Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Mine, not Mom's.
Things have been going okay here in Stumped Town Dementia. We're no longer in Monsterland, but we aren't exactly in a Dementia Upswing either. We've achieved a kind of Dementia Holding Pattern, with January's epic dementia-rage levels greatly lessened, resulting in a fairly mild-mannered Mom.
She's even having some super awesome days. I got this text from Betty the Walking Buddy last week...
"Did you give your Mom new medication??!! She was talkative and smiling this morning.
I thought I would cry for happiness She had moments of my sweet friend!! I didn't always know what she said but she was engaged. It was wonderful."
The Other Girl and Mother Minder (or The Other Other Girl), have also been experiencing that sweet, sweet caregiving satisfaction; you know, those days when you manage to do everything right, and dementia allows your loved one the clarity to enjoy your company and your efforts for a few hours, making you feel like a caregiving rock-star.
So with a three-person dementia team splitting up the 24/7 care, more free time for myself to hang with friends and even take on a part-time gig, why am I gunning zero to ballistic on my solo Mom days?
I noticed it coming on in the last month; a new level of impatience with her increased confusion. Her inability to do the simplest of tasks now sends me careening over the edge.
It's become a fight to wash her hands, not because she doesn't want to wash her hands, but because she no longer knows how to put her hands under a faucet. You know what is a good solution? Have waterless hand sanitizer at the ready. You know what is a terrible solution that'll buy us both more anxiety for the remainder of the day? Force her hands under the water while yelling at her to put her hands under the water.
Guess which one I've been using lately?
I'm on my own with Mom for two nights and three days. That's nothing compared to the last 2.5 years of this caregiving stint. By the time my Mom-shift starts I should be plenty rested and rejuvenated, ready to be the best daughter/caregiver I can be. But instead I'm a snotty, snarling, stressed out little shit. The Boyfriend in the Basement's previously sporadic up-the-stairs rescue missions when he could hear the going getting tough, have become frequent forced time outs. Mom gets a much needed hug, and I get shoo'ed out of the room to calm myself down. (One of these days I should just hop in the car and head out of town - that'll learn him to offer a helping hand.)
So what in gawd's name is my problem? Why with more freedom am I becoming less effective as a care partner?
A friend of mine suggested that getting that little taste of freedom may now have me subconsciously fighting for a complete release from caregiving responsibilities. I'm guessing she's on to something here.
I think lately the super shitty side of me has been punishing Mom for putting me in this situation. 'Cause clearly she did this on purpose <sarcasm pooling under my chin>. The rationalization being if she's done it on purpose then I am completely justified in acting out my displeasure <rolling my eyes in utter disbelief that this may actually be my thought process>.
I think too that I'm succumbing to caregiver indifference. There are those that expound a Dementia Minimalist style of caregiving: make sure they're clean and fed and call it good. To strive for more is damaging to the caregiver; a sort of save-yourself strategy. I get it, and get how people arrive there, but it is not how I want to complete this journey, for Mom or myself.
But as of late how I want to do things, and how I'm actually doing them are at complete opposites of the caregiving spectrum. I'm wearing myself out saying "No!" to her, and upping her anxiety levels with my barely concealed anger. What's really pissing me off is I KNOW BETTER! The other night she could not keep herself from tidying up the kitchen counter, which means the freshly chopped meal ingredients were being gathered up to be thrown out the back door. If I would have just put them in a bowl and put the bowl out of sight until needed everything would have been fine. But instead I left them out on the counter, like I was daring her to mess with them, so I in turn could react with outrage.
Nietzsche said, "There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." With the madness of love I made the choice to walk this end-of-life journey with Mom. I have not changed my mind about that choice. I just need to rebound from this madness in caregiving. It ain't doing Mom, or me, one damn bit of March Madness good.