I am part of the sandwich generation. My kids are grown and my parents are aging. Just when you think you are done raising your children, you find yourself making decisions for your parents.
About 10 years ago, I began to notice a decline in not only my 72 year old mother's health but in her mental state. My mother had always suffered from depression. My earliest memories are of her crying in her bed. In recent years, however, better anti-depressant medications had evened out some of her behaviors and the crying spells seemed to have been curtailed.
There were little indicators at first. She complained often of aches and pains . She started frequenting doctors on weekly visits. She had migraines, heart disease, fibromyalgia, and knee pain. All were real and treated by doctors. I don't mean to be callus, but I have to confess there were times when I just didn't pay attention to all her aches and pains. Then she had breast cancer and a few years later, cervical cancer. She survived them all--but not for the stronger.
A few years ago, my husband and I both noticed an obvious change in her mental state. She made odd remarks and often seemed confused. She cried often to which the doctors upped her anxiety medications. She became forgetful and often could not remember words. She blamed it on the meds. But I wondered. Nothing seemed to really help.
It perplexed me. My father did not seem to notice her behavior nor did her friends. Then 2 years ago , at my daughter's graduation from high school, her behavior could no longer be denied. In the middle of an important day for my daughter and us, on the bleacher's of the football field, my mother threw a toddler temper tantrum. We were sandwiched in the mass of people watching the graduation. We could not get out. And my mother began to announce loudly she was thirsty and she wanted a drink right now. I was past annoyed. I told her to be quiet that we would get a drink when the ceremony was over. She protested for awhile longer but finally settled down. Immediately after the graduation, I had my older adult son "take grandma home". I knew and my husband knew but helping my dad understand was at that point, useless.
I did not see my parents again until they came for Thanksgiving 2011. What a nightmare that was! My mother cried constantly, carried on, and was confused and dazed the entire weekend. My father admitted her behavior had been declining steadily for months. When they left (and I was relieved) I told my father, he could not bring her back until he took her and got some help. That was the hardest thing I had to ever do--forbid my father from my house--but I wanted to wake him up. The next week, I called different agencies and tried to set up services for my father. They called him but he still refused all help.
Over the last year, my mother's health and mental state has continued to decline. My father did come to visit one more time in June of this year but again it was a horrible visit. My younger brother , who also came, both sat my dad down and told him, he must get help because he was compromising his own health trying to care for her. She could no longer make meals or eat unattended. She had difficulty getting dressed. She definitely could not hold a conversation. And she was beginning to have trouble toileting herself. And often she got into her medications and took them without anyone's knowledge. Yet my father STILL refused help.
They have been married almost 55 years. I understand my father's reluctance. How do you put someone you love in a nursing home? And yet she was no longer that person.
Two weeks ago my father called me. He asked me to come. It took four days but we managed to admit my mother to a good nursing home close to my father's house.
I talked to my father this morning. He said my mother cries everyday and wants to come home. She doesn't understand. When I helped admit her to the home, she only had moments of clarity. Yet some part of her knew enough, she wanted to be home.