Spring of 2007 was our first hospitalization together. There would be others, of course. But thankfully she had no other recurrences of TIAs. I retired that spring. The effort of holding down a full time job and the growing demands with mom had left me tired.
The years following this first hospitalization were filled with a blur doctor's visits, new medications, other hospitalizations and sub acute rehabilitation experiences. Each hospitalization took a small part of mom energy, strength and health that were never recovered despite all the supportive medical services. Like a downward stair case where each step disappears behind you ... mom's health slipped.
She did have her well periods, but independence was slowly chipped away.
She stopped driving after a few big errors in judgement while I was a passenger in her car. I remember one time when she had a problem parking into an easy pull-in slot. She seemed embarrassed. I made light of it and said "It happens. Just pull out and try again." My heart ached at that moment because I knew another difficult conversation was ahead of us. She tried again. Her second attempt was not successful either. I talked her through the third try, and the car was finally parked. She pulled the key out of the ignition, and turned to me. "You know, I think I probably should think about giving up driving soon," she said. My heart was pounding in my chest. I knew she had left a small opening for me to walk through. So I did ... "Yes mom, I think it is time."
She made that difficult conversation ... easy. It was kind of like a gift from her to me. It was not something I realized at the time because my emotions were so strong. But now I know, it was a gift. A sad gift.
Other things began to slide as well. She couldn't manage her own medications on a proper schedule. She used a cane all the time. Watching her climb the stairs to the bedroom level made me nervous. Climbing any steps without the assistance of a hand rail was not possible. All chairs needed arms so she could push herself up. The coffee maker and the microwave were too confusing for her. She could not find clothes stored in the closet or drawers. The tub became a safety issue. Writing a check to pay her one bill was an effort. These things didn't happen over night, but over the period of several years.
At each juncture we made adjustments to our home and to our lives. And as each change was made, she resisted. She didn't want any adjustments to accommodate her. She would get along without them. She would be careful. She would have no accidents. Why spend money on that stuff. And my favorite excuse was, "I don't really need that. I am fine."
So many disagreements.
A stair lift to the bedroom level was installed and hand rails added to our exterior steps. One of our kitchen chairs with arms was moved to her bedroom so she had a place to sit while dressing. I took over her medications completely. Her clothing was stacked on her rocker so she could see it. Interior hand rails, bars and shower aids were installed in her bathroom and the hall. I wrote her checks. She gave her car to my sister.
The most noticeable change was the addition of a new lounge chair in the living room. This chair reclines back, but it can also lift you up to almost a standing position, all with the touch of a button. We have had a few laughs as a result of this chair. Once she plopped down on the seat forgetting that the control was under her. The chair immediately began to recline. Mom's startled look was priceless. We both found it funny. It took me 5 years, but I finally got smart on the purchase of the recliner. I purchased it while she was in the hospital. When she came home it was there. No arguments. She loves it. :-)
She also learned to love that stair lift she resisted so vehemently. She never told me personally how much she appreciated it, but one day my son was here with her while my husband and I were out. They were sitting in the living room together, and at some point mom decided to go up stairs. As she settled into the chair lift seat and pushed the button to begin the ride up, she commented aloud to herself ... "I sure do love this chair." My son shared that comment with me because he knew about the arguments she and I had regarding its instillation. I remember smirking sarcastically when I heard that she liked it. But later it gave me a warm feeling to know that she valued this piece of vital equipment.
All these losses and changes took their toll on her and me.
For mom it was a constant reminder that things were changing permanently, that her body and mind were failing her, and that her ability to be independent was slipping away.
I became more the care giver and less the daughter. Mom needed both, but, unfortunately I usually had energy for only one.
It has taken me a few years to reach my stride in this new role ... I now can say that I manage both: care giver and daughter. But it wasn't always so.
Care Giver and Daughter