We all have feelings, but when dealing with elderly, dying parents, your feelings/emotions are going to run the gamut – sometimes from one minute or even one second to the next – and it can take a toll.
There’s anger. Sadness. Guilt. Joy. Love. Helplessness. Fear. Relief. Bitterness. Exhaustion. You can feel resentful. Happy. Overwhelmed. Worried. Thankful. Appreciative. Neglectful. Controlling. Numb.
I know there are so many more.
The past 11 days have been some of the hardest throughout the journey of caring for my parents – mom with her dementia, dad with his Alzheimer’s.
On February 27, mom was admitted to the hospital – for a plethora of reasons. She was there from that Monday until Friday, March 3, when the decision was made to send her home, back to Salmons Place, the adult foster care home she lives in. She was not in good shape. Her discharge diagnosis indicated 14 different health-related complications, including acute diastolic heart failure, acute sigmoid diverticulitis with possible localized abscess, chronic atrial fibrillation and of course, coming in at good ol’ lucky number 13, dementia.
The dementia, however, is not what is going to take her from us. The infection in her colon will take her. She will die from this. According to her doctor’s notes when we left the hospital, my mom was definitely not in the best shape.
At first, honestly, when reading that, there was a chuckle. I had to laugh. As awful as that may sound, it made me laugh. I am sorry for that. But it did because I knew what her condition was. But reading it just made it more real, which in turn made me laugh. Then it made me sad and then…….
Yep, the anger set in. I was pissed off because there is nothing I can do. I can’t help her. I can’t heal her. I can’t make her better. Because of her condition, the dementia and age and everything else, surgery, which is what most “normal” people would have, isn’t an option because it would kill her. So instead, I get to watch her slowly die as the infection takes over. Morphine is now her savior. Hospice, along with her amazingly awesome caretakers at Salmons Place, will keep her comfortable and free from pain. They will be her saviors.
I can’t do a thing for her anymore.
Or can I?
Enter moments of happiness.
I am fortunate enough – for the most part – that I have a flexible schedule. Most often, I can sneak away from work to spend time with mom. However, lunch may happen at 3 p.m. instead of the usual noon. But that is okay. I treasure these moments. She appreciates these moments. I know she does. I feel it. And I need these moments. They make me happy and sad all at the same time.
Reading to her, even though I know she is sound asleep, brings so much joy to my heart. It makes me so happy. Even though she may not show that she knows that I am there, I know deep in my heart she does. She may be sleeping hard enough to let out a snort or two from snoring, but I know she knows I am there. It melts my heart. I am reading one of her favorite books from her childhood, “Heidi.”
Yes, there are times I feel broken. My heart literally feels like it is being torn in two. My chest physically hurts. There is always a lump in my throat. When I say the emotions can run the gamut, I truly mean that. In a time span of about an hour visiting my dad with my son recently, I felt sad, angry, happy, joyful, helpless, thankful and sad again. Why? I’ll let the pictures tell the story:
When visiting my parents, I have no idea what they are going to be like – awake, with it and talkative or sleepy, not all there and won’t wake up for nothing.
It is hard. It hurts.
The other day when my son was visiting his grandma, he had a great visit. That made me happy. I visited the same day and couldn’t wake her up for nothing. That made me sad.
There are days I am so angry. Angry because this is happening to them. Angry that they can’t be together and live a normal, happy life. Angry because they are suffering. Angry because I have to try and split my time between the two of them. Angry that I can’t spend all my time with both of them. Angry that I can’t have a normal life. Angry that I can’t spend the time I used to with my husband. And this is probably going to cause some hurt feelings, but I can’t help how I feel. I try to understand, I really do. But sometimes, I get angry because my siblings don’t visit them as often. I do understand that they have busy lives and stuff going on. I understand that they live hours away and in some cases, states away. I understand that it is not easy for them. It is easy for me. My parents live here. And I understand that they probably get angry, too. But sometimes, I am so angry with them. I feel bitter, resentful and then guilty. I love my siblings with all my heart and soul and I hope they never feel the anger I have for them sometimes because it goes away and then I just go back to feeling nothing but love for them. They do their best and I know that.
I also know that because I am the one taking care of my parents that when my siblings try to help, I get defensive. I am controlling. I know that. And then the guilt sets in. Seriously, there are so many damn emotions with this journey. I get angry when people, who are truly just trying to help, tell me what I should be doing with my parents or that they feel something is wrong. I get angry because I feel like they don’t know anything because they haven’t been here. They don’t know what or how my mom and dad are really doing. They don’t see them every day. They don’t know their likes and dislikes. They don’t know them at all. I get so angry and then, I get sad because of how I am feeling toward them. I do know they are trying to help. That is all. They just want to help. And as much as I want the help. I don’t want the help. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. Anger. Then guilt. Then sadness.
I feel neglectful toward my husband, my friends, my job, my house, myself. I try so damn hard and sometimes it just doesn’t seem like enough. I admit I am trying to please everyone and I know that I can’t. I want my siblings to be proud of how I am handling my mom and dad. I want them to know that mom and dad are being taken care of and that I am only doing what is best for them. I want my husband to know that I do want to spend time with him, that I want our life back, but that I need to spend time with my parents. I need to be there for them. I want to be there for them. They are my life. I have a very strong, close relationship with my mom and dad. Sometimes, I feel guilty about that. But then, it makes me so very happy. I love them with all my heart and I feel unbelievable blessed to have them as my parents.
This journey is far from over. I am learning to take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. I am learning to embrace the gamut of emotions, the rollercoaster that I am one. And for the most part, I have made peace with it all. I have to. I don’t have a choice.