I've mentioned more than once that my mom has dementia.
Dementia is frustrating enough on its own, and I am finding it a challenge with Mom because she won't accept any kind of government-provided home care for the things I currently do. Partly this is because she doesn't realize she needs help, but partly it's because of her personality. She has always been very independent and lived her life on her own terms.
Sometimes my frustration blooms into full-on resentment and sadness and feeling helpless and hopelesss that there will ever be an end to this thankless job, and I have to step back from all but the bare minimum of things I do to look after her. The bare minimum consists of taking her pills to her every evening and taking her out to buy groceries once a week. (If she runs out of milk or cookies or pie - three of her major food groups - during the week, I buy it and bring it to her at her pill visit instead.)
Sometimes I have enough energy to deal with the constant repetition, complaints, and questions for a longer period of time, and we will go for a drive and then stop for a take-out meal or buy a pre-made meal while getting our groceries and heat it up in the microwave at her house.
That's what we did today. Let me describe how this kind of visit usually goes.
First, I put away her groceries. She is prone to setting a bag of groceries on a living room chair and forgetting about it, so this step is up to me.
Then I heat up our meal while she talks. I remind her to take off her jacket, put her purse away, and wash her hands. She has not used soap for the better part of two years, and I have learned that even wetting her hands under a running faucet is a win, so I have learned to shut up about the soap so as to avoid a tongue-lashing, and hope for the best.
When her food is hot, I remind her to sit down to eat. She may or may not do so the first time, but eventually she will get annoyed with me telling her and come to the table.
While we eat, she talks non-stop.
Today she pondered aloud about her granddaughter's belongings that have been in the basement for a few years (because her granddaughter lives a half a country away now and has only been here once recently due to the pandemic. That visit was last summer, and Mom was so confused she didn't know who the granddaughter was for the three days she was there, and wouldn't have understood why she was taking things from her basement). She pondered that four times.
She told me three times about the "creatures" (deer) she saw in her yard "this morning" (which she had already told me about at every visit, at least once per visit, since she actually saw them a week ago - I was there when it happened).
She asked me three times if I have ever been to my brother's house - a six hour round trip - which I actually have not, because I can't leave either my cats or my mother alone long enough to visit him.
She told me three times about the cards she gets in the mail from a fellow teacher she knew years ago (who she can no longer recall, usually refers to as a student, and complains she doesn't know what the writer is talking about).
She asked me (surprisingly, only once this visit) whether she had ever told me about the plants growing "in" her deck (they are growing up between the boards of the deck). She has indeed told me that. Over and over.
All of these things are topics of conversation every time I visit her, which as I have mentioned is EVERY SINGLE FREAKING DAY AND TWICE ON GROCERY DAY.
I use the mealtime with her as a chance to do her dishes, although she is pretty good about keeping them washed as long as the weather isn't too warm. On the other hand, all she uses these days are mugs and glasses, and sometimes spoons to eat her pie, so it's not a big job.
When I leave her house, I generally take with me either clothing that needs washed, or - like today - things that are a hazard to her. She no longer even notices that I have anything in my hands. I used to have to smuggle things out in my pockets, such as used light bulbs or old batteries or moldy food, but now it is easier to do this one thing at least.
Today, my bag of goodies included:
- a partially used jar of jam from her cupboard. She has not used jam for months, and had two unopened jars plus one open one in her fridge. Somehow, she decided that the opened jar should be in the cupboard and moved it there. I have no idea how long it was there, but since I'm the one who would be called to come and usher her through a bout of food poisoning, I decided to play it safe and remove it.
- a partially eaten piece of cheese on her counter. She might or might not have planned to put it in the compost bin later, but ditto about the food poisoning.
- a plate that had a large sliver broken off one side. I have no idea where the sliver is.
- a dishcloth that I used the last time I washed her dishes. I try to take these home regularly and wash/sanitize them because I realized she was using them for dishes and the floor. Yep.
- the container our pre-made meal had come in. I could have washed it and put it in her recycle bag but chances are that she would notice it (don't ask me how, but she does) and drill me with questions about where it came from and why it's in her recycle bag, and then blame the neighbours for putting it there when she was out for a walk.
I am about to lose my mind, people. Thank you for listening. I know that the endless repetition, complaining, and memory problems are a result of the dementia, but I don't know how to listen to it day after day without a break and without going mad. I wish she would allow someone to come to her house, even a couple of times a week, to listen to her or perhaps take her on an outing, but she refuses completely. Recently she was complaining about the stress she was under, and when I asked her what was stressing her out, she said that everybody was trying to tell her what to do, and she just wants to live her life doing what she wants to do. There was no point in me saying that "doing what she wants to do" affects other people in her life, because she would want to know why, and then say that she doesn't need anyone else's help. It's a closed conversational loop and a fruitless exercise.
Anyway, I also want to update you on the two little fawns that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Here they are, in a video and a photo, taken an hour ago out my front window. The fawn on the left was just off the front walkway, within ten feet of my front door.
And here's one more video from when the mama came back to collect her babies and then went through my neighbour's back yard. See the babies bound up to her and try to nurse (at 19 sec), and see mama not having any of that :)
I hope you all have a good week. And just once, when people are getting on your nerves, I wish you the strength to say "I'm not having any of that" ....