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.