…but did I try hard enough? Last night, as I sat with my mom, as we laughed and cried at “This is Us,” I rode an emotional roller coaster between guilt and relief at what today would bring.
This past week, Mom’s memory has been the best it’s been in over 2 months. Physically it hasn’t been great, but mentally things were better. Yet I know that it won’t always be that way. I know that a residential care facility and the folks that work there will care for her the way she should be. She won’t be alone for 6 hours a day like she has been while I’m at work. I know she’ll eat lunch and it will be good for her (and hopefully yummy) and I won’t have to inspect the trash or fridge to see if she ate what I put out for her or if she ate a half loaf of bread instead.
It also means I won’t have to change her sheets when she had an accident. I won’t have to clean the bathroom floor or the toilet or the bathroom counter nearly every single day like I’ve had to for two months. I won’t have to sneak into her room and steal her dirty clothes so I can clean them. Or ask her multiple times to please change her clothes or to take a shower.
But it also means she won’t be here as we eat our dinner around the table and talk about our day. Or laugh at silly things we find on television. Or fold all of our clean laundry (this was one of her favorite things to do).
For the past few weeks, various medical professionals as well as my friends and family have all said, “It’s ok. You’re doing the right thing for both your mom AND for you.” But this afternoon it did not feel like that at all.
My sister and I drove my mom to her new home, and it really is a lovely place. It’s not assisted living or a nursing home, but a residential care facility which is kind of in-between the two. It’s a very homey place, doesn’t smell like a nursing home or a hospital. Mom’s roommate is fantastic and she loves to watch tv as much as Mom does.
But as soon as we got there, Mom was angry and upset. After we sat in her room for a minute, I had to get up and leave because I was starting to cry and I wanted to find the director. Mom argued with my sister about why she had to be there, saying that yes she could take care of herself, but thankfully, my wise sister, distracted Mom with photos and questions about our grandfather. By the time I got back, Mom was smiling and was willing to let me put her clothes in the dresser. Later she went to lunch in the dining room with everyone else (and my sister) while I filled out paperwork.
We visited for a while longer and I encouraged Mom to walk about in the rest of the building, check out the two large areas to sit and read in or watch television. She sat in her recliner before we left and settled in to watch tv with her roommate. Once my sister and I got to the car, I sobbed. It felt truly awful to leave Mom. I felt like I abandoned her and let her down. I’ve felt guilty just thinking about when this day would come, and now that it’s here, that guilt sits heavy in my stomach, my chest and my head.
I KNOW that Mom needed more care than I could give her. I KNOW that my son needs me and has needed me the past few months when I put my mother’s needs before his. I KNOW that my mental health needed this to happen.
So why does it feel wrong? Why does my stomach still hurt and my chest feel tight? Why do I feel so guilty when it’s the right thing to do?
Yes, Holly, you’ve done enough. You reached the critical understanding that, however hard you tried and how noble your intent, your mother will get more complete, consistent care in a place dedicated to doing just that. I’ll mention (again) what my doctor said as I was discussing my own situation with my mom. I said I just wanted her to be safe and happy. My doc said “Sometimes, you have to accept that you’re not going to get both.” This will be better for both of you. Keep breathing. And rest.
Thank you, my sweet friend. I read that line “Sometimes you have to accept that you’re not going to get both” over and over when I saw it on your FB. It kills me, as I’m sure it does you. After seeing how my son acted this morning, I know that I did the right thing. He wasn’t as stressed or unhappy as he’s been (although he would never admit he was unhappy with his Grammie). I think I just finally had to choose my son’s (and my own) happiness over Mom’s.
Holly, now you can go back to being her daughter – not her caregiver. The only thing I can think of that might help is to try to bring yourself into the NOW – whatever it is you are doing at a particular moment – and not let your mind take you to those places of guilt and sadness. Keep bringing it back again and again to now.
Thank you so much, Jane. That is great advice (from a very wise woman) and I will try to keep bringing it back to now.
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