Where Do We Go From Here?
I am caring for my 83-year-old mother in our home. I feel funny saying it that way. She, my husband, and I just bought a house together.
She is my mom. I'm supposed to look up to her. Now, she looks up to me. She still does a lot for herself, but that list is getting shorter. Every day there is new... Backsliding? Ground lost. I wonder, "Is this it? Is this the corner that, once turned, will change life forever?" Tightness clenches my chest.
Playful mealtime confusions
Tonight my mom forgot how to eat a meal that she used to make when I was growing up. Cream beef on toast.
My husband plopped the meat on top of her toast and said something about a sandwich, which it is not. I think that messed her up. I had a box of Spring Mix as a side salad. She didn't know what that was or what to do with the ranch dressing. She thought it all went on her "sandwich."
You either tear up the toast with your fingers or cut it all up with a knife and fork. That was a fond memory of my childhood when dinner became finger food.
We were finished eating, and she was still trying to figure out what went where. "Where does this [blackberry] go?" In your mouth. It's fruit salad. She gave us a playful glare.
Mom, that is a side salad. And that is a fruit salad. Use your knife to cut up the toast with the cream beef (turkey, actually). She finally said with a little smugness, "I might not eat this the way you want, but I'm eatin' it." She liked it, she said. We laughed.
Let my anxiety level simmer down and land my "parenting" helicopter.
This not that
When my kids were little, my brother used to laugh at the conversations I would have with them. "Don't hit your sister with your blue truck!" Like the red truck would be ok?
Why do we have to explain things like, "Don't put that in your mouth! Only food!" It's like we are dealing with Martians that only look like people.
My dad tried to eat Christmas ornaments. Only food, dad! Only eat food. Don't put your hearing aid in the trash can. Let's not pee in the trash can, either — only trash. I went to college. What are these conversations I'm having?!
Grateful for today
I know the future isn't bright. I know this disease is fatal. Life is fatal if I really want to be a Debbie Downer. It fills me with dread, so I try not to think about it, but when mom can't figure out the steps to check her blood sugar, which she has done for decades, and can't remember how to write a 3 when she used to do the family income tax, that dread threatens to erupt from my chest like a sci-fi space monster.
I choke it down and patiently answer mom's questions. I show her what to do and reassure her that she's doing it right. She took a shower by herself today. How long will that be the case?
She can dress herself. Feed herself. She hasn't put a spoon in the microwave yet. Or fallen. She can still wipe her butt and blow her nose. I dread the day when she can't.
Sleep, for now, monster. Let me be grateful for today. I don't know where to go from here except forward.
Are you a male caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease?