Tag Archives: dementia and holidays

Christmas for Caregivers Part II

Christmas for Caregivers Part II  

As a #caregiver for someone with dementia you face strange challenges all the time. So when our failure to obtain respite care brought me to tears, I tried to remember “impossible” problems we managed to solve in the past. Just two years ago, I was also weeping at Christmas while trying to get Mom home for the holidays.

Christmas for Caregivers Part II

Although my mother lived with me when she was first diagnosed with dementia, I moved her to residential care when she began “wandering“. The first time she left the house, I was blindsided. Mom hated being near water. She had a fear of puddles and storms and was terrified by our leaky kitchen faucet. Yet one Saturday morning I returned from the post office to find her stumbling along the bank of a stream in her nightgown. She was wearing her sneakers on the wrong feet. We were both shocked to run into each other by the creek. I gently asked her to return to the house and she agreed.

I hoped that it was an isolated incident, but a second wandering episode made me panic. My tiny mother ran out of the house one rainy morning while I was upstairs in bed. She charged outside into the muddy driveway wearing little pink bedroom slippers. When I heard the front door slam, I raced down to get her. This time she ran away from me and lost a slipper in the chase. That’s when I decided to move her. It was too dangerous for her to live in a house surrounded by woods and water.

Our Residential Care Experiment

Mom spent a few happy years living in structured settings before her condition began to decline. She developed a wound on her foot and stopped walking. Then she didn’t want to participate in activities. Life no longer appealed to her and Mom’s health drifted downhill. My mother’s doctor told me she was on the borderline for hospice services. I could not bear the idea of my mother passing away far from her family. So I decided to bring her home again. I never dreamed that I’d be challenged on my choice, since I’m her Power of Attorney and have been responsible for her care for many years. But I was wrong.

The nursing administrator at her residence would not allow us to move Mom without a medically approved care plan. (The same administrator also refused to sanction an employee who routinely neglected my mother.) My plan was to bring Mom to our house and hire home health aides to help care for her. But the administrator insisted that the home health company send someone to examine Mom in their facility (four counties away) to ensure they could provide required services. It took weeks to coordinate all the assessments during the busiest time of year. I cried every night thinking I’d never get her home in time for Christmas. On December 22nd, my sister, her friend, my boyfriend, and I moved Mom out of her residential unit. We drove her back to the mountains on a cold windy night to celebrate the holidays at home.

That adventure took place two years ago. Once my mother came home, her will to live returned! And that’s how we arrive at Part III…..

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]