My mom was with us for a week. I've been trying to get her to do this for a really long time, to come down to see us and stay for longer than a couple of days. Mom is nearing 90 and shouldn't be living alone in her little cottage, really, so I'd hoped she would decide to stay indefinitely at some point. Though, of course, she is steadfast in her determination to die in her own bed and in her own house, as so many folks are.
So, she came down for the baby shower [see The Nana Diaries] and planned to go back home after "Bob's 4th of July Party" on July 7th. I "took the week off" from my paying job.
Here is what I learned about the feasibility of caregiving for two adults, one with a memory impairment due to Alzheimer's, the other with regular, run-of-the-mill aging issues (lack of good balance when standing or walking, for instance, and refusal to use a cane or a walker, but willing -- on very special, few-and-far-between occasions -- to be pushed hither and yon in a wheelchair). It can't be done 24 hours a day by one person.
By the end of the week, I was ready to run away from home. Not only that, but I was desperate to go back to work. Now, I ask you: Is that normal? I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and every other "ly."
Because my mother was visiting, I went out of my way to plan interesting and pleasurable outings for us. Most were mainly for Mom, since she rarely is able to come down to see us. She's always wanted to see Filoli. She loves to window shop in high-end stores (Broadway Plaza), and one thing she unfailingly wants to do is to go to the beach to hear the ocean roar (Muir Beach). Things that would be a change of pace for my husband as well as being entertaining for all.
My husband was increasingly confused, asking the same questions over and over. "Where are we going?" "Why are we going there?" And then again. He was more agitated than normal, and more on edge than usual. There was some shortness and irritation, especially towards the end of the day when we were all tired (Is this "sundowning?"). And he became an attention hog. He was showing off for my mom, as well as being progressively more negative as each day passed. He seemed jealous of the time I was spending with my mother. The week was capped off with an explosive outburst at Bob's party that helped me to understand that, sometimes, the person in my husband's body isn't exactly the guy I married. Or maybe he is, but without appropriate filters to modulate behavior. His worst attributes were on display without the benefit of his wonderful side's veneer.
When Mom left for the ride home on Sunday afternoon, it was like someone had waved a magic wand over my husband. Relative calm returned to our home, along with good humor. I guess what they say about routine and maintaining a schedule and not doing too much bears consideration. Either that, or the 21 days of prayer and fasting for breakthrough at the church, which ended the day Mom left, have produced...breakthrough. I hope so!
I see now that under the current circumstances, Mom would have to be crazy (or desperate) to agree to move in with us, especially since she cared for Dad all those years when he had dementia. This makes me sad, because I wanted so much to do this for her. But why would she willingly come and watch me deal with what she dealt with, reliving all those memories over and over in living color? How unhappy would she be?
I'll continue to visit her regularly, as I have been doing, as long as possible. And I'll let her make her own decisions about what she wants to do and when she wants to do it. She's amazingly strong and sharp and resilient. And she's a grown-up. I love you, Mom.