“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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.

Alzheimer's sucks. 


  1. Alzheimer's does indeed suck. My mom has been diagnosed but is still functioning. We just have the same conversation 10 times in an hour. :) We can at least joke about it now. I DREAD the next 10 years. But hope I can endure with a cheerful and happy heart......


    1. Thank you so much for sharing, JLG. Your awesome sense of humor will see you through.

  2. Check out "The 36 Hour Day"

    Two of my grandmothers, one is step the other is my fathers mother have been dealing with Alzheimers... one is to the point she can not be left, she can not leave, she can not do ANYTHING for herself.. the other, well is doing much better (stubbornness of raising 7 kids alone will not allow her to admit she is in the beginning stages.. but she is almost NINTY!)

    Myself, my mother and step-father had to make a decision for his mother, as she almost burnt their home down and after caring for her own father until the day he passed - my mother was worn too thin and was barely keeping her own sanity... she was angered at the placement in the home, struck out at aids, and the other people in the home. Recently, my step-fathers sister took it upon herself to take her out of the home, which only made matters worse... like, moved her 20 miles away from everyone, and is NO WHERE NEAR qualified to be taking care of anyone in my grandmothers state.

    The book I mentioned above is on every single one of my family members book shelves.. and it really has helped my step-father who seems to be struggling the most with the steep downhill momentum his mothers mental state is taking, and has been taking..

    It's a hard path, but you have to keep your head up and a smile on your face.. the hardest thing I have faced with the disease is my grandmother not remembering my girls.. it upsets my 2 yr old greatly as she screams and screams her name over and over to her great grandmother.. which only insights more uproar from my grandmother.

    Stay strong, and good luck. :(

  3. LOVE YOU!!! Take care of yourself first, so you have what it takes to be a good daughter and a good mom. You are strong. You can do this.

  4. We also went thru that nightmare,my mother remembered us, the daughters, but never our husbands & children. We were very lucky to have her in a wonderful facility, she lived 6 years after being diagnosed, we cried when we had to place her there, but knew that it would help us all. She was a wonderful & caring mother, she taught us alot of good lessons.Ours prayers to all the families dealing with this.

  5. I can't imagine how hard that must have been. My Mom just turned 70 and I worry about her a lot.

  6. We all will face the death of our parents unless they go first. Enjoy every day you have left.