This is the post excerpt.
About four years ago we made a decision that was to change our lives completely. We suggested to my then 96 year old mother that she comes to live with us. There were sound reasons behind our decision as she was not looking after herself very well and was looking very weak and wobbly. We also felt that her relationship with us was good and vice versa and we would make this work. We really had no idea what we were doing; what we were taking on or how it would affect us.
A couple of blogs ago I mentioned that our eldest grandson who at the age of ten is representing his area in the Independent Schools Association athletics. The LSO and I are going to support him but it involves a huge amount of organisation to ensure the AP is looked after.
The drive down to the South East from Norfolk gave me a good deal of thinking time about the situation that the LSO and I have found ourselves in and the difficulties we have encountered from taking on the care of the AP. I made several decisions about many things and not least was how to cope with her inability to accept her shortcomings with some grace.
Last night I told her what was happening next Tuesday which I knew would cause the screwed up face because she feels she is being off loaded onto people. The fact they are happy to help seems to completely pass her by and her reactions are totally self, self, self.
It was an opportunity for me to tick one of the items on my ‘thinking list’, to talk to her about her inability to really look after herself. Her reaction was definitely lacking in grace and what I expected, a screwed up face and I was told not to say things like that. I understand the reaction but at a hundred years old, arthritic, blind, deaf and with short term memory loss it does mean there are limitations to what she can do and for how long she can be left on her own. I explained that none of us are getting any younger and we too have had to accept that there are some things we cannot deal with anymore. This applies particularly to the LSO who has never really been the same having been so very ill last year. I also pointed out to the AP that should an emergency arise suddenly, we would need to consider respite care for her.
OK, that didn’t go down well. The response was that my seventy-eight year old cousin would drive down for her and miraculously spirit her off to bonny Scotland, a mere twelve to fourteen hour round trip. The fact they may well have their own responsibilities or even, lucky people, be on holiday never occurred to her and when I challenged her on that she said she would get a taxi. If it wasn’t so ridiculous and self-centred it would be laughable. She did stomp off to bed soon after this chat making me realise once again how difficult she makes things for us.
Well at last the seed is sown and perhaps next time I tell the AP the LSO and I are out for the day and she will be looked after elsewhere, she won’t screw up her face. But in the meantime we need to look into respite care or the possibility of a carer coming to the house.
Always in life there is are imaginary lines that are there in everything we do. The lines has numerous of functions, some are warnings but sometimes they can encourage development. So which line am I standing in front of today?
Yesterday evening was a fine example of the AP dominating the conversation all evening with endless stories of the past. the LSO and I have heard them many times and tend to turn off to them. Each time they get a bit more muddled and embellished becoming a stream of endless drivel. The AP managed to have an inevitable dig at me but only succeeded in making herself look silly and causing me to mentally back off even further.
At the moment she is pretending to our visitor that she can see but because I attend all her sight tests I know exactly what the AP can and cannot see. I had to finally leave the room especially when a comment was made about wonderful teachers who make a difference to their students. She then went into a long diatribe about a teacher ninety years ago who apparently also taught my cousin and remembered my mother as this hugely clever girl. I suppose we all feel the need to blow our own trumpets occasionally. The AP seems to have chosen to forget that I had been a teacher for thirty five years and I was good at my job. It’s difficult to know whether she means to demean me or is just becoming plain daft. I would prefer to think the latter but sadly when I hear her conversing with people I realise that she still possesses some native cunning that manifests itself in a sly nastiness. It is hard to understand my mother’s desire for superiority, why is it that she cannot accept her own short comings? Why can she not appreciate what she has instead of making our lives a misery?
I guess the line I am crossing at the moment is one of disinterest and detachment and sadly I am heading towards thoroughly disliking the AP. I am finding it hugely difficult to make an effort with her and am instead retreating into my shell which I know is not the right solution to the problem. I can but hope that crossing this particular line will help me to survive, I feel I am drowning in a never-ending sea of greyness. I am mentally struggling to find a positive approach when every bit of my being is crying out for a release from this state of imprisonment.
I am told there is a light at the end of the tunnel but at the moment it feels like it is the train coming towards me and if it isn’t that, it is a very, very long tunnel.
Having the AP living with us is a real trial now. I find myself not wanting to spend any time with her because conversations are so stilted and surreal and she is also trying to be such a smart arse that it is embarrassing . She is regressing more and more and yesterday was a fine example of this. We had visitors staying , a friend of hers, about our age who has become a friend of ours too and our nephew who was on a flying visit. After the initial greetings and a bit of small talk the AP was no longer the centre of attention so she became rude and belligerent with me when I suggested she join them in the garden. ‘Why should I? ‘ was the response in an aggressive tone of voice. ‘Only a suggestion’ I replied to be huffed at and told they would be talking. ‘It’s what people do when they meet but you must do what you want’. After a stomp around the hall the AP did go outside.
We are getting more and more of this petulant and rude behaviour but in some ways it is good for me because it hardens my resolve to not be bullied and makes me more determined to have some quality of life with the LSO. I do get irritated and feel a bit down at times but I am finding a growing sense of detachment that is protecting me from the terrible angst felt before but in truth it is still a constant source of negativity that doesn’t go away. Given the opportunity the AP will have a dig about me to others and I have no defence because these people only see the dear, sweet old lady not the day on day reality that the LSO and I put up with. I am sure I must appear to most of our visitors as a hard and sharp person but I cannot and will not let the AP dominate us ever again. The years of misery and emotional damage she has caused us cannot be changed but at least we can improve what is in the here and now. Sadly she is becoming quite unlovable.
We are arranging a day out soon without the AP to go and watch one of our grandsons competing at the ISA National Athletics Championships in Birmingham. I had the pleasure of seeing him run in the qualifying trials and was so delighted and proud when he won all three of his races.It is hugely important that the LSO witnesses his grandson compete and supports his efforts. Children grow up so quickly. We must not allow the AP to stop us having this pleasure in our lives and we are fortunate to have some friends who will help us on this occasion. It will be the screwed up face no doubt but it will be happening.
The dogs are a huge comfort as well as a distraction and the lovely Lucie continues to grow both in stature and personality. Dear Barney continues to plough his own furrow but is a lovely gentle old man looking a bit like a canine Terry Thomas now.
The AP could take some lessons from him, not I may add, to be a Terry Thomas lookalike.
Ten months ago I began writing this blog to help me cope with the hugely onerous task of looking after my ageing mother. Writing has been a great release and has helped me to keep problems in proportion. I joke that it has kept me out of the asylum but there is some truth in that statement and although I still have bad days at least they are more isolated. The LSO reads the blog and hopefully it helps him too. It takes two of us to deal with the situation and even then it is often too much for both of us and it is at that point I feel a blog coming on and the need to offload the anger, frustration and resentment that has built up as a result of having a one hundred year old woman living with us whom we no longer recognise or truthfully, understand.
The situation deteriorates each day now. The AP has become ever more self orientated and sees very little beyond herself and her ability to compute what is said to her is lessening. This is difficult to deal with on an every day basis because meaningful conversations are an impossibility except in very short bursts. If she is trying to go somewhere her concentration is totally on what she is doing and even if you speak to her at that time, she doesn’t take in any information. If the AP asks a question, the answer has to repeated several times before any understanding occurs. She still tries occasionally to dominate us but we have put strategies in place to deal with those moments and I must admit to a sense of detachment growing which is a blessing.
Normal courtesies are forced when speaking to us and thank you doesn’t come naturally anymore. She does try but it’s sad to see how difficult it has all become for her. She gushes all over others which is definitely a ‘get me a bucket’ time for us but it is often a release to have people here then her focus is altered.
Before the the AP came to live with us the LSO and I were always busy, we entertained people, went out and had a spontaneous lifestyle, enjoying our retirement. In the last four years all that has gone and the current situation has left us despondent and depressed and although we realise that we must weather this period in our lives it is hard to know what to do to improve things. How do we regain the enthusiasm we had for life in general before the AP became our permanent house guest?
There isn’t a simple answer and it is a road we have been down many times during the last four years.
Well hopefully I’m back on track with the dieting. It certainly feels like an uphill struggle at the moment but I am sure that is all down to my attitude and weaknesses when it comes to food and drink. I am not overly fond of sweet potatoes for instance unless they are fried which is a bit of a drawback and so many recipes include these rather tasteless vegetables. I can of course leave them out or substitute something else but I often look at a recipe, see them in it and move on and end up doing something utterly unsuitable because I am cooking for three very different tastes.
But I am not giving up and am back to the swimming and hope to manage to fit in walking the dogs with the LSO at least once in the day this weekend.
The AP is keeping a low profile at the moment which is good in one way but rather worrying because from past performances we know she cannot sustain a pleasant exterior for too long. Her short term memory continues to fade but not where money is concerned which is quite amusing, she is obviously hanging onto that faculty as long as possible but everything else is out of the window and we are definitely living in echo valley. She continues though to irritate me with her assumptions that when something needs replacing in her rented property it cannot be the fact that the item in question is just old and worn out but it is always that the tenant has damaged it in some way. We have also witnessed the return of the ‘I know’ attitude but we are just ignoring that at the moment.
As I have said before, it is just a matter of time before the vinegary spleen rises up and we will be forced to say something. She continues to try to bully and dominate us every now and then but we cannot allow that to happen again. I am hugely weary of the whole situation but also have to accept that we can only do what we are doing and try to keep everything on an even keel. It is now over four years since we made the fateful decision to have the AP living with us, it is a decision we both regret. I try to not be bitter or dwell on the lost years but the LSO finds it much harder to deal with it all. Friends do find it difficult to understand but in most cases they lost their parents when they were much younger and before their mothers or fathers changed and change they do. There seems to be some kind of watershed that takes place after about 94 years. I do not recognise the person my mother is now; all refinements have been stripped away as she has aged and the brain begins to die leaving behind the more unpleasant sides to her personality.
All very sad.
There is no tangible reason to feel this way but for the last couple of days I have had this awful sinking feeling. The sun has been shining, everything is blooming in the countryside around us and generally life could be and has been much worse. I don’t feel like this all the time, it just suddenly occurs and I am aware that I feel rather down and a little depressed. I try not to analyse it because I don’t want to make up reasons or even try to pinpoint anything that may have happened or have been said to create this feeling. I know that would only make it worse and possibly fabricate a situation that wasn’t there in the first place. The AP is back in residence and although she is being fairly amenable there are undercurrents just simmering under the surface and I know that it wouldn’t take too much for them to break out.
Part of my feelings could be due to the relentless out-pouring of money at the moment with not enough coming in to fill the vacuum. Having just paid out a great deal of money to put in the boiler house and the new boiler system we have now had to bring in a team of gardeners to sort out the front garden and it is costing rather more than we had originally thought. That always seems to be the case with most things today, think of a sum and double it should be the maxim. But the garden is out of control and the LSO can no longer deal with it so we need to get it back in check and then go on a maintenance regime. This means that the projected hall, stairway and landing decorating has had to be put on hold until the Autumn which is possibly a good thing.
In the midst of all this I have come to the conclusion that like the garden, I too need a maintenance regime both mentally and physically. A lot of pampering would help, a restful holiday in the Maldives would be good, as well as a thorough make over and of course, a lottery win to pay for it all. Whilst drinking my morning cup of tea today I was mulling over everything and found myself thinking how convenient it would be if a team could suction away all the excess fat I’ve acquired just like the gardeners are removing the weeds, then the skin could be renovated and smoothed over just like the soil that is appearing in the border. It probably is possible but no doubt at a great cost and of course, time.
Time, well that is another issue.
Well, our month without the AP is over and her one hundredth birthday has been successfully celebrated in style and is now over so we are back to the same old routine and the same old repetitive conversations.
At least with the summer looming the weather will be better and the AP can sit out under the shade and catch a few rays. They might work a miracle and improve her attitude and behaviour but I won’t be holding my breath. Sadly the AP’s very presence has ratcheted up the angst and watching her pretend to all and sundry during the celebrations that she is this dear, sweet little old lady has caused the LSO and myself much frustration. The reality is very much the opposite. At this very moment I am listening to the conversation between my lovely cousin from Canada and the AP and no matter what is said the AP manages with amazing skill to bring everything back to herself! I have to be thankful that there is some conversation at all because in truth I have nothing to say to her which is sad in itself but anything in the present is promptly forgotten, hence the repetition and the past is always the same old stories over and over again.
Our month off was pretty stressful but all the boiler work is completed and the results have been definitely worth it, just having a shower is a joy. But the LSO and I now need a break! What a joke but I suppose October isn’t too far away as long as my equally lovely Scottish cousins will have the AP back.
Now I must really get to grips with the diet and next Monday I will start the 5:2 diet in earnest. I am also looking at a low carb regime following Genius Foods. Our darling daughter has sent me some information on podcasts to listen too and the LSO and I will be following this new, according to the LSO, tyranny (typical male response) as soon as I have sorted the meals out. I haven’t gained the weight I lost originally but equally haven’t lost any more. I try to tell myself that being positive is the way to go but do know that as far as the AP is concerned it can only get worse but in the meantime I will endeavour to be a better person and think better thoughts.
Hope springs eternal and all that ….