Saturday, October 04, 2003

My mother's keeper

I haven't blogged all week because my mother has been in the hospital. Getting her there was not an easy task. My mother is stubborn and didn't want medical attention. I had to offer her the option of calling paramedics into her house to check her (and she hates people coming into her house), OR going to the emergency department. She chose the latter.

She was in bad shape. She's had heart-related problems for about 10 years that have helped accelerate her into what is now undeniable mental confusion and senility. She had not been taking her medication properly (the main thing necessitating the hospital stay), and she has not been taking proper care of herself. She's been painfully thin; now she's getting that skeletal, emaciated look. She won't bother to eat much, even prepared foods--she says she just has no appetite.

I've tried unsuccessfully this year to get her to look at assisted-living facilities, but she's refused to have any serious discussion about it. She only wants to stay right there, in her own house.

So, every day the past four days, I've been making the 20- or so-mile trek back and forth to the hospital and her house, to check on her and her pets and home, while trying to work as many hours as possible and track down her doctors for a discussion. A friend called me "a good daughter." I don't feel like one.

My mother has always been stubborn. She was the product of a broken home back in the days when divorce was not the norm. She grew up in a financially needy household, never sure about keeping a home. She has always been determined to keep control over her circumstances. She has not wanted to live with any of us children, and I frankly think we would have a great deal of difficulty living with her in the house. She wants to be in control of her own turf.

I've worried and watched her go downhill. The saddest part about it is that she has been aware of her own deterioration, which has made her panicky at times. She was an intelligent woman who read voraciously and educated herself. She used to be sharper than me. Now, very noticeably since this last episode, she can't figure out even the simplest things, like how to use the hospital-room phone, though I've shown her several times each day. She can't remember what her house, the one she's lived in for the past 20 years, looks like, or whether it has a garage or not. She's not sure where I live.

I tried to talk to her doctor about her confusion and forgetfulness months ago, after her last hospital stay. He brushed me off then. This time, he didn't, thank God. My mother can't keep up the pretense of doing all right any more. The doctor is assigning a caseworker to her, to see about transfer from the hospital into an ALF. As angry as she will be, she just can't stay in that house alone.

I'm starting to feel a large weight lift off my shoulders. At the same time, I know I didn't get over to her house to check on her as often as I could have. And I could have done more to help her with household chores, if I'd been willing to sacrifice more time and energy. Should I have pushed harder to get her out of that house? (forced a competency hearing?)

What ifs and maybes. They're the things that drive us crazy. The tools of the devil to work us over, I've heard.

I don't feel like the good daughter.

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