Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Dust Isn't Settling

but is instead stirring in WA. Unfortunately every day since I last blogged has been pure unexpected hell for most of our family. Overnight I became a caregiver for my mom who desperately needed my help. I watched my moms health spiral downward in a matter of days. How things can change from one day to the next!

Simply put, she was a wreck and I could not leave her. I delayed my flight home 3 times because each time I could not fathom leaving. She was falling on the floor (try picking up 97 lbs of DEAD weight), not able to get up, not able to move from the bed, not able to care for herself, not able to make her own food or even get it for that matter. A lot of this is related to her not being able to have her Rheumatoid Arthritis medication for months now since she had that horrible infection that put her in the hospital a few weeks ago. Infection = no rheumatoid medication because the combo can kill you. A nice side affect eh? So she has been in misery with pain and almost paralyzed with inflammation (ALL her joints are like tennis ball sized and bigger at only 97 lbs now). RA is just terrible! It makes her weak, not hungry and tired too and it all came to a head when I was there.

I was needing to make breakfast lunch and dinner for her and serve it to her in her bed (which is where she lives now) and had to take over all the house chores too. It is really hard to see your own mom in this kind of state.

I turned into her own person advocate too in addition to everything else. I became that person constantly on the phone with family and friends, taking her to the doctor appts, making doctor appts, begging for doctor appts, getting the right info from the doctors, asking the right questions for her etc.). It was a little nuts.

And that was only the day part of my job. At night I slept with one ear open and the second I heard her moaning with pain or trying to navigate with her walker to the bathroom I was up in flash. I was there helping her make her way safely to and from the bathroom and making sure she took her middle of the night pills. Sometimes this happened at both 2am and at 4am in one night!! Needless to say I am trashed.

With my spare time (ha!!) I decided on a whim to get mom all set up to move into assisted living (for her) and for dad to move into the attached "memory care" unit they have. This would enable them to be in the same building at least with both of them getting the 24 HOUR care that they both need. This was something that had not been on the radar yet so I started from square one and got them set up with having a nurse assess them both. It was lot to get that arranged on the fly but things came together nicely and extremely quickly. I came in like a tidal wave but I had to, otherwise it wouldn't get done (i.e. mom would say she would have to make a call and I would right then pick up the phone and say where is the number!). Otherwise the call may never happen.

In addition to all the basic stuff that was going on during the day and during the night, it also became apparent to me that I would need to get their entire house house organized and ready to move since no one likely will be living there soon.

So I went through files, closets, drawers, and everything else that needed attention. We threw out a ton, recycled a ton and donated a ton too. I did so much in 9 days. More than I do at my own home all year.

And I have to say that being a caregiver is the hardest job on earth. Especially when it comes unexpectedly!!! When my mom was taking care of my dad I used to tell my mom all the time that she NEEDS to take care of herself more so that she can help dad. But now I get it and I can see just how easy it is to fall into the caregiver trap. It was at the moment that I hadn't showered in 2 days went out in my pajamas to McDonald's to get our dinner that it really hit me. That is when I knew something was really wrong - it was my lowest moment I think.

But when you need to get back home to Utah because you only thought you were going to be gone for a few days and you have stuff to do like getting her house ready for sale and helping mom and then mom is yelling down to you needing something at 9pm at night while you are on the trainer trying desperately to get your training in, it is HARD to take care of yourself. She was completely dependent on me for every need. (And BTW - how was that for a run on sentence?)

I learned a lot about people and myself these last few weeks. A lot of good things. And I can feel so much for anyone that ever has to do what I did, especially for years. In my case, I really didn't get what care giving was about until I did it and now I know all too well what care giving is all about. It is the most selfless act. In fact the bus driver on the way to airport had been in my shoes for a bit and ended up letting me on the bus for free and consoled me while I finally had time to cry. These are not easy times right now. Both of my parents are extremely ill.

So I have come home for a bit here finally to address my own life needs and my own things I left behind. I am not sure how long I will be around and am waiting for mom to give me the green light for moving before I go back to WA. I keep thinking each day she is going to do that but so far not. I wanted her to move this last weekend but it was just too much all at once to have sink in.

But I will say that I think she is happy I am gone now because I had her thinking too much with suddenly considering assisted living and then having her help going through all their stuff too (I had to bring it to the bed to have her tell me what to do with it). What a crazy adventure that was only supposed to be a few days long. I was able to find help for mom in the meantime before she moves into assisted living though so she is covered for a bit. Not a fantastic situation but things are stable for the moment.

Some of the highlights (I had to really dig for these!!) of the trip were finally seeing dad for the first time in his nursing home. But I must say that when we went to the "sing along" they have, I lost the plot. You know what I am talking about....all the seniors gathered in one room singing old songs. You envision it for others but not your own father. And BTW - he didn't sing but at least he doesn't look like Einstein anymore.

Another highlight was my parents celebrating 56 years of marriage while I was there. Well, it wasn't much of a celebration because mom was bed bound and you can't CALL dad on the phone to say "Happy Anniversary" because it would likely just sound like a dog barking to him over the phone.

Another highlight: Trader Joes; Need I say more?

And another: Riding outside!!

And yet another highlight: Seeing the snow fall in WA. It has been since I was a kid that I last saw snow in WA! The start of the falling snow:

And after a few hours:

And the area is just gorgeous with snow!

The beautiful Puget Sound:

And some sweet volcanoes on the flight home (Rainer, Adams, Helens, I can't recall...I was pretty tired):

Oh and on one of my training rides I rode past the the massive run up that we do at the Fort Steilacoom Park Cyclocross race. They filled in the gap with a ton of fairly large stones. If we do that part of the course next year you will either run up the sides (depending on how they mark the course) or can choose to run up what looks like a super steep flight of stairs. Ugh.

Ok, that is the update. Lots going on and that is why I simply did not have time to blog at all. Now its time to continue to catch up with sleep and all the rest......


tiffp said...

KS- wow....just got on your blog for the 1st time in a while...I had no idea...hope you're hanging in!!!

Genericyclist said...

Best wishes for you and your family!


Thanks for the thoughts you two!