As I reread parts I and II, I see that I have left events out, and mixed up timing, but the facts are there, even if disorganized. An important event was that my mother finally gave up driving; my sister reported Mom backing out of her driveway at high speed (she had always done this!), nearly colliding with a car she hadn’t seen. We told Dad, and he talked to Mom, apparently, because on Thanksgiving Day morning, he called. ”Kathy, this is Dad,” he said, in a tone that instantly convinced me that Mom was dead. ”Your mother has agreed to stop driving.” My idiotic and panicked response–I didn’t want to be responsible for this decision!–was, “I didn’t mean to make this happen.” My father wailed, “Don’t do this to me! What do you want me to do?” I immediately came back to myself, and assured him it was the right thing, and thank you for taking action. Later that day, Mom told me she was sort of relieved; she’d been worrying about the approaching winter and driving in bad weather, and now she didn’t need to worry about it. Also that she had recently driven out to call on a church member in a nursing home out in the county, and became frightened by the speed she had to maintain to do the speed limit. Oh, it was the right decision, no doubt about it. Dad continued to drive, so they could still shop independently, though my mother hated shopping with Dad looking on. When I rode with Dad, I did not feel that he had lost any ability to drive, but I did dread the idea that someday I might have to make my father stop driving. I could not imagine having the guts to do so. ”Please, Dad, make that decision yourself,” I urged silently.
I should also mention that a couple of years before Mom entered the assisted living facility, she began to suffer severe anxiety. This is a family trait–I’ve been on medication for years, as have my brother and one of my sisters–so I asked her if she wanted to try some medication, and she said yes. Her physician was very open to a trial of medication, and Mom soon responded well and felt better. This intense anxiety my also have been a symptom of dementia, but we can’t know for sure. I just didn’t want my mother to be suffering if we could help it, and I already knew how painful anxiety, and for me, depression, can be.
I have no doubt left out other things, but now we move to the winter and spring of 2007. The automatic medication dispenser had become an object of hatred for Mom. She sat down next to it each morning and afternoon before it “spoke” and imitated the annoying voice to me when she grumbled about it. I began to notice that her meal preparation was getting increasingly dependent on packaged food. I once saw that she had torn off some directions for heating something in the microwave; clearly she had needed to carry the instructions to the microwave to consult. Though the directions were something like “Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir, and heat for an additional 2 minutes,” she couldn’t maintain those simple words in her memory. I continued to worry, knowing that sooner or later, we were going to have to face a huge change in their living.
It’s important to note here that my father was increasingly anxious as well. He had always worried a lot, but claimed he was just looking ahead so he’d know what to do in any situation. ”I’ll wait four days before I worry about that, ” he’d say, laughing at himself a bit, but meaning it all the same. As my mother became less able, he became more anxious about managing the house and her.
My mother continued her daily routine effectively at this point. She walked their chocolate Lab, Coco, two or three times a day on several familiar routes. She struggled to continue to occasionally lead a Bible Study at church where she had been a mainstay for years. When she was tapped to lead, however, she wasn’t sleeping well, and worrying for days ahead. My sister and I were puzzled. Couldn’t the other members see what was happening to her? I made a plan to call someone in the group, but before I did, the crisis finally hit that meant we had to make changes to their living situation.