Getting Ma up in the morning presents one of the more difficult challenges. Sometimes it goes so well I can forget how bad it can be. Other times it’s all out war with name calling and such intense anger it creates a third person in the room.
“You’d make a great prison warden,” she’ll say on a good day when she heads into the bathroom. Bad days have her clutching the sheets tight under her chin, and what she calls me isn’t so funny.
The uncertainly of what I'd find in my mother's bedroom every morning caused great anxiety for me at first. (It is much better now due to strategies I’ve learned, but that’s a blog for another day.)
And there was an additional issue - I had to care for dog clients in the morning. Doing that and getting home in time to get her ready for daycare was exhausting, and sometimes just plain impossible.
Enter “the Nurse.”
A caring and gentle woman provided by Elder Services began helping from 8a to 9:30a every morning. She would get Ma up, make sure she got into the bathroom (I would help her bathe the night before), prepare her breakfast and then see her onto the bus.
BUT, my mother hated it and was confused.
“Why is she here?”
“Because I have to work in the morning and someone has to help you get up and ready.”
“I don’t need any help getting up…what am I a baby? Just set the alarm and I’ll get ready myself.”
Dan burst out laughing at this, having gone through song and dance himself to get “Gilda Bear” out of bed (sometimes literally singing and dancing).
"What are you laughing at Dan?"
"Jill, don't you know what you put Lisa through every morning??" Dan responded.
"Oh stop it, will you please." with the wave of the hand.
After 8 days, Dan and I realized the nurse just wasn’t working out. My mother resented and disliked a stranger caring for her, couldn’t grasp why she was there, and honestly believed she could do all she used to do prior to her illness. In addition, whenever my mother got a bit more vocal (and once physical) in her demand to stay in bed, the nurse would crumble and call me or Dan to be the heavy.
So the big decision finally had to be made; do I give up my dog clients to be more available for my mother? I could still keep my cats and one of my dogs - the canine love of my life, Sandy. But I’d have to find sitters for the others, my furry family that made up such a big part of my world.
Approached by every avenue, ruminated and picked over until there were less than bones, the answer always came up the same - I had to be there for my mother.
I remember driving one day and speaking to my friend Robin on the phone. I was telling her how much my heart hurt because of what I’d given up. She said, “But you gained balance. You still have animals to love and you are home more for not only your mother but your husband and your own kitties. It was a smart thing to do and you are strong for doing it.”
She was right. This was a positive thing. I gave up something, but not everything. And I gained peace of mind - my mother’s care would be in my hands, ultimately more loving than any other set out there. I’d have more time to care for my house and family; prepare better meals, keep up with laundry, etc. And I realized too that this was only the beginning of my own life’s changes in this journey with my mother. This wouldn’t be the last tough decision.