Meltdown

I’m strangely happy – or maybe relieved is a better word – to report that I cried, really hard, for about half an hour last night. I think I really needed it.

I thought my lowest points with regard to Mom might be behind me: the loneliness in January 2009 that led me to start this blog, or the serious stress of getting her on Medicaid and simultaneously finding the right nursing home for her two summers ago. Those were two very difficult times. I think I just decided those had to be the lowest points, which was a mistake, and which set me up for being totally unprepared to experience emotional upheaval all over again.

Mom is stable. She is safe. She is funny. She is in a good mood most of the time. All of these things make being her caregiver so much easier than it was when she was unstable, living alone or still needing me in assisted living, when she went through spells of being afraid and irritable earlier in the illness. But it doesn’t mean I don’t still grieve the steady loss of her abilities and get stressed trying to manage what little bit of money she still has.

I think the emergency room trip could have prompted this latest episode of grief. It was a short and tolerable trauma for Mom and for me, but a trauma all the same. There was this intense day of caregiving – and providing actual health care, sort of – followed by what I guess you could call a letdown. A quick return to what my normal is with Mom. That was good. No lingering pain, no complicated treatment plan, no memory for Mom that anything had ever happened. But slowly, a number of things started happening to and around me – a series of things that sound like petty things to complain about for the most part. But as they accumulated, and with the inclusion of a few very sad events for my friends, I began to feel the potential for some serious emotions brewing just under the surface – perhaps all wrapped up in stress from the worry associated with the emergency room that I didn’t have time to process then.

My first spurt of tears occurred at work yesterday. I received an email from the Alz center about Mom’s Medicaid account. I have made some mistakes with regard to her bank account and the business manager emailed me to tell me how to get it all sorted out with my case worker. It was both a relief but also an embarrassment, and I was already feeling low because of a misunderstanding with Patrick in the morning. I wept a little, quietly, and then Patrick called, and I did some minor blubbering here at my desk on the phone with him.

And then I went to support group last night. I have never cried there when talking about Mom or myself, but I have had a few tears in response to others’ stories. I thought last night was the night that I just might cry. And then we had a newbie at the meeting, and she ended up holding the floor for an hour. Others, including me, were able to respond to some things she said, but she never “passed” to the next person to speak, and I was at the end of the line. As the minutes counted down, I became frustrated and could tell I was going to cry no matter what. With about five minutes to go, I walked out of the meeting and was sobbing before I hit the parking lot. I cried in the car, sitting there, for about 10 minutes. I cried on the drive home. I cried in the back yard, heaving and hiccuping while describing my woes to Patrick. He later told me that when he saw how upset I was, he thought for a brief moment that Mom had died.

I felt much better today, except for that crusty feeling in the eyes and puffy eyelids that follow a major cry like that. A lot of the petty, pesky things are behind me now. And intensely feeling that deep sorrow for a sustained period seemed to have provided the relief I needed from the tension I was carrying around. I think I go through life trying not to let Mom’s illness consume me. I have to make a living after all, and carry on and enjoy my own life, and I just have this stubbornness about not letting it get the best of me. But I hope I have learned that I can’t forget to let myself grieve sometimes, maybe in smaller doses, so I don’t have to reach a breaking point before I let myself really feel how sad this whole situation can be.

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7 comments so far

  1. JenniferJayhawk on

    I am so sorry Emily. It is very weird to lose your Mom this way. I feel awful because I am barely “phoning it in” at this point.

    Some girlfriends at lunch were asking about my relationship with my Mom. It’s hard to describe but that relationship is gone. It’s totally different now and I can’t get it back.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Jennifer. It IS very weird and at times so unpleasant. At other times, it’s OK. It’s never how we expected things to be. And no matter how close or far, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Megan on

    I enjoyed your post, as always. Simple and profound all at once.

    I don’t cry as much as might be healthy for release, so like you, I’m appreciative when a good crying spell comes along and surprises me.

    I’m confused and fearful of the whole Medicaid law thing, which I don’t fully understand. I try to keep all receipts and organized records, but it’s hard. My mom’s money is getting low too. Do you have any good books or websites to guide you in that area, or do you use local people for advice?

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Megan-
    I used to cry quite a lot, but now, not so much. Perhaps that’s been part of my maturation. But I did feel better after this last burst of tears, for sure.

    When I was nearing readiness for Medicaid, the social worker in my mom’s facility initiated the process. She contacted whoever it was who needed to evaluate my mom to be sure she required nursing home care (in Ohio, it’s called the Passport program). And once that process began, I eventually found myself with an appointment to go to the welfare office, essentially, and meet with a case worker to complete the application. I am pretty sure someone gave me a checksheet of things I needed: Mom’s birth certificate, all her financial statements, proof of the sale of her car – essentially, all records of her assets or lack thereof. I was missing only a few items and had 45 days to pull it all together and get Mom’s income down to $1,500. Once someone is on Medicaid, the bank account cannot exceed that amount. I applied in June and she was approved in October – and that is not unusual, and nursing homes deal with that lag. A case worker will determine how much each month your mom must pay to the facility (patient liability), which is monthly income minus $40 she gets to keep.

    This much I know. I did not read books or websites, though I did consult the Medicaid website a time or two. But facility business managers and/or social workers become experts in this area and should be able to offer guidance. I hope this helps…

  5. Lesley Austin on

    Dear Emily,
    I am glad you could cry. I think it is healthy and love that Isak Dinesen quote about salt water being the cure for all ills-through the sea, or sweat or tears.

    I found this post that I had left up on my computer and then not looked at for several days, after an emotional morning with Mom. Nothing huge happened, just little losses noticed and odd things said. I have spent the last few years having tearful episodes (usually brief) almost daily, but the past few months have felt so calm and unemotional about it all. Now I seem to be leaving that phase. I am wondering what it is going to take to not feel everything so deeply….acceptance, I suppose. But can one work on that or does it just come? Perhaps that’s atleast part of what you meant by maturation?

    Well, my mom just started her nap, so I am going to enjoy a few hours of not encountering the grief.

    Wishing you a peaceful end of summer,

    Lesley

  6. Meg on

    Thanks for describing your Medicaid journey. I’ll check out their website too.

    M

  7. momsbrain on

    Meg: Good luck.

    Lesley: My emotional response to this whole thing has been sort of all over the place. It often manifested itself early on as anger and resentment. Thankfully, that is behind me for the most part. I think I have felt the stress of it in other areas of life, and while I used to cry in response to stress, I do that less often now. I’m not sure why. As for maturation: that was more a reference to me being a crybaby in my younger years. I wish I had words of wisdom. I think it’s very different for caregivers whose loved ones live with them – much harder. I haven’t experienced that. But I agree that a good cry can do a lot of good.
    Best to you.


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