It will have been three weeks as of tomorrow since we navigated my mom through a locked door and into a facility where only the visitors and staff have the exit code. I never thought it would come to this - I whole-heartedly believed that MY mother, despite her critical personality and tendency to resent me and everything I do, wouldn't fall prey to dementia. Since she was intelligent, although she didn't always use that for good, and stayed so active, writing books and holding discussions, surely the illnesses which cause your mind to fail wouldn't affect her....right? Wrong. And not just a little bit mistaken, I was wrong on so many levels it turned out to be that I questioned my own sanity in the process. If you missed all this over the last few months you can start at the beginning (first blog post about it here).
My phone just rang a few minutes ago with an unfamiliar number, and as I've had to start doing over the last six months, never knowing what was going on with my mother, I needed to answer it. The director of the facility was on the other end and my stomach did a flip-flop wondering what could be wrong.....but it wasn't that. She had a question about some details; there was no problem; everything was fine. But I had to ask her since there she was on the phone.....how were things going? Did mom still ask to go home every day? Was she pulling her things out of the closet and packing her suitcase constantly? The questions I had were the same ones which had been swirling and circling around in my head for weeks; when would I come to terms with what I had done, why locking her away in a place she'd never return from seemed "best" - and yet and deep down I know those answers lie inside of me and not someone else. But I had to ask anyway.
The answers astounded me. "She's adjusting extremely well to having a schedule", "trivia and music nights are her favorites", "your mother has found new friends to eat dinner with". The director went on to remind me that so often she sees this pattern, that the one who suffer are the family members and that the experienced and knowledgeable level of care which is provided is in fact what reduces the confusion and horribleness of dementia. Oh my God. IT MAKES SENSE; mom had always craved having a routine but has no longer been able to maintain one as her mind and memory faded into darkness. Her anger must have come from a horrible feeling of loss and of things slipping away - and yet she couldn't explain it to anyone - and I didn't know how to see what was right in front of me. The episodes of rage and frustration, that I took to be my fault, weren't really directed AT me but likely more at the situation as it unraveled and worsened and took over our lives - and yet here we are five months later, with a stranger telling me how pleased they are with my mother being there, how charming and friendly she has become, and how she's so rarely locked away in her room. IT HAPPENED. She got where she needed to be. I don't know how we made it the last five months but suddenly, with a phone call, I'm 100lbs lighter and I'm standing up straight. I DIDN'T RUIN HER LIFE. She's where she needs to be - granted, she's fading and weakening and going to leave soon - but for now, for the time that is left, she is where she needs to be and she is having some happy moments and days.....
believer that "together we accomplish more"