An Only Child and an Elderly Mother
I have started this post many, many times. It’s not just the fibro fog making the words difficult to find, it’s that actually committing my thoughts and fears to the page forces me to accept that they are real, tangible and inescapable. But I’m a grown up and I hope that writing this all down will be cathartic, help me to cope and if anyone else out there is going through a similar time, perhaps they will realise that they are not alone.
My mum’s health, mental and physical, is deteriorating and her mortality scares me.
I’ve documented elsewhere on this blog the problems I’ve had with my mother over the years. You can read about them here if you are interested. To summarise, ever since my dad died 31 years ago I’ve had to look after my mum. She does nothing on her own, goes nowhere, sees no one unless I am with her. It’s been difficult. I am an only child and there is no one with whom I can share the load.
I used to blog about all the funny things she said and did but it’s been over a year since I added anything because, truthfully, I don’t find it funny anymore. Mum was never an intellectual: her interests were limited to TV soaps, reality shows and the National Enquirer. Age has deteriorated her mind even more and there is almost nothing I can talk to her about. I love her dearly, but the gap between us has grown to Grand Canyon proportions and we have nothing to say to each other.
Recently, mum suffered from a bout of labyrinthitis. She was dreadfully sick and unable to walk. I got the emergency doc out to see her and had to insist she go to hospital as there was no one to look after her. She couldn’t come to us because all the beds are upstairs and she is scared of stairs (amongst many other things) and we were in the middle of a house move with boxes and bags of stuff everywhere. He eventually acquiesced and after a three hour wait, an ambulance finally came to take mum to ARI where she stayed for 10 days.
She was released almost two weeks ago, still unsteady on her feet and desperately in need of care. Despite her protestations that she eats well, I do her shopping and I know that stuff goes uneaten and undrunk. She doesn’t look after herself. Her house is dirty. I want her to be better looked after. I thought I had convinced her to come and live with us again when we move, but she kept changing her mind. She doesn’t like where we are moving to in Argyll. We spent holidays down there most years when I was a child and I loved it. My dad loved it. Beaches, rock pools, safety for kids to go out in the morning and come back when they got hungry. Heaven. But mum wanted to go to Blackpool and play Bingo and the one-armed bandits. Time was moving on and decisions had to be made, plans needed to be put in action if she were to move down with us. I had to say enough and that she’d have to stay where she was. I can’t force her to go where she doesn’t want to be.
I kicked up enough merry hell to get carers in place for her at her sheltered housing. Someone comes three times a day to make sure she takes her pills and to heat some food in the microwave. It took until day three before mum started telling me they were “at it”, deliberately leaving her til last and only pretending to be unwell when a relief carer was sent in her place. These people aren’t paid enough to deal with the shit that gets thrown at them.
Mum is forgetting loads of stuff now too. Things that she would have remembered a year ago leak from her mind or hover before her, just out of grasp. It’s difficult to watch her reach for details that just aren’t there anymore.
Before she was released from hospital they gave her a stick and showed her how to use it. She can’t. She carries it with her when she walks but is physically and intellectually unable to co-ordinate the movements required to use the stick successfully. And she still staggers.
I spoke to her doctor who sympathised but told me that ultimately, there was nothing she could do. She still judged her to be competent of making decisions but urged me to seek power of attorney before that changed. Meanwhile, if mum says no to seeing the geriatric psychiatrist or to going in to a home, she will be left where she is. And she is saying no to both of these.
In just over two weeks I’ll be moving more than 300 miles away. An eight hour drive. Mum will be left in her sheltered housing cottage where she forgets or refuses to use the alarm to call for help; with carers coming in and spending no more than 30 minutes with her in total each day; unsteady of her feet; unable to remember what she had for dinner the previous day, the name of her carer, how to use the remote on the TV… I could go on.
The guilt I feel is overwhelming. I’ve looked after her for 31 years and now, when she needs me more, I’m leaving her due to circumstances outwith anyone’s control. My sleep, already disrupted by FMS has got a lot worse, IBS is a bitch and I find myself sitting, staring into middle distance instead of getting on with all the work that needs doing, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
I’m letting her down. I know I am and I’m not looking for sympathy or for people to tell me I’m not. I am just powerless to do anything about it and that’s something I’ll have to live with. Like many other adults, mainly women, I am caught between doing what’s right for my husband and myself, my daughter, and my 83 year old mother. Have I made the right choice? Only time will tell. The only comfort I have is that the decision wasn’t easy and it was made after weighing up all of the options available to me. And I am making a promise to my daughter that I will never, ever put her in a similar position. I will march willingly into a home to see out my days rather than put any burden of care onto her. I’m the parent. It’s my job to look after her.