Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Last week, I boasted/bemoaned that we had medicated the fight right out of Mom.
Turns out, that was a bunch of baloney, and not the kind you slap between two slices of white bread smeared with mayo and mustard that sticks satisfyingly to the roof of your mouth. Nope, what I wrote last week was pure horseshit.
Mom has PLENTY OF FIGHT LEFT IN HER. This became crystal clear to me this week as I fended off dementia's attacks three days in a row.
Mom began her assault Friday morning; her earlier-in-the-week constipation came to an abrupt halt as she opened with the never-ever subtle Diarrhea Offensive. (I believe her objective was a Show-n-Smell of force to set the tone for what was to come.) Saturday morning brought a pre-dawn pee strike in the bathroom. Sunday morning: Operation Urine Carpet Bombing that not only soaked the carpet in the hallway and top of the stairs, but cascaded down the steps, leaving little lakes of urine pooling all the way to the front door.
I unwisely responded to all three attacks with the Scorched Earth Defense, barking commands at her to stand still, to not step in the piss/poop, to leave the paper towels on the floor where I put them, to put slippers on, to take poopy pajamas off, to sit down on the toilet, to get into the shower.
Now, as any caregiver who's been doing this for awhile knows the Scorched Earth Defense means you've basically surrendered. You've got nothing left to defend yourself with except dropping f-bombs at deafening decibels.
And in dementia more volume does not equate less confusion. In fact it has the exact opposite effect; it ratchets up your dementia loved one's anxiety, fear, and distrust to ground-zero levels of rage.
Now that you achieved that, go ahead and try and take off her poop-filled underwear.
Yeah. Not going to happen.
It is not incontinence that is the problem for me. Sure, nobody likes having to clean diarrhea off their hands, shoes, bedding, carpets, door knobs, mother, but as a family caregiver you get used to human waste pretty quickly, and even marvel that it was the number one fear when you started the gig. (So silly! Incontinence is the least of the terrors on the horizon!)
What is the problem is the inability to take an excrement disaster and clean it up before it becomes even more catastrophic.
Mom doesn't understand "STOP MOVING, MOM!" She doesn't get "DON'T STEP IN THE SHIT, MOM!" She has no comprehension that as she continues to move she spreads the filth further than it already encompasses.
Neither can she cooperate when I'm trying to remove soiled pull-ups. Taking off her clothes is akin to "stranger danger" at the best of times. When my vile behavior has guaranteed a worst of times scenario she pushes me away, yells for "Daddy!", embeds her claws in the offending item and won't release. Shit is sliding down her leg, dropping out of the pull-up onto the floor, her hands grabbing more of it as she attempts to get a firmer hold on the diaper. Those hands now grope for the bathroom counter, the towels within reach, my hair.
It is this relentlessness of dementia in crisis situations that sends my caregiving skills into Misery territory, desperately trying to back pedal my ass out of Annie Wilkes levels of losing it. I failed all three mornings. But Sunday, I failed BIG TIME.
I was screaming. Crying. Flinging household items out of her reach so she couldn't contaminate things with her pee hands. I was insensible, blind rage against the whole world coursing through my veins.
The Boyfriend in the Basement came to the rescue. Not my rescue, mind you, but Mom's. I screamed/cried at him, "I can't do this anymore!" He hollered back "I KNOW!"
At that moment I hated him. I hated Mom. I hated dementia. But mostly, I hated myself, for having come completely unglued. As I mopped puddles of pee off the stairway sobbing in the aftermath of my mania, I was ashamed. Of myself.
Dementia is going to win this war, but I have to stop handing it victories on the journey. This is not caregiving. This is care surviving; Mom surviving me, surviving dementia.
And that sucks.