A BRIEF MONOLOGUE I SEE MY MOTHER HAVING WITH HERSELF DURING HER CRISIS WITH DEMENTIA
|I AM NO LONGER ME
What do you do when you are deemed incompetent and can no longer care for yourself? The smallest of tasks are difficult and not physically possible for me. Walking is an effort except with the now mechanical advantage of a walker and wheelchair. I am not safe in my home—at least that is what my family tells me. My world has collapsed into a tiny space, just two rooms and a bathroom. My apartment has been rearranged by adding handrails and pull-up bars. The scatter rugs have been removed to make for smooth travelling for the walker. A day bed has replaced the loveseat. “This is for my nap”, that everyone thinks I need. Since when have I been taking afternoon naps? My body is tired and my legs are weak and tend to crumble under me. It feels so good just to rest and put up my feet.
My blouses have been replaced, with pullover tees as my arthritic, swollen hands can no longer manage buttons. My shoes are Nikes—I’ve gone for comfort and support rather than style
My caregiver makes my meals—I don’t have a choice as to what I would like to eat. Without question ,I eat what is placed in front of me, and I am grateful. Sometimes I forget what to do with the spoon and I feel stupid. I've shouted out in frustration, "I'm such an idiot!"
Using the bathroom is a big chore and it takes all of my strength to finish the process. It is a process of humiliation, discomfort, and a surrendering of my dignity and modesty.
I fear most everything, especially change..a new face, or environment ;a strange noise. The sounds on the TV scare me and I know people are whispering about me behind the doors. Don't they know that I can still hear?
I’m given pills on a timely schedule. I’ve spit them out a few times..why not? I have to control something. Some of the pills are so huge, that they are scored and cut in half. On occasion they are difficult to swallow. Just yesterday, my son had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me. I was afraid that I would die. This incident terrified the both of us.
At what point did I lose control of my life? Where was I when these decisions about my care were being made? I don’t process information like I used to. The memory cells of logic and reasoning are non-existent due to the dementia. Now I react to these uncontrollable circumstances in anger and frustration .
Some days are unbearably long, consisting of orders and commands, strange people moving about my house, intruding into my privacy, pushing my body to move in ways that are painful. Pain from a recent hip fracture is my constant companion. I take pills for various reasons, none that anyone will discuss with me, not that I would understand. Appointments are scheduled without my consideration. Oh, they talk amongst themselves, but I’m left out of the conversation. I struggle to process what is being said and become frustrated and angry when my lack of reasoning ability fails me. I'm trying to remember--is anyone listening?
Much of my conversation is discounted or ignored. How have I become lost in all of this? I don’t know who I am anymore. I used to be so active. I had many wonderful friends. Most have passed away. No one comes to visit .My closest relatives stay away. I must be a bother to them.
I've been busy my whole life. I never really knew how to relax. I was busy taking care of "the world" as my husband used to say. I gave all I had , neglecting myself emotionally and physically to do so. Somehow , if I took care of others, than perhaps they would love me. But that was conditional love. Once the gifts stopped, the friends and relatives stopped visiting also. Where are they now?
I don’t like this situation one bit. This can't be me. I don't feel like "me". At times I am agitated and combative, striking out at the nearest person. Sometimes it is my daughter who does so much for me. How can I be so mean, especially to someone I love so dearly? If I'm not me, than who am I?
At one time I wanted to become an interior decorator..I loved to sew, and design, even making the cheerleaders uniforms for the squad during the 1960’s. But my husband and I started a rooming business and that has been my life, my identity, for the last fifty years or so. I had big dreams of having a huge house filled and decorated with all the wonderful and meaningful treasures that I had once collected. These so called treasures are in the attic, still waiting to be used in the design of my dream house. Dreams gone to ashes—just like that—gone up in smoke as a result of years of financial struggle and unfulfilled fantasies of grandeur. The perfect house on the beach overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Who am I to dream such nonsense? What will happen to my treasures now? They mean nothing to anyone but me.
My husband and I were going to grow old together, passing our days, rocking on the front porch. He died nine years ago and I still have not grieved as I should have. I fear that if I were to start crying, I would never stop. So I’m left here by myself to somehow wait out my days without him. Life isn’t what I thought it would be. I guess we have to deal with what we are handed. God has a mightier plan than we can ever know. I just wish we could have waited out His plan together. I'm so scared to be alone.
I stay busy these days .I still keep house and do my own cooking and cleaning. Did I mention that I still drive?. Oh, yes...I can fold Kleenexes and paper towels by the hour, while having lengthy conversations with myself. Even with my sore, painful hands I have to keep moving, doing something that I think is useful .This is "work" to me.
So here I am, disabled, senile and old. What do I have to look forward to? Where is my quality of life? I'm a burden to my family, a daughter who lives nearby and a son who lives, I don't know where..he tells me, but I can't remember. He takes a plane to come here, but he doesn't stay very long. I could never understand why he moved away.
I sense that I won't be in my little apartment for too much longer. My bed has been dismantled and my daughter has packed up my clothes and some of my favorite things. In my confused state of mind, I don't' understand what is happening. Where am I going? Will I find "me" there?.... the "me".... I used to know?