Ensuring Mom has the best quality of life possible for as long as she is here

At first, I hardly noticed the change in her demeanor.  It was two years ago and my Mom had been living alone for six years since Dad passed away. She was nearing her 85th birthday.

As a long-distance caregiver, I could ignore a forgotten name or misspoken word.  But when Mom decided to resign as treasurer from an organization she had served for 52 years, I instinctively knew something was up.

She gave up e-mail next, explaining that she wasn’t sure she could turn on the computer and there were too many jokes in her inbox. So we cancelled her Internet service.

All of these “symptoms” occurred after her cardiologist told her he wanted to conduct a stress test to ensure that her two stents were working properly.  True to form, she had convinced herself he would find something wrong and worked herself into a state of anxiety the likes of which I had never seen.

Good news though — all was well. However, the damage was done. Her self-confidence had eroded.

Her 87th birthday is next month and her memory has continued to decline. She came to visit me this summer and I could tell she was uncomfortable being in a different place.

One night she said, “I know you are a relative but I can’t think of your name.”  So, I told her and she wrote it down and put it in her purse. Then she apologized for not remembering I was her daughter. 

Her ability to process information also continues to decline, and she struggles to say what she means in conversations. Talking with her on the telephone is very difficult as she tries to describe people because she cannot remember their names.

A family member goes to doctors’ appointments with her because she is unable to completely relate what was said. She now has a companion aid six days a week who helps clean, cook, and keeps her engaged in conversation, helps grocery shop and helps with other activities.

The worst part is that she is aware of what is happening.  My father had Alzheimer’s and she cared for him. Now she believes she will follow the same path. 

I tried discussing assisted living, pointing out that there would be socialization and activities. The upkeep of the house would no longer be an issue.

But she said, “That’s one foot in the grave.”

She wants to stay in her home.

And, if you think the stories about trying to get your elderly parent to turn in the car keys aren’t true, think again. It is their last vestige of independence and they use every possible tactic to keep driving.

While my caregiving duties have increased three fold during the past year, I realize this is what I must do to ensure that my mother has the best quality of life possible for as long as she is here.

It is very hard, being an independent person, to realize you are a lifeline.  Every day I have to tell myself that she cannot live the life I want her to live, but the one she chooses.

For all of you who are caregivers, I hope you will understand from my story that you are not alone.  There are many of us, and our circumstances vary. Some have family support; some do not.  But we do what we must to take care of our loved ones.

November is National Caregivers Month and it is important to remember and honor those who keep their loved ones safe and secure.  I identify with each of you and urge you to not be ashamed to reach out and ask for help be it family, friends, or a volunteer from Community Caregivers. 

For more information about Community Caregivers, visit our website at www.Communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.