The definition of insanity…

I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in my mother’s (or my father’s for that matter) shoes. But every day I go to see her, I try. I wonder why I’m so depressed.

I do know that it has to be a tough job being her CNA. Sometimes she screams as if someone’s killing her, and fights them. Sometimes she utters curses at them, like “I hope your children die” or “I hope you get killed”. Recently, while 2 CNAs were trying to get her cleaned up, and she was fighting, her head hit the railing and she had a small red mark on her eyebrow. “They hit me” she said. The CNAs don’t come out unscathed. Their arms get scratched, and their ear drums are pierced. I’ve witnessed this myself.

I can’t imagine what’s going on in my mom’s head, and it’s killing me.

I’m losing you, I’m missing you

That’s what I feel like saying to my mother.

I had planned on giving an account of the nursing home experience, but that will wait. Today, I’m grieving. I’m grieving for the mother I knew, the mother who raised me, in a really big way. And I wonder how much longer I can hang in here, caring for my parents.

Of course, we have all been watching the recent events unfolding in the news – the quakes in New Zealand, and now the quakes and tsunami in Japan; the unrest in the middle east. These things are disturbing and sad on a huge scale. I find myself affected by the constant videos of the tsunami in Japan, now, with whole villages washed away, bodies washing up, family members missing. I cry, watching it.

Then there is the washing away happening here in my house. The tsunami of Alzheimer’s/dementia, ripping the foundations of my mother’s mind and allowing the pieces to be lost and buried in the mud, leaves shadows of what my mother used to be. I search for the person who taught me how to drive with such patience. I long for the mother who cooked, and hugged, and discussed things with me, the mother who could read a book and understand it. It’s a disaster, a natural disaster, and it’s tearing me to pieces, too.

Last night, I got my mom to bed and said good-night. As usual, she called me in for one thing or another after I had left. Then, an hour later, she called me in and said “Will you turn on the tv?” Really? Why do you want to have the tv on? My dad mumbled that it was okay with him, and there were some things taped she could watch, but I was pretty sure something else was going on.

I said shh to dad and asked again, why do you want the tv on? She said “to see what’s going on in Japan”. At 9 pm when she’s normally asleep. I said that Japan would be there in the morning, that she should go to sleep.

Mom woke me at 2:15 this morning and told me the clock was way off. I said How so? She said, well, it’s 7 o’clock. I said no, it isn’t. The clock is exactly right. IT’S JUST AFTER 2 IN THE MORNING!!! Oy. She asked when she should get up… I said 7.

Then she woke me at 4:20 and said “is this close enough to 7? and I said um NO, it’s not!! She said how close does it have to be to 7? I said at least 6 but preferably ACTUALLY 7!!

At 6 o’clock…. Sigh. The day began. After I got them breakfast and settled in front of the TV I went upstairs and wiped out, because thankfully it is one of the days the home health person comes. She was very confused most of the day.

I found out tonight that she blames me for her waking me up at 2 and 4. I told her Saturday night about the time change, and said “now don’t wake me up until 7 tomorrow, because 7 is what 6 was this morning” and she said “what will you do if I wake you up before 7?” and I jokingly said “I’ll have to strangle you”. That was SATURDAY night.

So, Sunday she woke me at 7. Good, huh? Fast-forward to THIS morning, and she was convinced I’d told her I was going to change the clocks and that I wanted her to get up at 6 (this is her explanation this evening) so she was keeping track of the time because I had changed the clocks and she needed to get up on time. Or something like that. She told me never to do that again. It was MY fault???

This is how her mind works, now. She doesn’t like the shower because it’s not like the one she had at home. She says in her old shower she could stand up. You can stand up in the shower we have, but she can’t stand for any length of time, so we have a shower chair. If she has a pain anywhere, there has to be something seriously wrong. If she doesn’t feel well, she’s sick.

I’ve been trying hard to remember what my mother was like before. I’m struggling. I’m sad. Is this really better than dieing? Living in such deep depression, losing your mind piece by piece? Really?

Depression

I’m finding it very difficult to stay upbeat these days. Mom is severely depressed.

Mom’s still grieving the loss of her independence, even though it’s been years since she’s actually been independent. She’s grieving the loss of her home, the home she imagined she’d be living in until she grew so old she dropped dead in her tracks. She imagines that she has been ripped abruptly from a fully independent existence to this place, my home, where everything is different and things go by “my” rules.

I understand all of this on a conscious level. I know she needs counseling to go with her antidepressants. (It’s hard to find a counselor she likes and trusts.) It’s just difficult to be busting my tail day in and day out for someone who, though they appreciate it on some level, is miserable about being here. Dad isn’t much happier, I know, but he doesn’t express it.

It’s not like when the kids were growing up and they didn’t appreciate what was being done for them. At some point they DID understand, and at some point (I’ve heard) they move out on their own. I know that my dad’s Parkinson’s will get worse… is getting worse. My mom’s dementia is getting worse and so is her depression. Mom has it in her head that if she just gets her body “fixed” she will be magically transported to that independent state she was in 6 or 7 years ago. She wants x-rays and tests and procedures and surgery…. fix it. It can’t happen. Arthritis is irreversible. A bent spine is not going to get straightened. Pain can only be managed sometimes, and then it’s just barely. The end of this journey is truly the end, or a nursing home for my parents. Not a happy ending.

Sometimes I want to give up. I am not sorry I decided to care for my parents, but something has got to change or I’m going to be in a straight jacket or in a hospital with a heart attack. How do I take care of myself when my mother is so miserable? How?