Summer bummer

July was not my favorite month. It was hot – the hottest on record in much of the country, the news said this week. And that power outage started the month off badly. I was so drained by that experience, probably because of the sleep disruption that it caused, that it took me awhile to just feel normal again. And as a result, it also took me awhile to get back to the Alz center to visit Mom. I wasn’t avoiding her. I just didn’t go until the evening of a Family Council meeting, when I popped in briefly to check on her. She was lying on a couch after dinner, sort of drowsy and content, with Mr. Beard nearby. I was satisfied that she was doing fine.

(The Family Council is not going great – we’ve met monthly since April, and forwarded a few requests to the administration. But attendance is low, and I’m not sure it’s going to last. I am invested in giving it a try, but I am not taking it personally if it fails.)

I finally got a good visit in with Mom on July 31. Mom was lying on a couch in the lobby, fast asleep, when I arrived after lunch. I pulled a chair over and sat facing her, trying not to wake her up. I enjoyed just sitting with her and watching her sleep. A few staff members chatted with me while I was sitting there. One aide came by numerous times as she wheeled residents out of the dining room and back to their rooms on the skilled nursing side of the building. “Are you Emily?” she asked, and I said yes. She said she uses my name to get Mom to do things. “Emily said it’s time for your shower.” “Emily wants you to be sure to eat all your dinner.” And it works. I was touched by that, but also impressed that she had figured out a way to win Mom over to whatever she wanted Mom to do, and minimized Mom’s objections in the process. So the name Emily still means something to Mom. But my physical presence may or may not be helpful. These days, I’m just not sure.

Mom eventually woke up and sat straight up. I had been patting her leg and she said, “No, no.” I wondered if that sensation made her think I was going to try to take her pants off of her – meaning a dreaded trip to the bathroom. She began to talk off and on, and I’d respond in a cheerful way. I admired her haircut and told her she looked good. And she did. She was in a good mood, refreshed by the rest. I noticed her fingernails were really long, so I gave them a quick trim, and she didn’t protest. We eventually stood up for a walk. We held hands and walked to the program area. The activity at this time was spending time outside in the courtyard. I walked with Mom to the door, and we looked outside. I couldn’t really tell if she was interested in joining the other residents out there. The door was locked, and the aide outside didn’t notice we were standing there. Mr. Beard had joined us, and before we could make a decision, Mom and Mr. Beard turned around and walked away. And that was OK, because I had to go back to work.

I’ve gone through periods before when I visit Mom less frequently, and I’m never sure what the cause might be unless it’s obvious, like when I travel for work in the fall or get sick. I felt like I was in a funk for most of July. Maybe I was hot and therefore tired. I was discouraged by numerous little joint and muscle pains that were piling up and interfering with my enthusiasm for exercise – always a bit of a challenge for me anyhow. I assume I wasn’t showing outward signs of depression, but I just didn’t feel so great. I looked to the beginning of August as a way to clear the July slate and start the summer fresh.

One thing new this summer was a change in the day of my weekly golf outing with a group of friends. For the past several years, we have met on Thursdays, but this year it was switched to Wednesday – which is also when the Alz center support group meets. I had skipped several support group meetings in a row for golf, and assumed that the golf itself served as a type of therapy, as both a physical activity and an enjoyable social event for me. Finally, on Aug. 1, I decided to check in with support group. I walked in, a tad late as is typical for me, and a few regulars perked up at my presence. “There she is,” one man said. And the daughter of Mom’s former roommate, the most steadfast group member of all, lifted her hands in a little cheer upon seeing me. And I think that greeting, from friends I would not know were it not for Mom’s illness, was what marked the beginning of the end of my funk. I had missed those people more than I realized. The group members, the doctor who leads it, the weekly meeting time, the familiar setting, discussing the shared burden of Alzheimer’s caregiving – these are all part of my life routine now. And I find comfort in that.

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5 comments so far

  1. becky honeywell on

    Thank you for your post. It’s very helpful to share a bond like this…even though I don’t know you. I signed the papers to put my mother in assisted living today – and cried all the way home. She’s had dementia for some time, but has just been diagnosed with Alzheimers. Her mom had it, too.
    I know I’m i for a long journey, and your blog is comforting to me. It makes me wonder if I should journal my experience as we begin the move….

  2. momsbrain on

    Becky, I’m sorry you’ve had a tough time. My mom had 22 good months in assisted living so I hope your mom, too, can settle in and see it as her home. It is a big decision for a caregiver, but I often make a point of saying I may have guilt about various aspects of Mom’s illness, but I do not feel guilty about moving her into assisted living and then a nursing home. It was the best choice for her and for me – no doubt about it, I benefited, too, and I am also one who doesn’t feel guilty about saying that my life matters, too. It’s a balancing act. The first eight months of this blog cover time when Mom was still in assisted living, just fyi. Thank you for reading. As for whether you should journal – that’s a personal choice, of course, but it has helped me a lot to reflect on this experience. Take care.

  3. patwhite67 on

    Emily, the stress builds up. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. Thank you for sharing how it really is.

  4. Jeff on

    I like hearing about the creative problem solving from the aide you mentioned, and that Mom responds in some way to the use of your name. I’m sorry July was so tough for you. We had misery here, but nothing like you all experienced.

  5. momsbrain on

    Pat: I know, there is a cyclic nature sometimes to mood and everything else in life. I guess I get frustrated that even when I try hard to take care of myself, I still get blue.

    Jeff: Thanks for your support. I really liked the aide’s problem-solving, too. She had worked nights for years so I hadn’t met her before, but now she’s on days. She’s a keeper!

    I also forgot that another July problem was a sore throat for five days. I thought I had a little virus and finally went to a doctor, only to be told I had allergies. I have always been so relieved that I don’t have allergies after watching Patrick be miserable for years. So this news was not welcome, but the nurse practitioner said it’s probably just because this season is so bad. I take half a Zyrtec a few nights a week to manage symptoms.


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