October 4, 2020

My mom is a machine. And for a lazy person like me, not in a good way.
We’ve had a rough week.
Mom doesn’t like to be alone. She doesn’t like for me to leave her alone. And she can’t entertain herself.
Of the things she has to do (TV, puzzles of several varieties, books, newspapers, and magazines to read, talking to friends on the phone, etc.) she can’t, on her own, choose one to do. I, of course, can’t entertain her all the time. I have things to do, and my list is considerably less fun than hers– housework, cooking, yard work, bills and other paperwork, phone calls, etc. She can’t do anything on her own and I can’t do any of the things she has to do. That leaves her doing things with me.
Know what question I hate? Besides, what’s for dinner, of course. I hate: now what. As in, what are we doing now, what can I do now, what should I do now, what do you have for me to do now, what happens now, what’s the plan for now? I admit it– I screamed at her. I couldn’t take it any longer.
Five days ago I was sitting around after lunch playing a game on my tablet and she started in with the, what’s next what are we doing now questions and I was forced into action. I tried to get her to choose something like TV or a puzzle but she wasn’t having it. I got annoyed because I had to entertain her and I just cannot do that. But I had to anyway.
First we went outside. But she can’t carry things, she can’t lift things, she can’t walk on uneven ground, she can’t pull weeds or mow the lawn, or pull everything out of the storage shed and then put everything back in a more organized manner. I gave her something to wash and she didn’t rinse off the soap. I told her that needed done too and she complained that I hadn’t told her how to wash it. (Has she not been washing dishes most of her life??? How can she not know how to wash something???) Inside I asked her to put some CDs and DVDs on a shelf and she got mad and almost cried about it. Geesh. I asked her to prep some green beans and she acted like she’d never done it in her life so I had to tell her to wash them– now what?– then cut off the ends– now what?– cut them into pieces– now what?– put them in a pan of water– now what?– put them on the stove and turn the burner on low– how do I turn on the burner?– now what?– now get some corn out of the fridge, etc.
I’m not explaining this well. I’m trying to illustrate that it has been day after day after day for five days of me instructing my mother on how to do things, us together every waking second of the day, and very long hours of doing task after task in the house because she can’t figure out how to entertain herself. It would be ten o’clock at night and I’d still be finding things for us to do! WTF? I’m tired! But not her. She still wants to do something, she still can’t find anything to do. HOW ABOUT GO TO BED??? I’m exhausted!
I figured out that I can’t stand constantly being asked what to do and how to do it. I want to give her a task and let her do it. I don’t want to instruct her on every step. I don’t want her asking me every step of the way what to do. Leave me alone!
But we’re working it out. I was angry and frustrated and stressed that first day. Every day after I’ve approached things differently and we’ve gotten along better. Plus, I changed my attitude.
I know it’s not her fault that she doesn’t know how to do things anymore that she’s been doing practically her entire life. Emotionally, however, I want her to continue to function normally because I can’t stand having to entertain her all the time. That’s my fault, not hers. I have to, have had to, get to her level, to function at her level. Respect her at her level. It’s a lot easier that way, too.
It’s hard. It’s hard because I have to be a step or two ahead of her. I have to anticipate: what’s next? I have to know what to say at that moment, and I can’t get frustrated with myself if I don’t know the answer to that question. I have to be okay with the fact that I’m doing something (cutting vegetables, which she can no longer do) and she’s going to have to wait a few minutes until I can think of something she can do (get utensils out of the drawer, napkins, and salt and pepper, for example).
It’s a learning curve. When I was a nanny, and a preschool teacher, and just plain babysitting, I would have to keep the kids entertained. No sitting them in front of the TV and taking a break– or at least not that much. But with children, even toddlers, you can give them something to do and they’ll do it. With mom the tasks have to be broken down to smaller pieces, doled out at a rate she can handle, and often even then she has to be shown how to do something. It’s exactly like taking care of a pre-schooler, and a lot harder at the same time.
One other note. A day or two ago a neighbor texted and asked if I smelled something funky. She said she and her mom began to smell it and when she poked her head outside the stench got stronger. I had, and had thought it was the floor cleaner mom was using, because yes, it was 9 o’clock at night and we were still cleaning because mom still wanted to be assigned something to do. We, the neighbor and I, figured it was a skunk, and yes, it stunk up the house as well as the outside. (Ever smell a skunk? Awful. Truly nauseating. I had smelled them as I was driving a rural road and the stink wasn’t that bad. This, however, was awful. Not at all like I’d smelled on the occasional nightly drive I’d had on a rural highway.)
Mom didn’t smell it.
I’m not kidding. The whole house smelled. And she didn’t smell it when she stuck her head outside either. Awful, and mom didn’t smell it. Loss of sense of smell is an indicator of Alzheimer’s Disease. Mom has not been formally diagnosed with Alheimer’s but I’ve long suspected it’s what she has. That she could not smell the skunk is a much more obvious sign to me that she’s lost her sense of smell than that she cannot smell different fragrances of hand soap as I learned a couple of years ago.
Mom has said several times over the last week or two that she wants to talk to her doctor about the confusion she’s been experiencing. She forgets that we’ve already had this discussion with the doctor. I have to call and request a letter to renew mom’s handicap parking placard, and mom has requested that I schedule an appointment with the doctor. I’ve yet to get to that task because I keep having to entertain mom. What’s mom going to do while I make phone calls? Haven’t figured that one out yet. Anyway, I think it’s important to document that we have pretty significant proof that mom’s sense of smell is gone. I’ve long, long thought it, but this is too obvious to not take as definitive proof.

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