In yesterday’s post I talked about my mother’s aneurysm rupture and eventual placement in a skilled nursing facility. Before I delve into today’s topic I want to mention that my mother has progressed so well during her time at the skilled nursing facility that she is one of the highest functioning residents there. At this point in time she would be more well suited for an assisted living environment which would encourage her to develop some level of independence. We are currently in the process of applying for placement in assisted living and hope that she qualifies very soon.
It has been exceedingly difficult being the only child to an elderly parent who is unable to care for herself. Granted, my mother is in a facility which provides 24-hour care. However, before she was placed in skilled nursing, I took on the role of caregiver and did my best to help her hold onto the independent lifestyle to which she had become so accustomed. I purchased her groceries, cleaned her apartment, did her laundry, cleaned out the cat box, set her hair and nail appointments, and spoke with her employer when her behavior became erratic.
One day, several months before her fall, she got into a car accident and totaled her car. Her report was that she hit a car, but I discovered that she had hit FOUR cars. Despite my queries, my mother insisted that she had only hit one car. She was taken by police escort home and neglected to call her employer, so I had to deal with her boss when she called asking where the hell my mom was. My mom also stated that she did not know where the car was, so I had to track it down, pay the impound fees, contact the insurance company and file a report. I also had to tell her employer that I saw no way that my mother could continue to work.
My mother fell into such a depression that when her friends would call her to ask how she was doing, she would ask them to bring her a gun so she could kill herself. Naturally this prompted a call from Adult Protective Services which I had to deal with as well. In some sense my mother’s eventual fall was a blessing because it prompted her placement into an environment which would be able to assist her with everything from meals to bathing, dressing, toileting, medication management and physical therapy. With this placement, however, came the responsibility of taking over her financial affairs, closing accounts, making pre-need burial arrangements, applying for Medicaid assistance, and coordinating her care with the physician on staff at the skilled nursing facility.
The task of emptying out my mother’s apartment also fell upon me. I cannot tell you how wracked with guilt I was while going through all of my mother’s belongings and determining what could be kept, as I knew full well that whatever was kept would be stored at my place. It was such an overwhelming task that if I did not have my dear friend Dana and a professional estate liquidating team assisting me, I would have lost my mind during the process. It was also an extremely emotional experience sorting through items that chronicled my mother’s entire existence and one which I would never want to repeat.
For the past six years my mother has been very stable and I am very thankful for this. However, I write the checks for all the bills she receives, and I submit all applications on her behalf for aid. I visit her weekly, bringing prunes for her constipation, fresh fruit if I get a chance to pick some up, snacks and treats, magazines, and our trusty chinese checkers set which we use every week. Lest you think I beat her at chinese checkers, she actually beats me more than half the time, which is something I find amusing and encouraging. I listen to my mother’s complaints about the other residents and the staff, and do my best to keep her updated on my life with pictures and stories. Honestly, though, I never feel like I do enough, and I think this has everything to do with my desire to always be a good daughter in my mother’s eyes. I can never be entirely sure.
There are moments when I look into my mom’s eyes and can detect the feisty spirit that she used to exude on a consistent and daily basis. For a moment I forget that my now eighty-year old mom spends most of her days in a wheelchair, her body run down by arthritis and failing eyesight, a mere shadow of the beautiful, willful, strong woman who raised me. And in that moment I am truly happy.