November is National Family Caregivers Month. A time to give thanks to all those folks who are taking care of a loved one who is struggling with heath issues that cause serious impairments.
My mom was my dad’s caregiver for several years. My dad lost his eye sight to Macular Degeneration and he lost his memory to Alzheimer’s. She gave 150% of herself in taking care of my dad which caused her own health to begin to fail miserably. The time came to make the very difficult decision to place my dad in a nursing home. The stress she experienced from her caregiver role was irreversible.
The kind of stress she experienced was not good. She often became dehydrated which would land her in the hospital. She lost all of her hair from stress which caused people to ask me if she was going through chemotherapy. She lost an incredible amount of weight and she wasn’t a very big person to begin with. And, her memory also started to plummet. I became my mom’s caregiver. One of the most uncomfortable hats I have ever worn.
My mom eventually ended up in the same nursing home as my dad. She was showing signs of dementia as she was becoming dangerously forgetful. I have some crazy memories of the time my mom and dad were in the nursing home at the same time. Some memories are humorous and some not so much.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are so puzzling. One day my mom would be just fine, and I would question my decision of placing her in the nursing home. Then the next day, she would be so off that she was unpleasant to visit. Several times the social worker at the nursing home said to me, “Wendy, stop trying to rationalize with an irrational person.” Hard to do when it’s your mom and you just long for her to be okay.
I would take my mom on a weekly visit to her favorite pharmacy. There she liked to shop for items such as toothpaste, cough drops, lipstick, and gum. I remember it was a good day for her on this one particular visit. She seemed alert and jovial.
She saw a small tube of Nair® Face Cream. All you women reading will understand this. As we get older, we start to grow whiskers. Not cool. So she wanted this cream to help her get rid of her unwanted facial hair. I totally agreed with her so I let her buy it. Keep in mind, she was having an alert day.
The next morning, I received a phone call from the nursing home. They were not happy with me and could not understand why in the world I would let my mom buy Nair® Face Cream. I told them because she asked if she could and she knew why she wanted it so I said yes.
Well, regardless of her alert day, her evening was not. She spread the Nair® Face Cream all over her face because she thought it was moisturizer. The nurses at the nursing home said her whole face was red and slightly ‘burned’ from this. I am sure you can imagine how badly I felt. I hung up and sobbed. Not from the scolding, as they had every right to chew me out, but from the unintentional hurt I caused my mom.
I was thankful when I went to visit her that day. Yes, her face was red, however, she was as happy as could be. We had coffee together, sang songs together, laughed together, and visited my dad together. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are just so puzzling.
Thank you, caregivers. Thank you for your endless love, your sacrifices, your patience, your commitment. I pray for you. I pray you find calm in the chaos that surrounds you. I pray you find peace in the decisions you must make. I pray you realize it is okay to ask for help! I pray you find the courage to know when you are no longer able to care for your loved one! I pray you take care of YOU! I love you and I honor you today and every day!