Tuesday, 21 September 2021

What Was Lost In Editing

My initial pride at editing out so much of my last post was replaced with the realization that this is what happens every time I edit my posts -- I don't just reduce the word count while keeping the message intact; instead, I take out information I'm uncomfortable putting in, which inevitably means I take out information that is important to the whole story. 

It also means I think I've told you things I haven't, because inside my brain the information still registers as "written" even though I've deleted it, so what remains of the post doesn't make as much sense as it could have.

And finally, it means I still have half the story bottled up inside me, something I am finding hard to sustain.

So in this post I'm going to give you the edited parts, to reduce my stress and to try to give you the whole story, or as whole as I can make it.

You know what they say, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. In this case: my story, my mother's story, and the truth. I will try hard to be objective but please know that I realize what an impossible job that is.

My mom has always had a tendency to want control over the others in her life. She was a teacher, fer cryin' out loud. (That's an inside joke for all the families of teachers I have known). She was a good teacher, I think, but those skills don't necessarily translate to parenting or partnering. At home she wore the pants, as the saying goes. It affected all our lives. From my earliest memory, there was no marital harmony in our home. My mother finally divorced my father in the mid-1990s. She re-married a few years later, but left him within a few years. So, she has happily lived alone since 2000, by her own choice. That was also the year she moved to my town, close to where she grew up and only a short distance from me and my family.

At first she was self-sufficient, but as the years rolled past and she reached her late 70s and beyond, I and my husband began to be on call for her if she needed accompanying to appointments or little things done around her house. We were okay with that. I mention it only to show that she was becoming more dependent on us long before the dementia began.

At the same time, one of our teenagers developed a severe chronic illness which kept her bedridden for a year and needing help for years after that. Then my father had a paralyzing stroke just as our daughter left the bedridden stage of her illness, and he had to be placed in a nursing home for the last eight years of his life. I was his closest relative, both emotionally and geographically. I took care of his finances and the sale of his home, bought his clothing, did his gift shopping, attended all his medical appointments and surgeries, visited him almost daily, and helped him stay in touch with his siblings and my brother, as he could not use the telephone independently. Five years after his death, my husband developed cancer and died ten months later: ten months of worry, appointments, increasing care, and total heartbreak.

I did everything I could think of for all of them and ached for them, wishing I could relieve their burdens in some way. I do not think I am lacking in empathy. Yet I have so little empathy for my mother. It's not due to her dementia; dealing with dementia alone is difficult but it doesn't kill my compassion. My lack of empathy is due to her personality. These days, she is just more of what she always was. She talks only of herself. She is the center of every melodramatic story, with details that have changed to make her the heroine every time. She blames everyone else for any problems that arise, a long-standing habit. She has taken frugality to meanness, not with her family (which feels uncomfortably like she is trying to buy our love) but for anyone she hires or who does work for her voluntarily, such as her neighbour who shovels her snow and mows her lawn. If I were to give him money or a gift, I would be accused of meddling (and I suppose I would be) but I'm afraid that if I wait until I can repay him without Mom finding out, it might be too late. We never know how life will go.

The situation is frustrating and stressful and at the exact same time it makes me feel crappy toward myself that I don't have the compassion for her that I had for my other family members.

I do realize that part of the stress and resentment I feel toward my mother is because her needs and demands have caused me to put off processing my grief. I have had to box it up and put it away. As the seasons pass, I would like to be able to have the time and space to experience my memories and mourn my husband and everything we shared in the past and still planned for the future. Mom remembers my husband has died, but she doesn't seem to understand how much it affects my life and how I feel. She loves to tell the story of the neighbour whose husband died suddenly; there was a home reception and the guests were sitting quietly and sadly. She baked cookies and took them to the home and everyone forgot their sadness (in her words). In reality, I expect they were simply being polite.

Another part of my frustration is that I've had little to no time or energy for the rest of the people I care about, in particular my children and grandchildren. One of my little grandsons has special needs and it takes a lot of energy to be with him. I just haven't had it in me, partly because of the energy I put into Mom's care.

To add to the pile, I have left undone a great many other things that should have been looked after since my husband's death: paperwork, major house and yard maintenance, and a decision on what to do with our cottage, a place that holds especially strong memories of my husband. With my job, the daily necessities of life, and Mom's care, I haven't the time or energy to do more than deal with each thing as it gets to crisis status.

My mother had her good points, too, and I try to remember them. She worked while raising us and made sure we had good medical and dental care and a good education, things not available to everyone in our area. Her focus on herself was less evident when she was younger, and she was always willing to do her share in the community. She helped nurse her brother and her father when they were at the end of their lives. (Side note: that was her favourite sibling, and she in turn was her father's favourite -- his own words.) And my mother didn't have her own mother around from the time she was about eight years old. She says her mother left; the story I heard straight from my grandfather was that he threw his wife -- and new baby -- out. My mother's aunts helped to raise her and her siblings until my mother was old enough to take over household duties. She did not have an easy life growing up. But I saw so much of my grandfather's selfish and short-tempered behavior in my mother. Did her personality come from genes or environment? I don't know. What I do know is that I share some of those genes and they come out at times, no matter how aware I am or how hard I try to do better. So how much blame should I put on my mother's shoulders for her own behavior?

I don't know. It seems the only thing I know for sure is how stressed out I am.

Anyway . . . that's the stuff I was reluctant to publish last time. Maybe it will help fill in the blanks for you. I still don't like putting it out in a public space but I don't think I can keep it bottled up either without adding to my stress. 

 

You have no idea how many times I've wanted to use this meme.

 

Thanks for reading, kind friends. I hope I haven't fallen too low in your eyes. This is the unvarnished, dark side of me. It's not pretty, but at least -- at last -- I've tried to be honest.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Update On My Mother

The last time I wrote about my mom was here.

The boundaries I set at that time helped my feelings of stress and despair, although it took a couple of weeks to feel my body start to relax.

But slowly my mother started pushing the boundaries again. She began to call me to see if I had gotten home safely from her house. It's a two-minute drive, people. Two minutes. I resisted at first but gave in one day when she hadn't been able reach me right away and when she did she said she was about to start walking to my house. Then she asked me to call her every night instead because she didn't know how long it took me to drive home. She is not particularly anxious about it; it just made her feel more comfortable (in her words).

After a week of that, I began to feel suffocated again. I often do my shopping in the evening because there are fewer people out and about and also just because I'm a night owl. I felt I could not keep my usual routine and it was like I was seventeen again and living under her roof, being told what job I could take and that I had to call home from university every Sunday (both of these things are true).

In the meantime, I was also guilty of allowing the previous boundaries to stretch. I found myself watching the clock to see if "enough" time had gone by so I could end the nightly pill visit. My self-imposed minimum visit was 30 minutes (why? I don't know), but I felt I was doing a better job if I stayed 60 minutes or more. But no matter how long I stayed, every night she followed me out the door, onto her front steps, and continued talking until I had to literally walk away to stop her.

I am quite willing to help Mom with her needs: medication, groceries, a certain amount of socialization. But I have to keep my brain and body healthy, too.

So I told myself to stop watching the clock and start watching my feelings instead. I need to deliver her pills daily, but anything beyond that is at my discretion, or if I see she has a genuine need for more time, like replacing a battery, sewing on a button, or listening to her for a few minutes.

I also told my mother I would no longer be checking in with her, and that I wouldn't be answering the phone if she was checking in with me right after a visit, because I'm an adult and go out and about quite safely lots of times that she doesn't know about. She didn't argue the point at all, which says to me that she knew she was asking for something she didn't have the right to ask.

That brings us to her geriatric evaluation. Her family doctor advised me that she did satisfactorily in many areas, but poorly in memory and orientation. This is consistent with my observations: she often repeats what she has just asked or said, and she cannot reliably remember what day of the week, month, or season it is and does not recognize streets other than the one route to the grocery store. The memory problem results in things like forgetting to pay bills and whether she has just called me three times already to ask about something. But she is still able to take care of her basic needs like feeding herself, personal hygiene, and laundry, and she is still able to use logical arguments when discussing problems, and remembers certain new information like the eye appointment she finally agreed to have because her cataract is getting worse.

She was quite able to argue over a dental appointment she asked me to make for her. When I gave her the appointment information, she started asking how much it would be, and that she was concerned about being so close to the dentist during Covid, and that at the age of 91 she doesn't feel she will get her money's worth from dental work, and she didn't want the dentist damaging any of her teeth and making things worse, and that dentists are all just out to make money . . . (note especially that she is not equally worried about being close to the optometrist! also, she can easily afford any amount of dental work and used to have regular checkups up until her dementia began)

The interminable questions, which involved me having to contact the dental office several times as Mom repeatedly objected to the cost, wore me out and we ended up in a heated exchange. I pondered the situation for a day, and realized maybe she simply no longer wanted the bloody dental checkup because it didn't meet her expectations, cost-wise, and wasn't high on her priority list, unlike the eye appointment. When I asked if she wanted to postpone or even cancel the dental appointment "for now", she quickly agreed.

I had invested so much time and energy in getting that appointment, I couldn't see what was right in front of me - she no longer wanted it.

So what have I learned in this section of my dementia caregiver course, fellow life students?

I'll tell you what I've learned.

I am my own worst enemy sometimes, but I have to learn to be my own best friend and watch myself for signs that I've broken my own rules, and not blame my mother for that. As a people pleaser, I feel compelled to give until it hurts, but I have to learn how to not do that.

I've also learned that if I run into resistance from Mom, it's probably because there's something else going on and I need to ask questions to find out what it is instead of getting steamed up because she has just upset my plans to help her. 

And lastly, I have learned that she probably still has more capacity to make decisions than I was giving her credit for. When something is important to her, she seems able to harness more ability to think. This reminds me that the person who did her geriatric evaluation told me there is a medication that can be prescribed to help concentration and that it might help with memory issues because it increases a person's ability to focus. I'm not sure how to bring that up with my mother but all I can do is try.

I feel quite sure that any gold stars I might award myself for learning these things are completely cancelled out by raising my voice at a 91-year-old with dementia, but there it is: the brutally honest update.

May I also add that this post was twice as long and a hundred times whinier in its first few drafts. I'm glad I didn't post it before I calmed down, because it probably would have killed a few readers through boredom alone. My conscience can't take that right now.

*****

Funnies? Well, why not! The theme today is "how I'm feeling".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









And.........my personal favourite today; if I were to ever get a tattoo, this is what it should say:




Thanks for reading, my friends.

Wishing you a good week, where your battles are few and your judgement  impeccable. 




Monday, 13 September 2021

Loose Ends

I left you dangling on the cat litter issue so here is an update.

Thanks to all your comments, I had a few suggestions to try. Not all brands are available near me, but I found two clumping clay litters.

The first one I bought turned out to be scented. There were so many things to read on the box, the fact that it did not expressly say "unscented" escaped me. Scents are one thing Lucy cat is sensitive to, so I tried it with Meredith cat only. She aggressively sniffed it over and over, got it up her nose and sneezed and coughed. I left it for a day, thinking she'd get used to it and stop sniffing it, hence stopping the sneezing and coughing, but that didn't happen.

So I put it in an old dishpan and set it in the closet where the dead mouse smell is still lingering. I don't like just covering up smells but I thought maybe, just maybe, the litter would absorb the odour instead. Still working on that.

In the meantime, I bought another clumping litter which I made sure was labelled "unscented". 

Meredith cat did the same thing - sniffed aggressively, sneezed, etc. Over and over. It was pretty dusty, and tracked terribly. Both cats used it once, then ignored it.

After a couple of days I surrendered and put it in the compost, which is how we are instructed to dispose of kitty litter here. Which is a whole different post; maybe some day I'll tackle that.

Then I checked into wood pellets online, because I couldn't find them locally, and read that if they are not specifically made for cats the wood can contain essential oils that are poisonous to cats. You are apparently supposed to check with the manufacturer of horse and small pet bedding pellets to make sure they've sufficiently kiln-dried the pellets to reduce the oils to an acceptable level. Since I already have enough to worry about, AND since I have zero trust in manufacturers telling me the truth, AND since I'd have to order online exclusively, I decided not to go any further with that option.

In the meantime, I was able to find more of the new style Yesterday's News litter at my local Wal-Mart. 

And because I had already spent the better part of $30 on litter I couldn't use, I have to confess -- I bought it. Because as bad as it is compared to the original pellets, I do prefer it to the clay litters. And I suspect it will be available on a long-term basis, as this is the second batch I've found at the local Wal-Mart. Hopefully our grocery store will start to carry it, too, so I can pick it up easily with my weekly groceries.

This puts me in a bit of a quandry, though.

When the manufacturer emailed me asking for my address so they could send me some coupons for the new Yesterday's News, I told them I wouldn't be buying any of it so I wouldn't need their stinkin' coupons. I did not actually say "stinkin'", but I thought it, loudly. 

I know there is no way for them to know if I'm buying their stuff or not, but I was still planning to reply to their final email to me, which was exceedingly polite and apologetic but ultimately useless.

I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, and would like them to know I at least appreciated their extreme politeness, but how can I do that without also telling the rest of the story -- which is (1) that they gave me misleading information and (2) that although the new product sucks, it doesn't suck as bad as the other products I have tried?

Which is also complicated by the fact that one of the clay litters I tried is another of their products, so that's awkward.

I'm thinking I'll take the coward's way out and just not bother writing back.

*****

I also left you dangling on the dead mouse smell in my closet. Sorry if you didn't want reminded but I don't like to leave loose ends and I'm constantly doing so.

The smell is still kind of there, but I've boarded the hole in the wall back up and along with the pan of (clean) kitty litter in there, hopefully absorbing some of the smell, maybe I can put everything back in the closet soon. I really hope so, because if the house caught fire right now and the firefighters had to get in to the room where I'm storing all the closet stuff, they'd never make it.

*****

If you're also wondering how things are with my mother, that's going to take a whole 'nother post. If you're not wondering, that's okay because it's going to be a whole 'nother post and you can just skip it.

*****

It's time for some funnies. I'm returning to photo memes, because the Charlie Berens video didn't go over awfully well with about fifty per cent of readers. I wonder if it might be partly a language problem. As I replied to some commenters, part of what I like about Berens' humour is his use of colloquialisms, which don't translate easily to other countries, even English-speaking countries. And he does talk fast and has an accent. I realize it just might be a difference of taste, as well. But I have found in the past that videos from other countries are harder for me to follow due to the accents and in-jokes, so I'm hoping that's all it was for Charlie's humour too. I do aim to please, here!

I hope these pictures translate better :)

 

 






 

And some Dear Diary cat funnies:
















Aaaaaand ... bringing us back full circle ...



Have a good week, my friends.




Thursday, 9 September 2021

Potatoes

One way I escape from reality is through YouTube comedy.

Charlie Berens is one of my favourite comedians.

Hope you enjoy this one. He's made plenty more, on any topic you can imagine. YouTube will suggest more for you at the conclusion :)


 

 



Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Pity There's No Vaccine For That

I've really struggled writing this post. I've written and re-written it, as I felt the original draft might offend some readers, not because they fall into the category of folks I'm about to describe, but just because they live in the province in question. I hope I haven't edited it to the point of being insipid or failing to make a point, because I feel so strongly that there's a point or two to be made.

One of our Canadian provinces, which shall be unnamed, but which for the record leans hard right on the political spectrum, lifted Covid restrictions in mid-August. The new rules included, for example, no longer requiring positive cases to quarantine, no longer having to get tested (in fact, not being able to get tested unless visiting a doctor or hospital), and no longer requiring masking in public transit or taxis and ride-shares.

The reasoning given by both the premier and the top doctor of the province is that people have to get used to living with Covid, and that the only way to do that is through vaccines.

Fair enough. I agree. But shouldn't vaccine levels be at a significantly high level before lifting restrictions? The province in question has the highest rate of Covid infections and the lowest rate of both partially and fully vaccinated people in all of Canada. 

Now Covid numbers are rising dramatically in that province. It's not surprising; it's pretty predictable, really, for anyone who's been paying the slightest attention to how Covid is spread and how it's thwarted.

But it's beyond maddening to see folks who need care for other illnesses unable to get it because hospitals are full of people with Covid who refused the vaccine because they feel their right to do whatever they wish is being curbed.

The same politician who ordered the lifting of restrictions is now promising $100 gift cards to everyone who gets the vaccine after refusing to do so all along.

Seems a bit backwards to be offering rewards rather than implementing consequences, as any parent (and a whole lot of non-parents) could attest.

There are valid medical reasons for choosing not to have the vaccine but the My Rights excuse given by many people who are refusing to get vaccinated just doesn't make sense.

People's individual rights need to stop at the point they are taking away other people's rights. That's a basic rule of civilized society.

I despair.

* * * * *

Update: On September 4, the province in question brought some restrictions back into place -- but too little and too late for this wave of infections. I feel so sorry for the medical community that has to treat unvaccinated patients who had the chance to avoid their outcomes and didn't take it. And I feel sorry for the vulnerable members of society who can't get back to any kind of normalcy because they are at higher risk even if vaccinated, as we are seeing from breakthrough cases, or because they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

*****

I'm not sure if memes are equal to the task of taking anyone's mind off despair, but I will tell you that I've spent an awful lot of time the past few months on the internet looking for things that will help me to smile again. Join me in a few relevant ones today. And then some irrelevant ones. I think you'll know the shift when you get there.



 











Sorry for the not-family-friendly meme. Some days a Donkey can only take so much.



I love this irked-looking cat.




































Have a good week, my people.