A Caregivers Plight

Marriage is a partnership. Mothers-in-law count. Maybe that is why most companies give you bereavement pay when an in law passes.

The partnership should work even when the mother in law is living. It shouldn’t be left up to only one in the relationship, the son, to give Mom a break once a week from us. We the caregivers have no on-call excuse. We have no “my head hurts so I’m dressing Barbie dolls” excuse.

If Kathy is away I take care of my mother in law. Before she lived with us I’d get her no matter what. If Kathy was working I’d pick her up and bring her over so she could get dinner. I didn’t take the attitude that since she wasn’t my mother I was given an exemption from any responsibility.

Joe is on call. That means he has to sit by the phone in case he is needed. I guess that means his wife has to sit by the phone to support him.

I’m not happy. Mom knew it was Sunday and asked if Joe was going to get her. I was leaving for work so I told her probably later in the day. Joe seems incapable of calling his own mother to tell her he won’t be there, because he is on call, and Kathy is nursing her head injury from a week ago by dressing Barbie dolls. I guess he called my wife who was up north. So Alzheimer gave her a break. She probably forgot today was Sunday. She hopefully wasn’t waiting for a visit that never happened.


What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

The failure probably comes from all sides but in stressful situations one tends to feel the victim more often than the offender.

But we have questions we feel are legitimate. A simple set of facts outlines the dilemma.

  • Mother is 84.
  • Mother has Alzheimer disease.
  • Mother goes to doctors visits.
  • Mother was incapable of living alone.

Now the  facts of communication failure.

  • Three of five children contact Mother at least weekly.
  • Two of five children only talk to Mother.
  • One of five children asks questions about Mother health and behavior as well as caregivers.

That is the Failure to Communicate. How can you talk to an 84 year old suffering Alzheimer and hope to understand the situation Mom is going through? Puzzling. Are they too taken with their life that they can’t take the time to talk to the people that care for her 24/7? Are they lacking any bit of curiosity to see what is actually happening? Do they believe that talking to Mom for 10 minutes once or twice a week or taking her for four hours on a Sunday really gives them the lowdown on what her life is like? Are they unwilling to look at this situation because it is their Mom and it is a fact?

I really don’t have a clue, because as the guard said in “Cool Hand Luke”:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Back from Joe’s

How was Joe? (head nod, I’m not sure she understands)

How was Joe (again, in case she didn’t get it the first time.)

Head nod. No verbal answer.

How was Kathy? (head nod)

She got up and left. Went to her room. We don’t think she went for a walk or anything because we don’t talk to anyone about Mom. They never ask questions about her state of mind or let us know what she needs, likes to do or wants to do. She doesn’t verbalize much anymore.

It is a constant guessing game.

The Dog Bowl

We have two bowls for our dog Pepper Ann. An indoor bowl and an outdoor bowl. Simple enough. Not the same shape, both chrome however. The outdoor bowl only gets used in the spring, summer, and fall. That is when Pepper loves to rule the yard.

Early this week, Kathy saw Mom emptying the outdoor bow to water planters we have surrounding the patio. Kathy told Mom that that bowl is for the dog and she needs to get water.  Kathy then came inside to do the laundry.

When she came back, Mom was scrubbing the outdoor bowl with the same tools we use to clean our dishes. We love our dog but we don’t share that love when it comes to cleaning things. Kathy told Mom we don’t do that.

Kathy left the room. When she returned, the outdoor bowl was sitting in the rack that used to hold the indoor bowl. The indoor bowl was sitting outside where the outdoor bowl used to be.  This is the first time Mom has decided to get “involved” with taking care of Pepper. I do know she loves the dog and contrary to our requests, feeds her from the table, things like pop tarts, but this was a first, and we hope a last.

We haven’t had any other dog moments. We do keep an eye on the bowls however, just in case.

Not Real Sociable

Mom is not real sociable. Whenever the kids are around she scampers off to her room and shuts the door. The only time she stays with us is if we are eating dinner. After she does the dishes, off she goes. We don’t get a hello unless we say it to her. We could go the whole day without talking to her if we chose. I’m sure part of this is due to Alzheimer. She has such a short memory she doesn’t have much to talk about. But a “hello?” Too much to ask.

Today her grandson, his wife, and her great-grandson came by to visit. I guess this happened around lunch time. We wouldn’t know as he never called us, only texted our daughter. His mom made the arrangements. I asked Mom how her day went. What did she do? She said she did nothing. She only sat around. She had not recollection of seeing her great grand child. She didn’t remember lunch. In her mind she sat in her chair and read her annual report over and over again.

Mom is good at interacting when called on the phone or brief visits, but the day to day observation, the ability to see the veil of darkness consume her memory is really quite sad. Where once there was conversation, now only silence.

She is not real sociable, but in her defense, she doesn’t know she isn’t.

Fathers Day

It’s Fathers Day. Joe, Mom’s son took her this weekend after taking last weekend off. Joe and Kathy had to get a way for the weekend. They were traveling to Grand Rapids for their anniversary.

This weekend Joe came yesterday and took her for about 4 hours. Couldn’t do it today because it’s Fathers Day. His time with Mom must have memorable. At dinner around 7, I asked her how her day went. She told me she read and that was all she did. No recall that she spent anytime with her son.

Happy Fathers Day.


If you open a 2 lb tub of margarine on May 17th, how long will it take to use all of it?

Right now, it is 3/4 empty. Mom and her toast. I have never bought so many english muffins, bagels, and loaves of bread in my life. I came home last night and she was eating english muffins.

Kathy said she had little to eat for dinner. We have lunch meat, and I’m sure Mom knows how to make a sandwich, but it is just toast in its various forms. We went to the doctors on Tuesday. Just a regular visit. Mom has gained weight, 8 lbs to be exact. That is good news. In the conversation with the doctor she made mention that she eats 3 meals a day. I asked her what she has for lunch and she said she always makes a sandwich. If by a sandwich she means toast slathered in margarine then I guess it qualifies. If on the other hand it is the usual, PB&J or bread with meat, well then she doesn’t. I don’t know if her answer was an attempt to fool the doctor or if she really thinks she is eating three meals a day. She probably eats 10 meals a day. Buy stock in Wonder Bread because I buy two packages of english muffins a week. Along with two loaves of bread and a dozen or so bagels. She has a serious wheat jones.

Another math problem.  My water bill has gone up noticeably. Not because mom takes baths every day. No, she drinks water every 5 minutes. Not a glass, just a sip. The procedure is go to the sink. Run the water. Fill up the glass. Wipe the sink. Sip the water. Empty the cup. Wipe the sink. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

She is OCD on so many levels. It is fascinating to watch. A sad result I’m afraid of this retched disease.

Now Means Now

Small things that have Kathy and I wondering if sometimes we are too structured and we don’t let things roll off.

We had dinner. I had cleaned most of the pans and Kathy was going to work in the kitchen to clean the other items not yet done. Mom does the dishes. She cleans the plates and puts them in the dishwasher. We have a mat next to the sink to hold the clean plates. On many occasions we have asked Mom to not put the dirty plates on the mat. On all occasions she uses the mat to put the dirty dishes. We have given up, though it bothers us.

In the past we would ask her not to. In the past we would let her know to take a break and wait until we are doing doing pots and pans. That would then signal her turn to stand at the sink. She doesn’t take directions anymore. She is done, she grabs the dishes and she muscles her way into the sink so she can do the dishes. She doesn’t speak. She just does.

On speaking, we used to go to restaurants that were quiet so we could hear her talk. We don’t bother anymore. She can come because she seldom talks. She says very very little.

Dietary Restrictions

We need to limit and eliminate chocolate from our diets. It isn’t a new allergy or issues with weight. No, that would be logical and self imposed. This means no chocolate bars. No cookies with chocolate in them. Chocolate bars? Done. Brownies, cakes? Not chocolate.

What brought us to this decision? Mom. She feeds the dog from the table regularly. Before she came to live with us we had a pretty good handle on keeping Pepper at bay during dinner. Being a dog, she knows where treats lurk. Well with Mom, they were always at the end of her arm. We have told her to please not feed the dog but that is a fools’ prayer. She really does what she wants.  Not out of spite, but because Alzheimer doesn’t allow her to remember our request.

Since chocolate is death to dogs, we have decided that it has to go.

Chocolate, I’ll see you again, but not at home.

Is it Wrong?

Is it wrong when Mom wants to wipe down the table with her dinner napkin? Is it wrong that I ask her not to? Is it wrong when she gets pissy and calls herself dumb in a way meant to inflict guilt, but unfortunately with me there is no guilt? Is it wrong that she says she doesn’t clean the table with the napkin, then turns around and wipes the counter with the napkin?

I wish Joe could take her more than a few hours per Sunday. This task keeps getting harder and harder. Sometimes being on an island with the only physical help living side by side pushes our confrontational side. It makes us say, “enough.” It is after all our house, our way of doing things. We are flexible. We give her great latitude, but when matters of health are at stake, ours, we draw the line, and it makes for a charged atmosphere.

It seems the outdoors doesn’t have the allure it once did. Today she didn’t go outside, but just sat, head in hand on her chair and didn’t move. Is this temporary, a pattern, a behavioral change? I don’t know, but is it wrong to start really thinking of alternatives?

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