Things have changed dramatically in the two months since I last posted about my mom. She has gotten out of bed at night and fallen, twice, resulting in one trip to the ER and 2 staples in her head. She’s had a UTI. Her ability to remember how to do the simplest things is slowly slipping away. Mornings are frustrating and chaotic, when she doesn’t remember how to get out of bed. I’m not talking about her willingness, or her body’s ability to get up (although those can be lacking at times too). I’m talking about knowing how to turn over her body, lift her head, swing her legs over and use her arms to get up. It’s such an automatic action, I had a hard time telling her how to do it. I had to actually lie down and catalog the steps involved in getting out of bed, so I could verbally walk her through them one by one.
And, there’s been poop. She’s not usually bowel incontinent, but poop has been featured way too often in our mother-daughter time. For instance,(this is the least gross of the stories) last week after pooping, she didn’t want to get up from the toilet. “Alright”, I said, “You stay here while I empty your trash basket. I’ll be right back.” I walked to the back door to set her trash outside and turned around. I heard a deep hearty laugh coming from her room. I turned the corner into her room and saw her with her walker, and her depends and pants around her ankles, chortling and shaking her head as if she’d said something remarkably nuanced and clever. I went into her bathroom, and there sat her poop. On the toilet seat. It took me a moment or two to process what I was seeing. She had reached into the toilet bowl, picked up her stool, and placed it on the toilet seat. Inside I was screaming ohmyGodohmyGodohmyGodwhatthehellamigoingtodowiththat?, On the outside, I managed a fake sickly smile, “Oh. There’s a poop. On the toilet seat.” She acted like a two year old who had been caught doing something she knows is bad. She has beautiful Elizabeth Taylor- like eyes, which she opened wide. “There IS? How did it get there?” The rest of the afternoon was spent disinfecting everything in sight. I am trying to look at the whole thing as a cautionary tale: 1) constant vigilance is needed to keep her safe; and 2) you should think twice before taking the hand of sweet, little, blue eyed old ladies.
It was also a reminder that mentally, she’s like Benjamin Buttons, aging in reverse. In May, Mark and I thought she was on par with our 4 year old grandson in general ability to reason. Now, we’d have to say that she’s generally like a 2-4 year old, with moments of clarity interspersed throughout the day. Today she thought I was her grandmother. Yesterday, she had a coherent(ish), logical phone conversation with her granddaughter who lives in Chicago.
The stress is adding up. There’s tons of material about caregiver burnout, but I thought that somehow I wouldn’t be subjected to it. I have a wonderful husband supporting me. I’m patient. I’m physically active. I thought those things would make me immune to the very real stresses I’ve heard so many other caregivers talk about. But, I was wrong. Caring for my mom over the last 2 ½ years has taken an emotional and physical toll on me. It’s going to be a hard decision, but I think the time is coming for her to be placed in a facility.