Just Awful

Yesterday morning, as I sobbed and hiccupped on my couch, I told my husband I was a horrible caregiver. “I’m too selfish to do this,” I cried.

Just when I think things are ok, they’re really not.

My mother has Type 2 Diabetes, and before she had dementia, it wasn’t a huge problem. She didn’t eat very well, but she took her medication and it was manageable. Then we realized that she hadn’t been taking any medication for nearly 5 months, things were bad. So my caregiving duties were upped a bit and I started religiously visiting my mother at least once a week to fill her pill container and to chat and just see her. Yet in the past month, the situation started to decline. Mom just hasn’t been taking her medication. Maybe twice a week, but that’s all. I don’t know why, but something changed. The first week it happened, I hoped it was just a bad week. And the next week she did take all of her meds, so I thought indeed it had been a snafu. But then for the next 3 weeks, she only sporadically took everything she needed to. And only once did I say, “Mom, you really need to take your medicine, ok?” But why? Why did I only ask her once? Because although I am 43 years old, I still don’t want my mother mad at me.

I am very rarely the recipient of my mother’s wrath. My sister has been the unfortunate one in that scenario and it can be awful. You can practically eat the silence that invades the room when she’s angry. It’s thick and dark like molasses. Or the look she gives you. Christ, a person could burst into flames if they get that look.

But I mean, really, who wants their mother mad at them? No matter what age? But….I know I need to ask my mother if she’s taken her pills…and I need to ask every day….which, in my opinion, is completely awful.

This all came up at Mom’s doctor’s appointment a few days ago. Her glucose levels were off the charts and Mom’s healthcare provider asked my mother if it was ok if I asked her to take her pills. “I know you care about me. I know why that’s the reason you’re asking, so it’s ok,” Mom said. So that’s what I’ll do.

And then I get a late night phone call from the on-call doctor at Mom’s doctor’s office. He tells me Mom’s glucose levels are in fact over 600 and she should go to the ER and get insulin. So…here I am, 35 minutes from where my mother lives. I know that if I call her and wake her up, she’ll be confused and probably hang up on me. If she’s still awake, more than likely she will refuse to go anywhere because it’s late at night and she’s not going to wake her friend and have him take her. So…I don’t call my mother. I wait until the next morning and explain the situation. She says she’ll go to the ER. She then calls me back 10 minutes later, asking what she’s supposed to do at the hospital, what to say, what will they do. Then calls back one more time to say she’s leaving for the ER, but says, “But I’m not staying!” I reassure her that they’ll probably only give her an IV for fluids and some insulin then she can go back home. Which is what they did. They brought her levels down significantly and she’s ok.

But I burst into tears after that last phone call. The self-doubt and guilt completely overwhelmed me. Should I have called her the night before? I could have driven over there and taken her, right? Why didn’t I at least give her the option the night before? I want to say it’s because I knew she wouldn’t go. But I don’t really know that, do I? I was tired, I was on my way to bed, and I didn’t want to deal with one more thing.

Do other caregivers go through this? Do they do stupid, awful things and continuously wonder what the hell they’re doing? This is so much like being a parent, but not. I feel like I have the same amount of responsibility as with my child, but yet more urgency and less power. I am still my mother’s child. I don’t want to make her angry or upset and yet I don’t want to fail her, either. And if I don’t step up my game, I think I’m going to do just that.

 

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Duped

What do you do when you feel betrayed by someone you love? Do you get angry and lash out at that person? Do you stop talking to them? Or do you try and discuss the situation and attempt to forgive?

How about if that person has dementia? Then how would you react?

Today I took my mom to an appointment with her doctor. This was no big deal, just a quick check up to see how everything is going. The doc decided to check Mom’s blood sugar since it had been a while, as well as her A1c number. (If you’re not diabetic or don’t know one, the A1c number is basically a test to show how your blood sugar levels have been for the past few months. The test should be done every 6 months, but possibly every 3 if things are not great.) First the nurse did a quick test of Mom’s blood sugar–it was over 300.  For an average person, 100 or below is good. Then she tested Mom’s A1c. A 6 or 7 is good, and Mom’s was above 13.  In other words, it’s a shit storm.

After a little investigating and questioning both Mom and myself, the doctor discovered that Mom’s meds should have needed a refill at least 8 months ago. EIGHT MONTHS. The doctor turned from her nurse to look at both Mom and me. She tilted her head and had this smug yet pitying look on her face. I wanted to smack that look right off her face. Was I defensive? You bet I was. I fucked up, but I wasn’t going down alone. “So…how often are you supposed to check Mom’s A1c?” It had been nearly a year since they checked it, so we all fucked up.

Now the question was, why was her blood sugar so bad? Was she eating well? Probably not, but that’s a given. Was she taking her medication? Mom certainly thought she was, as did I. That’s the one thing Mom had always been so good about was taking her meds. Or was she? Did I just believe her because she’s my mom and she’s so damn convincing? Or because I didn’t want to take on any more responsibility?

JACKPOT! Finger on the nose!  You got it, Holly!

I wasn’t ready.

So. After this visit, I took Mom home and we went through her medications. She actually did have some of her diabetic medication left from over a year ago, which means she only took it sporadically. But her other meds? Oh my god, her other meds. Like the pills she takes for dementia?

Not one pill had been taken. Not one. In 5 months. Not one.

I am an idiot. I am not a good caregiver. It’s obvious to me now, in fact, that I suck at it.

wrong

I’ve wanted my mom back for so long and kept hoping things would just stay at this even keel for years and I could keep pretending that things were good and I was just her daughter and not her housekeeper or nurse or parent.

I have to stop thinking that way now. It’s all a bunch of damned excuses!! I have to suck it up and help her.

I don’t blame my mother for this. Not at all. For just a moment I felt duped. Like she had stopped taking her medications on purpose. But that feeling only lasted a moment. I knew it wasn’t true. I knew the true deceiver in this situation was me. I felt a betrayal, but it was on my mother’s behalf. I didn’t keep her safe like I was supposed to.

You know, I realize how selfish I’ve been and still am. Even today after all this. I know I need to go over to Mom’s place once a week and make sure her meds are all set and ready to go for the week. It’s not a huge deal. It means either I need to take my son over on the weekend after his soccer game or skip a morning exercise routine during the week. When I say it out loud, it’s so little I’m giving up to help her…but why does it feel so big?

I feel like I’ve taken one more step closer to….I’m not sure to what or to where. Maybe just feeling like I’m more of a parent now? Like before I was parenting a teenager and now we’ve gone backwards and it’s closer to parenting a Kindergartner?  Or maybe it’s because it is another step.

It’s one more step towards the day my mother won’t know who I am.

 

 

 

In sickness and in health….

This afternoon, in a quiet voice with tears building behind my eyes, I said to my husband, “I hate you just a little bit right now.”

He replied with a sigh, “I know. I hate me right now, too.”

Today, due to years of unhealthy habits, my husband was required to start using insulin.

He’s been diabetic for quite a while now and has taken medication on and off.  He’s overweight and unhealthy and has done nothing about it.  He eats a lot of fast food and drinks soda and never exercises.  His favorite pastimes are playing video games, watching movies and reading.

And you know what?  I am royally pissed off right now.  Both my son and I just watched my husband, as he injected himself in the belly with his first shot of insulin.  My son couldn’t watch and turned away while plugging his ears, asking me to tell him when it was over.  But I stood there and watched.  I wanted to see this.  I wanted to show him that yes, I will watch him do this to himself, like I watched him consume tons of junk food and sugar and carbonated beverages over the 19 years we’ve been together.

Did I ever try to help him, you may ask?

I

tried

everything.

I sympathized and offered to make him better lunches.  I empathized and asked what can I do to help.  I asked him to walk with me. To run with me.  To lift weights with me.   I carved out extra money from the household budget to buy healthier foods.  I begged, I ignored, I yelled, I cried.

What the fuck else was I to do?!?

I kept thinking that once we had a child, my husband might start to eat a little better or try to get a little exercise.  I thought that having the responsibility of caring for a little person, and being a good example for another human being, would be enough to *want* to change.

But it wasn’t.

Yet the thought of possibly going on insulin made him change, although it was already too late.

Last week, he began nutrition counseling for diabetes, and since then has attempted to cut soda from his life and start eating well.  He’s keeping a food diary and for the first time in many, many years, I can see that he’s really trying to do this right.  The other night, he called on his way home saying he was bringing dinner.  I thought it might be Chinese food or some kind of takeout, because that what it would have been a month ago.  Yet he came home with a roasted chicken and grapes and all the fixings for a salad.   I was stunned….and a little bit giddy.   Is this his tipping point?  Is the threat of insulin shots what he needed all along?  And now that he’s officially on insulin, will he continue to eat right (or attempt to) and maybe exercise?

I have hope.  I have a lot of anger, too, but I’m trying to let that go. (I’m especially angry that I need to learn how to inject him with the “special” syringe if his blood sugar becomes so low that he goes into a coma.  I’m not happy that I have to even know about this, but I’ll learn it because I don’t want my husband to die.)  I know he’s a bit depressed right now, and he’s angry at himself, too.  He can’t believe that he let himself get to this point…and honestly, I can’t either.   I had hoped he would have learned from his father (who is also on insulin).  So to try and break this horrendous pattern, my husband wanted Bri to watch him take the insulin shot, hoping it would scare him so much that Bri would eat better and become more active so he wouldn’t ever have to take insulin himself.

Want to hear my theory?  You need to set a good example, be a good model of behavior, then perhaps your children will follow your lead.  But do as I say and not as I do?  Bullshit.

So…where does this leave us?

Exhausted and sad but hopeful.  With a weight loss of at least 50 pounds, maybe he can get off of insulin.  It can happen.  But I can’t make my husband eat right and exercise.  My son can’t make his father healthy.  There’s only one person who can make this happen.

Just one.

You can do this, Wally.  I have faith in you. ❤