(continued from August 16, 2011)
Mom recuperated from her accident at my house for about a week. She could barely walk and even after returning to her home, she needed lots of help. Food shopping, laundry, rides to the doctor and church ... but over time she recovered, she got a new car and took back bits and pieces of her life.
I really thought we were back to normal.
But then another behavior began to emerge. I discovered that talking took the place of action for mom. Although she was always a cautious person, I didn't remember her delaying actions indefinitely. Talk about taking computer classes and getting a computer went on for a year or more. Talk about her need for hearing aids lasted almost a year. Concerns about her rising rent and a possible move to another place went on for two or three years. Through it all, we talked and talked, and planned and planned, but I couldn't seem to prompt her to action.
Eventually I convinced her to get hearing aids. A hearing test had shown her hearing loss was severe. But it was probably 8 months before she would wear the new hearing aids full time. At least I was content that she could hear sirens when driving her car or people approaching her from behind when she walked on the street.
But I had uncomfortable thought that maybe she had passed some mental invisible line in her functioning. Everything took so long to achieve.
Most worrisome was how frail she was getting. She still went out for walks in her neighborhood, but they were slow and measured with the help of a cane. At times she seemed to be overly trusting of casual acquaintances. As I left her apartment after each visit, I would watch her. She would follow me out to my car, and watch as I left, waving all the time, then walking back to her front door - slowly and carefully.
I couldn't help but worry that as she was getting older and weaker, she was becoming a target for bad things that sometime happen against the elderly.
During a short period of 4 or 5 years, friends were moved away or went into retirement communities, trusted neighbors were leaving, some close friends died. She also seemed to be pulling away from her normal social circles - doing less of everything. She stopped traveling, taking only occasional day trips. And then even the day trips stopped. And decisions about all things, big and little, became more and more difficult for her. Discussions and conversations were only partially remembered. Important things were written down so she could refer to them later. Soon even unimportant things were written as well. Taking action on anything was lacking.
The circle of her life was shrinking noticeably.
Maybe I was over reacting, watching too much crime TV, reading too many newspaper stories about crimes against the elderly ... maybe. But I know my personal radar was picking up changes in mom that required action from those who cared about her.
I struggled then, as I do now, with how to balance her rights to independence (as much as she could manage) against my concerns for her health, safety and quality of life. My yardstick in dealing with mom was to treat her as I wanted to be treated when I was her age. So we continued to talk as I sought to move her through decision making into action. Movement was slow going.
It definitely was the harder road to travel. I always seem to pick the harder road.
And the forward steps by me towards being a full time care giver were occurring without conscious thought or plan. I was just doing the things that needed to be done for a member of my family. To do otherwise seemed to be irresponsible.
Daughter and Care Giver
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