Mother knows best –or Does she? Alzheimer’s changes everything
Caring for a parent who has Alzheimer’s, is one of the most demanding jobs you’ll ever have. It isn’t manual labor with heavy lifting and strenuous exertion, but rather an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows every day of the week.
As the only daughter, I felt a since of pride in the beginning because taking care of mom fell to me rather than my two brothers. They both worked full-time, so help or support from them didn’t come on a regular basis. If I needed them, though, they never failed to answer my call.
My Mom was 83 years old and as independent as a single senior could be. She lived alone, cared for herself and was completely self-sufficient–except for one thing. She couldn’t remember anything that happened the previous day, or the previous hour for that matter.
Mom had an adequate income, nice home and good neighbors. She bought the best clothes, applied makeup every morning –and slipped into the same outfit she’d worn for the previous three days, or maybe the previous ten days.
She had a library of fine literature, but she couldn’t balance her checkbook or decide which mail to throw away and which to keep.
Still– I felt fortunate to have a “living” mother. At sixty years old, myself, most of my friends had out-lived their mothers by a decade or more.
Though Mom was self-sufficient in many areas, driving wasn’t one of them.
“I drive just fine,” she warned me any time we touched on that topic. “I’ve never had an accident, and you are not taking my car away so you might as well forget it! I can take care of myself. If you’re going to be bossy, you don’t have to come over here at all.”
Mom pulled no punches. Whether I agreed or not, she had the final say! She was older and wiser, wisdom attained from the many miles she had walked in her own shoes alone, without me. I took no offense. It was difficult enough to watch her independence slowly slipping away a little more everyday.
“You’re the child,” Mom would say, “I’m the Mom.” Mom knew best and she didn’t mind telling me so– especially when it came to her car.
I had begged, cajoled and pleaded for Mom to give up her driving priveleges voluntarily. I didn’t like ‘bossing her around,’ as she called it.
I visited twice a week for shopping trips and doctor’s appointments. My husband swung by on his way home from work on the days that I didn’t go to Mom’s. My two brothers always visited on alternate days so we knew Mom had family at her home almost every day of the week. She didn’t need a car and, clearly, her driving ability wasn’t what it use to be.
Besides running red lights and stop signs, there was also the matter of Mom’s numerous visits to Safeway. On one bank statement, she had written 4 checks to Safeway within a 2 hour time-span. When I spoke with the friendly staff who worked there, they all verified that Mom ran in and out of Safeway on a regular basis, some trips within five minutes of each other and bought the exact same merchandise.
Mom also purchased duplicate items on subsequent visits also, which added up to: 4 cans of coffee, 5 gallons of milk, 4 bags of cookies, 4 loaves of bread–all on a single day of shopping.
The car had to go! I called my brother and he moved Mom’s car, without her knowledge, to another location by that evening.
Yes, I did feel guilty. She was the Mom and I was the child, after all, and somehow, it felt more than dishonest to lie to her. Was it really my business?
When a parent can no longer drive their car, or prepare their food, or take their medication on a daily basis–it is always our business. We must be aware of when they can live alone and when it is no longer advisable.
Mom accepted our explanation that the car had been moved to the shop for needed repairs. She asked about it every day and I told her it would be returned ‘tomorrow‘ for nearly a year.
Many things must wait till ‘tomorrow’ when a parent has Alzheimer’s or Dementia and there is no other way to avoid the angst of their temper.
Eventually, Mom forgot to ask about the car and forgot to eat and forgot to take her medication and was no longer able to live alone. She could still smile and tell me that I was NOT her boss for many months after we took her car away, but she no longer argued with most of my choices for her.
An excellent book to help with the issues of Caring for an Elderly Parent, especially if they have issues with anger. “Elder Rage,” by Jacqueline Marcell
A riveting, easy to read, and often humorous, non-fiction novel that chronicles Jacqueline Marcell’s trials and tribulations, and eventual success at managing the care of her aging parents.
Elder Rage is also an extensive self-help book with solutions for effective management, medically and behaviorally, of challenging elders who resist care.
Includes answers to difficult “how to” questions like: getting obstinate elders to give up driving, accept a caregiver, see a different doctor, go to adult day care, move to a new residence–and includes a wealth of valuable resources, websites and recommended reading.
The addendum by renowned dementia specialist, Rodman Shankle, MS MD: A Physician’s Guide to Treating Dementia, makes it valuable for everyone from the family to the physician. Elder Rage is required reading at several universities for graduate courses in geriatric assessment and management.
“A remarkable book… you deserve a great credit, congratulations!” — Steve Allen
“A riveting story, punctuated by wit and humor. Not only for the lay public but for general physicians, psychologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists.” — Kaiser Permanente Journal, Dr. Elliot S. Eisenberg, MD, Spring 2001
“Filled with practical advice. Marcell gives insights for anyone facing such tough decisions. We can learn a lot from her experience.” — Modern Healthcare Magazine, Charles S. Lauer, Publisher, March 5, 2001
“I thought I knew Jacqueline until I read her book. Wow, what a story!” — Regis Philbin
“It’s like fiction, or a made-for-TV movie, filled with despair and deception, then resolution and redemption–leavened by doses of humor.” — AARP’s BULLETIN, Cover Story, by Susan L. Crowley, April 2001.