got a little while to go!

I hope things work out smoothly for this.

By Anonymous Elizabeth, at 5:37 PM  

Thanks all of you. It's so encouraging to know there are others going through the same things, feeling the same things, and having to make the same hard choices. I guess it's true that misery loves company, huh? But you are to be commended for hanging in there and serving your parents the best you can.

By Blogger Pat, at 11:13 PM  

Hi, Pat.

Thanks so much for commenting on my blog today.(The Mother Blog). I'm new at this, and it's fun to make new friends with common interests.

In my blog I mentioned about us moving my mother-in-law here from AZ. That was an extremely difficult decision to make, as it meant breaking up her marriage! Let me explain: she lived with her second husband in the home of a lady who cared for both of them. But as Mother's Alzheimer's worsened, the lady was no longer able to care for her and the doctor said she needed to go to a facility. No way were we going to have her somewhere like that, with no family around, when we lived two states away. So after much prayer we felt the best thing for her was to be close to us. Her husband was too frail to move, plus his daughter would not allow it. So, the day after their 20th anniversary, we took Mother away on the plane with us. Kind of felt like the bad guys, there for awhile, though Mother was very happy with the move. She talks to her husband on the phone most weeks and they continue to tell each other how much they love each other. And she continually reminds him that God is in control of their lives and eventually, they will be together.

By the way, I'm the oldest of five, and also known as "the responsible one."

Feel free to check out my website at

By Blogger Sherrie Ashcraft, at 10:32 PM  

I am so sorry. I would like to know how things are new. It has been very long since this post. Please fill us in.

By Blogger karen, at 10:29 AM  

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