Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'll help you fold those clothes ...

                               Mom and Jenn, July 2010
I have to admit; this has been a very challenging past 12 months. One that has pushed my limits - my boundaries - to their fullest thus far in life. I've learned a lot about others, but more importantly myself, over the last 12 months. Luckily, I have felt the vice grip ease up on my life, and I'm learning to breathe again. Many do not know the extent of my pressures the last year, although I have had many concerned and wandering looks made my way. I recognized these but that feeling of "I need to act like I'm OK" just wasn't here. My motivation to give a damn was gone. I felt guilty many times, feeling the way I did, because I knew that so many others out there had it worse than me. Was I merely feeling pity for myself? Yes, I decided, to some degree, which just resulted in my pity for my pitiful feelings.

Chapter 1: Mom
The foundation that rocked my world 12 months ago was that my disabled mother was "dropped" into my lap, or so I felt. Multiple Sclerosis has wrecked havoc on her body and equally her mind. Clouded by dementia, she divorced my dad (and me) when I was 17. She didn't speak to me for 2 years. She didn't come to my wedding. She lied. She hurt. She wasn't there. But how could I expect her to be? She moved across the country with strangers and eventually our relationship grew into a once-every-6 month phone call about the weather. She didn't know my sons. Last year the stranger she lived with died. His daughter started stealing my mom's money - and identity. With no options left, my sister and I moved her to Oregon. I put my house up for sale with the heroic thoughts of building a bigger house to accompany her. I was, after all, the "nurse daughter". What I didn't realize was just how much anger, sadness, isolation, nonrecognition I really had for her. The first time I saw my lice-infested, urine and feces covered mother she was being wheeled off the plane by a chaperon because she was unable to fly on her own. I didn't know her. I didn't understand her confusion - I just met her confusion with frustration, not compassion. Nothing could prepare me for what I had in store.

My sister and I had decided it would be best, until things could be ironed out with her disability status in Oregon, that she be placed in an adult foster care home. One memory that will haunt my being is when I was 12; my mother was under going steroid therapy, for which she was gone for 2 weeks. When she returned, she looked in my 4th Grade eyes and said "Promise me you'll never put me in a nursing home". I nodded, horrified at what that even meant. My efforts to mentally prepare my mom for where she was going were not understood. When we wheeled her into that empty, stark white-walled room with a metal electric hospital bed, the look on my mom's face is one I will never forget. It was completely silent except for the 90yr old moans coming from next the bed ridden woman next door. Trying to make light of the situation, my sister said, "And look mom, you even have a dresser here". Dazed and expressionless, she responded, "But I have one at Leslie's, too". Finally she grasped what was taking place. She tried to mask the horror she was feeling and said "Ok, leave. I will just roll over and lay here until I die." There is nothing that I could have said or done at that moment to make what was happening OK. I had cut all her hair off to rid her of the lice, I had thrown all her clothes away because of the filth and poor condition they were in. Here this grown woman of 57 years old had nothing but a borrowed clothes hamper, broken glasses, and new unfamiliar clothes. And we were leaving her there. Sure, she lived just 15 minutes from my sister in Portland but still. She was being left alone in a new place.

Within a couple of weeks an opening at a brand new Assisted Living facility 6 miles from my house came about. That included a studio apartment, one that the state would provide for her. We moved her down, got her new furniture and I thought I felt better. But then came the clean up. Doctors appointments, dentist appointments, appointments at the bank, phone calls to creditors trying to straighten out my mom's accounts, appointments at Social Security. The facility wasn't bathing mom because she'd "refuse", so then came the Urinary Tract Infections. Then the calls at midnight that her blood pressure was high. I was fighting so hard to micromanage this facility and their inconsistencies and incompetence's that I was driving myself nuts. I was lashing out at my loved ones because of my frustration.

Chapter 2: Building House
Because our house sold, then came the decision on where to live, what to do. We decided to continue with our plan to build a house - even though now it didn't immediately include having my mom live with us. I realized that this would jeopardize things with "my" family. It was crucial to have separation in order to maintain sanity. But with building a home, came even more stress and frustration. 7 months worth, to be exact. I never felt the stability and security living in the house we were renting because I knew it wasn't going to last. I knew it wasn't "my" house. Anxiety mounted and proceeded into panic attacks. Its amazing what panic and anxiety can do to your life.

Chapter 3: H1N1 illnesses
Remember H1N1? Seems like a distant thing fleeting thought but I know in my heart it wasn't even 3 months after mom moved here when that flew into our lives. Everyone in my house got very ill except my husband, thank God. Maysen ended up hospitalized with H1N1 plus pneumonia. I was sick for a total of about 6 weeks. Tamiflu held Griffin at Bay, but $4,000 in medical bills is how we spent Christmas that year!

Chapter 4: Ouch and Financial Ouch
Through the winter, the arthritis that I have in my feet soared to a new high. Unable to wear supportive shoes because of the tight laces which pulls my foot together causing joints to rub (OUCH) led to very painful plantar fasciitis in both feet. Thankfully, cortisone injections to my heels kept that pain at bay but nothing has helped the arthritis. Anti-inflammatories I was taking caused my liver to react and elevate my enzymes, so I could no longer take them. I developed chest pain around the same time, and $2,000 worth of cardiac testing ruled that it was nothing but Acid Reflux eating my lining of my esophagus away.

Chapter 5: Break-In
In April my van was broken into and my purse and all of the boys summer clothes we'd spent that afternoon getting were gone. We were to "run in real quick" and tired of lugging that purse around, I left it in the van and *snap* - just like that, my window was gone and so was everything in my van. That included my meds that enabled me to walk, money, ID, glasses, gone. $500 deductible to fix my window and $800 to replace everything I had lost. One lucky break: David West was caught 2 days later. That idiot drove through a stop sign and incidentally had my ID, credit cards, my mom's disabled parking permit, and apparently other women's identification AND a window breaking device was all found. I didn't get any of my stuff back except of course my ID and credit cards but I had already been working to replace all that so it was worthless. Just last week I received a Victims Packet in the mail where he plead guilty to THIRTY-FIVE counts of miscellaneous things and sentenced to 10 years in prison. I am supposedly getting $1200 in restitution, but I'll never live to see a penny of that I'm sure.

Chapter 6: False Accusations
In May I took mom to her dentist to start some extensive work on her mouth. On this visit, she was having 3 teeth extracted - that didn't go so well. I kept her at my house for 3 days to watch her due to questionable competency issues at her facility. Sure enough, Day 2 mom developed an infection on her mouth. I spoke to the dentist over the phone and received telephone orders through him on what to do next, including antibiotics and a few other things. Because I am an RN and I still had mom's "physician order form" from the facility, I wrote out the telephone orders Dr W had given me over the phone. I returned mom to her facility and explained the new orders to the Med Aide. All was well until the day before we were to be moving into our new home. I received a letter in the mail from the Board of Nursing in Oregon stating there had been a complaint against me and the allegation was "dentist forgery and narcotic discrepancy". Let me back up on a few things. #1: The facility administrator, C, and I don't necessarily see eye to eye. Because I'm an RN and have an idea of how, medically, things are supposed to be ran there, she and I have battled a bit. We battle because I CARE about my mom's care. I don't just ignorantly walk through that place, turning a blind eye on things. #2: Due to the extent of mom's mouth, she was given a prescription for a narcotic pain medication. On day 3 when I returned her to the facility there were #10 missing from her bottle. Apparently C didn't find it necessary to look into this matter, and just assumed that I removed ten tablets from mom's bottle when the whole story WAS: Mom took #10 pills over the course of 3 full days at my house for pain control. That is very much reasonable. But because I am my mom's daughter, I showed up to drop her off with MY hand written order form, plus missing some tablets, C took it amongst herself to decide I must be doing something fishy. She attempted to contact the dentist to find out if he did, in fact, authorize those orders but when she was met with "I'm sorry, he is on vacation until next week", instead of waiting for him to return, she just decided she'd better contact Adult & Protective Services against me, who, in turn, contacted the Board of Nursing. You got it people! It made THAT much sense to me, too. When Dr W got back from vacation, he heard of this and contacted C and told her "I completely authorized Leslie to write those orders and fully support her intent of taking care of her mother". With that, C contacted Adult and Protective Services, but the complaint had already been made to the Board and I had to be investigated. My "mandatory 2hr face-to-face" interview was downgraded to a phone meeting when I explained what happened. I learned just last week that all complaints and been 100% dismissed by the board. I have, in the meantime, been talking to an attorney seeking a case in slander. It was C's responsibility to fully investigate any suspicions before making a claim like that. She, in fact, did NO investigation. Just one more thing for me to deal with...

Chapter 7: The Turn Around
It's been over a month now that we've settled into our new home. With that settling, I've felt more settled about a lot in my life. Mom has grown wonderfully in her surroundings. Nate's step-grandmother lives in the same facility and in fact, lives just down the hall from mom. They sit together at meals, laugh and joke it up. It's like watching 2 school girls giggle and snitch. Mom has a wonderful relationship with my boys. They absolutely love her. When we drive down to Cottage Grove, Maysen will say "Are we going to pick up Grandma Linnie today?" When I bring mom home, Griffin runs to her and says "Grandma Linnie's here!!". I never would have envisioned that one year ago. I go once a week and help mom with a full-shower. She will wash her hair and style it through the week. She has a "crush" on a man that sits with them at their table. His name is Phil. He seems to be part of their little gang. Mom will come over once every other week or so for dinner and a few times a month she will actually spend a night or two at our house. She has her own room here. I pick her up sometimes to go to Maysen's swimming lessons with us. Last week we took her to the coast to see the ocean. It was great seeing her eyes light up. I've grown used to her repeating things. Before it used to frustrate me, but now I deep breathe and just say "oh yea?". That seems to pacify her. I've seen her sit silently but have the look of intensity on her face. If you inquire, she will say "Just thinking". If you give her a few minutes, soon to follow is usually a "You know I love you so much, right?" It's been about 20 years since I've felt like I had a mom. The last outing I had with mom was the best yet. I picked her up to take her to the dentist. She begged me not to leave her, so I sat right beside her, held her hand while they numbed her mouth. I stayed right there the whole time. We laughed on the way home about inappropriate things to do in a dentists office. She told me about what worked for her when she potty trained me. We got home and as I sat there folding clothes she said, "bring that in here and I will fold those for you." So we sat, at the table, laughing about something stupid. She held up Griffins shorts, looked at them with a smile and softly kissed them before she put them on the table. It was in that minute I knew that I'd spent all this last year being mad, frustrated, sad, angry at my mom. Instead now I see that God's given me a second chance with my mom. I know in my heart that if something happened to mom while we were estranged I would never have closure. Instead now, I know that she knows her grandchildren. I know and see that she really  is happy now. I see she's been taken care of. I've learned things about my mom I've never known, and I'm giving her a chance to be my mom again .... even if it is just folding clothes. It's more than I've felt in a very very long time. I see now that instead of being jipped and slated in life having mom "thrown" at me, in fact I was given a gift.

Chapter 8: Lessons
We all react different when we know something with a loved one is wrong. Some smother, some run away, some act like they don't notice. I can't judge others for how they act because I'm not in their shoes. All I know is that when I was in my darkest hours, I felt so alone. Do I wish I felt more supported by those I knew understood my hardships? Absolutely. Am I bitter? No. Because again - it is just another hard lesson I've had to learn. With the last chapter done, I am now looking onward and upward. I think this taught me the people I know I can count on and those I cannot trust. Life is too short and I've learned that I can't waste it on people/things that aren't worth the time. I spend my time/effort on people/things that count and reciprocate effort. That only seems fair, right?

 I am looking forward to the new chapters that lay ahead of me with my new life with Mom; my new life in my new home; and my new life with new friends who were there for me. There are still things that need to be worked out. There are still things I need to work on. But life's a huge book of chapters and I'm only on the first few pages.

More to come ...