Tag Archives: dementia and holidays

Christmas for Caregivers

Christmas for Caregivers

It was mid-November, a time of year I usually love. The Thanksgiving holiday, which falls just before my birthday, always brings me a sense of contentment. My sister comes to visit and my Mom (who can barely speak) is overjoyed when she’s got both daughters within arm’s reach. She smiles when we’re all together and always finds the strength to say, “The two! The two!’

Christmas for Caregivers
But even the thought of autumn togetherness could not lift my mood. I felt worn and ancient. On a physical level, my body seemed beyond repair. After two years of lifting my mother five times a day, my spine was angry and resentful. Five times may not sound like much, especially since she’s only 92 pounds. But without time to restore myself, each lift was like hauling bricks. In two years, my only real vacation had been a three day summer break.

My back was aching more than usual because I had been working on a series of writing assignments that were all due the same day. My bosses needed me to produce three 70-page beauties for a deadline after Thanksgiving — on my birthday! Writing at my computer for hours on end left me stiff as a rusty gate. When I stood up to take a  break, I walked like a tired granny.

The Search for Respite

Most #caregivers know about this kind of pain. It comes from being on call physically and emotionally 24 hours a day. We seldom get the deep rest needed to heal. But I had reached the point where I was determined to get that rest. I knew if I didn’t get some kind of caregiver respite  I would injure something besides my sense of humor — which already felt badly sprained.

My search for help led first to a cozy personal care home that rejected my mother  because she was too frail. A second facility made the same decision. Mom’s condition was too fragile and no one wanted the liability of caring for her. Tears rolled down my face as I thought about her weakness and my own. The steering wheel was wet and I couldn’t find a tissue anywhere. I felt awful but I knew we had made it through painful trials in the past, so I tried to remember how we survived before. Some of those memories gave me some strength.

[Part I of IV]

For Caregivers on Mother’s Day

For caregivers on Mother’s Day: Is role reversal is part of your life? My relationship with my mom has flipped around many times. Last year on Mother’s Day, I felt like we were on the Titanic ready to capsize. Mom was weak, then strong, then frail again. But she’s lived to see another Mother’s Day. Wow!

For caregivers on Mother's Day

The two of us have taken a beating as her dementia has progressed. If I didn’t remind Mom about her daughters, she might not know that she had any. One of my shoulders has been dislocated several times and my back feels like it belongs to an old lady. (Maybe I’ve become one!) Mom can’t talk or walk and she can barely stand up even with two people supporting her. But she ate the Mother’s Day brunch I cooked for her and still savored the taste of her favorite foods. Despite her lack of language she managed to express her pleasure through laughter and the smile that never quits.

I’m so happy that we had the chance to do this again. Some days are so hard for her. She gets weird electric shocks that frighten her and scare me, too. When it’s rainy, she seems to sleep through everything but meal time. On many occasions, I could have sworn that we were sharing our last dinner together. Then she somehow finds the strength to revive and I think, “All right, the seas are calm. This voyage will continue.”

It is probably easier to pick a Kentucky Derby winner than it is to predict the course of dementia. We’ve been given time estimates, symptom warnings and lots of family education to help us get through this long process. The only thing that really stays consistent is the deep love we feel for my mom. I used to think that love was mysterious and fragile. But as we celebrate one more miraculous Mother’s Day, I see that love is tough and durable. It is more reliable than a diagnosis and more potent than medicine. It’s a bewildering experience to serve as the caregiver for a parent. When it feels too confusing, love is the only true compass.