It’s been brought home to me, over the past few weeks, that (like most people, I think) I expect at least a few things in my life to stay the same.
One of the things I expected not to change any time soon was my mother’s independence. Up to about two weeks ago, she lived a fiercely independent life–to the extent of turning down a serious proposal of marriage a few months back. She didn’t want to change her life to that extent, no matter how she felt about her boyfriend. (Seems strange to say “boyfriend” about a guy who’s 83, but what other term is there?)
All of a sudden, though, her short-term memory completely conked out. And now she gets panicky and frightened easiliy when someone’s not there to reassure her. The doctors can’t figure out what went wrong.
Mom’s had a stroke, a heart attack and bypass surgery. I had read that bypass surgery sometimes causes mental problems in the year or so afterwards, but other sources say that’s just coincidence. Certainly my dad went downhill after he had bypass surgery and eventually died of complications of Alzheimers. Is this what’s happening to Mom? She’s had every conceivable test and nothing has showed up.
She’s aware of the problem and aware of what’s wrong, and can talk quite lucidly on the phone (at least when I’ve talked with her) but not being able to remember anything is scaring her. Understandably so.
But what’s to be done? Only one of the four of us siblings lives nearby, and that one is working two jobs, putting four daughters through school, and on top of everything else moving in with his father-in-law who’s seriously affected by dementia but refuses to move out of his home. My brother just has nothing left to give.
Another brother has flown in from California to take care of Mom for the moment, but he has to come back and get back to work because while he’s in Louisville he has no income. He’s talked about bringing Mom back to California, but we all know that’s not practical. Outside of her familiar surroundings, who knows what might happen, and the cost of housing in California is ten times what it is in Louisville.
Mom begs not to be “put in a home.” Given that she would only have Medicare to pay for long term care, that’s a reasonable concern. But what can we do if it should come to that? The four of us together don’t have the resources to pay for anything else. Unfortunately, our parents’ legacy did not include either lots of money or the will to get into lucrative professions.
We can hope that somehow, she’ll get better. It’s possible that she had another small stroke, one that wouldn’t show up on any scan. If that’s the case, it might be possible to re-route the brain cells and make daily independent life feasible again. But no one’s counting those particular chickens before they are hatched.
So, things have changed. And how we all wish they had stayed the same. We have to think of something. Mom can’t.