After the last two years from hell, my parents are yet again in crisis. Dementia, heart attacks, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, steroid psychosis and liver failure are the highlights of 2007-2009. I do my best to manage and keep track of the medical appointments, tests and results by phone from NYC, while my brother and wife, who live near them in Baltimore, manage some of the day-to-day issues.
This latest crisis was a fluke, this time it could have happened to anyone. Oddly, it came at the anniversary of Katrina, my parent’s own personal flood. The sprinkler system in their new (problem-ridden) luxury condominium went off during the night, ruining floors and furniture, not just any furniture, two hundred thousand dollars worth of interior designed built-ins and custom made furniture; This was, after all, the waterfront home for my Mom that said to all of her cousins, “I have the most beautiful home.” The rest of us in the family still shake our heads at this kind of décor craziness. (It could have paid for every grandchild’s full education! We all live reasonably middle class lives.) but there is no arguing with a mother who feels she deserves nothing but the best and a father who wants peace from said mother. I’d like to say it made my Mom happy, but you guessed it, it didn't. I can only wonder how the decorator managed to deal with my mother, since she her dementia makes her very difficult to follow.
Back to the flood, apparently when the fire department showed up, my mother (who is confused at best, lately) was calling for her own mother and worried about “the boys” (her long dead brothers). My dad, who can barely tolerate a change in the way the remote works, is in charge of the nightmare of insurance and contractors, while they live in a tight hotel suite, twenty minutes drive away from their home. (They were barely tolerating each other in 2000 square feet in the condo).
I hate to say it, but I am beginning to hope that this is the end. Not the end of their lives of course, but the end of their independence. What a horrible thing to say, I know. I am saying this because I think its time for them to move to a senior home of some kind. Selfish on my part? If it were my Dad only, it would be a non-issue; He’s fine on his own, but my Mom is more confused each day and has panic attacks if Dad is out of the house. She has no sense of time, gets lost easily and is paranoid. Did I mention she has undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder? It’s not easy to have dementia, when you believe that you are never mistaken.
Is it awful to wish them further into old age? Just over the edge, to where they’d be ready to take the next step? That’s what it is, isn’t it? If I had my way, they’d be happily situated in senior complex in a two plus bedroom apartment (like their own, but without the overpriced décor!) where someone could check in on them and make sure they came to the main dining room to eat nutritious meals. (They live on take out, sometimes they eat in and bring home the leftovers, remember to never waste! Yet the food grows moldy in the refrigerator. It’s a miracle that they haven’t had food poisoning). They could socialize only if they felt like it, but could live as they do now, doing their errands and going about their routines. There would be staff there, in case of an emergency at night, and when Dad needs to go to his cardio-rehab class, Mom would have someone who could reassure her that he hasn’t been gone for three hours, but just 30 minutes.
I have examined the options in their town, senior living, assisted living, 55+ communities and home nurse. There is no good option yet (or even one they will consider). I have begged them to discuss living wills and all the rest. They refuse and even their will is a secret matter. It is their way of doing things (secrets that is) and I am exhausted from prodding (begging) them to plan for their future.
I read a great article on Katrina that touched on the balance of prolonging life and its costs, and I am thinking hard about what I want for myself. I have instructed my husband, written it out (and filled out my donor card.) I can only hope that it will be easier on our son than it is for me.