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last updated 10. 20. 2021

The road to here…

Written by: flerly

In 2017, my husband and I decided my elderly mom couldn’t live alone anymore in Tennessee, where it was a five hour drive to check on her. Mom had fallen down some concrete stairs and fractured her leg just below her knee, and there was no functional way for her to live in her 2-story home, with steps at every entrance. My excellent sister took mom back to her home in Alabama for healing for a few weeks, and was the first to encounter the signs that something else was going on with mom that we hadn’t been able to understand from so far away. Memory issues and confusion were obvious with a long term visit.

The decision was made to sell our small home and buy something with an in-law suite, move mom in with us in Georgia, then sell her home in Tennessee. During this time, we had the opportunity to spend more time with mom, get her to doctor appointments, understand her medication schedule — she was on several blood pressure medicines, and encourage her to be more active as we went through the house hunting process in Atlanta and through her belongings to decide what to keep, sell or donate before the move. She improved some during that time, likely due to the flurry of activity and in-person interactions, though she did have some big mood swings from time to time demonstrating memory issues and confusion again.

Immediately after the move to Georgia, she deteriorated quite a bit, causing us to have a couple emergency room visits, where she was diagnosed with severely low sodium levels — a condition which causes increasing confusion, the inability to create memories, and eventually strokes. We had hope this issue was the cause of mom’s problems, and the lengthy hospital stay where they slowly raised her sodium levels would bring mom back to us. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case.

Where we had planned and prepared for a life in Georgia with my elderly mom, who was stubborn and independent, and needed her privacy, and a big enough yard to putter around in, and no neighbors too close by, as a life where she lived her own life just closer where we could take care of each other, what we encountered was a person who needed quite a bit more daily attention and caregiving. I was able to transition to a full-time work-from-home position in my job, thankfully, as mom spent more and more time in and out of the hospital and doctor’s care. Her insurance ordered a home healthcare worker to start visiting us to help with getting her stabilized and situated in her new environment, and we worked hard to set up her new living space with as many familiar items from her Tennessee home as possible to help with the transition.

As it happens, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Her condition was such that right as we moved her to a new state, she was losing the ability to make new memories. She would never learn her way around. She would forever think she had just made the move and perhaps she should “back out” and keep her house. We would soon have to make sure her car was disabled so she wouldn’t try to get in it and go someplace to get lost, as she would forget she didn’t know her way around.

It took some time to get into a routine, but we did eventually get her medications adjusted and her health stabilized. Other than the dementia, and some lingering pain in her knee from the break in 2017 that she doesn’t remember, she is physically strong and wants to help us — to sweep outside and mow, pull weeds, etc, she always loved being outdoors. Winter time is hard, with little that interests her inside the house — which may be why we have so many plants and cats for her to interact with. They’re always in need of some care, since she can’t really use the kitchen much which used to be her winter activity.

Now it’s 2021, and dementia is throwing all new hurdles at us. COVID meant we didn’t get out to our regular Saturday breakfast or to visit friends, and didn’t have company. The lengthy time of isolation was hard on everyone, but it seems to have kicked dementia up a few notches for us. It is only now, as we enter this new realm of dementia hell that I’ve been thinking about how I need to write this all down. Being a caregiver in this situation makes me feel crazy, and the lack of sleep sometimes makes my memory barely better than hers. Some records of what is happening to us seem like they could be useful. So here we go. Back to the blogging.

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