I’m glad I don’t have to work in this horrible place anymore, says my mother as we walk to the main dining room which I’m now calling “the restaurant,” like she does, where the assisted living residents eat their meals and I sometimes take her so she can get away from the horrible people she “works with” in her memory care wing then she tries to remember what the horrible things are, tries to find the words for the horrible things the bosses have her do and how they keep changing everything which really means she’s confused, confused beyond all rational possibility over the new bathroom routine, with the caregivers taking her to the toilet every two hours and assisting her so she doesn’t keep going on the lid or in the laundry hamper in the closet or throw shit and toilet paper around her bedroom like some teenage-TP-in-the-front-yard gag gone bad and then she says, maybe next year, not realizing, naturally, that we actually are at the end of the year, a day away from Christmas, which as we all know, she says, takes FIVE CIRCLES before it arrives and I’m as baffled as she is at the speed the holidays hit us, all Mack truck-like, how fast they come every year, how fast each week passes now and yet it’s not fast enough, maybe next year we can go “back,” she says, we can leave this horrible place and she doesn’t say back to Maine or back home and I’m not even sure she knows she’s in Arizona ninety percent of the time but like me she always wants something else, something more, something better, something different, to be somewhere else, anywhere but where we are, and again I’m astonished because it’s like we share a brain: I’ve been thinking for a month solid about moving her back to Maine, to the dementia care home by the sea where I originally wanted her to live two years ago when I realized I couldn’t continue taking care of her in her house, I wanted to keep her in a similar environment, a smooth transition from the old house of my childhood to another old house, isn’t it perfect, mom? You get to stay at a bed-and-breakfast, I imagine saying as the fantasy unfolds, I’d leave her there for a few months because lately I just can’t deal with watching her implode and taking care of my husband, I’d leave her there with people who really care and understand dementia, not this corporate “care facility” with caregivers who quit before they get their first paycheck and an activity director whose idea of art projects is finger-painting and coloring books which pisses the former artist in my mom off to no end, her high-functioning moral superiority still shining bright, then I’d return to Maine myself with or without my suddenly-wheelchair-bound husband whose staph infection just won’t quit, I’d spend a very long summer and fall in my old house and visit my mother often in her B&B by the sea, and I’m positive, I’m certain now that I’m going crazy, the slow drip of insanity from my drinking days has returned and my mother’s tangled mind is seeping into my veins and neurons and organs, I can’t not be crazy, can I, after all this, five years of crazy: my mother and my father and now my husband, taking care of everyone but myself and if it’s true, like they say, the caregiver is the first to go, well, then, toodle-oo, bitches, I’m gone.
Caregiver’s Log, Day 985
7:30 pm Pretend to watch football game with husband on new, yet-unchewed sectional you bought last week because you both know he’s pretty much housebound for at least another month, maybe two, thinking: Football season? When did that happen?
8:00 pm Take dogs for evening walk. As you walk past neighbor’s house, suddenly realize you haven’t fed Greta. Worry you’re a bad petsitter. Shove dogs in neighbor’s backyard while you make Greta’s supper. Extricate your 70-pound Lab from being stuck in Chihuahua-sized dog door and your Shepherd from neighbor’s pool.
9:00 pm Prepare and administer Round Three of infusions. Help husband into bed, grateful he feels good enough to sleep in bed instead of the recliner. Ask the Universe to help you make it through another day.
9:30 pm Blow off shower. Send four laughing-crying emojis to friend who texted you six hours ago: “Aren’t you glad you don’t have to work anymore???” thinking: It’s a different kind of work.
Last in a Series of 7. Read the rest here
Caregiver’s Log, Day 985
4:00 pm Answer phone call from caretaker of your mother’s house, which is supposed to be your New England summer getaway when you aren’t needed by a father who’s fallen down the steepest front steps this side of Mount Everest or a husband who finally pushes his degenerative, bone-on-bone hip to a level catastrophic enough to cause a septic infection. Agree with caretaker that he might as well close the house for winter.
4:30 pm Notice the protein shake you made for breakfast is still sitting in blender eight hours later. Dump congealed mass of bananas, peanut butter and protein powder down the sink.
Discover that dog kibble bin is completely empty. Psych yourself up for rush hour trek to Costco and the impatient ramming of shopping carts up your ass. Realize that scraping sound is your brakes as you almost run a red light. Pass the Playa Club where you used to drink. Look the other way.
6:30 pm Return with roast chicken large enough to feed the block, but no shower gel. Make dinner for husband and feed animals. Fill empty water bowls after husband reminds you. Worry you’re a bad pet parent. Google: “metal to metal brakes.” Promise yourself tomorrow you’ll find time to get to a meeting.
6th in a Series of 7. Read the rest here