Mother's Little Helper
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Two pills that have made a gianormous difference for Mom.
The Other Girl and I are lucky, Mom has not, to this point, exhibited any of the anger or aggressive tendencies that so many other care givers have to contend with. What we have faced is debilitating anxiety, extreme sadness, and sleepless nights, one after the other after the other....
This late-night email to my sister illustrates how frustrated and beat down we got.
"Jeeeeeezus, what a f@&king day. I'd like to say the highlight was when Mom told me at lunch that she wished she was dead. But that got eclipsed by the tears that leaked out of her eyes all evening, reaching a waterfall climax before bed (of which she’s upstairs walking around now). It’s been tough. So bad that I finally just gave up this afternoon. I mean, I went through the motions of cheering her up - stayed super upbeat, walked to the park and watched the kids, put on a favorite nature show, but nothing worked and I just couldn’t even care anymore. I wish you were here to drink loads of wine with and tell me I’m not a bad daughter."
It was an awful time. You don't feel all that great about your job when you're picking up random bits of Mom poop around the house, but that's nothing compared to day after day of crippling misery you can't help her overcome, coupled with the exhaustion that comes from six hours of sleep total in three days. There was more than one night during that period where I knew Mom was up and moving around the house, and I caught myself thinking:
"I can't get up. I'm so tired. I can't do this. If she gets out and wanders away, well, she's got her bracelet on. I'll just sleep a little bit more until someone brings her home."
Not exactly a top-notch caregiver sentiment. So we consulted her doctor and have had tremendous success with two medications.
All of us getting decent sleep was the first priority. Mirtazapine was the miracle that got us there. We give her half of a 7.5mg pill each evening after dinner. It gets her sleepy about an hour after taking it, and allows her to sleep through the night. Not every night mind you, there's still one restless night every couple of weeks, but that's manageable!
When I tuck her in I tell her that her job for the night is to dream the sweetest dream possible: unicorns farting butterflies. Whether that's what she dreams about or not, she giggles and closes her eyes, ready for a full night's work.
At first, we balked at adding more medications to Mom's daily pill pile. Her psych doctor recommended buspirone for anxiety, but in our resistance we initially just used it on days when her anxiousness was through the roof. It was somewhat helpful, but we were still slogging through a lot of tearful anguish so we finally gave in and added a daily 5mg pill to her morning. It's been fantastic. Mom is back to 90% of her old playfulness and good humor. Her smile is at the ready. Her fearfulness and anxiety has abated, not disappeared completely, but faded to a workable level.
Every job has its learning curve. It took my sister and I awhile to understand that when one bad day with Mom turns into a month of traumatic anxiety and sleeplessness it's time to seek assistance. Adding these two medications has made a huge, wonderful difference. Mother's Little Helpers indeed.