aging in place, Caring for a parent, Dementia, Health care, Medicare

And the Beat Goes On…and on and on

It’s only 9:00 and already there have been irritation, disappointment, concern, and dismay. A multi-recipient email for work, which had already caused irritation, zooped out into the beyond without benefit of my hitting send. Nothing embarrassing, there were no unfinished sentences or dangling participles. It just wasn’t complete and I had to apologize and resend it. I’m over it. The disappointment will dissipate with yoga, if not before. Watching Mama trying to fix her breakfast concerned me. I was in her way, so I left her to it, hoping it ended well enough. I passed a transport truck on the interstate carrying what looked for all the world like six torpedoes. It dismayed me.

When I turned onto Hwy 101 toward my cafe in Olympia—late after stopping at the garden to unload 50 donated bricks I brought from Seattle last night that I was planning to get out of the car before time to be on the road—I was sorely tempted to just keep going all the way to the ocean.

The concern, though, is lingering in my mind. When I went upstairs Mama had broken two eggs into a shallow dish and one of the yolks had broken, probably why she had a second one. She will be disappointed with the result for sure. But she is always disappointed, that wasn’t what concerned me.

She likes her plate warmed. I usually put it in the oven while I’m cooking dinner. I thought she warmed her breakfast plate in the microwave, if at all. But this morning she had it half sitting on a burner turned on high; I suspect she thought it was on low. She said she knew it was on, but she never admits to forgetting anything—as if I would believe she is entirely in control if she pretends she is. She told me to turn off the burner after I burned my hand on the plate. What goes on when I’m not around?

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We have finished with the visiting nurses and occupational therapist. It has been a trial, if not for Mama at least for me. I had to tell them every week when they called me to schedule, that they had to come on Thursdays when I was there and her caregiver was not. It somehow never got into her record, or more likely they didn’t read it. They would change it in the weekly schedule and someone would call back on Thursday morning, when I would attempt to get them there at a time that didn’t interfere with Mama’s lunch or nap. “Hell no,” I barely refrained from telling the randomly assigned nurse one day. “You cannot call at 3:00 to schedule an appointment today with a 98-year-old!” She has been a trouper, though, with the day-of scheduling and their arrival anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours late.

I’m glad it’s over, but I’m happy to say she seems to be doing better. She got undivided professional attention for 30 minutes or so each time they came. They listened to her menu of complaints: a single nano-second twinge of pain behind her right eye that morning and the infection in her left (that the eye doctor said in her fifth visit to him in five months is no longer an infection); the hematoma on her arm that has been there for many years following a poorly performed blood draw; the bladder and the constipation the doctor has made suggestions for several times and that is, simply, a result of age. And the beat goes on.

The point is they listened to it all without judgement or eye rolling. Rebecca and I seek to reassure her, trying to talk her out of her obsessions by reminding her what the doctor told her about such and such, or telling her we’re sorry, or it will be okay. She—rightly so—hears it as dismissal of her fears. We don’t tell her what she needs to hear. Or maybe it wouldn’t matter what we said. We are just so weary of hearing it day in and day out. The professionals treat her complaints as legitimate and make suggestions that she won’t follow or that we already know won’t make a difference because we have tried it, but it makes her think she’s not crazy.

The nurse last week, who last saw her two months ago, was certain she is less fragile now. The OT is amazed at what she is able to do. He has stopped telling her what she should do to avoid falls. After two months, he has figured out she is going to do what she is going to do—and that does not include using a cane or walker in the house.

She met the doctor’s trumped up goals for the home health referral. Medicare won’t pay simply for emotional reassurance, which is kind of too bad. But it got her through the winter, her most difficult season. I will try—again—to follow a friend’s suggestion to pretend I am not her daughter when I respond to her. This is her version of dementia and her way of expressing the fear she must feel of being old-old. I need to treat it as such.

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Although she hasn’t directly told me, Mama confided to Rebecca last night that she is not happy with her current caregiver. (We are not satisfied, either.) Mama has given it a good try, probably afraid to complain because S is the third one since she, regrettably, let “the good one” (in retrospect) get away. I think we will soon be back on the hunt. It makes me tired.

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I was going to write a positive post today, inspired by blog posts from two sister bloggers and my garden and my dreams. Maybe next week will be a better day. In the meantime, Elliot had his first ice cream cone. And I got to be there.


7 thoughts on “And the Beat Goes On…and on and on”

  1. I like the idea of pretending you are not the daughter, but someone hired to do what you do… in theory, that should give you the emotional distance you need. And if you figure out how to do that, let me know, as I am going to need to pretend like crazy to be the most highly evolved version of myself this weekend when I meet my ex and his lovely wife at our daughter’s graduation.

    Love the photo of Elliot with his ice cream cone!


    1. Oh my goodness. Yikes. I will be sending evolving pleas to the Universe on your behalf. (Perhaps you could try feeling sorry for his wife; or just glad for yourself.) If it didn’t show up on your FB feed, go to my page and watch Elliot demonstrating how to jump. It will lighten you.


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