I actually started this post yesterday, pleased that I had two funny stories to tell, thus giving One and All a lesson that humor helps along this path with aging parents. Then I found I could only think of ONE of them, which this morning remains true, and frustrating, and, OK, a little scary. Often, now, when I blank on something I should know, there’s a little voice in my head that says, “You’re next. You are already showing signs of Alzheimer’s.” Most of the time I ignore that voice, reminding myself that even if true, it is a good long way in the future, and I should pay attention to the present–I’m functional NOW. But sometimes it just seems like I have no hope of dodging this fate, that I will be alone, and afraid, and no one to take care of me. It’s the ALONENESS that gives me a hollowness in the pit of my stomach. The truth is that, first, I have a large, loving family who will not leave me alone, and second–no less true–that I see my parents having to walk their own path; no one can do it for them. I can’t relieve them entirely of loneliness, and neither will my family be able to for me. So when Mom makes a sad face upon my departure, I remind myself that I can’t relieve all their pain, no matter what I do. This relieves my guilt enough so that I can leave. It flits through my mind, though, that if I had Mom living at my house, she would mostly sleep and be sweet, and make few demands–except for making sure that she has her medication. And that she has three good meals a day. That she gets to the bathroom “in time.” That her clothes be clean and fresh. That I walk her dog, and clean up after it. Showers, dressing, hair, teeth–no, I couldn’t do that and stay loving. Mom told all of her children a long time ago not to take her into our homes if she ever needed assisted living. Her name was in at a local place by the time she was 65, and she would be living at that fine facility, instead of Bickford, if dogs were welcome there.
A friend whose mother is also in assisted care wrote to say that I was being too hard on myself in my blog, and that I AM taking good care of my parents, especially compared to a lot caretakers–or NON-caretakers. It’s doubtless true and gave me some peace to hear it. But my Voices still speak up at times, and tuning them out is hard. COULD I take Mom and Dad into my home? Yes, but their care would be the sum of my, and my husband’s life, and neither of my parents wanted their children to live this way; each of them had a mother in assisted and/or nursing care as their mothers aged.
NOW FOR THE HUMOR.
The other day I went into Mom’s room and discovered that her walker was missing. Hm. Mom had been napping (she almost always is now), so I suggested she just rest there while I looked. I figured she must have left it in the dining room after the last meal. Nope, not there. I asked some of the staff, and one had seen Mom go to the salon where the podiatrist had worked on her feet. Bingo! thought I, but when I looked through the locked salon door’s window, I didn’t see it. Rats. I walked all the way around the hallways–the facility is set up as a four-sided rectangle; no matter where you start, you will end up back at the same place eventually. No walker. Now I had to enlist further staff help; dear Danielle walked with me, saying that sometimes residents take walkers that are not theirs. First, though, she very sensibly looked again in the salon, and sure enough, back in a corner sat Mom’s walker. I headed off through the courtyard with the walker to Mom’s room, triumphant. Mom’s room was empty. Haha! Little did I know that she had wandered down to the dining room through the hallway as I went through the courtyard. I went back through the courtyard to see if I could find Mom, and Danielle told me that Kristen was pushing Mom in a wheeled chair back to her room. This was starting to resemble a Shakespeare comedy–all we needed were some women dressed up as men and a set of identical twins. Fortunately, my mood was good on this particular day, and I could choose to laugh about the Bickford Comedy of Errors as I walked through the courtyard for the THIRD time and waited for Mom’s arrival at her door.