Not only a new year but the beginning of a new decade which just illustrates to me the speed at which time is passing by and I seem to have been standing still for years, still ageing but not going anywhere! New years are a time when we tend to take stock of everything about our lives both past and present and always with a sense of hope for the future. Isn’t that why we talk of making new year resolutions, ranging from small things such as clearing unworn clothes from drawers and wardrobes, donating them to various clothing banks, to giving up drinking, being more active and also losing weight. The latter is definitely a resolution I will be making especially after the indulgences of the Christmas period.
Christmas was a really lovely occasion this year with all our immediate family here. It was only marred slightly by one small occurrence which was the AP trying to persuade our son, daughter-in-law and small grandson to stay and have Christmas dinner with her in the care home, not once but three times. It was an attempt to get at the LSO and myself for not having her here but all it did was make them feel guilty and it was just another example of her controlling and selfish ways. She couldn’t have coped with the chaos, the noise or the food and then there was no-one who could return her back to the home in the evening. Sometimes I feel a sense of real frustration setting in, just which bit of ‘Care’ and ‘Home’ does she and in fact some others, not understand. The LSO and myself are no longer able to look after her because the AP needs 24/7 care and just for a change, the lack of her presence did mean that the LSO and myself actually enjoyed Christmas which was a real bonus.
But remaining on the ‘time for reflection’ theme, I really do need to make some resolutions and stick with them. First on the list is weightloss which is essential for my own health and well being so its back to the low carb with intermittent fasting which I know works for me. The next thing that needs addressing is the great clear-out of not just clothes but all the junk in my studio which has been in there for nearly three years. Just thinking of it is exhausting and that comes to the third issue. How often in the past years have I thought of all these things that need doing then sat down, played another game of Gin Rummy or Wordscape or poured another glass of wine? Often is the answer, too often in fact so the third resolution which should probably be the first is to stop prevaricating and get on with things.
Do I feel better now having got all that off my chest? Not really but at least it’s a start. Do I actually believe the idea that a new year brings hope and new beginnings? No, of course not but there is no doubt that clutter is often a reflection of a state of mind so it can’t be a bad thing to tidy up or to have hope for a better future.
There is no doubt about it but growing older is a pain in more ways than one. Joints ache, muscles ache, sleep is erratic and generally everything is more of an effort but somehow I need to get a grip on things and deal with all these minor problems before they take over.
I must be more positive about everything and find ways of sorting things out and first it has to be weight loss. Once that is underway I am sure everything else will start to get better although it cannot become a cross to carry.
We have just had a visit from some friends of my mothers and I do find catering and dieting quite difficult. The low carb, 16:8 diet is by far the most effective but a combination of cooking for others, three meals a day, does absolutely nothing for my will power which just goes out of the window so here I am, looking at a half pound weight gain which given the situation isn’t too bad.
Sleep deprivation is a real problem though, I am woken up by pains in my back, shoulder and leg at least ten times and more most nights. I probably have one good night in every fourteen days. There are no efficient pain killers I can take so I have resorted to CBD oil which does help but not with sleep. I can certainly walk more easily and as long as I don’t overdo things can cope during my waking hours.
I am not particularly worried about anything either, having the AP in a Care Home has taken a huge amount of pressure off the LSO and myself. Yes, we do have to visit but only once a week, then we are told by her that she is living in a brothel which is just laughable. But we’ve heard it all before; it is just a similar situation to when she was in hospital with ‘Eric’ servicing the nurses who partied all night and sex taking place in the broom cupboard. The dog patrolling the corridors at night has also turned up in the Care Home but thankfully not ‘Eric’ as yet! No, she hasn’t got dementia, it’s just the AP’s rather lewd interpretations of the sounds she hears at night. She is still trying to control our lives but it won’t be happening. Thank goodness she isn’t here.
Things are certainly changing for all of us. The AP is becoming dottier by the day and seems to be retreating into her own little world. We have had her getting ready to go to appointments on days when there are none, mixing up times and places and then making up stories to fill the gaps in her memory. Lately she has started to eat her food with her fingers and holds her head in one hand as if it is too much effort to lift it up all of which infuriates the LSO but she only does it with us. If we have visitors or are out for a meal she uses her knife and fork.
Yesterday she announced that Serena Williams was Venus Williams mother and further more it must be true because they showed pictures on the TV to prove it. We explained they were sisters and far too young to have grown up children but what do we know! I guess all of this is normal in someone of such a great age in fact we are lucky it isn’t worse. Although it is quite difficult to be wholly positive when trapped in this alternative reality both the LSO and myself fight not to become too down or despondent as time slides by at a snail’s pace.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, the plants in the greenhouses are flourishing and I am making cucumber relish for the first time. Years ago we used to buy a Dutch version of this relish then it just vanished never to be found again so I am hoping that this homemade version will be a good replacement. The warm and sunny weather has encouraged good growth and this year our fig tree is bearing many fruits and those will be a joy to eat. At this point the LSO points out that the lawns and hedges are also growing at speed, but I guess, looking on the bright side, we do have some good things to look forward to.
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?’
Its strange how things happen in life and although I would like to think there is a purpose to everything I realise as I get older that often most happenings are random events. It is best not to read too much into any occurrence or from what people say or what they do.
Many, many times over the last four and a half years I have woken in the night and wondered why we made the decision to have the AP to live with us. What possessed us to take someone who is so domineering, who can be so utterly unpleasant and who has become a stranger to us, into our home and our lives?
The more I dwell on it the less I know so after a great deal of thought I have made the momentous decision not to question our act of sheer stupidity anymore. I am going to look at each day that comes as a step forward and I am not going to look back. As it is, I have now developed strategies to prevent the AP controlling, bully or irritating me which has made a huge difference to my health and well being. Although in the midst of saying all this, part of me will never come to terms that my own mother would try to subjugate me and destroy my marriage. Why would you want to do that to your daughter? It’s unbelievable that every now and then she still tries to gain some control over both of us and in particular, me. In one respect because we are stuck here having to be her carers, she actually does have the ultimate control. We have no freedom, no personal space and no privacy. You would have thought all that would be enough!
Indeed on that rather sad note I realise that the LSO and I need to get some pleasure out of the life we have together, to experience joy in living however small, even given the restrictions of having to look after the AP. We are both remarkably fit for our age and need to give thanks for that because compared to many we are lucky. It’s just finding ways to do it.
I also really do need to find some space to do the right things to move my diet forward too. At the moment I am still on a plateau moving neither up nor down which in itself is a reflection of our lives. I know that things can’t go on forever, that situations are always changing even if sometimes only slightly. We have visitors coming to stay at the weekend which will bring on a load of gushing and pretence from the AP but after that I must do some serious planning.
This part of the year can be a bit depressing being generally cold and often grey and gloomy so it is even more important to be strong, go with the flow and keep moving in the right direction in every aspect of our lives.