A piece of advise from the current me to the me of the past two plus years (and to anyone miserable with their current situation..)

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Let me preface this by saying:I do realize that not everyone is able to change their situation for financial reasons, but some of us are able, but choose not because of guilt.

Dear Karen, you have been tied up like a pretzel for the past six years with your mother. Ever since your wonderful father passed away, mom has been stuck like white on rice to you hasn't she? He was her center of attention and then you were. Maybe he enjoyed that. You, on the other hand, did not! It wasn't fun to have to bring her everywhere with you, since you weren't "allowed" to go to even a movie without her. Since your family is only you, mom and your two children, and mom kept saying she was lonely, you thought a few "hey mom, maybe you could get a smaller apartment. There's a lot of your church friends who live in assisted living. Do you want to visit some of them? I heard they're great" would work? Oh you silly, silly child. Mom said "those places are for people whose family doesn't love them." I know you have those words running through your head, don't you? Oh dear. Thought that was bad, didn't you?Well, it got worse real quick didn't it?

At least she was living in her house and driving then. But, alas, when she first started showing signs of dementia two years ago, your life went into overdrive and you had to do everything from paying the bills, transporting her everywhere (since she had two car accidents within three days), making sure she ate. Kind of ironic how you DIDN'T want to be the center of her attention, but you were kind of forced to make her the center of YOUR attention! Oh, and remember how stressed out and resentful and angry you were at this stage? Everyone said to put her in assisted living, but they didn't know her like you did. They didn't know that you tried and tried and said it six ways to Sunday, but no, your independent and headstrong mother wasn't going. Period.End of conversation.
Again, you thought that was rough. And Karen, it was. But, dementia being dementia, of course it got rougher.

Mom kept falling and then she would stay at your house and then go back to her house. That plan worked out great (hey, remember how guilty you felt when she fell because at least you would get a break when she went to skilled nursing for a couple of months?!!). Oh the joy of those breaks. And then (boo hoo), the day she came back and life went back to...not a life at all.

Six months ago she fell, went to skilled nursing (remember you rushed out the door when she was there and went on vacation without her?!!). OMG, a vacation WITHOUT your mother? Wow!! Never told her that did you? Probably too scared of the guilt trip she would send you on. And that is never a fun vacation to be on, right? When she came back to the house, you thought it would be the same pattern, back to her house in a few days. But sadly that didn't happen.

You looked for the "signs" you always look for, so she can go back to her own house, but they never came. Oh sure, she DID improve physically with PT and OT coming in the house several times a week. She did get stronger, but still, each time she fell, she would never get back to where she started initially would she? Sadly, there is no PT and OT for dementia is there? So each time she fell, went to the hospital and went to skilled nursing and came home, the dementia never improved, it just got worse. Every time.

And so, here you sat for the past four months Karen. And where was mom? Yep, living with you. You never really said "Hey, I think I'll have mom live with me." it just happened. But you knew how difficult it would be with her living here. You knew it was very difficult to keep up with all of the physical demands of dressing, undressing, bathing, doing her laundry, paying her bills, making doctor's appointments, taking her to the hairdresser, keeping an eye on her house, making sure she brushed her teeth. Arguing, or trying not to given the dementia, to get her to brush her teeth, wash her hands after peeing. Wow Karen. And don't even talk to me about the EMOTIONAL toll it took. Why didn't you just stick her in assisted living at this stage?

Because you wanted to do the "right thing" You wanted to honor the promise you made to your mother never to put her there.

And the consequences of unbelievable stress, wishing you were dead, having no life, 54 hours a week spent catering to her every whim, snapping at the kids because of your frustration, feeling EMOTIONALLY STRANGLED TO DEATH.

Yesterday you FINALLY made the right decision. You decided that mom will never ever be happy. She wants your father. Good luck bringing him back form the dead! You decided that at the age of 48, you COULD still be happy...given half the chance.

Today I will go visit my mother in assisted living. I will smile when I walk in. She will probably say "why did you dump me here?" and "I wouldn't do this to you." And when I leave? I will smile even more.

We, the caregivers, all deserve to smile!!

41 Comments

Thank you for the letter. I may need it in the future. And good for you!!!! SMILE!!!
anyone can say yes or no but a good sense of proportion seperates the leaders from the followers. it sounds like you cared for your mother at home as long as there was QOL there. with her mobility problems and memory problems the QOL is probably going to be better in an institutionalized setting now. her happiness has to be balanced with your stress and misery too. one shouldnt have it all at someone elses peril either imo. i think you made a good decision for everyone involved and instead of guilt i hope you feel good about the years that you sacrificed for her benefit.
Very much enjoyed what you had to say.

I too made a promise to my dad once that he would never have to go into a nursing home unless he became bed-bound. I broke that promise. Which do I regret more? The fact that I made that promise to begin with or that I've beaten myself to death for breaking it. Either way I've tortured myself emotionally as a result.

I had to smile when you wrote about rushing out the door and taking a vacation that your mom never knew about. When my dad lived with me I just stopped socializing because I would have to take him with me.

And as you said, things sure got worse after that.

Thanks again for your letter, Karen. It was very much appreciated. :-)
You know eyerishlass, just like one cannot be expected to keep promises if they are incompetent (for lack of a better word)-legally and morally - I say the same goes for promises kept to people in situattions where you did not understand what was actually being promised -what was actually involved. You were, in fact , incompetent , at that time to make that promise thus should not feel bound by it. IMHO! I mean this nicely, my friend. you did right by your Dad.
WELL SAID MiskaM!! Very well said.
My brother in law had the nerve to tell me that 'my break' was the 3 weeks my MIL was in rehab/swing bed. Guess what I did during that time? Visited her every day - because there was always something she needed from home and I cleaned her entire apt top to bottom including cleaning her pantry and fridge and throwing out 7 year old canned goods. Did she thank me? To this day she remembers and tells others that I threw out her things - even mementos that were gifts from her sister and mother!! Didn't throw out a thing except old food! Go figure. She probably gave the stuff away to someone who came to visit. She has never given me a thing - after all, I STEAL WHAT I WANT, right?

Just remember - no one will save us but US. Her needs are being met and now, so are yours. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting ourselves on the list too.
I'm nearing this point too. It's so hard. I read an article the other day called, "Abandoned". It was about how people drop out of your life when you begin to take care of a loved one. So sad,
AndreaAnn - that is EXACTLY what happens. Part of it is that when we DO see someone we DUMP on them and they get tired of hearing - one reason why AC is so good! Another - especially where family is concerned - 'out of sight, out of mind' and if they stay out of YOUR sight - they hope they will also stay out of your MIND.

In the 8 years since their mother has been with us - her other two children have visited a total (this is combined) of 6 times - SIX LOUSY VISITS IN 8 YEARS! All it did for me was make more work - had to clean and cook for company! One kid did have her stay one week - but it took me two months to get everything arranged - I was a basket case by then. Also had to fly with her down and back and guess who got to deal with her diarrhea on the way home?

Her other DIL's have NEVER CALLED, NEVER SENT A GET WELL CARD - NO FLOWERS - NOTHING - NADA - IN 8 YEARS!
So, get over your guilt! You have nothing to feel guilty for. You have done your best and that is all a person can do. Do we need to lose our health too? Sadly, I found this out a bit too late to save my health - but I am nursing it along and have decided that MY needs are just as important as those of my MIL. My hubby finally agrees. One person on this site - somewhere - said - BE AT ATTENTIVE BYSTANDER - or something like that. Don't just forget you have a mom - but you can be a companion again and FEEL DEEP DOWN that you WANT TO again. Do this for both of you.
Thanks! oldcodger2. I feel alone and I do dump on my siblings sometimes that I need help so you are right it's what keeps them away. AC is a good way to vent so thanks for responding it means a lot in this lonely journey.
Perfect.Thank you for sharing:))Such familiar feelings.
EXCELLENT!

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