A New Chapter


Been a while since I’ve been on here (sorry).  Seems every time I log on, WordPress has changed how things look.  Always throws me for a loop.  I’m a creature of habit and I like learning something once and being able to do it with confidence from that time forward, not having to relearn and re-tweak every few months.  Wish they’d leave things alone.

It’s been a rough few weeks in the Alzheimer’s arena.  At the end of June, Mom began feeling rotten – bouts of nausea, periodic intense body ache, itchy hands.  I thought she might have picked up a bug, but since there was no fever, I let it ride.  Then she started occasional vomiting, the body aches grew worse, the itching intensified, so I made an appointment with her doctor.  He drew blood to check her kidneys (she has been previously diagnosed with “chronic renal failure” which is actually more like chronic renal disease (and a far less scary term) and to check her for any sort of tick-borne illness.  (FYI – results came back yesterday with an all-clear.)

That afternoon, shortly after lunch, she started with intense stomach pain.  Doctor hadn’t drawn a urine sample to check for a UTI, so I thought that might be the problem.  At any rate, we loaded her into the car and took her to the ER.  That’s a 30 minute drive and by the time we got there, she was doubled over in agony.  (She told my husband she thought she was dying.)  Poking, prodding, and a CAT scan ensued.  Came back with a diagnosis of pancreatitis and kidney stones (one of which she must have passed and that’s what caused the pain).  The decision was made to admit her to the hospital to treat the pancreatitis and to put a stent in to help her pass the kidney stones (an operation which was ultimately not done, as they decided she didn’t need it after all.)

Mom spent almost a week in the hospital, at which point they released her to rehab where they hope to improve her general overall strength, perhaps to the point where she doesn’t need a cane or walker (at least for now).  Physically, she’s like a little draft horse – geared up and ready to go, the proverbial all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips, sassy and bright-eyed.  Mentally, she’s oatmeal.

it’s not apparent to strangers.  They think she has it all together.  But those of us who know her are in despair.  Short term memory is as short as a few moments.  Of her life, she remembers very little accurately or without encouragement and cues.  I am now faced with making the decision to put her into long-term care where she has someone with her 24/7 to keep an eye on things.

Why can’t I do it?  I’m burned out, that’s why, but don’t believe for a moment that I don’t feel an enormous and totally useless mountain of guilt over this.  Logically, I know I’ve done well by my mom.  I kept her out of a nursing home for almost two years.  I’ve given her moments of enrichment and entertainment.  I’ve managed a reunion with family members she hasn’t seen in decades.  We had a total blow-out party to celebrate her 90th last year.  So why doesn’t it feel like enough?  Why do I feel like I’ve failed her in some way?

The worst thing is the grief.  I miss my mom.  I miss the lady I knew.  The old woman who lives in her skin right now is very nice, but she isn’t my mom.  A friend put it concisely today:  With Alzheimer’s, you don’t experience one death, you get to experience two – first your loved one’s mental death and then, at some point possible far, far in the future, their physical death.

Hell is not a place beyond this earth, let me tell you.  It’s right here.

So I weigh options and reconsider and doubt myself and feel my stomach lining erode and stress eat my way into a bag of cookies I originally bought for her, and feel confident of my course one moment and totally adrift the next.

This is bollocks.

Stay tuned.

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About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Aging, Alzheimer's, Caretaker. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A New Chapter

  1. dementedgirl says:

    Hello,

    Just found your blog via the WordPress reader.

    I am a fellow blogger about dementia (in my case my MIL), and glad to have found yours!

    My mum-in-law is also great at pretending in front of other people, while we in the know (husband and I) see the reality daily.

    http://dementiapoetry.com/2014/06/30/mockingbird/
    http://dementiapoetry.com/2014/05/18/the-great-pretender/

    It is utter bollocks isn’t it…? Am guessing from that phrase that you (like me!) are UK based?

    Will be stopping by in future!

    DG x

    • Hi DG, and welcome! You sound totally sane to me! Actually, I’m in the US – but I probably use more UK-sounding phrases than I do anything else. It’s where my heart lies, what can I say?
      Kudos to you and your hubby and glad to have met you! Sending you a virtual hug.

  2. Adina says:

    The only thing I would consider is how you’ll feel years down the road, after everything is but a memory. You can’t go back in time and change anything. what is done is done. It’s like trying to put the tooth paste back in the tube after you squeezed too much out. Just my useless two cents….

  3. Kristin says:

    Melissa, you continue to amaze me. You really have done yeoman’s work with your mom and guilt should not be yours. Having said that, guilt is often essentially irrational and something we cling to for no apparent reason. Have you been able to find an Alzheimer’s Care Givers support group? It might be a place to work through the guilt. Wishing you a clear conscience and sending you hugs and positive thoughts.

    • Thank you, my dear. I believe I’ll reach that point of clear conscience one of these days.
      I AM a member of a local Alzheimer’s support group that meets once a month. I’ve been attending since Mom’s arrival here and have missed only three meetings, so I’m doing pretty well.

  4. Lara says:

    I cannot begin to fathom your pain. Right after high school, I went through something similar with my grandmother – the person who taught me to read, and who I simply adored. But just shy of her 80th birthday, she was so eroded that she couldn’t even remember her own children. Unlike your mother, though, she was very frail, and her body was going downhill nearly as quickly as her memory. The last time I saw her she didn’t even know who I was, and my heart said, “This isn’t my Grandmother anymore.”

    I never went back, much to my shame.

    • Lara, I fervently hope you reach a point in your life where you can forgive yourself for not going back to see your grandmother. It likely would have provided her with little and only caused you pain. At any rate, it’s in the past and you can only go forward. It’s debilitating to beat yourself up. Honor her life by giving yourself a clean slate, good marks for having done what you could for her, a gold star for keeping her loved in your memory, and move forward in your life. Sending you hugs.

  5. So sorry to hear about everything you and your Mom have been through recently. It’s easy to say ‘don’t feel guilty’ but I know exactly how you feel. Although I didn’t have to face quite the same problems with my Mom, the last few years weren’t easy and although I did everything I could for her, I still feel, even four years after her death, that I could have done a lot more and bitterly regret some of the things that I did or didn’t say and do. But we’re only human and can only do our best. I hope you’ll eventually come to a decision with which you feel comfortable. Best wishes to you and your Mom.

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