13 April 2015

For My Parents - "Reality" Really Does Bite

We've had a very busy two weeks. My daughter, son in law and my twin five month old granddaughters paid us a most welcome visit over Easter. I can't even express how excited I was for so many reasons. My twin granddaughters were a mere three weeks old when I flew up to visit them in late November and now they had tripled in weight and are wholly interactive little people who laugh, smile and melt hearts without even trying. My first granddaughter, Evelyn, who is seven weeks older and lives with my son and daughter in law here in Wilmington, was able to meet her new cousins for the first time. Imagine the thrill - I had my entire family, including my parents who are 90 and 91 - talk about a generational span! There were so many poignant, funny, absurd, crazy and unexpected moments that can only happen with three babies, four young adults, a fifty something woman and two folks who are wildly confused and over ninety years old.

We made a lot of memories and there was much laughter.

As it turns out, the ninety year olds required much more supervision and redirection than the babies. There were times when I'm sure my mother and father understood that these visitors were their grandchildren and great grandchildren but there were just as many times as I'm also equally certain they had absolutely no clue as to who any of these people or, for that matter me.

Due to a change in normal routine schedules or perhaps simply because their brain synapses are misfiring and short circuiting at a progressively rapid rate, in the days since our company left, my parents' behaviors, questions and perception have all been dramatically altered. In the past few days my mother has looked straight at me and asked me where "Susan" is and when is she coming home? I tell her that I am Susan to which she replies, "No, MY Susan. I know who you are but where is MY Susan???", she demands. I usually have a comeback for most things, but this exchange always leaves me wondering what to say?

Every single day for the past couple of weeks my mother has told me that it's time for them to "head back home" - i.e., West Virginia. She declares they've enjoyed their visit here but they've been away from their "home" way too long and they must get back and will probably be leaving "early in the morning". It is then that I have to be the bearer of bad news and explain that a) they have no home in West Virginia and they've been living in my home for fifteen years; b) they have no car and no valid driver's license and c) they're not going anywhere.

These statements are always met with the most disbelieving looks imaginable. It breaks my heart to see my Mom try and process the facts I lay out and it's so painful to watch her attempts to make sense of things that her mind must inform her can't possibly be true. She emotionally retreats and for a time the questions stop as she grapples with a reality that is completely foreign to her but is, in fact, the truth.

I try...oh God how I try...to swoop in with a diversion - ice cream, key lime pie, fresh coffee, photos of our family, bringing in Sailor and Cleo and hoping they'll do something cute (they almost always comply) which will take her attention away from the reality I've just dumped on her. I don't know who wants to run away from these moments more - my parents or me?

I take "the twins", aka my parents, to see Dr. Babiss tomorrow. I need to explain that these periods of confusion are happening more frequently and for longer periods of time and they are creating a great deal of anxiety for Mom and Dad and God knows I'm on sustained high alert, which can't be all that healthy for me. It's always worse as evening approaches. They seem to become more edgy and unsettled and my Dad has taken to wandering into the far reaches of the backyard. I'm also going to see if we might qualify for some in house Hospice assistance because I think we're most definitely at that point and frankly, every day I'm feeling just a little more overwhelmed and under-qualified.

I must confess I dread "doctor visit day". They will both swear they've never been to Wilmington Health Associates and while they'll be cordial to Dr. B, neither of them will remember her. It's been six months since our last visit and the mental deterioration is remarkable and profound.  I know there is a limit to what medications can do, but I am hoping she has just a few more tricks up her white coat sleeve and will help me find a way to get some extra hands on deck.