Our first medical scare appeared without warning.
Mom had driven us to the local senior center. Walking into the center she greeted friends and acquaintances warmly. The director of the center greeted her at the door. Mom used to be a regular at the center, and many were glad to see her back.
While chatting with the director, the left side of mom's mouth began to droop. Her speech became slurred. She continued talking as if nothing was wrong, but my eyes were transfixed on her face, knowing exactly what I was seeing. But denial is a terrible thing. My brain raced to find another reason. We probably lost precious minutes while my mind desperately tried to control my panic and find another cause other than "stroke".
Finally I asked the director if she noticed the change in mother - she did, and quickly left to call Emergency. I led mom to a chair. Unhappy and complaining that nothing was wrong, Mother complied. But as she reach the chair her speech had totally degraded to gibberish. I still remember the dawning look on her face. What she was hearing did not match what her brain thought she was saying.
Fear hung in the air ... curiously not for her. But it covered me totally from head to toe.
I followed the ambulance to the hospital. By the time I had been allowed into the ER, mom's speech had returned to normal. It was a frightening 30 minutes or so, but the short episode passed quickly with no lingering impacts - at least we didn't think so initially. The diagnosis was TIA - a mini stroke. The hospital kept her over night to run tests. She complained about all the fuss. She wanted to go home.
At one point in our stay she made a very telling statement. In her frustration at being hospitalized she bemoaned, "I don't know what all the fuss is about. If this had happened at home, I would have laid down and taken a nap. And when I got up it would be gone."
It was a blinding flash of insight for me. This had happened before and that was exactly what she had done. That is why she was not frightened by the event. How many times had she experienced this and how much damage had been done I would never know.
Beyond a doubt, the move into our home, a move into our lives, was the correct choice. How many more times would she have ignored the signs of a stroke before she died or was terribly disabled and institutionalized by a major stroke.
I finally felt the weight of my new role. I knew she was not making correct decisions for her self. Her previous actions may have caused damage in her brain and reduced her functioning. She could never reliably live independently.
I was her care giver.
That first year together was a watershed year. We had been relatively lucky up to that point. All the previous years ... years when my radar had been sending me alarm messages, years when I tried vainly to get her into another living situation ... those years were indeed years when she did need help, when she was not coping well, when she made bad decisions. And probably she had a few mini-strokes.
I felt relief that she lived with me.
The year was still 2007.
And it was in 2007 that I began to understand fully the personal price you pay for being a full time care giver.
Daughter and Care Giver