Monday, May 15, 2006

Heart Breaking

Here I am in California - beautiful wine country - summer. This is a very trying time. My mother is nearly 80. She can see, but is legally blind. She lives by herself in a home she and my Dad put together 25 years ago as their retirement home. The house is two-stories and I fear she will fall again and hurt herself badly next time. Watching her descend the stairs is painful.

She is fighting her aging with tooth and nail and is in denial so deep that she is not living in reality. She has told everyone she is 68 and that I am 48 - I am 59. Her exact words, "I don't care how old you are - in Yountville you are 48! Don't forget it." My oldest son is 41 - she doesn't talk about him to her friends. Some of her friends dropped by the the other day and she hadn't even mentioned that my husband died.

She certainly is energetic for her age - she has kept herself in good shape. She looks great for her age - but she does not look 68. I do not believe most folks think she is 68 either. Most importantly, she needs help. She needs to be thinkng about independent living but won't even discuss it. If I bring something up that she doesn't like she will begin screaming, "you just think I am senile - that's right I'm crazy." She runs away yelling. Later she will come and put her arms around me and say how much she loves me and how glad she is that I am here.

I am beside myself. I am filled with sorrow. I do not know what to do.


  1. oh, suzann, i am so sorry! i certainly understand the fear and frustration. my parents are about the same age as your mom and are also in denial and in terribly poor health. my mom is falling on a regular basis. she should be in a wheelchair now, but my father doesn't like that idea and wants them to resume the life they used to know. he can afford to hire outside help but only does so for a few hours a week instead of the full-time help they need. my mother is in terrible pain 24/7. she is weak and wobbly and has lost far too much weight - now only skin and bones. she cannot cook or do any household chores, yet my father acts like they are doing ok. she seems to be forgetful now, and i am sure she is in the beginning of some kind of dementia.

    has your mom experienced a lot of personality changes or has she always been acutely conscious of age and beauty? if this and her temper displays are quite different behavior for her, i would consider discussing her emotional and psychological health with her physician. do you know what meds she might be taking? her behavior does sound extreme to me, too.

    it is so hard to see these kinds of changes and feel helpless to remedy the situation. when mental health issues become significant, intervention has to occur. oh, do i dread that time which is just around the bend for me, too! the aging process can be so unkind. :(

  2. No words, dear. I'm just so very sorry.

  3. Now that I'm going through it too with my mother, I totally understand how you feel Suzann. The frustration, anger, depression and stress are not exclusive to just the elder person, but to the family and friends who have to deal with it too. When you add DENIAL to the's a whole other thing. It's amazing the strength you have to call upon to get through. It is difficult, it is painful, and yes, it is heartbreaking. I'm sending you much love Suzann. One thing I've learned is that YOU are only one person and can do just so much in a situation like this. You can't let it take over YOUR life. -Joy

  4. Not sure what happened to my comment. Sorry. I'll try to put it in a nutshell.
    This is such a heartbreaking situation. I went through the same thing with my mother and I can see Carole is going to have to do it with me. It's just a matter of time---some of us have a bit more with our facilities intact. But it is inevitable unless we mercifully suddenly drop dead in the middle of sex or a golf game.

    Believe me, I'm not trying to make light of the situation. I hate and fear it as much as anybody. However, the cycle---including decline and denial is inevitable for most of us---parents and children alike.

    I think the only thing to remember is that far from being alone, you are part of an eternal cosmic continuum that allows all of us to grow---or not.

    Curiously enough I had a heated discussion yesterday on this very subject with Carole. After seeing 2 confused, blind and twisted old men I said that I wanted to be "put to sleep" when I reached that point. I still feel that way. However, Carole said every person has a job to do as long as they live on earth. The job for the terminally afflicted young or old, she says is to provide the opportunty for others to give and to learn acceptance.

    I'm not sure about that. However, it's something to think about. My point to you in the situation is that as unfair as it may seem it appears the Creator is giving you an opportunity. You can't change your mother or her ultimate decline but you can give up the illusion of having control and being a victim of the inevitable....or you can remind yourself once again and all too soon it's just another chance to choose life and growth. And to remember you are not alone.
    all my love and prayers,

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  6. Lucy's comments are so profound and to the point that I can only echo them.

    And, in a book I am reading "Gilead" one of the characters has a saying that in hard times:

    "There must be a blessing in there somewhere".

    Take care of yourself and the situation with your Mom will take care of itself.

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