The Caretaker

Yesterday, Mom was crying. I asked, "What's wrong?" Stupid question on my part perhaps, yet I still wanted to know why my mother, who hardly ever cries (at least in front of people) would be so sad. She was sitting on the couch that was across the room from my dad, who was lying on his bed which hospice provided. During the past couple of weeks, they've been cracking jokes, laughing and really enjoying their time together. Yesterday was different. My mom doesn't like to "upset me" as she thinks. She doesn't want to burden me with "stuff" - but for me, how can I possibly help not knowing what she needs? I asked her again, "What's wrong?" She nodded her head with no words spoken. I asked again, and she said, "Nothing," nodding her head and fumbling with her tissue in her hands. I asked her if she wanted me to call a hospice nurse so I could take her out for an hour or two, but she declined. I felt powerless. She looked so defeated. She's so tired. In the morning, she helps my dad shower, washes his hair and dresses him. This is what hospice is supposed to do - this is what hospice is all about - to help not only the person who is terminally ill, but to help the family members as well. We've noticed a lot of flaws with hospice, like promised visits that are never fulfilled. They tell my mother, "Give him this pill" and then later on, another nurse will say, "Oh why didn't you call me before you gave him the pill? He's not supposed to take that!"  I was present when the nurse told my mom which pill to give him. She gave him the correct one and now because of hospice's mistake, they yelled at my mom - my mom who is completely exasperated from being a caretaker - more so than she ever was. Thank God for my sister who really gave them a piece of her mind.

Mom keeps having the same occurring dream. She said she dreamt about forgetting to feed her baby - "a baby", but not sure if it was hers.  She has this dream often. "I keep forgetting to feed the baby in my dream! I'm running around doing all these things and stop right in my tracks and say, 'Oh no! The baby!'" She also dreams that she forgets to feed her dog. I went online and Googled it. I found a website that stated that if a person dreams about forgetting to feed a baby, it's symbolic for that person (in real life) is forgetting to nurture themselves. They're running around taking care of everybody else, but they don't take care of themselves, feed themselves, remembering that in order to take care of somebody else, they must take care of themselves. I have to keep an eye on mom because there are some days she goes without eating. She says she forgets, or that she's just not hungry, yet she'll nosh on potato chips if they're lying around. She hasn't really been out to dinner or lunch in a very long time, unless my dad is staying in the hospital and we are able to take her to a Friday's nearby. The main problem here is that she hasn't used hospice to the fullest extent as she should. She's always been a bit uptight about strange people in her house. She doesn't like the feeling of having anyone in her home without her being there. I remember when I used to get a cleaning woman with her husband to stop by my mom's house every week. She always said, "You're gonna be here right?" And, I had to be there until they were gone. So, having hospice there - people who are helping my dad is seen as an "intrusion" and I don't know how to convince her that they are there to help - not to rob us.  She has in her mind that anyone who does any service inside the home (even chimney sweepers, maintenance people) will try to hurt elderly people or take advantage of them. While this may be true in some cases, she has taken this to an extreme phobia that is taking her quality of life away.

There are no easy solutions, suggestions or ideas that can be given to Mom right now. She's watching her best friend, her husband, her companion for over 50 years and the strongest & toughest man she's ever met, become the weakest person she has ever seen. And although I'm his daughter and love my dad, I can't imagine what she's going through emotionally. My fear is that her emotional well-being will trickle into her physical well-being if she doesn't start looking out for herself, or at least accepting the help that she's offered from both the immediate family and hospice. Please keep my parents in your prayers if you can.

"Don't count the days, make the days count." ~Muhammad Ali

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