I've posted before about my mother. Just turned 87, looks and acts 100. She's been difficult in the past, and now suddenly, freshly dxed with dementia, is now becoming a fairly nice person. I have mixed feelings about that. Always self centered--that hasn't changed, but she's suddenly kind of sweet to me, which she has NEVER been. I am a but flummoxed, but grateful.
She lives in an apt attached to younger brother's home, Has for 20 years. She needs a walker to get anywhere and she is slowly slipping into total la-la land--again, A new dynamic since none of our grandparents did this.
I took her to her 70th High School class reunion on Sat. I didn't "stay". but sat on a chair near the park pavilion and observed. Here were about 40-50 other 87-90 yo people and the contrast amongst them was astounding. Mother had to sit on a chair at the end of a bench, as there was no way she could have gotten on the bench. The woman sitting next to mother was a former cheerleader and when the time came to sing the school song, jumped up onto the bench (I kid you not, didn't even use her hands to touch the table, just hopped up like a little grasshopper) and led the rest in the school fight song. The contrast between mother, who is slumped over, can barely raise her head, and this woman who seemingly had more energy than I've EVER seen my mother show...I wish I had videod it. Most of the people there were somewhere between mother's capabilities ( very limited) and this perky lady. Sadly, mother actually looked without question, to be the oldest and most life-worn person there. The women definitely looked better than the few men who remain. And some of these ladies were actually so beautiful and amazingly fit--I couldn't help but realize my own mother has been "old" for a very long time.
Mother tired out pretty quickly as one by one, she was finding that either few people remembered her, and most of her friends from HS are long gone...she stayed as long as she could (2 hours) and was kind of quiet on the way home. It meant a LOT to her that she went to this, and she did ask if I could take her to the 75th...
I guess what hit me so profoundly was the question in my mind: Why do some people age so quickly and so badly? Is it genetic? Is it lack of exercise? Lack of "caring". Mother has had more than 50 surgeries in her life, she's a recovering hypochondriac who was never well a day in my life. She didn't exercise, eat particularly well and was an angry, bitter "victim"--so is it attitude? I don't expect answers and I'm not asking for any, really. It was just such a wake up call to me. I'm 60 and by 60 my mother was nearly bed-bound, by her own choice. Sick all the time, in and out of the hospital for whatever--then daddy got dxed with Parkinson's and she HAD to step up and let HIM be the patient for the only time in their lives. And she resented him for that.
Now she's barely mobile, she doesn't make sense if you talk to her very long, she reeks of urine (has a supra pubic catheter but still leaks, and won't change her depends often enough)...her apt is cluttered and messy, but she seems OK with that.
Am I destined to be just like this? Terrifying. I have been thinking about this all weekend. So--just musing, like I said. And it's NOT amusing.
All she said was "I am not that bad, I am still independent and I like my privacy." Ok, I understand that! I asked her WHY she didn't bother to call ME, ON SATURDAY since she KNEW I was working hard to get this set up. "dither, dither, dither"..she'd had a headache, her friend is really sick, etc. I said, "Mother, you HAVE MY NUMBER NOW, please do me the honor of treating me like an adult!! BTW, I am done. Good Luck." She said, "Oh, but I am still having problems with this creditor--what do I do?" I said "I don't know. You're independent. Figure it out. I'm not coming back to call this catalog company for you again."
I emailed my sibs about this and one responded. She said "You can't make mom happy. She just doesn't want her problems solved. Just ignore her, like the rest of us do". Well, OK. Done and done.
My "Napoleon Brother" is fearful that ANY money spent on her care will dip into his inheritance. My brother who is POA said "We are all going to inherit about $10K, at the very most. Period. There just isn't anything there." I said, "please tell R this, he thinks he's in line for about $250K."
I'm so depressed and angry, It will pass, but wow, I thought my mother had done a number on me when I was a kid, emotionally, but here we are 60 years later and she's STILL pulling the puppet strings. I'm so sick of it all.
Mother had agreed to having and aide come in 2-3 days a week. I have been working HARD to get this moving, so she can hopefully have someone in place before I leave for some summer trips. Called "finance" brother and he was to hand me the LTC policy so today I could begin the mountains of paperwork and background checks before we hire someone. I had arranged to meet him yesterday afternoon, but he wasn't answering his calls. At 9:45 he texts me. "Mom doesn't want to pursue getting an aide at this time. Sorry. No need to come get the LTC policy".
I was sitting with my phone and I got the message. Called brother immediately, as I had an apt this am to meet with the agency. No reason given, mother just decided she was fine. This after she was literally GIDDY with the thought of some help.
I am not an idiot, my brother, with whom she lives and who treats her like his private puppet, no DOUBT stepped in, talked mother out of having anyone come in. He HATES people coming into his home. He has controlled mother to the point she is no longer "allowed" to leave the house unless he vets each person personally. (When I tell you that his 5 adult children still all live at home--ages 19-30, you may get an understanding of his control issues. The 30 yo still has a curfew!!)
I'm beyond furious. I've spent so much time on working this out, and doing it in such a way that she would feel EMPOWERED, not infantilized by it---and getting the approval from all the sibs along with it. It was like moving a mountain.
Financial brother was like "oh well, no biggy" but he is MIA. He sees mother once a quarter for 10 minutes. I blew up at him and felt bad, immediately, b/c all he does is sign checks now and then and live his own life. He wouldn't care if mother was being abused or neglected. (We call him Dr No-shot--no confrontation, ever.)
Well--I was supposed to meet with the agency as I type, that isn't happening. Mother wants me to come up and unsnarl yet another financial situation (she buys tons of crap in the mail and now is forgetting to pay the accompanying bills. I get to call the companies.)
I had a 5 minute temper tantrum and went to bed. Hubby was sighing and saying "what did you really expect?" and he was right. I kind of expected that "R" threatened, cajoled or plain talked mother out of this care.
Well, I am done. Putting myself in self imposed time out for the next 3 months and removing my phone number from her phone. I will go talk to her, but I don't want to.
What bugs me the MOST, is she didn't call ME. She called my brother. This is so typical and so stupid. Of course I found out, and now I am kind of mad at my "finance" brother too. VERY mad at the one she lives with.
She feels she isn't "ready" for this level of care. My goodness, she was ready for it 4 years ago!!!! Guess I'll act like the other 3 sibs and check out.
I'm sad/depressed/angry at this. The stupid thing is, I keep trying to help. It just doesn't sink in that she doesn't want help. I give up.
I also do not watch TV. If I lived alone, I wouldn't even have one in the house. Mother had a TV in every room of her home. They are on 24/7. I mean, how much "Matlock" can one person watch?? Use to drive me crazy that my folks put a TV on the kitchen table when I was a teen and we had the stupid thing blaring through meal time.
I read, voraciously, watch a limited amount of shows on my Kindle, rarely go to the movies--spend no time on my phone texting my "peeps"...if TV becomes my reason for living, I do want my kids to hit me with a shovel.
I only let the g-kids watch ONE movie at sleepovers, The rest of the time is spent having fun, outdoors, if possible, just interacting. Mother doesn't turn her TVs off all day long, even if she has visitors.
Anyway---to update (in case anyone was holding their breath!) I did get the OK from all 5 sibs to move ahead with getting mother set up with 3 day a week in home care. I just cannot the day to day. Nobody else can, or will. Mother just cannot understand that she is not our primary focus--but I explained this to her in gentle, kind way, and when I said she'd be her aide's "boss" and she could do pretty much whatever she wanted--she looked at me and said "I'd have some FREEDOM??" I said, "Absolutely. You want to go shopping, you go. Your aide will be your right hand woman". I did not know until then that my brother had forbade mother from leaving the house. She wasn't even allowed to step outside, unless he was with her. She's practically a prisoner.
So--hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I can facilitate this. It is pricey, she has a LTC policy that may or may not pay for this, but 2 of my sibs are millionaires and will throw money at any problem--so hopefully we'll get a good match. Fingers crossed.
"WHY??" I asked her.
"You just do. It will give you something to do."
The short conversation struck me as something right out of a horror flick. I'm an active person. Even when I'm doing nothing, I'm busy. I can't imagine a bigger waste of life than sitting and watching TV. TV's great, but only if there's a good show on that I really want to see. Other than that, I'd rather be doing something even if it is only writing on the computer.
TV may be a reason that many people get old so fast.
I am going to visit brother today (he's recuperating from back surgery) and also visit mother to run this idea by her. Of course, if she doesn't want it, we cannot force it, but I was stuck with the unenviable task of "organizing" rides and such for her for the rest of the summer. I was met with huge brick walls.
I am hoping that brother accepts my advice and thoughts. I know he is tired of caring for Mother (20 years) and would maybe like to have a life not centered around her. My reality is that he is going to blow his top at the thought that HE can't "do" for mother.
I know that I am headed down the same road if I do not improve my own health and activity level - immediately. I'm working on that. I don't know if it will help - it may not - but any additional activity, better eating and healthier living surely can't hurt.
To answer a few ?? Mother comes from "hardy pioneer stock" and her own mother lived VERY independently until she had a bad fall at 94 and went quickly after that. I think mother was a coddled, fussed over child. Well, I know she was. And she wanted that after her marriage and although I know daddy loved her, he NEVER coddled her. He believed in working, working hard and doing what needed to be done, quit bellyaching--so to have a wife who spent most of her life lying in bed, moaning and groaning about this or that must have been hard on him. I don't KNOW, he never said.
So, at 87, full of pills, she keeps on going. Oddly for the first time in her life, she seems happy enough. It's so weird.
Yes, I am actively and busily involved in many things that are not mother. I will NOT put my grandkids aside to take mother to Bingo.
My paternal grandmother lived independently until 90. She just got up one morning, and went back to bed and quietly passed away. Took not one drug, ever. Again, tough pioneer stock. So based on this--I have a while here still! Both grandmothers were active and involved--I saw each of them every week. They knew all my kids and CARED about them. My mother has never bothered to even learn my grandkids' names. Mother sends all the grands and ggrands a b-day card with $5 in it. They have no idea who she even is. It's nice, I admit, but they'd all prefer to KNOW her, and that's not happening.
I do think it's a mix of general good genetics, true interest in other's lives, exercise, eating well and maybe just an overall sense of love of your fellow man. And also working yourself a little--everyday. Mother has never been a great "worker". I think she ironed a lot.....but I do too.
Actually, I am looking into in-home personal caregivers for her. I think this is the best route. I have to get 3/5 sibs on my side or it won't happen, and oddly enough, the one sib who will hate this the most is the brother with whom she lives. They have a very weird, codependent sick relationship. BUT if he is overridden on the vote, he has to go along. Mother has LTC insurance that covers this. I think she would LOVE having a new person in her life to fuss over just her---(I did this as a CAREER!!!) and it may take the burden off of us and let us actually use that LTC policy which daddy bought for exactly this contingency.
In the end, it really is a crapshoot--- her brother who is 92, just last year gave up his yearly cruise. He's getting a tad tired, but still works at his hobbies, is president of his condo board and goes sailing and swimming. Still writing long chatty letters to his many friends and going dancing with his wife. Sharp as a tack! Mother asked me the other day "you know, where Mickey Mouse lives!!" (Uh, Disneyland?) Talking to her has become kind of surreal. Our new norm, I guess.
After climbing through my Dad's family tree, I found people born back in the mid 1800's living into their 90's, and even one lady who was 103 [she never married, maybe that was her secret]. Most were farmers, thus a lot of outdoor exercise. I remember my parents in their 80's still walking 2 miles a day for exercise, and doing volunteer work at a local hospital.
Now, here's the biggee... back when my parents were growing up, food was organic. No crazy preservatives. The air was fresher [once you stepped out of the barn] and my Dad rode horse back for all 12 years of school. My Mom also grew up on a farm. So they had a good start, with fresh food, etc.
Now my generation, early baby boomer, food had preservatives. Lot of sugar, like Kool Aid, and sugary cereals to which we added even more table sugar. There was lead in the gasoline which got into the air and soil. Powder dust to kill off insects that later was found to be hazardous to one's health. Anyone remember Love Canal in New York?
I really don't think we will see people live to 100 as a norm for many more generations. Our population rather drive then walk. Exercise is now using a tiny keypad. Harmful drugs are taking over the rural areas and people are dying in their 40's and 50's. The digital age is taking away human contact.
I know I always feel better after having a salad from Whole Foods :) I know I got to get up out of my chair and move about... my therapist said that time will come as it has been too soon after being so overwhelmed by my parents. And I need to open more windows, and go out and sit in the sun for at least 10 minutes a day.
Suddenly things begin to happen. You have one little complaint and the Dr says I think you should see Dr so and so and the cycle begins as they find more and more things wrong No imaginary things real illnesses that have to be treated.
I am not old i tell myself, it is just my body that has been overused.
I never expected to make 70 as none of mothers family did but I worked till 68 and now ten years later I am struggling to recover from two broken hips but i will. My goal was 80 but that is only 18 months away so I have raised it to 85. I have Betty White as my inspiration. 92 and still working plus dear Queen Elizabeth. She can still walk down a flight of stairs unaided and ride a horse
I shouldn't be so hard on her. She was a good loving mom. But for 20 years it's been like she's waiting for God, as someone remarked earlier.
I am actually in no way like my mother. I'm MUCH healthier and more active than she ever was. Even when I was a child, she'd spend long periods in bed and my grandmother would just come scoop us all up and we'd live with her and granddad for a while. While I was in college, mother took to her bed for 6 months....dad asked me to drop a couple of classes and quit my job to essentially stay home and be "the mom" to my 3 younger sibs. I resented this terribly, but family did for family. She kind of came out of that, slowly and over the rest of my life she's been mostly in bed or on the verge of some terrible illness or recovering from surgery. Without doubt she had mental issues, depression, anxiety, whatever. She's never handled life well. She's so old now that most stuff is just forgotten and she has mentally re-written the past. When I asked my older sister for some help for the next 6 weeks as brother heals from back surgery, sis actually said "No, I will not help. I will PAY for anything, but I'm done being involved. Call me when she dies." Ok. Younger sister and brother both want to only be involved maybe one night a week (this is not when she requires care) and never on the weekends.
I spent a while this am checking out Home Care agencies and have one (one I actually worked for) and found that she is covered 100% for as many aides/in home care as she could use. I have to convince at least 2 other sibs to OK this. I am realistic that my own time should be spent enjoying my 13 grandkids and my hubby and looking forward to retirement. She's used me up down and sideways for 45 years.
Genetics say I will live a long life. I plan to. As long as I am healthy and active and happy. Mother is my one "trigger" into spiraling depression---no long backstory needed, she just is. I cannot take 3-4 days a week care of her. I also won't. One day, OK. No more. I hope none of my kids feel that way about me (I just got back from Houston and a 10 day babysitting gig for my daughter--something my mother wouldn't ever have considered, at ANY age).
BTW, the cheerleader was the mother of a girl I went to HS with. She legitimately is that active and spry. Still, it was a shock to see her hop up like that!!
I am not sorry I spent that long day with mother (oh we went shopping before the reunion and that was a whole other dreadful deal--2 hours to buy $22 worth of groceries that she didn't need. It DID light a spark in me that I am going to do more, exercise more and stay more upbeat. Mother really is my only "sliver in the foot".
Here is another way to look at it.
Anyone else closer to your Mom's age and infirmaties stayed home, bedridden, could not, or did not want to come. At least she wants to go to her 75th reunion, and went to this one.
And, we never know about that cheerleader....a world traveler known to advance two years upon arriving at her school...got up on that bench, determined to keep her place in the spotlight, is today taking at least two weeks to recover from the exertion of it all, is on steroid shots both before and after the event....etc. etc. Lol.
We all age differently, and comparing can make us miserable.
Good though, that you brought this up. Reading what can happen to us as we age has lit a fire under me!
I witnessed great grandparents who lived with sound body and mind well into their 80's, even though they ate country diet, fat, lard, and dipped snuff. lol They never took any kind of pills for anything, though saw a doctor when sick. They both stayed active, cooking, walking, and reading.
But, I also have those in the family who are sick all the time, yet, they worked well into their 70's!
I have a family member who has significant dementia at this point, but, she actually became much nicer than she was before getting dementia. It does happen.
My dad is 80 and at his last Class reunion( Class of 1956), one of his high school teachers was present....and she drove herself there! Go figure.
Another thing these folks have is (4) incredible resilience. They bounce back. Life has dealt them blows, but they haven't quit. I am sure they feel like it when they have lost their spouse of many years, when they have buried a child, lost their sight, etc....They grieve but they have gotten back up. They don't do it by themselves. They have friends and family, church support, even meds (antidepressants, etc..) But they have made the decision not to give in to the lie that their lives were worthless and over. They have hope for the future.
I am a strong believer that no matter where or who you come from that you make your own life. You are not destined to become your mother. You can make different choices.
I know Oscar Wilde said "all women become like their mothers. That's their tragedy. No man does. That's his." But then again he did make a living out of talking to effect, so I wouldn't take it too much to heart.
Having said that, my mother's family females all seem to dwindle away and drop off the twig in roughly the same sort of pattern - a couple of cancers, but otherwise age and frailty and eventually almost a decision to give up. My mother's CHF wasn't related to genetics or lifestyle, unless you count getting rheumatic fever in childhood as lack of moral fibre (as I suspect my grandmother may have done, subconsciously - she never had much patience with my mother). On the other hand, my father's side were more the fast-and-furious die-young-stay-pretty types. Which would give me about fourteen years to go. Which is also sobering.
Are you sure this is a productive chain of thought to start??!!
But no, it doesn't look like destiny to me, once you've ruled out a few key knowables. All the same for you your mother's waste of opportunity and, well, life years I suppose, must be very sad to watch.
We can't all be sprightly 87 year old cheerleaders though can we! Perhaps some sort of happy mean..? :)