My mother in law is 93 years old. Until she was 90, she was able to live in her own home. She was having severe panic attacks and would call her sister, neighbors and her oldest son two or three times a day; however, her son was getting nothing done for his mom. We are now aware she can no longer live by her self.
Jeannetta arrived at our house in November. I had only four days to prepare for her moving in with us. When Jeannetta moved in with us I was looking forward to the challenge. I was hoping this would be a time of healing for the both of us. I anticipated sharing past family memories, visiting family members and old friends. My mother in law was suffering from Alzheimer's, and did not even remember me being her daughter in law. Before Jeannetta moved in with us I had not worked out in the public for three years. I had gotten lazy as the time progressed. I wasn't motivated to do more than keep up the house and maintain the yard work. I had pulled away from most activities and more or less isolated myself from many of my friends. Her moving into our home forced me into a rigid daily schedule, which was an adjustment for me. Because she was always up by 7 am, our days began early. I tried talking to her in the morning, but she would always turn her hearing aid off. From the beginning communication began to be extremely limited. These early months were testy for the both of us. She cried a lot, always wanting to go home to live with her mother (who had died 32 years ago). Over the winter months, I began to feel tension build up inside of me. The only thing she would eat for breakfast was pancakes or sausage and gravy. She never seemed to like any thing I fixed for lunch. She rarely spent time in her room but preferred to be in the same room as me. She is not able to crochet, or make quilts any longer, so her only form of entertainment was watching TV. I am now feeling I need some space by my self . She is always around me. My friends stopped visiting me, they never call and I now feel completely abandoned.
I have registered Jeannetta for adult day care but find there is a waiting list of a year or so. I have hired a neighbor once a week to watch her so I could get out of the house by myself. This relieved some of the tension building up inside of me. She never liked staying with a sitter, and always wanted to go with me regardless of where I was headed. At this time I am very stressed out. Once dinner and dishes were over I found myself escaping more often to my room, listening to music. Playing card games on the computer was all I could handle at this point. We began to realize that Jeannetta was confusing my husband (her son) with her deceased husband. When she did set the table for dinner, she would set it for herself and Don rather than for the three of us. In addition, Don and I never seemed to get away by ourselves. We did try a night out by ourselves, but when we returned, Jeannetta was not only sick but actually fainted. We were up all night with her. Don and I still are unable to get away by ourselves (too much hassle), so we now take Jeannetta with us everywhere we go.
When Jeannetta first moved in with us she was suffering from very poor circulation of the legs. The doctor had told us that she had maybe a year or so to live. Jeannette developed a fear of dying. She went through four spells of thinking she was dying. She would be very frightened, crying uncontrollably, and held onto us in her fear of going to sleep. Both Don and I spent many nights holding her hand until she fell asleep, reassuring her as we sat with her that she would be ok. Once the spells brought on by her fear of dying began, I began wondering each morning if "this" would be the day I would discover her dead in bed. Then I found myself actually wishing she would die. I hid these feelings from everyone, afraid of what they would think of me if they knew how I really felt. By this point I had built up tremendous feelings of resentment towards my mother-in-law. I now could not let go of past feelings concerning things she had done or said that had hurt me through the years. As things progressed, I realized I didn't even want to get up in the morning. Both Jeannetta and I were in a state of depression, and I began to question my ability to care for her.
With the winter over and spring's arrival, I began to spend more time outside, as did Jeannetta. She seemed to have more energy (as did I) and enjoyed taking walks and looking at flowers. I realized that I had neglected the outside of our property. My first big project was to paint our garage. I also added three flowerbeds along with the mowing. I realized that you get rid of a lot of tension working in the dirt. The more anger you have, the harder you work the ground and the prettier the flowers are. (Also good for
losing weight) I also began getting out of the house a little more often -a day here and there with friends for lunch or a movie. Getting away from everything allowed me to take care of myself. I was now feeling better about myself.
Winter returned again, and Jeannetta and I both lapsed back into depression. Jeannetta started going to adult day care twice a week. She loved being around adults her age. She even took on the role of reaching out to others there.The activities keep her mind more alert. Even with her getting out of the house twice a week, I realized I needed a big break. None of Don's family members wanted to take her into their homes. I was tired of the demands expected of me. I felt I could no longer cope with the pressures that accompanied my caring for her. I began having panic attacks, and Jeannetta and I found we were arguing over stupid things. Not only was she unhappy here, but Don and I began to argue constantly. We finally reached a breaking point between the three of us, and the decision was made to place Jeannetta in an extended care facility. Although she seems to have adjusted well to the facility in which she now lives, Jeannetta appeared very tired during our first visits.This saddened me. I now feel very guilty about my feelings and get very nervous when someone tells me I did a good job caring for her. I just wanted to bundle her up and bring back home. But slowly she has adjusted to her new living arrangements, found friendship in others and enjoys the home activities. She even feels now as if she might find a good man while living there (LOL).
While she is adjusting to her new world, I am now working on positive feelings about myself. I try to focus on the good things I did for her that no one else in the family would do. The support of caregivers has meant a great deal to me. I have found out many of the caregivers have experienced the same feelings that I did. It is still hard for me sharing negative feelings with others. I am thankful for the experience I have had, for I've learned so much. I feel I have grown a lot since this experience. I am now looking ahead to the golden years of my life, trying to decide what I want to do with them. But now I have a much more positive attitude about myself. I now feel Jeannetta was here for a reason. I thank God for the strength he has given me.
I also want to thank my many caregiving friends for their continued support. I don't think I could have made it through this without them.The Empowering Caregivers Site and chats have been a blessing to me.This has been a place where I can rant, rave, cry and laugh.These loving, caring people have not abandoned me but have supported me through all the stages of caregiving. I especially enjoy the "Spotlight of the Month." This allows you to read their story, see them and their family, which makes it more personal. The Thursday night chat is also very important to me. Together we laugh, cry, support each other and grow more wise after each session. I have learned it's okay to get angry as long as you don't take it out on the one for whom you caregive. I've learned that the person for whom you are caregiving still has a soul and needs to be heard, loved and supported. I've learned this person is also going through things they don't understand. Maybe they've lost their mate, their home or just their dignity because they no longer have control over their bodily functions. Perhaps they can no longer do things that were simple to them as recent as two years ago. Perhaps they can't remember their own family members who had once been such an important part of their lives. Empowering Caregivers teaches us to let go of the one you love, while at the same time supporting you. Our loved ones may not be with us in body form, but they will always remain a part of our lives in spirit, in pictures and in the impact they have had on our lives.
May God walk with each of the caregivers in their daily caring of their loved ones.