...it's time for a change.
A couple of Saturdays ago I cried myself to sleep. I cried because Mom's increased progression has coincided with my decline of care giving prowess. In the last few weeks I have snapped, I have mocked, I have YELLED - at HER - my lovely, ornery, crazy-pants mother. My patience has not just waned, it is depleted. My frustration is not of the moment anymore, it is an all-day thermal nuclear rocket, barely doused into submission. In the last month (more times than I care to admit) I've gone to bed hating myself, knowing a stranger would have had more compassion and understanding for Mom that day than I was able to muster.
What preceded Saturday night's crying jag was a day where I derided her for not taking a walk on the beach with me...
"Oh, you don't want to walk on the beach? Of course you don't. Well, by all means lets go do something else you don't want to do!"
...hollered at her for being on top of me all day...
"All I want is five minutes to myself! Is that too much to ask?" (To which my own brain immediately screamed back, crashing around in my skull, "Yeah, it is to your dementia mother, you jerk!")
...and stormed out of a museum when she suddenly became dementia-fearful, leaving her confused and lost. So, I cried. And I cried. And I cried some more. Until I slept. The next thing I knew, The Other Girl was waking me up (she had been on the closing shift at her job), and, because we are our mother's daughters, wine promptly found its was into our hands, and even faster into our faces. In the midst of The Other Girl relaying her work stories, I began blubbering again. And then I said it:
"I can't do this anymore."
Inconceivable! (And, yes, I mean what you think it means.) But there it is. The words are out. The feeling that's been roiling around in my gut, flaming up at the worst possible times, subsiding only to continue its noxious fester, was said out loud and acknowledged. The Other Girl, gawd love her, comforted me, said that she too felt it was time to change the situation, but that she would continue to be my full-time care giving cohort until I was ready to rethink our care partner roles in Mom's life.
The Other Girl and I have never been foolish enough to promise each other that Mom would be at home until the end of her life; such a vow adds pressure to an already stress-heightened situation, and stifles honest communication about where we're at and how we're doing - but it has always been our deeply desired goal.
I so wanted to continue giving her a sliver of peace in this anxiety-riddled waltz to the end of the ball, but I can not. We are both exhausted, stressed, financially flailing - all things we've worked through before - but with my growing level of disrespectful care I have to stop before I hate myself forever for wounding an already dementia-embattled Mom.
It's time to move from 24/7 care givers to part-time. It's time to begin investigating and vetting memory care facilities, of which we have excellent options in our area. It's time to start making all new mistakes and having all new successes as we move forward in the best way possible for the three of us. It's time to support our princess in a new environment, make quick work of new villains ("Are you serving my mother peas? From a can? Not on my watch, you fiends!"), pester and harangue the crap out of memory care professionals whenever we see fit. It's time to learn how to engage Mom in her new surroundings while retaining her involvement in her already established kingdom.
It's time to storm new castles.
“Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”
- William Goldman, The Princess Bride