Alzheimer's disease · Burnout · Caregiver · Caregiving · Family

Holding / October 3, 2006

I’ve begun several posts over the past week, and then found myself petering out very quickly. Each day begins on the wrong note as my mother becomes more and more anxious at being alone. She can no longer evaluate the situation and tell herself that Eva will be arriving at some point–her anxiety feeds on her confusion. She believes each day that she is supposed to “go to work,” even though I assure her that she has no such obligation. There are days when I resort to telling her that I will “call in sick” for her, which calms her down temporarily, until the next day. So I imagine that she wakes up to the classic bad dream, where she is stranded somewhere without any assistance or any means to get where she needs to be. And she can’t identify either place.

If my sister would step out of her fog and come over in the morning, we could avoid this routine. Or mitigate it. Or maybe not. I’m angry because my sister has the free time and yet she seems only to visit my mother when someone else is there. So again and again she shows up while Eva is on duty and then complains to me, “Why are we paying her?” I’m usually at work when she calls and complains, so I have to bite my tongue in order to maintain workplace decorum. I’ve asked her several times to come over earlier, after I leave for work and before Eva arrives, just so my mother won’t have to get up to an empty house. She decided last week that she was going to start doing this, a resolution that lasted two days. Now she’s back to the evasiveness. My sister shows up when she shows up, that’s that. I have to get it through my head that I cannot rely on her, I can’t let her get to me. It’s just so hard to keep from imagining how things could be a bit better for my mother.

I think Liz is afraid of the Alzheimer’s. She projects this fear onto Eva, which–according to her–is why she spends more time with my mother when Eva is there. She claims that she can tell how nervous Eva is at being alone with my mother, how bothered by her illness she is. So here we are. I probably should be paying Eva double-time, for being with my sister as well as with my mother.

The fact is, I just do not understand how someone can take this route. I know I should have some sympathy, but in my eyes, Liz is making an already tough situation extra tough by her refusal to face reality. If she’s scared–well–so am I. First, admit it. Second, arm yourself with knowledge and resolve to remind yourself that it isn’t as much your own ordeal as it is our mother’s ordeal. I’m going to get through this, but this is the final chapter of my mother’s life, and I refuse to take any measure primarily for my own convenience. (Well, maybe I’ll still take little ones, like using paper plates and bringing home take-out more than I ought to…)

If if sounds like I’m trying to convince myself, maybe I am. Now that we are in the nebulous, neither-here-nor-there zone, I’m trying to reorient myself. The truth is, there are more and more moments when I close my eyes and imagine myself back in my own house, alone, solitary. I’ll adopt another dog and sleep in my own bed and go back to eating the food I prefer and be able to go out without arranging for a sitter and wake up in the morning to peace. I won’t have to argue with my mother just to get her to wash her hair or remember her cane or eat her vegetables.

This is where I am, right now. Very preoccupied, very angry, very tired. As tough as it is, I need to push things this far, just to prove to myself that this arrangement is no longer working. My mother is depressed and anxious, and even though she dearly doesn’t want to move, I’m beginning to believe that a new, livelier setting might give her a little positive stimulation. And I’m realizing that she’s attached more to the routine than she is to any of its elements.

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