Mum's name is SYBIL and is 94. She's well cared for by family. She has been hypertensive for over 45years; the hypertension is well-managed with her medication, and since the diagnosis of Osteo-arthritis, she took Fosomax weekly, up to 3 years ago.
Pain management has become increasingly difficult in relation to her spine and primarily her right hip. She consulted a neurosurgeon who prescribed a molded brace which she wore daily for approx. 6 months. While extremely uncomfortable, the neurosurgeon feels it helped somewhat to relieve the pressure on her spine. She wears it occasionally for short periods still, but the neurosurgeon felt there would be no additional improvement with continued use. He suggested that her only option would be pain relief, and prescribed 75mg daily of Lyrica. She complains of feeling ‘woozy’ when she takes it, is quite depressed and the muscles in her hands have weakened to the extent that she needs help with basic things.
She now has to be lifted in & out of bed and into a wheelchair and is increasingly unable to walk even short distances within her home without significant pain, mainly radiating from her right hip and her back. She was having physiotherapy at home for a while and I thought it was helping; however, it wasn't consistent because no one really helped her to work at it everyday.
Mum has lived an active, independent life; she only stopped driving at aged 88. So this condition has drastically affected her emotional state. I believe she spends a lot of time fretting about her health, as well as every situation within the home or family. She is a natural nurturer herself and has spent her life being a wife (dad is deceased), mother & grandmother; not to mention time spent doing Charity work with underprivileged children.
I live in the UK and speak with her via skype at least once per week I am probably the more intuitive member of the family, and I try probing when we speak, to glean what may be triggering her low mood. For a while I've sensed that in her later years, she's been dwelling on regrets and comparing her life to her friends' --The physical side of Old age has not been easy for her to come to terms with--it was only in the last couple of years that I would even let the words 'old lady' slip into a conversation; she never thought of herself in that way. It has been a struggle for her, and with increasing lack of mobility, she's been forced to accept it.
I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome a few years ago in the UK, where I live, and I recognize that in order to maintain muscle tone and keep my joints moving, I will need to stick to an exercise routine; If not, I could end up with the kind of disability my mother has to endure. I suspect that EDS runs in mum's side of the family, but it has not even been mentioned during her medical visits, even though I've said that I suffer with hyper-mobility, a symptom of EDS.
My siblings in Jamaica really have a hard time juggling everything. The live-in carer is a lovely lady who goes home to the countryside to her family on a Monday and returns on Wednesday. I think mum silently panics before the Carer leaves, because she fears being left alone. Even though she's been a strong personality, she's always been quite sensitive, & fearful, which doesn't diminish with age.
I find whenever we speak and I pay her a compliment, she tends to throw it back...she's quite self-effacing at times, which is painful to hear. She has a younger sister who will happily sit and do crossword puzzles; mum has no patience for anything like that-nor has she ever been someone to sit and read a Novel. She is very creative; used to do fantastic floral arranging for her Church and for family events. She also took up painting - used to attend a class which has now stopped. Whenever I am there, I spend time doing that with her. Now with her hands closed up due to arthritis, she has no activity, there's no stimulation. She's a social person who likes being around people. The thing is that many friends and family members find it difficult to spend time around her because she's quite negative and talks constantly about her physical issues. She told me this evening that she felt bad that one of my sisters and a brother had to be helping her in and out of the bathroom. No matter how much I say to mum that she raised us with so much love and deserves to be cared for at this stage of her life, she still feels like a burden.
I believe talking therapy will help. She's had sessions previously; I think the issue now has to do with cost. I feel that it cannot be good for her to sit for long periods with her thoughts circling round and round in her head--she overthinks everything. I must find someone, and make that part of my contribution to her care. The pressing issue now is the loose bowels. Perhaps it may be diet related-she has IBS and tends to carry stress in her stomach. She has yoghurt everyday, eats regular meals. We would appreciate some feedback.

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If mother worries about being alone, can you arrange for a Monday and Tuesday caregiver?

My mother didn't like being "a burden" and was much more accepting of help from persons who were paid to provide it. That was their job. She didn't feel like a burden in that case, she felt like the source of income for them.

I think the most important step to start with is to deal with the issue of pain. Are there pain specialists or a pain clinic she could go to? Is there a doctor who is willing to try various possible medications and monitor her closely? Being in continual pain is a real drag on the emotions, and reducing the pain will have a better impact than any amount of talk therapy. Lyrica isn't the only possible remedy.

Solving the bowel problem will help a lot, too. That isn't easy, I know. When my husband was going out he took anti-diarrhea medication, as a preventative. It probably reduced his stress level worrying about it, and that didn't hurt, either.

Your mom has already outlived the life expectancy for the year she was born, by many years! Rejoice in the long life she has had, and aim at comfort and pleasure as much as possible for her remaining years.
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Dear Soula,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm so sorry to hear how hard things have been with your elderly mom. I think given her age this is to be expected. It is hard on adult children to see their parents health decline to this point. It seems like is a never ending circle and we just want to find the light.

I know its hard for you to hear the same things over and over again. I too lost patience for my father and even my mother at times. We are only human. We do the best we can and sometimes I know we still beat ourselves up.

Try getting a second or third opinion from a doctor or nurse about your mom's condition. Is it all the meds affecting her mind? General age related decline? Her diet? Dehydration? At 94, do you just decide to let her be? Let her go in circles? I know its hard when you are desperately trying to find a solution to all her ailments.

She is lucky to have you, my friend. Take care. I know you are doing the best you can.
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