Friday, December 4, 2009

An Introduction

I have begun this blog because I’ve been thrust into the role of caretaker for my aging mother, a part that I never dreamed I’d have to play. Mom was always so independent; she took care of everyone else -- except herself.

She smoked too much and even tried to hide her addiction when dad had to quit due to his own heart and lung problems. When she finally did quit, it was too late. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) was settling into her body and now has her panting for air when she exerts herself the least bit. She’s on oxygen, with which she maintains a love-hate relationship. A stroke near her brain stem has affected her balance. The doctor says she is fortunate because 30 percent of people die from similar strokes; the remainder are left incapacitated. At least she is still mobile. Another odd disease causes her bone marrow to produce too many red blood cells.

Unrelated to the COPD, her body believes she is not getting enough oxygen, so it creates an excess of red blood cells, leaving her circulation sluggish, which in turn, perpetuates the lack of O2. Compound the issue with the COPD and the problem worsens. In addition, the thickened blood puts her at a higher risk of a different kind of stroke.

This frail, sick woman has just enough spunk remaining, that she has quickly turned into her father – a man she swore not to emulate due to the troubles he caused when under her care. Recalling the incident of my 92-year-old grandfather cutting a tree with a chainsaw makes me thankful that I have my mother’s chainsaw locked away in my storage building. I have no doubt she would try to do the same, given the opportunity.

A few weeks before my father died, my parents moved into an independent living community. They downsized from a four-bedroom, two-story house to the cottage which has one bedroom, a living room, tiny kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom. The move was completed in October 2008, but mom still complains about things she didn’t bring, things that she believes were done without her knowledge, and things that she thinks she should have.

While many of my experiences are common place, I hope this blog will help some people know they are not alone. Perhaps others will find a bit of humor to brighten their day. Along the way, I’ll impart resources and information I gathered as a former senior center director. I planned programs for active senior citizens in a local community and part of my job was to maintain a database and offer programs to help caregivers and those they care about. At that time, I provided mom information to help in dealing with her father, not realizing I would soon be in the exact same position. Rule #1: Never say “never.”

1 comment:

  1. It seems our parents should only be the age we are and we should only be the age of our grown children. Where do the years go and most importantly, where does our energy and health go? I remember watching my grandmother take care of my grandfather, who suffered from multiple myeloma (bone cancer). I in turn took care of my grandmother as she suffered from advanced brain cancer. Several months ago I considered moving back to be near my parents as I worried about their deteriorating health. Thank goodness they continue to be in fairly good health to be in their late 70's and remain active.
    However, being a caregiver for your spouse can be very exhausting in so many ways. This is not someone you usually think you will have to care for while you both are still fairly young and active. When your spouse becomes unable to work and behaves like a two year old at times or maybe a five year old it can be quite complicated. This involves a wide range of emotions topped with frustration. It's difficult to know who to talk with about this. You certainly can't talk to your they are the source of the frustration and irritation. You can't go to your own children who you normally talk to about everything, as it may cause hard feelings toward the disabled parent. Most of your friends won't understand as they aren't in this space in their life and may never be there. The only other person to talk with is someone who has their life full taking care of someone else.
    Having worked in a nursing home I know that the caregivers often wear themselves out and end up needing care. I now can see how that can happen, without the person even being aware. But where do we turn to rejuvenate?


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