In September of 2013 my husband and I decided to move my mother who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's in with us. We put her stuff into storage, gave her our small spare bedroom and watched her plummet drastically. It was devastating. After three weeks, we decided it was not going to end well. We didn't want to just take care of her, we wanted her to thrive. So we immediately began looking for a bigger house to rent where she could have all of her familiar things around her but where we could also make a home together.
We found the perfect place and moved immediately. While it had to happen this way we ultimately found out this was not all good for her. You see we had recently all moved 400 miles away from the only home we had ever known. To a 77-year-old, with dementia, can you imagine the horror. Then, after settling into your own apartment you are thrust into living with a daughter you hadn't lived with for 29 years and her husband especially when you had been on your own since your husband died in 1985. Then after three weeks guess what, let's move once more.
When you are thrust into the job of caregiver without any warning or supervision you make mistakes...BIG ONES. Every day my mom would look at me and say, "I want to go home." Every day I would walk into my room and cry. Here I was taking on this job and wanting so bad to be great at it and seemed to be making everything so much worse. My heart was breaking. These first three months I spent my time saying "No mom you can't do that, mom you just said that and mom you forgot again." We were all miserable.
After the cumulation of a terrible week with me in the hospital, trying to take care of her, frozen water pipes what else could go wrong? She hid the keys to our house and we spent three hours locked out of our home in the freezing cold. We fixed all this, went to the grocery store for the end of the worst three months I had ever spent. She got angry in the grocery, which I now know was just bad timing, frustration, confusion and well just being very scared on her part. We came home and my mother looked at me and screamed at me for the first time in my 44 years! Oh, did I mention this was my birthday?
She looked me in the eye and said "I hate your house and damn it I'm going home!" Well, I lost it, I'll admit it. That's the point of this. We will ALL make mistakes. I said, "You cannot go home, you can't even take care of yourself"! She ran to her room crying, I'm at the kitchen table crying and my husband who has silently watched this outburst slips outside with tears in his eyes. We were all miserable and going crazy.
Well, about fifteen minutes later, she comes back and says in such a small voice "I'm so scared" with her tear stained face. I looked at her and said "Momma I'm scared too, but the only way to get through this is together". After that, we settled down and had a nice evening.
I went into my room with a heavy heart, my tablet, and sheer determination to find some answers. I found the Alzheimer's Reading Room. I read an article about communication and the light switch went off for me. I realized I knew absolutely NOTHING about what I was doing and the big one I WAS NOT ALL ALONE as I had thought. I read for hours. I decided that when I woke up things were going to change. First, I realized that I had been grieving so hard for all that she and I had been losing, that I had forgotten all the wonderful things she could still do.
My mom, she's awesome. She has this remarkable sense of humor that amazes people. She's kind and compassionate and she has always been there whenever I needed her to be. So I woke up and said "Let's go for a walk". We walked and talked and ended walking for a mile. We both felt energized, I was so happy it was absurd! The day passed without a single correction out of my mouth. I took the advice that I had gotten to the heart. The fewer words I used the better, touch her often, tell her I love her. That was four days ago.
We have had four days of laughter and smiles. We go on two walks a day a mile each. I feel more confident and happy. Talk about changes! I decided I would track our progress share the laughter and the tears and maybe just pay it forward and help someone else stuck in the dark. I know every day will not be easy ones but if I can learn to appreciate the good days, laugh at the crazy ones and well just deal with the rest, maybe we'll be okay. So out of the darkness into the light. I love you momma.