Yesterday I sat with my mother at the hospital having hard conversations.
It fucking sucked.
Yes, she’s in the hospital, has been since Thursday night when her fever spiked and her gerontologist told us to go to the ER. Once we got to the ER, my mother developed a new and highly alarming symptom – aphasia. She was unable to find her words for about 11 hours. It was terrifying for her; after all, she’s a scientist and a teacher and not being able to communicate is her worst fear. Fortunately, it passed, and she’s now speaking fine. We’re following up with the neurology team after she gets out of the hospital, though, because that’s strange fucking flu symptom.
So, yesterday. First we spent an hour banging our head against the medical treatment wall, trying to advocate for my mom to go to an acute rehab facility where she could get physically stronger. But we are trapped in a weird place: my mom is considered to be too healthy for an acute rehab where she’d be worked for about eight hours a day getting physical, speech, and occupational therapy. So instead they are sending her to a sub-acute rehab, which is basically just a nursing home. They only offer about an hour of rehab a day. Which sucks, because I believe until my mom builds up her strength she’s going to keep getting knocked down by every little thing that comes her way.
We talked a bit more about her living in a senior living place, which will have the benefit of not exposing her to all the kid germs that Tori brings home (like the flu, der). But she needs to be stronger to live on her own.
We have a plan. She’s going to a UPenn affiliated skilled nursing place where she should be able to do three hours of therapy a day, plus have the ability to do a bit more on her own (like walking through the halls, and maybe using a stationary bike). She’ll then return home where she will have a nursing assistant help her bathe twice a week, and a physical therapist that will come to the house several times a week (or do on-site out patient PT, which would be even better). She will follow up with neuro as an outpatient, and continue to see her gerontologist.
God willing, by the time a space comes available at the senior living place, she’ll be able to live on her own with help from a nursing assistant and us (the place we love is about 15 blocks from us).
God fucking willing.
The hardest part of yesterday, though, came with a hard conversation with my mom. We discussed how Tori is reacting to my mom’s issues and the resulting stress that happens to the rest of us (Charlie told me yesterday that he hasn’t seen me this stressed since I lost the boys, or since we went through infertility). Because my mom and I have always been honest with each other, I had to tell her the truth: Tori is considerably traumatized by all of this.
There are many reasons; my mom has sometimes asked Tori to do things I think are kind of inappropriate to help her – stuff beyond “get me a glass of water.” Stuff that I’m barely comfortable helping her with (but I do, of course). She’s also witnessed multiple falls, and my mother’s repeated mental confusion. At the hospital once my mother flew into a rage and was screaming at me while Tori was there.
I do not want that for my daughter.
My mom feels that Tori has to “learn to live in the real world eventually” and this statement makes so furiously angry. Like, switch flipped simmering life-long fury. Thankfully I have a lot of practice with reining that shit in with my mom and was able to reply only that I feel like she’s got just as much exposure to the real world that she needs as a six year old. That I want her to be a KID, not a nurse. My mom often yells at Tori; she doesn’t understand why Tori isn’t a kid like I was, eager to please, and why Tori is a kid that gets louder and more ramped up before bedtime instead of quiet and calm like I did. She often implies that we’re doing parenting wrong.
I know that my mom did the best she could raising me, but a big part of my story is that I had to grow up a lot faster than other kids. In many ways my mom treated me like a partner instead of a kid which lead to my feeling worried most of the time about finances, and I was always afraid. Always. I never felt safe.
I do not want that for Tori. Tori should feel safe, damn it, she should FEEL FUCKING SAFE.
I know my mom is scared, and I know she’s lonely, and I know that she’s frustrated. And as much as I love her, I’m still going to put Tori first. I don’t know if that makes me an asshole or not, but if there is an alternative living arrangement where my mom is safe and Tori isn’t traumatized, I’m going to take it.
I really hope that someday she understands.
I wake up each day more tired than I was when I fell asleep. My whole body aches from being clenched all the time. I make crappy food choices because meal planning is kind of beyond me right now. I watch far too much television. I have migraines almost every day – so many that I’ve run out of my meds and now I’m just sitting with the pain every day (thankfully they are low level migraines, and what the hell, a med wash out period isn’t a bad idea). My jaw is sore from clenching my teeth so much.
I’m talking to my closest friends each day. I’m chatting with other folks in similar situations. I’m reading up on how to take care of yourself as a caretaker. But I’m still doing this all blind, stumbling around in the dark not knowing what to do. Since the end of October my mother has had five emergency room visits, four hospitalizations, and a surgery.
Is it possible to cope with all of that without going nuts? I don’t know. My mom is miserable and depressed, and I’m stressed and brittle.
I swear I will post something positive here someday. Hopefully.