Assisted living · Burnout · Caregiver · Caregiving · Conversation · Grief

Meltdown / November 20, 2006

I was just over at the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Forum where someone had posted a message about the caregiver’s stages. I think I passed from one stage to the next on Sunday night, in a matter of minutes. I had a meltdown right in front of my mother (which I had tried never to do) and although it seemed to come out of the blue, these transitions never do.

It doesn’t really matter what specifically precipitated it, because it could–and would–have been anything. In an instant I knew I was going to start crying, in a way I hadn’t cried since my Dustin died, so I went into my bedroom and lay down in the dark. But I can’t close the bedroom door without arousing my mother’s curiousity and I couldn’t keep myself quiet, so she followed me in. I just let it all out, and she tried to comfort me and understand why I was so upset. Of course I can’t tell her that she is the reason I’m sad.

Well, it’s actually not that simple. The real problem is that I cannot get it into my head that I can’t have a rational discussion with her about assisted living. I tried again on Sunday afternoon, using the “I’d like to move back into my house” tack. Of course you do, she said, as she always does. I can’t leave you alone, I said. She agreed with me on this until I suggested, once again, that she move somewhere where she’d always have someone around, even when I’m at work. I would never do that, she replied.

How do people do this? Why does it have to be so awful? I know I sound like an 8-year-old, but I also feel like one. Old enough to know there’s something dreadful afoot but too powerless to combat it. And I think I reverted to my 8-year-old bag of tricks when I burst into tears later in the evening.

I’ve read the most moving and heartbreaking personal accounts of how loving family members moved their moms and dads into assisted living or nursing homes. Nearly all of these accounts caused intense grief at first, even though most of the moves resulted in an improved situation for all. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to says they wish they had done it sooner, but I understand how one can believe that remaining in one’s home is best. It’s still excruciating.

Another issue is that I’m into my third week away from work, and Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of days–it doesn’t look like we’ll be spending it with family, which disappoints me. And Saturday was the seventh anniversary of my father’s death. And my 13-year-old dog Lily is having increasing difficulty getting around–am I just hanging on to her because I’m afraid of losing one more part of my life?

So my mother is now following me around, worrying that I may be “coming down with something” and wanting to help, which is sweet but also accentuates how our relationship has changed. Tonight she said good-night at least five times, each time telling me that she was going to leave her door open during the night in case I needed her. I feel my eyes well up, just writing that.

I was still very upset today, so I called the local Alzheimer’s Association and talked to the social worker there, who sounds wonderful. I made an appointment to talk with her, which I should have done much sooner than now. I have a med appointment tomorrow with my longterm psychiatrist and I’ll ask him to refer me to a therapist. Can’t do this much longer.

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