Sliding into New Year (12/27/20)

Ain’t COVID for Christmas grand?
We usually spend the holiday alone, just the two of us. My sister and her family all live in different states. Mom’s brother and his family live halfway across the country. We usually get invited to a cousin’s Christmas concert, which is great and we love going, but it was cancelled this year. In all actuality, Christmas was not much different this year than in any other year, but you couldn’t convince mom of that.
Mom kept thinking both that other people were supposed to be here but couldn’t be because of COVID, and were here, because there were apparently people in and out of here all day long (everyday, not just on Christmas day) and she couldn’t keep up with it all. Hmmm. In my world it was just her, me, and the dog alone all day.
Christmas day was good. A bit boring, but I’m loathe to complain even a tiny bit because we are incredibly fortunate, have everything we need, are warm, safe, dry, well fed, and are in a position to be able to contribute to various food and toy drives around the area (for both humans and animals). We have NOTHING to complain about. Mom, however, missed all the people who never come but who she thought should be here. And she was overwhelmed by all the people she thought were here but weren’t actually here.
Mom’s doctor doesn’t think she has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
There. That’s the thing that bugged me all Christmas. She, the doctor, actually said, “It’s not like you have dementia or Alzheimer’s or anything.” What the fuck.
I am furious, and frustrated, and confused, and dismayed.
Mom doesn’t have dementia?
The doctor said she was putting mom on the strongest dosage of Arecept. A day or two later the pharmacy gave us the same dosage of Donepezil she’s given us in the past. Guess what? Arecept and Donepezil are the same medication! Same drug, different name. Fuck that doctor.
I might be willing to give the doctor the benefit of the doubt if she’d taken me aside and explained that she didn’t want to upset mom by telling her she has Alzheimer’s. Okay, fine. Let’s not upset mom, but wink-wink we both know mom has a form of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s. Nope. Mom has normal cognitive decline. Great. Know what that means? I can’t ever get her Hospice. I can’t get services to help with activities of daily living. I can’t ever get her any kind of help because she’s perfectly fucking fine. Fuck you, doc.
I don’t need help. Not now. Mom and I are doing fine. Mom is easy to take care of, and any loss of patience on my part is my fault. But mom won’t always be fine. Alzheimer’s (all dementia) is a degenerative disease. She will continue to decline. She will never get better. The doctor knows this, yet she refuses to have any empathy for me, her caregiver, so that someday, when mom is impossible to care for on my own, I might be able to get some help. FUCK THAT DOCTOR.
Look, I know I’m no doctor. I know I can’t diagnose mom. But I’m not stupid either. I know that when she thinks there have been dozens of people in and out of our house all day, this is not normal aging. My mother has never been one to imagine that people have been here when they have not. (What people? She can’t say. When I ask she doesn’t know. She can’t name them.) In fact, my mother has little imagination at all. She’s not completely uncreative, but she’s rooted in fact, in the concrete, in what is before her. She isn’t inclined toward fanciful realities, because to her those realities don’t exist. Yet here she is believing that all kinds of people have been in and out of the house all day long when in fact we’ve been completely alone. That’s normal aging?
I have been advised by support group members to have her evaluated by a neurologist or gerontologist. I see it as a reflection of my culture that I am reticent to call someone like that. What if I anger the GP? My mom has been seeing this doctor for forty years and here I am some young (lol) upstart trotting mom off to a specialist to seek the diagnosis the GP was unwilling to give? The advocate in me says fuck that GP, take your mother to someone who will diagnose her appropriately and pave the way to services you’ll need in the future. The “be a good girl and don’t upset authority” side of me says, go along with the GP because she is right no matter what you think. I mean, I’m not a doctor, right?
Does it matter? Mom is dying. She’s 86 years old. She could live another 20 years or she could live as long as a day. She’s had her life. She’s done her thing in this world. She’s massively loved, but otherwise, so what? What is she contributing to this world? (I would argue– so much; but mostly it’s very selfish of me to do so.) I can kind of see her doctor’s perspective: she’s old, she has nothing left to contribute, so what if she dies? I get it. But she’s my mother. I love her. I want her to live forever– yet, not if she is suffering. It’s complicated.
We head into the new year trying to get through our days. Long-term goals are no more. We hope nothing for the future. Yet we do embrace the best of the day. Every day is worth living, even if no one else would agree. Here’s to hoping we both see the dawn of the new year. Let us both see the demise of 2021. Meanwhile, we wish you good health, good wealth, and all that’s selfless in the world that you may help others receive all that’s selfless in the year to come. Much love.


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