Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Through My Care Giver Eyes - Low Moments

If you have read from the beginning you may wonder - how do you live this life? How do you stay in control, calm, loving, show deliberate and compassionate understanding?

Well ... I don't!! Not by a long shot!

I haven't shared all my failings and there have been a lot. I have said things to mom in anger over the years that make me cringe.

In the last month I blew up at mom when she wouldn't take a medication. I remember saying things that were true, but did not need to be said. I asked her to please leave the room because I was so upset. Tears of frustration and anger were streaming down my face. Later my husband came into the room and put his arm around my shoulders and said - "That wasn't you talking." What a dear thing to say, but sadly, it was me ... a side of me I am not proud of. But his comment made me I realized I had stepped way over the line.

Some of mom's behaviors were probably normal for an aging brain, but absolutely drove me nuts! Times when I couldn't stand to answer the same question I already answered 4 times. Time when she was upset that I didn't tell her some such thing, when I had told her several times. Other times when she argued about a new aid to help her. Days when she always responded "What" to every question requiring you to repeat it again!

It sounds ridiculously small. Unless you have lived that experience it is hard to understand.

I am not proud of any of that. My brain is still pretty normal. Her brain is not. I should be able to cope. But there are times when I simply can not.

I didn't save my bad behavior just for mom either. One hospitalization I was brutal with hospital staff. To deflect some of my admitted guilt for this, I was tired, sick and exceedingly worried about mom. I understand myself better from some of these episodes. You see, I learned that when my back is pushed against the wall, when I am very tired and I feel the stakes are high ... I am a very different person from the one who is writing these posts.

Not a nice. Brutally honest. Direct. Rude.

I think I am getting better at backing away from a situation that I suspect could become explosive for me. Getting better, but not there yet.

December 2010 holds my most embarrasing memories. And yes, I will share one. But if you are upset by talk of bodily functions, implied swearing, or rude behavior, please don't read further. Intense and strong emotions and responses were involved. If I lived through that terrible time again, I would probably behave exactly the same way. I would try to be better, but sometimes my objectivity gets twisted out of shape when it comes to mom.

I'll understand if you want to skip past this next section.


Our family emerged from Thanksgiving very sick. I fell to the virus quickly. It laid me low for 3 days. Mom got sick as I was beginning to recover. But she was dangerously sick for an 85 year old so we went to the ER after only 4 hours of dealing with it at home. She was admitted to the hospital. Medical science started the fight to stop the loss of fluids she was experiencing from both ends of her body.

At Day 3, during the doctor's regular visit, he began to talk about discharge, maybe even discharge that day. I resisted immediately. The vomiting was gone. The diarrhea wasn't. When I pushed back a little, he responded with a doctorly air of authority that "some accidents were within the scope of normal for the elderly." I couldn't believe it. This man was preaching to me about "normal scope" and "some accidents" ?!!?

I began to see RED! I quickly informed him that ...

"I had lived with 'some accidents' for a number of years. I know all about accidents.
But I was there in the middle of the night
when she was sitting in a large pile of sh*t!
He wasn't!
I was there watching while 2 skilled, efficient and practiced hospital staff
took a full 30 minutes to clean up her and change her bedding.
I am not convinced that she hasn't given herself another infection
from the loose stool she sat in last night and previously
since she arrived in this hospital.
You will not discharge her until this problem is tackled."

My anger and voice were rising as I spoke, and I was hitting my stride with this man. The next sentences were on the tip of my tongue:

"What don't you understand about 'sitting in a pile of sh*t'?
Didn't they cover 'pile of sh*t' in medical school?"

Believe me when I say, I had lost all control. If I hadn't needed to take a breath, those last two sentences would have been said.

Sadly I still regret not getting a chance to deliver those last lines! I reallllly wanted to. I am not proud that I feel this way, but they had fixed only half of mom's problem. We hadn't come this far for them to discharge her ill.

Maybe he sensed he was going to lose this argument, or maybe he was considering calling Psychiatry. :-) I will never know!

He interrupted my tirade, and said they would keep her another night giving her a dose of Immodium to see if that made a difference. He left before I could say another word.

(Wise man!)

And Mom who had been laying in the bed quietly between us, turning her head from side to side as we "discussed" this, turned to me after he left and asked ...

"So am I going home?" :-)

I checked to see if she had batteries in her hearing aids!!

There is no doubt that the conversation with the doctor could have been handled a little bit better! :-) And while there is no excuse for bad behavior, I know in my heart I would do it exactly the same way if presented with the same situation. Sometimes people don't hear unless you first get their attention! I clearly had his attention.

But afterwards I felt let down, embarrassed and fatigued. I did not see myself as some crazy woman, but that was how I behaved.

The next day she was well. The Immodium did the trick. She was discharged.

BUT, 7 days later she was re-admitted to the hospital with the infection that I warned the doctor about in my tirade. This time, however, the infection had spread into her blood stream. She was very, very ill this time and spent time in Intensive Care. We had the same doctor. I was more rested so I was more civil, and he was more respectful because he remember me. :-)

But the back-to-back hospitalizations had seriously tested the limits of my energy. I thought I had reached critical low.

Sadly, I was not finished falling.

Hitting rock bottom was soon to follow. (to be continued)

Retired Knitter
Care Giver and Daughter


  1. Hi Elaine .. I can quite understand .. having had 4.5 years of in and out of hospital and some very difficult times - mainly caused by my family and their lack of support for me - but that's another story.

    I can quite understand your frustration, horror, abject despair .. I think I was lucky early on I realised about my Mama to always be kind, though she is stroked.

    But I don't have to do the 24 hour care you do .. and that I too would have found very difficult.

    My brother got told to go away - he did (and he's her Power of Attorney) and he didn't bother to come down for her birthday the following weekend .. she asked where he was .. I was always keeping those challenges in abeyance and just being with Mum.

    It does sound as though you have some horror stories .. as I do .. our hospitals have been pretty good - but the Nursing Centre managed to employ a 'maggoty' deputy manager, who ruled the roost fro 18m and caused me innumerable problems. My uncle kept me sane - even though I was looking after him too! I exploded at him i hospital .. but he admitted months later that I'd been right and was so grateful I'd been there for him.

    These times are truly awful and we're only trying to do the best for our mothers, fathers etc .. and why on earth we're not supported - I fail to understand.

    Thinking of you .. Hilary

  2. Oh my dear....great patience and great love and caring come from a very strong emotional place. That place holds other strong emotions as well. They come out in times of stress. They just do. We've all said things when pushed to the limit. We say things we really feel and really mean but would never say in a calmer state. Sometimes people need to hear them because it reminds them that we are only human too.

  3. you know, that doctor needed to hear all of that. sure you felt a bit embarrassed but doctors don't seem to realize that us non-doctors aren't used to seeing a lot of the stuff they see. so he needed that jolt of humanity.


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