Monday, April 24, 2017

I feel quiet/tomorrow can wait…

no television, no computer
no conversations, no email
no cell phone, no “to do” list
tomorrow can wait; it will always wait
I lay on my bed in the darkness
I silence my body & mind
I feel …quiet; tomorrow can wait

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Yesterday when I got in my car, the warning light came on.  It said, "maintenance needed...low tire pressure, oil change due, windshield wiper fluid empty." I thought of the irony of this.  I thought how I felt 5 days ago my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia.  I wanted to scream “maintenance needed" at the top of my lungs. Maintenance needed for myself as I felt I was sinking, falling into a place which I did not want to go.

Six days ago I delivered my mother’s prescriptions which were recently prescribed by her doctor. I was concerned for her and thought delivering these medications would provide an excuse for dropping in. On that morning I found my mother confused, disoriented, fully disrobed and unable to stand or walk as she sat on her bench in her bedroom. I asked my mother how she felt and she responded “I think something is wrong.”

I called 911 as per  her doctor's recommendation. I'll never forget that feeling of panic as I took my mother's blood pressure The reading was so high I feared she might have a stroke. When the EMS arrived Mom couldn’t stand up or walk. She was agitated and said she didn't want to go to the emergency room. She been there only 2 weeks ago.

What ensued was 10 hours in the emergency room, admission to the hospital, and the diagnosis of vascular dementia.  Skilled nursing was recommended for Mom upon discharge which was in 3 days. Scurrying to find a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation and visits to assisted living or memory care post skilled nursing facility.

Visiting my disoriented mother in the hospital, dealing with financial concerns, and long seated strained family dynamics. All the while trying to balance life with my family as things were falling apart.  I felt deep sadness and anger at the disease that has enveloped Mom. I felt fear. The fear of what has happened to Mom. The fear of what might be.

Updates to concerned family and friends, fitful nights of sleep and tears in those wee hours of the morning. Attempting to keep a sense of normalcy for my adult son who lives with me as he is attending college. I tried to act strong and capable while feeling feeling a deep sadness. I felt disbelief, guilt and anger. Why is this happening to Mom?  Why so soon; why so severe?  This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Constant reassurances to Mom when I visited her in the hospital. Taking care of her cat, Tess, while disregarding my own because I arrived home late each night due to the many tasks which arose. Feeling exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.  In a word, depleted.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Life or something like it...

I had the strangest feeling two days ago when I visited my mother.  She was in the hospital and was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia. She was receiving speech therapy and I sat in the corner of the room, just observing. I watched my mother interact with the speech therapist.  She tried so hard to find the right words when the therapist asked a question. It became clear that she was unable to retrieve the majority of past or present life events.  She would then become frustrated and agitated.  At one point she could not recall my father’s name.  A man she was married to for 45 years. A man who was the love of her life. My mother said that she wanted to stop working with the therapist. It was clear that she was aware of the deficits in her memory. 

As I sat in that corner of the hospital room observing my mother, I had the strangest feeling. I recognized the woman who was lying in the hospital bed.This was the woman who had raised me. The woman I always adored, the woman who, without fail, was always there for me. She had the same beautiful wavy red hair and the kindest eyes I had ever seen. Despite this I had an overwhelming feeling that this, in fact, was not my mother.  I knew intellectually that of course the answer to this question was “yes." Emotionally, however, I felt frightened that this woman laying in this hospital bed may eventually not know or recognize me as her daughter. She will, in essence, not have the constructs which make up one's past. Those essential moments which color the history of a person's life.

That was the question I was trying to answer as I sat in the corner of that hospital room on that day.  If my mother could not remember her past or present, would this woman still be that person who I called mother?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The big forget...

We’ve all had that moment when we forget that word in mid-sentence or we forget where we placed an item (our keys, our phone).  In that fleeting moment we have that fear which hits us as with an exclamation point: “Am I losing my memory?” It’s concerning at least and frightening at best.   If we are past 30 years old and are honest with ourselves, we all have had this moment.  We see a close relative, maybe our Aunt Gert or Uncle Henry, exhibiting signs of memory loss. We see a commercial touting the new drug which will slow the progression of Alzheimer's. This is when we say “Please, please God, don’t let this be me”. We push down that fear and panic. We relegate it to a hidden compartment inside of ourselves each time these feelings arise.

I’ve recently been dealing with a parent who is suffering from memory loss.  She has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. My brother and I are trying to be there for my mother, emotionally and physically.  We listen and nod at pauses in her speech as she searches for that lost word. We want and need her to see that she is okay. The memory loss is wearing her down, mentally, spiritually and physically. We stop by her apartment to check on her; to make her a meal; to take out her trash.  We assure her that we’ll always be there as we stuff down our concerns. These concerns come to us late at night as we lie in bed hoping for a few hours of sleep so that so that we may escape our present day reality. Throughout the day we do those things which need to be done. We put on a brave face even though, internally, our emotions move from deep sadness to anger to frustration. We tell ourselves that we are doing what needs to be done, yet continue to worry that it may not be enough. There is no pill, no amount of alcohol which can dull the pain or remove us from this new reality.

The most difficult, heart wrenching thing about it is to hear your parent acknowledge the fact that he or she is aware that they are losing their memory. They say they know friends and family are worried. Truth be told they are concerned as well.

Today was Easter Sunday. We gathered at Mom's as we do every Easter. We tried to make things normal and light hearted.  We tried to avoid looks of concern as our mother would pause as she was talking or relaying a story.

After the meal, after the clean-up and time spent with Mom, we said our “I love you’s.” We said our goodbyes.  A few hours after returning home I felt compelled to return to my mother’s apartment.  She said that she was happy to see me.  I wondered if she realized that I had been with her just two hours before.  I wanted to let her know that I was there for her, to listen or to just spend time.

My mother said today that she realizes her memory is failing. She said that she did not want to be a burden to her family.  Isn’t that the thing we all fear most? Losing our memory or becoming physically and/or psychologically dependent on our family?

I remember when my grandfather (my mother’s father) began suffering from memory loss. He had undergone a thorough work up at a hospital renowned for diagnosing memory impairments in Omaha, Nebraska. The tests were inconclusive yet the doctors said that they suspected Alzheimer’s dementia.  Back then there were no medications to slow or prevent further memory loss like there are today. My grandfather voiced his concerns regarding his memory loss as he struggled against the fading away of his memory.

The first signs of his deteriorating memory involved difficulties in doing his activities of daily living. Then there was the driving. He would get lost when navigating through Bedford, Iowa. This was a small Iowa town in which he had grown up and had lived for 70 years.  

I remember the phone call from my grandfather late one night after my grandmother placed him in a nursing home. My grandfather said that he knew he was becoming forgetful. He said he feared he was losing his mind. My grandfather was from hardy stock. He was a tall, strong man whose ancestors hailed from the Netherlands.  He was an Iowa farmer who was also an intellectual. He was a person who, although always present, lived a life of the mind.  Typically, he would rise at 5 in the morning to read the Des Moines Register or the New York Times before he would begin his chores. Would he have been born at a different time in different circumstances I am sure he would have become an attorney. He loved the law and the significance it played in our lives. 

Tomorrow my brother and I are taking my mother to a geriatric specialist.  We are hoping that he will provide us answers to my mother’s failing health and memory loss. We want to give our mother hope that things can get better.  We hope that for her sake (and ours) we will get those answers. We pray fervently that she is not a victim of the big forget.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sometimes it just doesn’t fit...

We’ve all been there. In that relationship that just doesn’t fit. It is analogous to that furniture which so appealed to us in the showroom and which we ended up purchasing.  When we get it home we fervently attempt to make the furniture fit.  We move it around the room, we upend it, we juggle it and even hang it from the ceiling.  However, despite all of our efforts it just doesn't fit.

I think we should save the curtains....

There is always that one person who, when the Titanic is sinking says "I think we should save the curtains."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Today I spent my time…an homage to the sandwich generation

  1. ·         I spent the early morning getting a colonoscopy (I am 54 & am at “that age”)
  2. ·         I spent the late morning proof reading my son’s college essay in professional writing (I am a woman who knows proper grammar)
  3. ·         I spent the late afternoon helping  my mother with her health problems & memory issues (It's what we should & want to do)
  4. ·         I spent the early evening planning how to be there for my mom (a widow) & my son (a millennial)
  5. ·         I spent the mid-evening preparing dinner, taking care of the pets (dog for a walk & cat fed)
  6. ·         I spent the late evening calendaring my things to do while doing laundry & cleaning up the house (there remain “life things” which need to be completed to keep a family functioning)
  7. ·         I spent the wee hours of the morning working (I must financially support my family)
  8. ·         I spent the few hours left sleeping that “sleep of the dead” (I try to “unplug” and pray I get a few hours of sleep).