I haven’t written a blog for about seven weeks which can only be a good sign as far as my emotional and mental health is concerned. For almost four years this blog has stood firmly between me and insanity of that I have no doubt; I have been able to keep things in perspective by writing down my feelings and my responses to intolerable situations. The inevitable run up to the Christmas festivities is partly responsible for the radio silence and now that the AP is in a care home the stress factors have vanished almost completely. I say almost because we still have to visit her once a week. This does nothing for our peace of mind because her behaviour with us is often aggressive, demanding and thoroughly unpleasant. We go out of a sense of duty but often come away feeling very down having listened to a string of moans about nothing in particular. We try to steer the conversation to lighthearted things but the AP can and does think only of herself. She is rude about the other residents, calling them thick and is convinced someone has stolen a pink bag she had in there. She probably took it to the dining room with her and forgot about it. The staff party all night too, shades of the hospital! I bet they wish they could.
None of this is new as she was horrid to us when she was living here but now we are seeing much, much less of her we have a much clearer picture of the AP and it isn’t flattering. She still tries to play her controlling games with us but now we can walk away from it all and we do, thank goodness. It is a completely different story when others go to visit her in the home and just like before she makes a huge effort and plays the sweet, slightly dotty old woman.
Christmas will be an interesting experience because the AP will be spending hers in the care home. She will not be coming back here not only because we don’t actually want her malign presence casting it’s long shadow over us but we cannot get her back in the same day. She cannot sleep here as the AP is unable to get up and down the stairs and her room is not habitable now, we are slowly regaining our space back. But, in truth she could no longer cope with the general noise and hubbub of the day. She is in a care home for a reason, we can no longer look after her and nor do we wish too. The five and a half miserable years of looking after her have taken their toll on both the LSO and myself at a time in our lives when we should have been free. I am now seventy four and cannot have that time back but what is so very frustrating and what makes me still very angry is the fact that all the AP had to do was be pleasant, accept and enjoy what we had to offer with some grace and we could have rubbed along well. What we endured was the polar opposite. My anger lessens as time goes by but I have no liking for the AP who tried to drive a wedge between the LSO and myself whilst being controlling, conniving, devious and thoroughly unpleasant.
In the meanwhile I have been dealing with the aches and pains that have woken me continually during the nights. I put aside the need to lose weight in order to concentrate on the niggling but nevertheless debilitating minor problems which taken as a whole were becoming a much bigger issue. There has been some success in that area thanks to CBD oil and a ten milligram dose of Amyltriptiline a day which apparently can help nerve pain in some people. It would appear to be the case for me and the pain in my lower back has all but gone which is a massive relief. The CBD oil took a while to have an effect but I generally am improving which is great because I can now look to losing some weight. At the moment I am eating smaller portions, keeping carbs low and endeavouring to not drink alcohol from Monday to Thursday. Is it working? Well not as much as I had hoped but the direction is downwards, just slowly.
Hopefully Christmas won’t cause too much damage but we have our family descending on us and for the first time in some years I am looking forward to it all.
Oh dear, my ability to stick to a dieting regime is severely compromised at the moment. I must stop wavering and prevaricating and get on with it. I am sure this must sound familiar to many people who like me, struggle with their weight.
Our trip to Essex was a delight and so was the meal at the restaurant but I am sure it broke all the rules of my diet. Also and much to my surprise the AP was on her best behaviour which was a surprise after the week before but then she has always managed to con this particular grandson and would not want to spoil his belief in his dear, sweet grandmother. Is he conned by her? I really don’t know but my daughter-in-law has few illusions but maybe that is because she is female and more astute. It’s a curious set-up really but one I find myself watching with interest.
Our next onslaught of visitors is this coming week and it is only one ex-colleague of the AP’s coming from Australia who actually married the AP’s boss. She is a particularly pleasant person but those high up in the world of academe have always brought the true snobbery out in the AP and this particular visitor is a Professor Emeritus.
Fortunately the LSO and I really like her and find her pleasant company so we don’t find the ‘below stairs’ activity too onerous but we will only have one lunch out to break up a day of burbling from the AP. I am still feeling a bit bruised and battered from her behaviour during our last set of visitors so have decided to cook. At least it gives me an excuse to be in the kitchen and I would like to think I will have more control over the food I consume. Did I say that? I spend most of my waking day in there, that is, when I’m not writing another blog!
Anyway I shall endeavour to stick to a low carb regime and try to resist the new potatoes grown and harvested daily by a neighbouring farmer although I feel my resolve will waver when I see them coated in a dollop of fresh butter, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This last astonishing session with the AP has taken an emotional toll both on the LSO and myself. I have just spent a day with my own thoughts because the LSO has had a rare few hours away fishing with a friend, something he doesn’t do enough of these days.
There was a time pre AP time when we were both hugely busy and happily doing things and it isn’t important what these ‘things’ were, it was just the sheer pleasure of being retired and finally after a lifetime of working being able to use the time available to do what we wanted. In reality we still have that time but the constant battling with the selfishness, changeability and malevolence of the AP has taken away the joy we both had in life itself.
We feel trapped in our lovely home and have to battle with ourselves to do anything at all. I found myself today struggling to just prepare lunch. I used to love cooking and experimenting with lots of flavours, baking and bread making, pickling and jam making were a regular occurrence but now the will is vanishing and instead is being replaced with a sense of futility and frustration. The AP’s constant wittering has ground us down both physically and emotionally. I teeter on the edge of reason most days.
This whole situation is having a devastating effect on my need to lose weight and in fact I have put some pounds back on and am trying desperately to find a way back to my former determination. I cannot afford to go back to being diabetic but that will happen if I cannot reverse this situation. Another rather frightening aspect of this stress, because it certainly is very stressful looking after the AP, is that the LSO and myself use alcohol as an anaesthetic. We don’t drink to excess but do tend to drink each evening to soften the feeling of emotional distress we are permanently in and of course, that is another reason for the steady weight gain.
It is a fact that when you lose the will to live and you merely exist, you lose the will to overcome obstacles. It is simpler to have another glass of wine and relax; simpler but extremely dangerous and we need to pull back from this particular precipice sooner rather than later.
On than very serious note I will take another sip of my rhubarb and apple gin and contemplate starting a new regime tomorrow. It’s bit like giving up any addiction, you just have to keep on giving up not giving in.
Well, just as we think our situation can’t get much worse or depressing, it does.
My lovely cousins from Scotland have just departed after a four day stay with us and the AP. It should have been a great visit but the weather was awful, wet and chilly but that shouldn’t have made much difference, what did was the complete dominance of the AP. She was determined to be sitting in the living room, receiving as if she was the Queen, her acolytes circling around her whilst she burbled non-stop for three days; most of it was made up, mixed up or just completely incorrect. It was impossible to enjoy anything or even sit for long in the room because she just talked over everything. The LSO and I began to lose the will to live. Fortunately my cousin is a natural comedian and in between these times we did manage to have a good and much needed laugh.
In itself, the AP’s attempted dominance although irritating, shouldn’t have been a problem but when I overheard her saying that I was a bully it hurt. I am not a bully and never have been, the bully is the AP. Yes, I am firm about some things but they are for her benefit not mine and I also cannot allow her to completely wreck our lives although, in truth, she is doing a fine job of it at the moment.
When we went out for dinner last evening the AP called the LSO and I ‘pains’ and proceeded to lie about what she had said but it was in front of my cousin and his wife. Liz has no illusions about how unpleasant the AP can be and has been on the receiving end of it in the past when she has stayed with them but my cousin is never present when those moments have occurred so last night came as a bit of a shock. But enough is enough and I firmly told her what I thought of her comment which was absolutely uncalled for and just typical when she feels she is not getting her own way.
Unsurprisingly there was no remorse but she is cunning and when she came down this morning she was clingy and holding his hand like a child, trying to make a point no doubt but for me it was a case of ‘get me a bucket’. We have a carer coming soon to take her out until 6pm, but sadly it will continue to emphasise the problems for us as she will be fawned over and unnecessarily cosseted. She will play the sweet little old lady which she can manage for that length of time, then return to us and revert to the unpleasant and selfish person she really is.
My cousin has said she needs to go into a home and he is right but I did say we would get through the summer and reassess the situation and I will keep my word. He even suggested to the LSO, a care home in Scotland but I don’t think that he understands the full ramifications of that situation, or maybe he was just being kind. Fortunately his wife does understand and the LSO says there was a firm veto issued. No, if it’s a home it will be here but we will see what the future brings, the AP still has to have the basal cell carcinoma on her nose removed and we are just waiting for the appointment.
You really would think that things should get better as time goes by. I even tell people when they ask how things are that they are all good, hoping I guess that they will improve, that life in our ‘care home’ is rolling along nicely but the truth is just the opposite. It’s rolling along but not necessarily nicely.
I wake up in the mornings with a sinking feeling that we have another day with the claustrophobic presence of the AP living with us. I take her breakfast up to her room and always have to take a deep breath before producing a cheery ‘Good Morning’ in a rather desperate attempt to start the day off in the right direction. Most times it works but not this damp and rather dreary Monday morning. I find the AP slumped in her chair staring at the ‘no satellite’ image on the TV, and when I make a comment she says she has just put it on and is waiting for the programmes to come up. I explain she needs to press the Sky control and this prompts a nasty and unpleasant response that she was just going to do that, that she always does that. All lies of course, she had forgotten that part of the process and just hates being caught out so her immediate reaction is one of attack. Unfortunately my response is extremely terse as I leave her room feeling a sense of utter despair sweep over me.
This is no way to start the day or even the week and just to add to everything we have my cousin from Scotland and his wife coming to stay until Friday. We will have to witness the AP alternating between being gushingly sweet to moaning about her health which in truth, for her age is extremely good. Fortunately they do know what she can be like and are both good company so we will just sit back and enjoy the charade that is, of course, in between our ‘below stairs’ activities. There will be a sudden attack of good manners, seldom apparent when it is just the LSO and myself here, the comments will abound about how wonderful we are and how well she is looked after. OK, the last comment is actually correct but we know she doesn’t really feel that way herself because she still makes vain attempts to dominate us and is completely delusional about how much she is capable of doing.
As I have said before, looking after this ungrateful, self opinionated and vain old woman is a thoroughly thankless task.
When I first began this blog is was to help dispel the terrible angst that had built up over the first years of looking after the AP. The shock that this person was a stranger to me has been with me since the day she moved in with us, up until then she was my mother. Writing the blog certainly helped and somehow I found a kind of limbo that helped me get through the days, the weeks and the months. We are now in the sixth year of being carers and it doesn’t get any easier and although we have recognised that this would be the case, nothing prepared us for the reality.
I wake up every morning now realising that the years are slipping by and we are not getting any younger, both of us are in our early seventies. The AP, who lives in a bubble is apparently unaware of any of this, thinking only of herself and continuing to sail onwards unscathed and uncaring. We had wanted to spend the latter years of our retirement touring this lovely island of ours, never dreaming that we would end up shackled to a one hundred and one year old woman. In our naivety we thought she would be open to allowing us space and time together, dear God, how wrong could we have been.
There is a small light on the horizon. We finally have found someone who will help her shower once a week, take her out for lunch and spend some quality time in the afternoon basically entertaining her, this is also giving us a short break. It was thought of as an alternative to a care home and at first seemed the ideal answer but like everything to do with dealing with the AP there is a downside. The lady carer and her husband are lovely and genuinely like the AP who for the time she is with them is capable of playing the sweet little old lady. We have said nothing about the five years of misery looking after her and in the short term they may never know. The contrast with our business-like approach to everything to do with caring for her and the short day with someone else who makes a huge fuss of her couldn’t be more different. Unfortunately this has meant that the AP has slipped back into making demands, trying once again to manipulate and control us which is not leading to a relationship made in heaven. She seems to resent bitterly the fact that we have some time alone but she is also jealous that we also get on well with this new couple.
In the meantime the AP continues to make up stories. I heard her on the telephone telling someone that she fell and banged her head which has left her feeling fuzzy. This is not true but what’s the point in saying anything. The whole situation leaves me swinging from an unreasonable sense of anger to utter despair with a short respite in the middle where I try to find some peace but sadly in the back of my mind I hear a small voice saying ‘how much longer can this go on?’
In the mornings the LSO always brings me a cup of tea in bed and has done so since we both retired thirteen years ago. It’s a real treat, having worked all my life I make the most of the peace and quiet usually indulging in a few games of Gin Rummy on my phone. How decadent is that!
But during a moment of contemplation, having lost more games than I had won I realised just how like a game of cards our life has become. The AP is a general pain in the neck being some of the time aggressive and difficult, making up stories to justify things and those moments represent the games lost, those are the losing days. Other times she can be pleasant, amenable and cooperative and those are the winning days but are seldom experienced unfortunately.
She announced the other day that the LSO and I had no idea how poorly she has been since stumbling at Keep Fit and sitting on her bottom. We do have her living with us so are well aware of her state of health and she has seen a doctor, been taken to the hospital and had x-rays that proved no damage had been done, so I asked when had she been so poorly? Then the LSO asked her to define what ‘poorly’ means to her and this did cause a bit of a rumpus as she truthfully has not been ill and in fact is extremely fit and well given her great age. Truth be told she would rather not go to Scotland and was hoping to get out of the month away. She really doesn’t see why the LSO and myself need a break from her and in fact doesn’t care that we need some time on our own, we are there just for her it would seem.
It was pointed out to her that if she was that ill she needed professional care something we as amateurs are unable to offer and indeed, are not prepared to do anyway. We would need to get her assessed and then decide what the best course of action would be and ultimately it could be a Care Home and this statement elicited a very nasty response which was “Well, you’ve finally got your own way”. Nether of us had any idea why she should think this or what she meant, if it was the case she wouldn’t have been living with us for the last five years. It just made us feel once more that we have lost five years of our freedom at an age when we should have been enjoying our lives as much as possible.
The end result of all this was that she was told in no uncertain terms that she would be going away and when back we would discuss the options available to her. We are now enjoying a short winning streak.
Her suitcases are down from the loft and we have fourteen days to go.