Monday, June 26, 2017

Dementia...scourge of our time.

Good afternoon to you!
It's been a few weeks and, after some deliberation, I am going to tell you why I haven't blogged my usual happy hippy rambling/gardening/music blogposts.


The thing is, and boy oh boy is it a THING, that I am the caregiver for my increasingly muddled 89 year old Mum.
She is a widow; I am her only child. Thus I have been thrown into the life-altering situation that I have become the mother of my mother, so to speak. And as I am writing this to you, the word 'reluctant' is screaming for attention in my brain.
For it is. I am. Reluctant mother to my mother. 
The little girl in me feels that this is sooooo unfair. I should not be mothering my Mum, I want to be mothered myself (from time to time, as life is pretty hard for a single menopausal lady with two kids and two cats to take care of). Never mind that I am almost 59 myself, I can still access that little girl deep within me, who didn't want to pick up the pieces for my mother when she was 36 and depressed and I was 6 ('unfair'!) and now realizes that if I don't pick up the pieces no-one else will.

Yep. Not a very attractive character trait, I know! And to put your mind at ease, I do do it, I do pick up those pieces, and do the daily shop, and talk to all those professionals who suddenly have a role to play in my mother's life (and thus in mine), and dress her, and bathe her when necessary, and give her her medication, and tend her garden, and listen to her asking me the same question over and over and over.

When I started realizing that something was seriously wrong with her memory, it was 2015, and no-one wanted to believe me. Hey, this was my strong, creative, still driving her car all over the place mother, right? Opinionated, strong-willed, often stubborn and frankly not very flexible in her way of dealing with the world and all those tiresome people in it. But also talented, and in her way very loving towards me and my two kids.
I kept alerting people around me that she was changing, that she sometimes did and said weird things. But people frowned at me and remarked that she seemed the same to them. So what that she suddenly kept the cloth napkins in the fridge...that wasn't life-threatening, surely?

Until November 2016. I took her to the cardiologist for a new pacemaker, after a year of Mum canceling appointment after appointment with said lady, because she 'didn't see the point'. The new pacemaker was put in and my Mum consequently lost her mind.
In December I was phoned by various neighbors, acquaintances and the valued cleaning lady that my mother was acting strange. That she had lost her way on the way to the shops (5 minutes by car). That she didn't dare to drive any more. That she let the mail pile up without opening it. That she didn't tend her beloved garden. That she had told my ex husband that she never saw me or the grandchildren (whilst coming to dinner every Sunday).

I decided enough was enough and took her to the GP. Who at first mumbled something about her being 89, what did I expect. But then admitted that she hadn't reported for her diabetes checkups for some time (1,5 years, it turned out!!!). I instantly lost all faith in him. 
But in my country it is a hassle to get another GP, so I gritted my teeth and decided to work with what I had got - so asked him for a referral to a Geriatric specialist and got it in February.
It took until April for her to have time to see my Mum.

In the meantime I shopped around for help. And felt like Gretl lost in the woods of all the rules and regulations regarding a person with suspected dementia. I need a referral for absolutely everything my Mum needs. Incontinence diapers? Ask a referral from the GP. Zinkoxide for the decubitus wound on her bottom? Ask a referral from the GP. A place at the day centre for people with memory problems? Ask...etcetera. A taxi to get her to the day centre? Ask...etcetera. A personal alarm button she can use when she has taken a fall? GP.

It now has gotten to the point where I am juggling my demanding school work around the appointments for my Mum. I drive to her house every day, to check up on the professionals who check up on her. For she still has her wiles, my darling mother. She blatantly lies (except she doesn't do it on purpose, I suppose) about all kinds of things. A shower? Yes, she has taken a shower (not), she has taken her medicines (not), she has already eaten (not).
She cancels appointments I make for her with her welfare in mind. She refuses to use her rollator.
And at the same time she endlessly tells me she couldn't do without me, she wouldn't know what she would do if I would not take care of her.

Next week we go on yet another trip to the hospital. For the poor thing has breast cancer as well...
Hopefully the Geriatric specialist will tell us that we get Mum a referral to a psycho-geriatric home. My Mum would be safe there, at least. For it is my everlasting worry that she will keel over and break her hip or hit her head.
Until then, and this can take months yet, it is up to me to help Mum find her way through The Land of Dementia. 
The pebbles that helped Hans and Gretl out of the woods, are the pebbles of humor that I doggedly keep throwing on the path behind me. For my Mum can be funny as anything - she has developed a taste for beer (she, who has always deemed beer drinkers 'common') and  thinks nothing of pouring half of it in her discarded glass of  sherry in a restaurant, taking a huge swallow and then gives the shocked waiter a beaming smile and gushes that she simply loves this food and does he come there often?

Right. I will now have a beer. Tomorrow is yet another day.