Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Backtracking a bit

So I said last night that I would have to fill everyone in on the events of last Tuesday, a week ago today. Another very, very emotional day. At least this time there was some good emotion sprinkled in with the bad. By the time the day was over, I was absolutely exhausted (which is why I didn't post before I left for Tennessee). But I still feel the day is worth recounting now.

Mom has still been driving a little. After she had her seizures, she didn't drive for a little over a year. Several months ago, though, she started again...just making small trips to familiar places. Well, last Tuesday she had a whole list of places she was going to go: to the lab to get some bloodwork done, to the pharmacy, to the library, and I think the grocery. I was a little concerned that she had too much planned, but she and Brian had talked it over and he thought it was okay since she had been feelings decent. The worst part was that she turned off the ringer on her cell phone, because she didn't want it to ring while she was driving and scare her. I know that's valid, but I didn't like knowing that it would be difficult for me to get in touch with her.

I was supposed to have a meeting with my pastor for my internship, but I arrived at church only to find out that he was doing a funeral of which I was unaware. Having nothing important to do in the office, I headed back home. I think it must have been divine intervention. I hadn't been home for very long when our doorbell rang. It was one of neighbors, who I will call Sue since I'm sharing some of her personal information. She asked if my mom was home, and I said she was running errands...well, Sue said she had tried to call her about ten times and got no answer, but she really needed to talk to her. That's when I realized that underneath her big sunglasses, Sue was crying. I hugged her and said I know I'm not my mom, but I would be more than willing to listen or talk or whatever she needed. She and I don't know each other that well, so she said she would go back home and wait for my mom to get back.

Let me pause the story to give you some background on Sue. She and my mom became very good friends (as Mom is prone to do, like I explained in the last post). Even though Sue is younger, they are pretty close. Mom loves Sue's kids and helps Sue out with them whenever she's not too tired, and Mom is such a great listener that Sue has really opened up to her. We found out that Sue suffers from bipolar disorder, and that once she starts feeling better, she stops taking her medication. That leads to all kinds of problems. Apparently, Sue's fiance had threatened to leave her if she persisted in refusing to take her medicine.

Well, they had been in a big fight the night before and earlier that morning. Since Sue isn't the most emotionally stable person in the world (as though I'm one to talk, but whatever), she was taking it very hard and not doing well at all. Mom eventually called me to check in and let me know that she was on her way home, and I told her about Sue. Mom called her and told her to come over to our house, and that I would wait with her until Mom got home.

When Mom got back, Sue just completely broke down. But in that moment, I saw my mom step up and be like a mom again...she just held Sue and rocked her back and forth as she cried, saying, "There, there honey. I know it hurts, I know it hurts. Just cry." I was so proud of her. It was a different story when Sue started telling the whole story and looking for advice. At one point, Mom turned around where Sue couldn't see and mouthed, "Help me!" She had no idea what to say. I was in quite the odd position trying to mediate between the not-so-rational thoughts of someone with Alzheimer's and the post-breakup rantings of a non-medicated bipolar woman.

We spent hours together, and finally got Sue to call the mental health center to talk to someone about getting back on her medicine and continuing the counselling she had quit before when she felt better. They told her when to come out, so Mom and I took her there and waited with her. I was so amazingly proud of my mom for doing such a good job comforting her, and for not getting upset or anxious at all. It was like in the moment of crisis, her motherly instincts and adrenaline overpowered the cognitive difficulties she faces.

But the day doesn't stop with our trip to the mental health though that's not draining enough. Mom and I also went to our very first Alzheimer's support group meeting. Brian was working overtime so he wasn't able to come. Well, before Mom got ill she worked as a case worker at the county Job and Family Services. The guest speaker for the evening happened to be Mom's old boss, talking about Medicaid. Mom's old boss was not the most supportive person when she was going through the testing phase to figure out what was wrong, and so I don't think she's really a fan of him. She called the organizer of the group that morning to see if it would all be the Medicaid presentation, or if there would be talk about other things as well. The woman assured her that the presentation would only take up part of the time.

I could tell it wasn't good when Mom lowered her head and wouldn't look at anything but her lap. That seems to be something she does when she is anxious, unhappy, or doesn't like what's going on around her. I gently asked if she was okay (which I generally try not to do because it's better to find other ways to snap her out of her thoughts, but this time I was at a loss), to which she started writing notes to me on her handout. She wrote "this is why I hated my job!" referring to all the restrictions built into the system that denied people resources. Then she wrote, "Support????" because the time was wearing on and she had yet to see anything she construed as helpful to her. Finally, she jotted down, "ugh!" in regards to nothing in particular. I thought to myself that we just had to get through the rest of the time, then we could go home and she would settle down.

What I didn't anticipate was for her to share her thoughts with everyone in the room. In the middle of the question and answer period regarding Medicaid, Mom piped up: "I thought this was supposed to be a SUPPORT meeting! I don't feel very supported!" She continued by insulting the speaker and basically calling the organizer a liar for telling her the meeting would be about more subjects than Medicaid. I sat there unsure of what to do, thinking over and over in my head, "This is bad. This is very bad. Oh no."

There were some people who seemed a little shocked at the mini outburst, but it ended up changing the entire direction of the group. With that, the Medicaid talk was basically over and all of a sudden everyone wanted to hear from Mom. She was the only one present who actually suffers from Alzheimer's; all the others were caregivers or nursing home employees. Coincidentally, I am pretty sure that almost every single caregiver was older than my mama. Talk about hard to handle. The rest of the meeting went very well though, and we left with Mom feeling as though she likes the group and wants to go back again. I made a few new friends as well.

Sorry this post is so long...but like I've said before, I'm a sucker for telling stories. Both of those seemed like good ones to me! I should probably be getting to bed so I'm not so sleepy tomorrow. I welcome your comments and thank you for stopping by!


flintysooner said...

I attended a few "real" group meetings a few years ago. I was usually the only man. There were only a couple of Alzheimer's patients. I noticed though that if the moderator allowed it there would be a lot of chit-chat - kind of an effort to avoid us actually sharing personal things. Usually our moderator would get things on course though.

Prayer groups are that way, too. It is really easy to try to avoid telling anything really personal and to avoid the act of praying.

Good post - really enjoyed reading it - love how you are supporting your mom.

Lori1955 said...

Sounds like your mom should be leading the group. LOL.

Kelsi said...

Thanks for the comments!

flintysooner, it was interesting to hear your experiences with the group meetings. I am curious to see what ours is like in August.

lori1955, I think she was about ready to try!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Kelsi, I have loved "meeting" your mom in the last couple of posts. She sounds like an absolutely amazing woman and it is very easy to see that you have adopted her loving and passionate lifestyle for God! That is so encouraging and challenging to me and so for that I thank you!