Friday, April 11, 2014

Chapter 1: It's Our Turn

I wrote last week’s post, Prologue, to set the stage for this series on caregiving.  Suffice it to say that it is not fiction.

Per Caregiving in the U.S., The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP 2009, “As our parents age, it’s likely a matter of when, not if, they will need our help.  Nearly 44 million Americans — 1 in 5 adults — are family caregivers for a relative or friend over age 50.” 

It’s our turn.  Dad died in August, leaving Mom alone in their big house.   In the few short months since Dad passed, we have watched as the Parkinson’s symptoms have caused her to lose mobility and feel almost constant pain.  While the informed sources on the Internet tell me that pain is not a classic symptom of Parkinson’s, most go on to say that most Parkinson’s patients do in fact have pain.

These sources also tell me that dementia and depression are symptoms.  We have observed evidence of forgetfulness.  She doesn't remember if she’s taken her pills.  She wakes in the night and becomes disoriented. 

And as for depression, well, I can’t even begin to comprehend the losses she’s suffered in so short a time.  Her husband of over 50 years.  Her mobility.  Her short-term memory.  Her independence.  Who wouldn't be depressed?  Who wouldn't be sad? And who wouldn't, at times, be angry?

Mostly, she is alone.  The regular visitors that came bearing food, gifts, and a shoulder to cry on stopped coming.  She can no longer drive, so she depends on others to transport her – but she really doesn't want to go anywhere.  She no longer feels up to going to church.  She no longer wants to go out to lunch.  She can no longer read, and operating the TV remote has become too complicated for her.  So she spends hours each day alone with her thoughts.

She seems to perk up when she has visitors.  Although she complains that food no longer tastes good to her, she will always sit down and eat something if it is prepared for her and someone else sits down and shares the meal with her.

It is clear to us that she needs more care than family visits can provide.  And she needs it sooner rather than later.  We have some decisions to make.

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