Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Caregiver's Dilemma

As I trudge closer to the end of the backlog of errands and untended business that began to pile up when I realized a few weeks ago that it was not appropriate to leave my mother home alone much, I found myself with some time this morning. I asked myself what I needed as I sat in a coffee shop trolling the Internet, reading about caregiving. This got my attention.
  • 40% of caregivers die before the person they’re caring for
I don't know the source of that research, and I suspect it may be skewed by spouses caring for spouses in a slightly older demographic, BUT, I do feel the accumulation of these not yet two years since my mother moved in with me. Adrenaline swims just below the surface constantly--a sort of loch ness monster that shows itself only intermittently, but it's there just the same. Each crisis seems to make the monster bigger.

So I made some new resolutions--a mindfulness meditation class, massage, specific time slots dedicated to writing out of the house. My original plan when things got rough at the end of last year was to send my mom to adult day care so that I could have the house to myself, which seemed like a fine idea (except she wouldn't go.) But really, the damn land line rings almost every day with the pharmacy telling me one of my mother's 16 different prescriptions is ready--or one of her dozen doctor's offices is calling to confirm an appointment, so it's just as well that I'm going out. Especially these mornings out of the house are, at present, my only change of scene.

I had intended to go away for a long weekend today to a t'ai chi chih retreat while friends filled in to care for my mom, but when my mom was beset by another unexplained bout of headache and nausea all last weekend, and our hospital bag sat by the door waiting, I realized I couldn't risk leaving that to a friend if it happened again. Not to mention all of the weird shit I'd have to explain---if she accidentally pushes her button, if she falls asleep while she's eating, if she shouts in the middle of the night, if she moans like this instead of like that, if she growls like a bear. It's not just that my mother is old and frail, it's that she's old and frail and would scare the crap out of someone who's not regularly around her.

When I started this gig, I told myself it wasn't forever. It would not have surprised me if my mother hadn't made it a year--and that was terrifying. Now I find myself terrified  to think she might endure for, let's say, five years more. I ask myself if I can do that. I ask myself how I'll do that. If my caring for my mother will segue into someone caring for me like some fraught drama without an intermission. These are things I think of as I sit on the couch listening to my mother talk in her sleep while the oxygen machine clicks and wheezes.

It''s a good thing the sunset tonight looked like this:


37paddington said...

Can you hire someone to come in and help? Caregiving is an arduous task and I think even more so when it's your mother. So fraught. I am not as patient as i would like to be, I find myself screaming silently in frustration. It's good to take breaks. But daily help would be a relief too. You are a good daughter.

lily cedar said...

It is hard work. Sending hugs.

Ms. Moon said...

Frankly, I do not know how you do it.
Please take as good a care of yourself as you possibly can.

Elizabeth said...

I have nothing to add. You need help.