Not quite the plan

on finding my groove as a 30 something single girl and caregiver for mom with dementia


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Love on a ticking clock.

For me, caregiving is about love really.  The word does not appear much in the blogs and advice article I scour late at night.  But like many others, I caregive because I love.

Over the past year, my various gripes and grudges from the past decades of imperfect parenting have fallen away.  I would not have predicted this.  Mom and I had a rocky relationship for years.  We see the world differently and have a set of wildly different values and have made some very different life choices though mine I am sure will continue to evolve. 

Some months ago, over a shared pizza dinner, I found myself looking at Mom and being surprised by how strong and simple my love for her had become.  And yet this clarity comes when the clock is moving quickly toward the complete loss of her personality.  I feel such a desire to stop time and bottle up this time with her.  Instead, in my moments of high energy I think of how to fit in one more shared cool experience or create another special moment for her.  Tonight I finished a plan for a weekend trip to the ocean, per her request for her upcoming birthday. 

Creating these moments of shared connection and joy feel so important to me.  I don’t have as much space for this part of interacting with her.  Picking up meds, getting her dinner, sorting the mail often have to trump what feels most important.

But finding the time and space to make sure that she feels loved is probably the best part of what I can do for her, and for myself, before our time together ends.


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Boxes of photographs.

I had to clean out my parents house rather quickly after my father’s death to move Mom cross country to live with me.  It was not a pretty pack job in the few days I could manage off work.  In the midst of everything, I quickly threw every family photograph I could get my hands on into five medium sized moving boxes.  They have been sitting in the corner of Mom’s room every since.

Following my hospital scare last week, I have been feeling a lot of nostalgia.  In less than two years, my father died, my only sister’s health has been rocky and Mom was diagnosed with dementia and then scared me with a trip to the ER last week.  It’s been a tough couple of years and I am all too aware that the road ahead only gets harder.

So in thinking of all of this, it felt like the perfect time to bust out those boxes of photos from happier times.  Mom and I sat in her room for a couple of hours this evening passing cute pictures back and forth.  Sometimes she connected the cute baby or little girl with me and sometimes not.  A couple of times she asked if I had met various family members that I have known all my life.  But mostly it was lovely.  I pulled out Mom’s high school photo that I had never seen before– it was actually stunning.  There were a couple of photos from my parents’ early marriage in full 70s style.  And there were various cute ones of my father holding me as a baby or young kid that I particularly cherish now.

Just the other weekend I spent some time with a good friend who has a 6 month old baby.  I took a ton of photos of mom and baby to make sure to have some great ones for her.  And for her baby boy for when he grows up and one day finds himself looking through old photos for signs of joy and laughter.  It means the world to me now that there is so much of both to be found in these boxes!

 


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Getting help.

Some time ago, I called a friend in the midst of a crying mini nervous breakdown about how I could not handle my life.  Her immediate response was, hire help.

As a serious do it yourselfer, I could see the wisdom of her suggestion but it seemed expensive and just not quite natural.  Well, six months or so later, and after a few different kinds of scares, I am finally taking her advice.  We just met with a home caregiver service who will be sending someone later this week.

It will be an adjustment for me but adjusting to things that do not feel normal are what this seems to be all about. And the relief of both knowing that Mom will have consistent support and me getting some help with the never-ending laundry pile is sounding more and more awesome.


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A little hospital fun.

We are in the hospital. Scary and probably just the first of many trips with her to come.

What is interesting is that as of tonight, Mom is having a great time! She had to go down for an mri tonight which obviously called for ice cream bribery. Hey, it works.

Then, Mom managed to make friends with the woman who rolled her down for the test who apparently caregives for her mom with dementia. (We are like a club!) We were cracking jokes that didn’t make sense all through the hopsital. Mom so enjoyed laughing together that she declared at the end of the mri outing that she was having a lot of fun.

I was amused when she then told the mri operator that I am a very positive person. Mom was the one cracking jokes and telling me she was having fun just one day into a stressful hospital experience. I am deeply grateful for her ability to stay upbeat, even if it’s partly a result of ice cream.

Let’s give positivity points where they are due!