Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The financial costs of caring $$$$$$

Mums illness has cost us a lot of money. I estimate it set us back at least $50,000 in added costs and lost income. My mum had run up bills, lost her entire savings to a con man and had given away assets including the home. Dealing with the creditors was a nightmare. And no, I can't get anything back.

I also had to close my business when all this started and DH was laid off work with a payout of <$4000 after 9 years of service. I had to take a lot of time off work with no pay when she was very ill.

Don't even mention respite care !!!  what an expensive joke that turned out to be!

After we used up our savings we turned to the credit cards and over the last few months that I've been sick and unable to work they have just about reached their limit. My once booming business is reduced to a couple of hours a week. So financially we are really strapped and most people would have no idea.

This morning I opened the mail and as well as our family bills I have Mums bills:  a chemists bill for $47 and a bill for incontinence products for $73.  Mum has put on even more weight and most of the new clothes that I bought her six months ago no longer fit, she urgently needs all new clothes for summer. I just can't pay for it all out of her pension, it simply doesn't cover it and I am very thrifty with her money. Her account has a total of $103 in it.

I feel like I'm watching my life go down the drain. Before all this happened we were not wealthy, but we had sensibly managed our money and could see that once our children left home we would be able to increase our retirement savings and pay off our home for a simple, but satisfying retirement. Now it's frightening how much debt we are carrying and how little we are bringing in. I wake up at night worried sick about finances. I am going to see mum in a few days and the truth is we can't afford it. I feel angry that this has happened to her and to us and that there is no solution or anyone to share this with other than the blogosphere.

sorry if this sounds depressing, but as I've said before, this blog is the only place I can share this stuff, it keeps me somewhat sane.  add to that I'm meant to be 'resting up' and not stressing.... yeah right. at least the weather here is beautiful and the garden is blooming, at least that's something good!

"a penny is a lot of money if you have not got a penny"  Yiddish proverb

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's my turn now...

For the last few months I've been very sick and unable to do much at all and I haven't been able to visit mum or talk with her on the phone until yesterday. When I phoned her she was not really sure who I was but she was happy. She couldn't remember anything she had done recently to talk about but she told me she had lot's friends and that she likes where she is living. 

After talking with her I felt relieved to hear her happy and settled. But it's also strange when you can't share what's really happening in your life with her. I can't tell her how very sick I've been, or that we have a lot of financial problems to sort out. There's no point in worrying her. But there have been time over the last months when I just would love to have had my mum to talk to. I really miss being able to visit her, but it helps to know she is not missing me.

I have finally completely cleaned out her old room from when she lived with us. It's empty now, waiting to be painted and turned back into my study again. It's taken me almost 2 years to clean up a little room, just 2 X 2.5 meters. But I could only cope with a little bit at a time, too many painful memories. I'm glad it's done now. It feels like a milestone has been passed. I'm looking forward to having a quiet space to read, draw, meditate, sew and just be in the silence again. It overlooks the garden and it's my favourite room in the house.

I think that all the stress of the last 4 years has caught up with me and ended up in illness and burnout. I am only working 8 hours a week ( instead of 40) and I struggle to get through it. I just feel I can't cope with other peoples problems at the moment. Especially since I mainly work helping people with traumatic grief! I have my own grief to manage. But if I don't work there is no income and our savings have run out now. My Dr tells me I need lots of rest for my body to heal and that I need to lose 70 lbs.

I feel that I just need a 6-12 month break from everyone and no demands on me. Just time to rest, grieve, regroup and regain my health. I have some serious health problems to recover from and that is limiting how much I can work. I just want to simplify and downsize my life so I can take a break from the world. 

I don't feel that I am depressed (I was many years ago), but I think if I don't change things that I could end up that way. So mum's doing fine, she's happy and well, her memory is deteriorating rapidly but she doesn't know that anymore. Now it's time to heal myself.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why is everyone so afraid of feelings?

In my day job I spend a lot of time reassuring people that it's OK to have their feelings, whatever they may be. I create safe spaces for them to just feel, express and move on. There is no judgement.

People are so afraid of their feelings, and I think even more afraid of other peoples. They want to rush in and change thing, cheer them up, chastise them, STOP them, because it makes them uncomfortable. It's their own stuff.

I guess I see the same thing happen online as well. I have another blog, I don't talk about how I really feel over there. I guess that's why I created this one. I just want to be honest about how I feel, and not be judged.

Simple really, just trying to write about my experience as a carer, from the inside out, not prettied up.

I guess I write it to help me, and if it helps you then thats a bonus.

I went out to lunch with a friend a few days ago. She tried to be understanding but she doesn't get why I go and spend time with mum every few weeks when she is starting to forget who I am.

" She's in a safe place, she's being well cared for... you don't need to see her that often. She doesn't even remember you've been."

I know she meant well...

I told her a story about my mum.

When I was only a year old I was very sick and I had to undergo several operations. My mother was only 26, her marriage was already in tatters. She phoned my Dad and told him I had been taken to the hospital for surgery.

He told her he was too busy to come home...
... and he was busy... with another woman...

Those where the days when parents had restricted visting hours when children were hospitalised. Just a few hour each evening. Nothing like the constant access these days.

On the morning of my operation my mum arrived at the hospital. She was told to go home and come back in visiting hours. "Anyway ... what's the point of you being here, there's nothing you can do to help! " was the staffs irritated response when she became upset.

Crying and alone. My mum took up a seat in the corridor near the operating theatres. She refused to go, she told them, until I was safely back in the ward.

The staff gave up trying to make her leave and left her alone. A bit later an old lady came past and saw that she was upset. She sat down beside her and, on learning that her a one year old baby was having surgery and mum was waiting against the rules, decided to sit with her.

And so the two of them sat quietly together in the hall for the next few hours. She was a stranger, just someone walking by. But she stayed and sat, and gave my mum the support she needed to get through.

Eventually a nurse came and told them I was OK and they should go now. Mum could see me later that day in regular visiting hours.

Thats just one of the stories about my mum that explains why I go and visit often.

Did I 'know' that she was in the hall the whole time I was being operated on when I was a baby? Did I understand the distress of a young mum, with a seriously ill child who's husband was 'too busy' to come?

Whether I knew she was there makes no difference. My mum sat in that hall and defied the rules for one reason. I was her child and she loved me. Where else would she be when I was sick?

Thats why I go often and visit her, even though she's forgetting who I am, and that I was there.

She's my mum and I love her. Where else would I be when she is sick?

I had no other explanation for my friend, who just shook her head at the 'waste' of my time.

And that little lady that sat with my mum and kept her company. No advice, no trying to make her feel different, or trying to move on her from her vigil. Just willing to be present at a time of need.

I guess thats what this blog is like for me. Just a place where I can sit with my experiences and feelings and let them just be what they are.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mothers Day on a runaway train.

I'd planned to spend the weekend with mum for mothers day, looking forward to seeing her again, hoping she hasn't deteriorated too much in the last couple of weeks. So I booked to go down for a few days. Then I got a phone call today, when can I come down again, she's not doing so well, she deteriorated even more since I saw her a few weeks ago and can I come down soon and meet with them again, we need to arrange specialists appointments.

My heart sunk...

I just feel so powerless, here we go again down this road that is only leading to one thing.

My mind fills with questions, Is she happy? or is she fretting again? Will she know who I am when I tell her tomorrow or is the memory of me all but gone? Is she still pacing and chewing and rubbing her hands?

and while it might sound awful ... " how can I pay for this?" she has no money left in her account and the costs are mine alone to bear..... I feel an awful fear in the pit of my stomach..... I just can't afford time off, but I will take it, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. I'm so tired of feeling like i just start getting on my feet and then it all gets sidetracked.

I want to spend all the time I can with her and I can't afford it. I dread what is front of us, I really do.

.... that runaway train just sped up again...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Out of the blue...

things happen that just hit me hard.

Yesterday I was busily reading my way through work emails, not thinking about mum at all. Then I opened an email from a bookshop:

"Books for Mothers who love to read"

I just felt myself getting all teary, in an instant it hit home that MY mum, MY mum who LOVED to read, can't read anymore.

It's just unimaginable.....

As a kid growing up I lived in a world of books, imagination and the wonder of a good story. Every evening I would have to do my spelling and read out loud to mum as we cleaned up after the evening meal. She would prop the spelling book on the kitchen window sill and we worked our way through the list. Now spelling was no small matter in our house. My mum was known for marking the mistakes in the local newspaper with texta and sending a copy f the corrected paper back to the editor on more than one occasion!

Mum hasn't been able to spell now for a long time...

After spelling lists came the reading. Her words are etched in my mind " Don't just read it! Pretend you are painting a picture with the words! Make it come alive! " ... and I would return to my reading out loud knowing that I had better create that magnificent, emotional, colourful picture with my words, or I would be reading my homework out loud again until I did. There was no rushing through the reading homework at my place.

I just loved to read, and it was my mother that taught me the joy of books. It opened up world that I otherwise would never have known about. I was a daily visitor at the school library, signing up to be a library monitor as soon as they would have me; staying up until I finished my schooling. I always had my head in a book. And every night I did my reading out loud to Mum, learning how to paint pictures with my words.

When I was 10 years old I started reading the bible readings at church. I have often been told what a beautiful reading voice I have. One of my happiest memories is reading every night out loud to my own children. Reading them the classics, Treasure Island, Lord of The Rings, Banjo Patterson and more. It would never have happened without Mum's influence.

The other thing that happened when I was 10 was that Mum gave me her favourite books that she had kept: Emily of New Moon, Poppy Treloar, The Secret Family, Anne of Green Gables. I still have them, they are in my bedside table, old, well worn and well loved by us both. Emily of New Moon soon became my favourite too.

My mum read her bible every day. She had numerous translations and versions. She didn't just read it, she studied it. I have her first bible she had a child and I have the bible that I remember her reading growing up. It's filled with notes, and comments and cross references, held together with sticky tape.

And now my mum, who has read every day of her adult life, who showed me a world filled with wonders through a love of books and stories, can't read anymore.'

Last week when I was visiting her she was holding a book, as per usual. I asked what she was reading:

"I''m not reading it! If anyone comes, I just open it." and so she opened it, upside down and showed it to me... "See"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Locked ward move coming up.

Mum has gone downhill really rapidly in the last 5 weeks. She is out of the happy, placid childlike stage and now mainly worrying, stressed, paranoid and suspicious. She had one day that she was reasonably good on the weekend, she told me she was 11 years old at her last party! But the rest of the time she was stressed.

She has become a bit obsessed with one of the other residents and is now wanting to get married. She talks about him constantly, follows him round and is jealous of anyone who appears to get in the way of her being with him.

Her wandering has become a problem and the decision has been made that she needs to be moved into the locked ward for her own safety. It's not going to be easy, I think she will be quite upset by the move but it has to be done.

Every time I leave I know that I have made the right decision to have her there. She simply is too ill to be kept at home and she is so well looked after there. Even though I know what's in store for her, it just is all happening too fast.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

De Je Vue

Mum is going down hill fast as far as her dementia goes. She has become much more agitated and annoyed lately. She requires a lot of care and much more assistance with self care. 

I have times where I can just can't stand it. It was easier when she was happier, but these last few weeks she is not happy. Sometimes when I'm in the car alone, or in the shower I have a bit of a cry. I just feel so helpless, and I can't be there for her. I feel so angry with the family for the way they have abused and abandoned her, and me!!

I don't even have enough words to describe how this feels... mainly I feel all alone in it. My family are great, but I wish I had siblings that I could share it with.  I often feel just like I did when we were kids, and mum lived in an abusive relationship. My siblings split and I spent my childhood years desperately trying to take care of mum, keep her safe, and make her happy. Thats just how this feels a lot of the time. Like I'm a kid fighting something that's just way too powerful for me, putting on a brave front for everyone, but inside, I'm just scared and lonely.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time out for me... can't wait1

I have finally got around to organising some time out for me!! Oh I am so looking forward to it! I am going on a meditation retreat for three days. I told a few friends and they can't imagine having observe silence at meals, and outside designated discussion times, no internet, TV or phone. Me? I think all that silence sounds like pure bliss!!

It's on in about a month. We will do some meditating sessions, some discussion sessions and go for walks each morning. The theme of the weekend is reflecting on where where you are right now in lifes journey which sounds like exactly what I am trying to come to terms with.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You've got mail...

A letter from arrives and I open it to find newspapers clippings about pensioners. Across the picture in large, shaky printing:


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letter from mum...

I received a letter from mum today. She has sent me back a letter that I sent her a few weeks ago. The paper was A4 and instead of folding it to put it in the envelope she has just cut it to the width of the envelope so that it fits. 

I know it makes sense to her in some way. Maybe she saw my address on the letter and thought it belonged to me. I suppose cutting the paper to fit the envelope makes sense as well...  especially if you have lost the memory of how to fold a piece of paper.

I have to confess that I still have not packed up mums room since she left. The clothes are gone, but the furniture and some of her books are still there. I think I'm ready to pack the furniture away, clean and repaint the room and use it for something else. It used to be my office before mum came to live with us. I don't know what I will use it for now, but it's time to pack it away. The reality it that she is not coming home again, not even for a holiday. So that is my task for the weekend.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Latest visit...

I went and visited mum on the weekend. I always leave with mixture of emotions. I feel reassured that she is well cared for and feels safe & loved at the home and I feel a longing to just be with her again. I sometimes feel like a kid again, I just want my mum back, but it's not going to happen...

The hardest part is that she does not recognise me. Before I went in I prepared myself, but it still feels so hard to sit down next to my mother on the lounge and have her look at me like a stranger. No recognition at all. She just smiled politely at me. When I told her who I was she was happy and hugged me.  I am dreading the day that I tell her who I am and it doesn't mean anything to her any more.

What I noticed this time is that her initiative to do things is much less. She now gets up each day and goes and sits in the lounge reading. She will participate in activities but the staff have to come and fetch her and get her set up now. She was much happier this time, but much more passive, waiting to be told what to do next all the time. She is also starting to have more trouble finding words.

We had a really nice time together though. I just took her back to the motel room and we sat and talked while I painted her nails. Then we went for walk, about half a block, to get an ice cream and she was tired at the end of that. I found that after lunch she was falling asleep so our visit was about 5 hours total. 

The good thing was that she remembered some of our last holiday at Christmas. She told me how much she enjoyed it, especially all the animals. 

I feel like the clock is ticking down... I feel very helpless about what is happening, all I can do is make the most of the time we have left together, trying to look after both of us in the process.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

thanks and ((hugs)) to my fellow bloggers

...thanks everyone for leaving me such supportive comments... I was going to say you don't know how much it means to me... but I know you do since we are in such similar circumstances. I shed a tear when I got back and read what you all had written...

I came home last week from my holidays and it was good to have the break. I went and stayed in nice seaside town near where mum is living for a week over Christmas. I decided that I wanted to splurge and get a place overlooking the water which I knew would be a real treat for mum and for me. I suppose what has been on my mind is that with this recent deterioration this might be the last Christmas we have together where she recognizes me.

I'm really glad that I did it. Our lounge room overlooked the water and lots of kangaroos were roaming around the front yard during the day as you can see below!

This mother and her joey were very friendly and came up on our verandah to peek at us through the window much to mums delight.

There were people swimming and canoeing and we could just sit in the cool and watch it all from our lounge. Mum loved it!

I took her to the beach twice.It was a bit difficult for her as she has put on a lot weight and get's puffed really fast. Also her walking is now a kind of 'swinging' from side to side and she can't turn on the spot anymore so we couldn't go anywhere uneven.

I think the hardest part was that she no longer recognises me when she see's me, or in a photo. It's all happening too fast...

She is only 71.

When I arrived she looked up, but she did not recognise me at all. Once I went over to her and hugged her and told her it was me she was really happy, so she still know she has a daughter and her name, just not that it's me. A few times when I was down there she commented that she hadn't known who I was the last visit when I took her on a boat trip but she thought I was a nice lady so had gone with me.

My mother always would save every little Christmas present she had and insist on saving them to open on Christmas day. This time it was so out of character, she saw the presents and wanted to open them all there and then! We opened a present every day we were there which was fun as every time she got so excited!

I also can see some more suspiciousness and irritability in her now. There is one nurse there that has been wonderful and now Mum has taken a real disliking to him, accusing him of taking her things and going through her wardrobe. There is a real cranky side to her coming out. She told me how:

"He comes in here every day and asks me if I've had my shower! What business is it if I've had a shower!"

You know I had a comment on my last post which I know was well intended but I deleted it as it really upset me. Basically the person was saying you need to keep your sense of humour about it all.

It's the classic example of feelings of grief or sadness making people uncomfortable so they want to 'jolly' peiople up and tell them to look on the bright side instead of just accepting them where they are. Feelings are OK, they are not good or bad, they just are and I will continue to share them here.

This is the only place I can share my real feelings for a lot of reasons. I do have a sense of humour, and I can laugh about the funny things that happen. I also have sadness and pain at watching my mother die a bit every day and of knowing exactly what is ahead of us.

I plan on going down to visit again in a few weeks, I feel that this year I want to make the most of what time we have left where she can still get out and about a bit. I find that after lunch she is so tired and is ready to go back to the home.
I'll finish with a lovely quote and pic of me at the beach at sunset. I went there each night to sit and reflect. It was so peaceful and comforting to be surrounded by the constant sound of the waves and the sheer vastness of the ocean.

'When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

Henry Nouwen