Tag Archives: aging parents

Mid-year check-in!

20 May

11:02 am

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of May!? This year, man; I thought 2020 was hard…

I literally only have a few minutes to post, but I wanted to check in and say hi to everyone. I think I’ve got company when I say, life has just been going way too fast and feeling way too busy this year to stop and post about the roses, as it were, on my blog!

In short, I’ve been working a ton of long days, taking care of the dad situation (he has dementia, which seems to be progressing fairly quickly), and um, looking for a new place to live. I am still doing a couple of jobs and have just lined up a possible third–it’s not easy or cheap to live where we live as well as to save quickly to get out of renters’ hell, which we’re actually in right now, to be honest.

My two brothers and I are all vaccinated, so we’re planning to make a trip home next month to see our dad in the nursing home (where he’s been for, wow, six months now) and start the transition into a new facility. We were worried about this process since he’s been so “oppositional” to the entire affair, but these days, his attitude resembles more of a person with depression, so he’ll be more easily swayed to do, well, whatever he’s told. I don’t know if it’s his meds (he’s on two right now) or the dementia, but, he’s just very…out of it. He used to get riled up, call us every day to “get him out of jail,” but these days, it’s like he’s a combination of resigned to his fate and, well, out of it. Like, in a daze. Like, unable to get out of his head. Or, as my brother put it, like his brain is shutting down. One thing I have also noticed is an increasing lack of affection. It’s like, he’s not necessarily forgetting who we are yet, but he seems to be forgetting the emotional connection, as in, he’s not remembering WHY we are who we are to him. So strange. Frankly, having lived through SO many drunken blackouts myself–and spent time wondering about the nature of the blackout–it’s a bit easier for me (than the average “normie,” I guess) to grasp what my dad’s brain is doing now. Like, some of his behavior resembles drunken blackout mode. Anyway, it’s getting easier as we come to accept his state of mind, and, well, as he comes to accept his state of mind (whether that’s because he’s medicated, I don’t know).

Finding a new rental has NOT BEEN EASY, mainly because we’ve been investigating all kinds of options (buying here or elsewhere, buying land and building here, buying a condo versus buying a house). Our landlord wants her house back (slash, drove us out with her ridiculous behavior, but that’s for another post; le sigh)–so, we’ve been busy trying to make our plan, which at this point necessarily includes renting for a while longer. There are so few rentals where we live anymore–post-hurricane and post-pandemic realities that no one is going to get around unless the community chooses ethics over money–and even fewer that take pets (which is why our “pound” is constantly overflowing with stray dogs and cats), so…yeah, it’s been a trip!

All that being said, we’re making our way through it, having a bit of fun in the sun, and well, staying sane. And, I’m happy with that! Haha.

Again, my minutes are up and I now have to run out (literally) and then come home and read journal articles so I can write about them! Hope all are well, and we’ll see you very soon in a longer post…

Oh, and YES, I have wanted to pick up the white wine (there’s a bottle for cooking in our fridge) quite a few times these past few months, but…yeah, no, not gonna happen. I know it’s only a short-term fix, but I also know from experience slipping that, the booze is not going to make my brain or body feel good (it’s going to make my brain feel like radio on static and it’s going to make my peri/menopausal night heat worse).

In with a bang?

21 Feb

12:20 pm

Is that an expression? I think it’s actually, out with a bang, but considering how much of a whirlwind the first seven weeks of 2021 have been, I don’t think it really matters…

I’ll dive right in, how’s that? I have to say, while this year has had a lot of good stuff, which I’ll get to later, it’s been sort of a shit show on one end. I feel less in control of life than I have ever felt–mainly due to my dad having dementia, believing he is being “held hostage” by us, his three kids, in the skilled nursing facility (aka, nursing home) where he is at right now. I think I have a newfound understanding of anxiety! I mean, I have always reacted to certain things or thoughts with anxious behavior, but I have never felt what I guess some people describe as “anxiety,” which is, I wake up every morning with this feeling of uncertainty, like an elevator is dropping in my belly, like there is no solution to how to stop the rock that is going to be careening downhill at me that day.

I have missed writing, and I’m sorry that I have not this year; I just feel like all I’ve been doing, all year long so far, is triaging the dad situation on the weeknights and weekends with my brothers: getting him to a nursing home, getting him to stay there, getting him on much-overdue meds; delving into his crumbling life, which is, managing his assets to get him through his divorce in order to apply for Medicaid in order to find him a “home” for after he is (soon to be) discharged from the nursing home. (He’s there for hip rehab from a hip reconstruction surgery that he had to have because he drove at night without breaks, crashing his car into a tree and crushing his hip; he refused to stay at the first rehab back in September, and ultimately, he was in and out of ERs until early December–it was a mess!)

Um, I have felt mostly guilt and anxiety over this, but, past few weeks, as we talk more with him and the staff–well, I am starting to feel less guilty. It really is what it is, and there is nothing we can do to change or fix it for him. His short-term memory issue does not seem to be getting better, in that, he does not remember from one minute or block of time to the next; practically, that means he doesn’t remember the conversation that we had with him yesterday, let alone yelling at us for telling him that we are moving ahead with the divorce in spite of his objections. Where his mind is at is, I was served papers and OK, I am in agreement with getting divorced. In reality, our step-mom filed in May 2020; he was unable and/or unwilling, mentally, to respond by the deadline last July; so, we have managed the work of organizing his assets, hiring an attorney to represent “him,” negotiating the settlement proposal with all parties excluding him, and finally, beginning to list his assets for sale as part of the fulfillment of his end of the deal. It’s just one example of the loops we’ve found ourselves to be stuck in when trying to reason with him.

In fact, there is no “reasoning” with him anymore, even though he is quite lucid. Which means, when the time comes to “put him somewhere,” he is going to go kicking and screaming, literally. And, just getting to the point where we are all somehow OK with that–that’s caused and causing me anxiety. However, the facts don’t lie: he has dementia-thinking (which, goes FAR BEYOND memory loss and goes way back, before his accident). Like everything, it’s a process, and, well, many others have been down this road. This, too, shall pass.

Anyhoo… Other than that, life is pretty OK! Working a ton–my new job continues to kick my butt; but, at least I am down to only one gig–and spending a lot of time training our two new foster dogs. The second one, a girl, is a handful, but she is getting better and better at being someone’s dog. We had to sort of housetrain her when she got here; we’re working on getting her to not bark at our landlady; soon, I hope she can just chill inside, not in her crate, when I leave the house.

This weekend, I started on new glaucoma drops (yeah, man, wtf? I am 46 years old, and the doc said that I have mild in one eye, mild to moderate in the other!), and they suck. They give me anxiety! It is strange and I thought I was imagining it, but no, turns out, thanks to good old Google, that timolol is notorious for its systemic side effects. I am sensitive, sure, but these drops make me feel really out of sorts. We’ll see; I mean, there are other options, so, of course, I am gonna have to advocate for myself.

And, I have to say, the menopause stuff (yeah, man, am I just a fast ager? Haha) is finally seeming to iron itself out. My hormone therapy still does need some tweaking, but, after, um, almost a full year, at least I am beginning to see what might be ME and not a side effect (or vice versa); and, importantly, what works for ME and not what every article on the Internet says “should” be the right dose or effect! All this said, my night heat is much better (not gone, but better), my insomnia has much improved (knock wood!?), and the “other stuff” is super-slowly getting better. Thank GAWDess. The worst thing about this has been, ya don’t know what to expect so everything feels permanent and catastrophic. I would tell my early 40s self, and anyone out there who would listen, this is NOT true; it will change, and it will get better.

Whew.

In any case, I remain ever-grateful, still, for my sobriety, for the lessons learned. No matter how many ups and downs the days take me on, I still have that overwhelmingly sense of, I am one of the lucky ones, I got out. No matter how “bad” things seem, I am still sober–and that is everything good. That is literally everything. That is glitter and unicorns and an endless Mardi Gras parade.

Happy holidaze

27 Dec

12:58 am

I do sort of feel like I’ve been in a daze this season, mainly because of everything that’s been going on. The other day, I posted something and then deleted it, worried that it was too revealing about my father. And, I’m glad I did; this isn’t a blog about him.

I haven’t felt much like blogging recently; not sure why, it just feels like overexposure. I’ve also been working a ton and going-going-going with my brothers, getting my dad situated in a nursing facility–simply put, we think he has dementia, and it is *probably* not going to get better. I mean, we can hope it’s related to a transient, post-operative effect (he recently had surgery; the reason he had surgery, though, was because of his “dementia” thinking, which I see so clearly now)–but, he’s been in decline for like, at least three years, it just wasn’t presenting itself as memory loss, per se. Anyway, it’s been draining; there is no rule book, which is bizarre since so many people go through this!

In light of everything that’s come to a head this year–started menopause, put my dog to sleep, watched my dad literally go from, ‘Oh, Dad’s just being Dad’ in August, to, ‘Holy shit, there is something really very wrong here’ in November–I do feel grateful. I mean, I’m still here, for one. I’m still sane, still working (uber-grateful for this), still breathing, still loving, still content with most everything that comes my way.

Everything that has happened this year that could have definitely been given a strictly negative spin has actually led to something better. I lost my job–but I needed to leave anyway, and ended up finding something better, for the most part. I had to put my dog down–but she needed to Rest, and we were just holding onto a creature who was in unbearable pain. I went into menopause–but I feel SO much better, overall, than I did in perimenopause, and, I’m no longer on the birth control pill, which, I would say is much worse than hormone therapy (today’s bioidentical versions). What else? Oh, so yeah, my dad sort of “went into” dementia–but, considering that these past three years have been a long, crazy lead-up to what we’ve all just realized is actually cognitive decline, at least my dad is safe now. Even Covid has had many silver linings–one could say that Covid allowed nature to come back, people to take stock and be more mindful, mRNA vaccines to have their day probably faster than they would have had.

Anyway, it’s been a long few months. I had a GREAT Christmas, though; yes, we got together, and no, I don’t feel guilty about it (though, there are some people in places where Covid is still raging who would blame me and my friends for spreading the virus)–we are not a hot spot, and the people I hang out with are like me in that, no one really socializes! I am not worried that anyone in the group last night had Covid or has been exposed recently; there were three younger people (someone’s kids in their 20s) who had flown in, but, only two were recent arrivals and everyone has to take a Covid test before being allowed to enter the airport.

Tomorrow, we’re going on a boat trip–a big, twin-hulled catamaran, which should be awesome! I have never stepped foot on a boat like that, so I am looking forward to the experience. Speaking of which, I’ve had some down time to actually remember and cherish some old trips and friends lately–to mind come volunteer trips to Haiti, to Ecuador; a self-styled yoga retreat to Nosara, Costa Rica; years ago, a solo trip to Turkey; years before that, one to Greece; a year abroad in Paris; many exploratory trips all over the mainland through recent years. Ahh, the memories; I am proud of the trips I’ve taken of late, and really, truly can’t wait to be able to travel again…

I hope my dad can entertain himself with his own memories; it’s painful, wondering what he is thinking about right now, you know? I know he has some great memories, so…that’s a small consolation.

Oh, and we got another doggay! He is the most ridiculous dog ever–his cuddle factor is so high, he’s almost TOO cuddly! I do miss my girl so very much–and our boy–but…life goes on. It’s nice to have a little buddy to care about, to walk, to have sleep all over you (we are not letting him on the bed; he will never, ever leave if we do…).

The parent trap

5 Dec

10:12 pm

No, not the movie. MY parents–or, rather, parent…though, both have their issues.

I haven’t really felt like writing lately, considering work and life. We did have a nice Thanksgiving–with old friends and new, a small group; so far, so good re: Covid–and I took a SWEET day off to go hiking with a friend. It was THE best thing I’ve done in a while, to get out of my ‘hood, my house, my head for the entire day, to spend it talking and walking and swimming with a new friend. Today, we went by the shelter to check on our new boy–YES, we’ve finally decided that we’re ready to welcome a new dog! We get to take him home on Monday. (Actually, it was my boo’s pick, so I guess I should say, HE is ready to have a son again. I had my eye on another dog at the shelter, but when I walked her today, I just didn’t feel like we had a connection; I feel bad for her, since she’s been there a year, but…I don’t know if I am ready yet. My old dog, who we put down almost four months ago, was such a smart, ridiculous friend–she was part chow, part shepherd, and I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a girl like her again, so maybe I should lower my expectations? It might be that I’m just not ready for another pup yet…)

Other stuff hasn’t been so good or easy, but I’ll get through this, too. The older I get, the more I realize that I will get through anything; and, a positive, selfless (as in, it’s not about ME, ever; I don’t ever have to choose to take anything personally) attitude goes a long way toward keeping self, others, and events in perspective. However, this thing with my dad has really thrown me for a loop!

Past couple months, shit has truly hit the fan with my dad. To summarize, he has always had what I would call a personality disorder (the closest I can come to describing him is narcissistic–like, according to Wikipedia, he has all three of these: exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy; in fact, I would say his lack of empathy has always almost bordered on sociopathy, mainly because he has often had very little regard for others’ well being and he lies a lot). BUT, he’s also had lifelong UNTREATED bipolar disorder (yeah, it took me until 40 years old to unravel my issues from growing up with that shit!), which seems to have morphed into a full-blown dementia somewhere between five years ago and now–which seemed to be kicked into high gear by going under general anesthesia during a recent hip surgery (in fact, he has had serious mood/personality changes from past surgeries, too, it seems).

Anyway, it’s been a trip trying to deal with him because he’s not incompetent, but…he can’t do what he used to do (work-wise) OR take care of himself anymore. It’s very bad; I don’t really have the energy to go into details, but he is 100% unable to take care of himself (as in, he does not shower, he has not been eating, he didn’t think it was a big deal that he has no heat–it’s freezing cold where he lives now), and he seems 100% incapable of making rational decisions, of executive level thinking. Yet, he is also 100% in denial about this and does not believe anything is wrong.

Tomorrow, a social worker is coming to the house; I guess she will interview him and make the decision on whether to send him to a care facility. It will be interesting to see if and how he takes that; he has been extra-belligerent with my step-mom, and there is NO forcing him to do anything. I don’t know. It’s interesting to wonder about all the mental health stuff–I had no idea that people could pass for so long, as in, hide their dementia; I had no idea that dementia can include all sorts of mental changes, like delusional thinking that can be so very subtle that you don’t distinguish it from “normal” personality-disordered thinking; I had no idea that untreated mental health disorders can actually cause issues like this or wreak havoc later (he’s only 73; pretty young to be this bad, right?).

I have spent hours on the phone with him, my brothers (yep, plural; first time I have talked to the one brother who wrote me off in 3.5 years–eh, I am so over it that I felt next to nothing), my step-mom, trying to get him to understand that he needs care, that he can’t go home–he has no bridges left to burn, and at this point, I am not sure what the future holds for him.

I have thought once or twice about how this would feel if I had wine to rely on for escape; probably just more muddled and overwhelming. No, thanks–I like the extreme clarity re: other people’s “crazy” that being sober affords me these days! It has caused me some anxiety, though…

Anyway…just a short post. Even though I haven’t blogged much lately, I am always reading and following your posts, so keep ’em coming!

Being grateful and staying present

31 Dec

3:33 pm

So, as you know, we are about to embark on a new year, a new decade, a…blah blah blah.  For some reason, I just can’t this year.  I can’t try that hard to have a “memorable” New Year’s Eve this year.  Granted, just being sober will make it 100 percent more memorable than a lot of my past New Year’s Eves.  Kidding aside, I’m just kind of burnt this year, and tired of trying to coordinate and make it happen–in spite of my own resistance, fatigue, and other people’s inability to commit.  Frankly, I kind of want to spend it alone, with my dog, watching TV (my boo has to work).  I have never wanted to watch television on NYE, but this year, it sounds perfectly acceptable!

What I want for myself for this new year is to stop taking people–their actions, my thoughts about their actions–personally.  I think that will go a LONG way toward being grateful and staying present.  Lately, I’ve found myself spiraling down my mental rabbit hole by forgetting to be grateful for the BAZILLION things that are important–my sobriety and all the past and present struggles that have come with it; our moves and moving around, which have taught us some serious lessons about who we are and what we want; my relationship; the handful of meaningful friendships that I do have in my life; my sweet dog, who is ailing and probably won’t see another holiday season, but for which I have to be grateful, and for whom I have to stay present.

Today, my big outing was taking my girl down to our local “dog beach,” which isn’t an actual public beach so it makes for a quiet setting.  There is an inlet protected from the swell where she can go swimming.  It was sad watching her, and I cried.  I mean, I cry a little inside every time I have to carry her up the stairs, help her get up, pick up her poop on the carpet inside because she can’t control her muscles back there that well; but I don’t “cry” cry.  This felt good, and I needed it; I need to start letting go.

I am not sure what is worse:  having a dog that gets cancer and goes fast, or a dog who has this horrible, progressive arthritis that gradually transforms her into one that barely resembles the pup you once knew.  I know, I know, she’s a dog; but, it’d be the same emotional rollercoaster with a person (it IS the same, watching my mom), only the progression would take 20 years, not two.

I was angry for a bit, like, I am never getting another dog, why bother, I don’t/can’t go through this again.  But, it got me thinking, well, that is so depressing and cynical–if I lost my partner, would I choose to spend the rest of my life alone, choose to be angry and antisocial because…life?  This is life, the coming and going.  This is life, and it hurts, and it sucks, but…the anger and frustration is life, too.  And it all passes, sooner rather than later.  What can you do but choose to accept, embrace, process?  What can you do but decide that you will NOT fall into the self-defeating trap of black-and-white thinking?

This year, I want to start getting past my anger and frustration regarding this general aging shit–myself, my dog, my mom and my dad, both of whom are struggling immensely with physical and mental decline.  To not let perimenopausal night heat and insomnia (though, lack of sleep is its own mental health disorder) overturn my world; to not let my mom or dad’s decline influence my emotional state so much; to just love my dog and try to let it be, accept it for what it is, let it go, let HER go…  I can’t live in this state of resistance all the time, but, I also don’t want to lay down and let the world run me over, like a huge ocean wave; that might lead to me giving up.  I don’t ever want to give up; I don’t ever want to stop listening to the radio (Walking Dead reference, folks…!).

Sometimes, I want to drink; most times, I think, why bother?  I know it won’t change anything–it’s not going to stop time, and it’s not going to change how I deal with the passing of time and aging.  So, I won’t, and I’ll keep plugging:  be grateful, stay present.  Cry.  Whisper-scream (oh, all right, just scream, but no banging on the thighs in the middle of the night as you whisper-scream).

How hard can it be?  Hahaha…

Inhale, exhale, and remember:  drinking only makes it better for a split second, and then it makes it much, much worse.  I tell myself that every time I have recently thought, eh, maybe this is the year I start drinking in moderation, I’m ready, why not?  Um, because, it won’t make anything that is good better, and it won’t fix anything that is bad–it will just make it more bad.  That is logic that Wolfie-boy, drinking-brain does not like because it makes drinking seem illogical and irrational–which is what it is and why it’s so cunning and baffling; and small and ridiculous and empty.

Aight, off my box.  I wish everyone a wonderful eve, spent here, there, everywhere, and nowhere–it’s all good.  Be grateful and stay present.  The stars keep shining, and if you let it, your head does keep wanting to look up to see them (though, we might not see Betelgeuse soon!).

Happy 2020, friends, and we’ll see you on the flip!

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