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Is Crazy Contagious?

I thought my days would get easier when spring arrived. The weather improved but I managed to get another vicious cold. I passed that cold along to my mom who has been having some wild visions. Lately she’s been calling out my dad’s name. He’s been dead for 21 years and they didn’t get along. Hearing her repeat his name made me feel so weird. I started to wonder: Is crazy contagious?

Is Crazy Contagious?

I am sick for the fifth time since last Thanksgiving. Stress has had a bad effect on my immune system. I just can’t fight off germs the way I once did. Last week I had a hacking cough; now my mom has it too. At least I can cough deliberately to try to get rid of the congestion. Then last week I tried to teach my mom how to do that, too. I urged her to cough hard into a tissue. She just looked at me like I was a fool. Still I kept coaching, “Come on, you can cough I just heard you. Try…..” I held the tissue up and showed her. But all she did was laugh. It was like trying to get a dog to jump rope.

Then I showed her how to blow her nose and it was just as difficult. Mom looked at me with the big eyes of a puzzled child. Finally I just gave up. She can’t master the mechanics of coughing or nose blowing so she’ll just have to deal with her own congestion. Attempts to change her behavior are crazy.

changing roles and changing reality

Aside from the physical aspects of illness, stress is pushing us in odd directions. My mother had a very difficult relationship with my father and they did not part on good terms. Even though she can barely speak at all, this week she pronounced his name clearly over and over. It seemed like she really missed him, which is an unusual turn of events.

Then today, when I thought things were getting more normal, she turned to someone she barely knows and said, “Who is that lady?” Of course she meant me, the person who has been her #caregiver for so long. I never take these remarks personally, but it does add to the weird atmosphere here. At times I look at the sleep deprived person staring back at me from the mirror and wonder just like Mom does, “Who is that lady?” Maybe it’s not such a crazy question. On some days, it makes perfect sense.

Hospice Can Help Caregivers

Hospice can help caregivers well before our loved ones reach the end. In many cases hospice organizations can provide supplies and in-home aid that we struggle to obtain on our own. Despite the value of this support there is some stigma around the term hospice. Many #caregivers hesitate to say the word.

Hospice can help caregivers

The past few months have been so difficult at our house. We suffered through the winter snow and ice storms. A member of my weekly support team injured her wrist and couldn’t help us. Another person couldn’t get here because of serious car problems. At the same time, I was struggling to get mom’s tax records together, do my own taxes, and finish the renovation of her old home. All these issues swirled together to create a funnel of chaos in my life. My work suffered. Some times I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was collapsing into a swamp of pain each night. Sore back, aching shoulders, worried mind.

Somewhere in the midst of this tempest, one of our helpers told me about a hospice group that helped her grandmother. She raised the subject gently and with tact. She said, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I just think they might be able to help. They supported my grandma for nearly two years before she passed.”

As she explained it, the word hospice sounded less like a betrayal. I’ve always felt that I should keep my thoughts about Mom’s mortality to myself. My mother can’t speak. Maybe she does think about death, but I feel it’s unfair for me to share my fears when she can’t voice hers. This might be completely misguided thinking. I just haven’t been sure how to broach the topic in her presence.

Some Benefits of Hospice Care

The hospice group — which is named Compassionate Care — came to our house within hours of my first phone call. They sent a nurse to assess Mom’s health that night. The nurse approved services right away. Within 48 hours, I heard from another nurse, two chaplains, and a social worker. My work schedule was very busy so I felt a bit overwhelmed by the sudden flood of attention. But since they started working with our family, the hospice team has provided tremendous help.

Now UPS delivers basic supplies like chucks, gloves, and wipes to our door. That means I don’t have to drive to CVS or Rite Aid every few days. They’ve assigned an aide to help out at our house four days a week. I also learned that they arrange #respite care for family #caregivers. I never really wanted to discuss my fears about mom’s decline, especially not with strangers. Yet I’ve already engaged in several two-hour conversations that involved a lot of soggy tissues. Seems like there may be more of these talks in my future.

I’m not saying hospice is the right choice for everyone. But I’m sure I would have put this off longer if someone hadn’t suggested it to me. By waiting, I’d still be missing out on valuable help. We had my mom evaluated for hospice once before. At that time, they said she was a borderline case. This time the nurses had no doubts. The only one with doubts was yours truly. By erasing these doubts, I realize that seeing things more clearly is a great blessing.