Not quite the plan

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


Our organized living room.

Our living room apparently is a prime spot in Mom’s need for organization. Mom always was a highly organized person and now feels an ongoing need to engage in organizing type activities.

So, when Mom gets her hands in it, mail is organized into boxes to be taped shut. Worn clothes are organized back into the drawers. Clean clothes are organized out of drawers and into neat piles on Mom’s bed.

The one that most fascinates me is the living room. It is the place that Mom most focuses her organizing energy. So many things are organized onto our coffee table: a childhood toy of mine, items from my toolbox, photos, jewelry. The living room seems to exert a strange magnetic pull over items from around the house. Sometimes bags of clean clothes drift down there out of the upstairs closets.

From my perspective, our living room feels like a place of chaos. And yet, it’s a strange ordered chaos in which items are grouped or lined up neatly. Pillows are straightened on couches. Mom seems to be able to achieve some level of micro order while the macro eludes her. I cannot help but wonder at what particular brain circuitry brings us this kind of organized chaos.



And another one bites the dust.

When I began hiring paid caregivers for Mom, I had no idea what a challenge it would be.  The first person we worked with, I was not pleased by but I was hesitant to get rid of her.  When Mom started telling me that the caregiver was stealing from me, I decided that she simply had to go.

This was not because I believed that the caregiver was stealing, but my take was that the relationship between Mom and the caregiver was completely broken down in a way that was not helpful to anyone.  So we moved on to number two.  In the meantime, I had been asking for help with laundry and arguing about whose laundry the caregiver would do.  Apparently perfect segregation of laundry was required which I explained to them with a woman with her state of dementia, meant no laundry at all.  Trying to fight the battle to separate her laundry from the rest of the household was a no go for me and Mom.

I switched caregiving services with the agreement from the new place that household laundry was fine.

And then we starting going through caregivers.  What I find fascinating is that I have to assume that Mom is relatively easy as folks come.  We have no issues with incontinence or negative type behaviors.  Mom is polite to a fault, even now.  All her critiques are made in whispers to me in the other room while she puts on a smiling face.  (It has taught me something  about the other side of what I experienced in her parenting.)

And yet, easy as she is, some of them don’t make an effort to connect to her.  Some don’t seem to like to help around the house and prefer to watch television.  Many of them seem comfortable leaving her alone for hours on end.  Some just are not a good personality fit which is fair enough.  And so they go, one after the next.  And then we come to today, when I discovered that the caregiver had not bothered to check that the shower was turned off after Mom’s shower.  Seriously?!  I suppose I should be glad that I never came home to a burner left on all day…

A colleague who has been on the caregiving treadmill for a while told me that in her experience it takes perhaps three tries to find the right fit.  We are long beyond that now!  It’s been a strange adjustment to all this hiring and firing.  But I have become more confident that Mom deserves a reasonable level of treatment  for the money and that I am not willing to accept less than that.

Anyone out there have a tough time finding a good caregiver?  Tips welcome!



Table settings.

Mom was always proper.  I was trained from a young age to have full table manners.  Any elbow on the table was commented upon.  Napkins were placed on laps.   And table settings were perfect; the knife, fork, and spoon were correctly placed in our house for every meal.  At one point in high school, a friend of mine was over eating with us and she was delighted to learn how to set the table correctly.  My mother taught her.  My response to that was vague amazement that my friend had lived to 17 years old without having that skill down.  I am pretty sure that I learned about 10 years earlier.  Mom’s training ensured that I never had to wonder which fork to use in a restaurant.

Tonight, I had a friend over for dinner, a friend that Mom gets on well with so we were all going to eat together.  I asked Mom to set the table, a task that just a few months ago would have been well within her functioning range.  I walked over after she had been working at it for a while to make sure that we were all set.

What I found was a table covered with a jumble of silverware — many more pieces than were needed.  It was all in a pile in the middle of the table.  I straightened it out into the settings for each person and returned about eight spoons to the drawer.  It was such a visual of just how chaotic Mom’s inner world must be.  At this point, to simply count the correct four spoons for dinner is too confusing of a task.

Happily though, in spite of the table setting challenges, she can still feel the happiness of good company and humor.  And since I don’t feel terribly strongly about table setting perfection, it was a lovely dinner.