My son and I joined her for her Thanksgiving dinner, and my husband stayed home with my daughter who was suffering from pneumonia. We could hardly keep her seated, even though it was hard for her to walk. In her mind, she was the woman who walks, the woman who checks in with the other residents, thinking she must take care of them. I had to get her dinner so that she would stay seated. As long as I was feeding her, she was somewhat content. But while my son and I were feeding her, she tried to grab the styrofoam plates and eat those as well. Even writing it, it sounds crazy. Why would someone try to eat a plate? But one of the side effects of the anti-psychotic meds is increased appetite. She wanted to eat everything.
That evening, my son and I constantly fed her and constantly had to keep her from eating non-edible items - the plates, my fingers, her fingers. If it was in front of her, she tried to put it in her mouth. Luckily, my son took many trips to the dessert table to get her a cookie, and eating cookies kept her occupied
A few days later there was the phone call. She was going to be admitted to a geriatric psych ward. As awful as this might sound, it was a good thing. She was going there to get her meds straightened out and hopefully to get the old “Lee” back, the mom I had known just a week ago.
I was positive about this decision. We had gone down this road once before, and it had been wonderful. It had worked. This time the ward was in a different hospital, but she was to be treated by the same doctor who had treated her the first time.
But then I went to visit.
It was awful, not the place, but who she had become. It was all I could do to not cry during the visit. Her skin looked paper thin. She couldn’t walk. The same woman who previously could walk circles around you was in a wheelchair. I talked with her. I held her hand. Mom tried to talk with me as well, but it was as if there was a haze hanging over her. Her voice was softer, her speech was slower, and she had a hard time looking up. Her way of being seemed to be drug induced even though she was no longer on the meds.
The nurses let me stay a little later than visiting hours, but I had to go. I weaved my way through the maze of hallways to get to the exit and out to my car. Staving off the tears, “Just make it to the car. You can do it. Almost there.”
And then I lost it.
I called my husband and explained the situation. He let me talk. He let me cry. Through my tears, I explained to him how alone I felt. Alone because nobody was living this hell with me. I was taking this on alone. I was visiting her. I was taking the calls about medicine. I was showing her that her family and friends love her, despite the disease. He told me he was sorry. Sorry that I had to deal with this. Sorry that I felt so alone. And sorry that he couldn’t fix this for me.
And then I put it out there. I told him what I was truly feeling. Seeing my mother tonight, in that condition, I felt as if I could see the end. And I was in no way ready for it.