Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Life

There have been events that have changed the direction of my life in the last couple of months. I've been  riding them out for awhile, before blogging about them.

1 day into my new job, back in February, I realized that Mom was in some pain. She'd probably been sick for a few days, but I'd missed the cues. If I questioned her about her suddenly grasping her abdomen, she'd merrily respond, "What?! I have no pain." How do I call the doctor and ask to get her in right away...because I'm not sure why?

Of course, if you let some things go, they worsen and it was suddenly terribly obvious that she needed to see her doctor. I cut out early on the 2nd day of my new job to take her to Convenient Care. Her illness, thank God, was treatable with antibiotics and painkillers, but they still took a few days to kick in.

I got up at the buttcrack of dawn to tend to Mom before starting Day 3 of my new job. I arrived to find a gargantuan mess. Her bed was wet and soiled, she was wet and soiled, the floors were wet and soiled. I set water running, and stepped out of my sweater and blouse, to keep from making a mess of my own clothes, and got Mom into the shower. I settled her in warm jammies with a cup of tea, then stripped beds, started laundry, washed floors, cleaned carpets. Then I raced out the door to try to get to work on time.

Of course, I realized that I'd left my phone at home, so I had to head in the opposite direction. As I approached the house, I realized that my clothes were still in Mom's living room. I found another outfit, grabbed my phone, and hit the road to my new office where I was going to arrive late and have to explain that I had to leave early today. Frazzled and stressed, I decided on the spot:

It's enough. I'm done. I've done a good job. I'm proud. But I'm done; I can't do it any more.

I called a case manager that mom had been assigned to ages ago, and, without reservation, told her "I need help. Today."

Within an hour, I had a call back, with news that there was an opening at Champaign County Nursing Home, 1 mile away from her home, 3 miles away from ours. In Garden View Court, a unit set up specifically for Alzheimer's patients. This was looking good.

I took care of Mom through the weekend, and the following Tuesday, I loaded her and her baby doll,  "Savannah," into the car. I told her we were going to go somewhere that there would be nurses to take care of her all while I'm at work, and she would have lots of girlfriends to talk to. She was excited.

 
Mom and Savannah

It was harder on me than it was for Mom. It's kind of like dropping your kid off for her first day of kindergarten...but not.  I didn't know how it was going to go, and you know...it's still a nursing home, with nursing home sights and nursing home smells, and nursing home nurses, and it's intimidating on your first day.

I was teary, and worried, and anxious, but instantly comforted when we arrived: The staff was waiting with open arms for Mom...and a stroller and a blanket for Savannah.



Mom got her settled, and took off like she'd lived there for years. Several staff members stopped to admire her baby.

Her bedroom overlooks a walking path (good for pushing strollers on), in the midst of a garden tended by Master Gardeners.




There's a small aviary, and this is her favorite bird:

"Oooo! Pink and purple!," she says.





8 weeks later. You can see by the pictures that she's pretty content in her new home. She sometimes asks to go home, but she imagines a home in which she is a child, and there are friends and family around her. When I remind her that she would have to sit by herself all day until I get off of work, then she agrees, that she likes it better where she is.

I focus now on paperwork and the exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for Alzheimer's care, while I adjust to living a life that doesn't rotate around tending to Mom. I have been amazed to discover how much of my time, energy, and money have gone into taking care of her, but I'll save that for a different post.

It is a new life for both of us.

I am damned proud. I am proud that I took care of my mother as long as I could and as good as I could. I made a few mistakes, and I know I was criticized along the way by a few friends and family that felt I should have put her in a nursing home earlier.

Ahh, but they weren't there, my armchair critics. I don't move blindly through my life. The decisions I made were the right ones, for us. I kept my mother happy, safe, and healthy for as long as I could, and took action when it was beyond me.

Yes, it's made for hectic schedule in my life, at times. So what?

I have, for years now, wondered at people that  "console" me with the words "it's as if you've already lost her." Really? Because things have changed, and she is not the same woman that she once was, I have lost her? She no longer ISI bristle, darlings. Would you think that of your spouse, your best friend, your sister? Your child? 

Let me explain that her pronouncing "Jingle Bells" as "Bangle Jells" doesn't make her dead. I have not lost her. She is a beautiful little girl that wants to sing Bangle Jells and Jesus Loves Me. She likes babies and birdies and shrimp and bacon. Not a day goes by that she doesn't tell me I'm beautiful, thank me for all that I do for her, and tell me that she loves me so much. 

Sigh.

And she is safe and happy, and I rest easy, these days.

Life is good.


*Shout out to my new employers, Jennie & Paul Edwards, who never blinked an eye over my sporadic first weeks in their office, reiterating only "Mom comes first."  You guys just dropped right out of heaven!

24 comments:

  1. Great post, Lori. You rock. Your mom rocks too.

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  2. Christa Johnson9:32 AM

    I am so glad that things are going well for you and Aunt Eleanor! You are truly beautiful women and you both deserve to be happy! You have done an amazing job! As she did with you! I love that her babies name is Savannah and that she is taking such good care of her! Love ya!!
    Christa

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  3. what tremendous changes you've weathered so far this year. You, you mom, Paul, and Jennie are fabulous folk I am privileged to know. God bless.

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  4. Amy K.9:41 AM

    You are the best daughter a mother could have. Yes, family first! My hat is off to you for your love for your mother. God Bless You!

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  5. Nope, she's not gone. As long as you can still hug each other or hold hands, she's not dead. Believe me, those are the things you'll miss when she's really gone.

    You did what you could do until you couldn't. You did the right thing helping her as long as you did. I always told people I take care of my parents because I appreciate all the wonderful things they did for me. Now it's my turn to pay them back.

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  6. Anonymous1:53 PM

    Lori, you are a wonderful daughter and Im sure your mother knows that. It take's alot to do what you do. I know that, as my mom is in the early stage's of it. She is still able to live on her own but me and another sister do the things that need done for her that she is not able to do anymore. Ive read back in your blog on your mom to the beginning, and I just wanted to laugh and cry along with you. It show's me what is in store for us...and it's very scary and sad. Be proud of the daughter you are. Your mother looks happy in the pictures and that is what matters! thanks for sharing your life!
    p.s. you know we are practically neighbors? I live on Oaks road. I didnt realize you lived in that house until I seen some of your pics and recognized them! We should get together some time.

    Take care! Rosie Lard

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  7. Wow. Tears & smiles both. I like Bangle Jells. And shrimp and bacon too. You definitely have made all of the right decisions for both of you.

    My Dad is 92 & has Alzheimer's. Not advanced. Yet. I pray that I am as strong and as resourceful as you have been.

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  8. Thank you, everybody; it's great having you in the wings while we get settled. Don't know what I'd do without you.

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  9. Great post. I went through exactly the same last August with my 96 year old father.

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  10. Dogbait, thanks. Those that have "paved the way," like yourself, have been a Godsend...just knowing they know what it's like, and I'm not the first girl to have to face this stuff.

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  11. It's easy to be a critic when you're not faced with the problems. You did what was best for you and your mom all along the way. No one has the right to judge you. You rock Lori and don't ever let anyone tell you different. I admire you to no end for taking things in hand like you do.

    -Jazz

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  12. I knew I shouldn't have read this at work. I'll just tell everyone my red eyes are from allergies. Yeah, that's the ticket.

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  13. I have a hard swelling lump in my throat..and hot wet eyes.

    May your mom remain happy and smiling.


    Great Job Lori, we are so proud of you for all your efforts taking care single-handedly and now, to make this decision too. {{Hugs}}

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  14. Hugs to you and your mom! She looks so happy. And personally, I think 'bangle jells' is just darn hilarious!

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  15. Lori,
    Once again, you are just trying to live life. Hold your head up. I am very positive that Uncle Lee and Teri are also very happy with the way you have cared for Aunt Eleanor. Your actions, now AND in the past prove how much you love your Mother. I can only hope I will be smart enough to help make the correct decisions as they come along the next few years with my Mom as well as you have.
    And, like Crockhead said, YOU ROCK! Aunt Eleanor rocks too!!!
    Danny

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  16. every time I come here, I am in awe of you. I realize you are just doing what you do, but to share with such honesty continues to be a gift to the rest of us.

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  17. Gosh, you guys. All I can do is keep thanking you over and over for all of the kind words. Life is good, good, good!

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  18. Love and hugs to you and your mama. Thanks for your openness and honesty- it's absolutely moving and inspiring.

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  19. No, you haven't lost your mom, but more importantly, she has never lost you. You really are an angel in people clothing.

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  20. Hi, Lori,
    Your Mom looks so happy in these pictures. Last night, my 5 year old daughter asked me where I was going to live when I got old. I told her in the house that we lived now. Out of the blue, she said, "Don't worry Mom. I will take care of you when you are old." She then kissed me. -Tien

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  21. Soon you'll be as fat and ugly as your retarded mother!

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  22. Buck Obama/Dale Ehard/JoeBob [or as we say in these parts, JoeBobDF]...

    True 'dat....and you will still be the tedious spineless piece of crap I inadvertently stepped in several years ago, and can't seem to clean off the bottom of my shoe. Cheers, darling.

    To the rest of you here, this nice guy has been a fan of mine for years, and this is one that's mild enough to go ahead and publish. He has recently taken to attacking all of my commenters ... at least, all of my FEMALE commenters.

    My word, I think he might be trying to put me out of business!

    I appreciate that you all recognize what is what, and honor your decisions to keep on commenting, send me personal messages via e-mail, hit me up on Facebook, or bow out altogether.

    My friend Mark put it best: "The dogs keep barking, but the caravan moves on."

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  23. So proud of you Lori!

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  24. Love you. Love your mom. Love your blog. Love being here. It's all worth it. Just remember this.

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