An overseas reader, 'Lickety Glitz', discusses her decision about transitioning from a full-time care giver for her mother with dementia, to part-time.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I cried myself to sleep. I cried because Mom's increased progression has coincided with my decline of care giving prowess. In the last few weeks I have snapped, I have mocked, I have YELLED - at HER - my lovely, ornery, crazy-pants mother.
My patience has not just waned, it is depleted. My frustration is not of the moment anymore, it is an all-day thermal nuclear rocket, barely doused into submission.
In the last month (more times than I care to admit) I've gone to bed hating myself, knowing a stranger would have had more compassion and understanding for Mom that day than I was able to muster.
The straw that broke this camel’s back
What preceded Saturday night's crying jag was a day where I derided her for not taking a walk on the beach with me. In a throwback to my teenage self, I sneered at her. 'Oh, you don't want to walk on the beach? Of course you don't.
Well, by all means let's go do something else you don't want to do!' Later, I stormed out of a museum when Mom suddenly became dementia-fearful, leaving her confused and lost.
And finally, I hollered at her for being on top of me all day. 'All I want is five minutes to myself! Is that too much to ask?' (To which my own brain immediately screamed back, crashing around in my skull, 'Yeah, it is to your dementia mother, you jerk!') So, I cried. And I cried. And I cried some more. Until I slept.
The next thing I knew, my sister - who shares care giving responsibilities with me – woke me up. I immediately began blubbering again.
And then I said it:
'I can't do this anymore.'
Inconceivable. But there it is. The words were out. The feeling that had been roiling around in my gut, flaming up at the worst possible times, subsiding only to continue its noxious fester, was said out loud and acknowledged. My sister comforted me, said that she too felt it was time to change the situation, but if I wasn’t yet ready, she would continue to be my full-time care giving cohort until I was prepared to revise our care partner roles in Mom's life.
My sister and I have never been foolish enough to promise each other that Mom would be at home until the end of her life. Such a vow adds pressure to an already stress-heightened situation. It stifles honest communication about where we're at and how we're doing. However, it has always been our deeply desired goal. I so wanted to continue giving her a sliver of peace in this anxiety-riddled waltz to the end of the ball, but that night I realized I can not.
Changing of the guard
My sister and I are both exhausted, stressed, financially flailing. These are all things we've worked through before, but with my growing level of disrespectful care I have to stop before I hate myself forever for wounding an already dementia-embattled Mom.
I'm ready. It's time to move from 24/7 care givers to part-time. It's time to begin investigating and vetting memory care facilities, of which we have excellent options in our area. It's time to start making all new mistakes and having all new successes as we move forward in the best way possible for the three of us.
It's time to support our princess in a new environment, make quick work of new villains ('Are you serving my mother peas? From a can? Not on my watch, you fiends!'), pester and harangue the crap out of memory care professionals whenever we see fit. It's time to learn how to engage Mom in her new surroundings while retaining her involvement in her already established kingdom. It's time to storm new castles.