A Good Morning on Cellblock 9

Provided I make it through the day, I will have survived two weeks of home confinement, and I understand now why a prison inmate might beg for the death penalty.

I know that sounds melodramatic and you may be thinking, “Two weeks at home? That’s no big deal. Just think of all I could do if I had two weeks at home. You are lucky.” However, I ask you to hear me out on this. I am not someone who has ever enjoyed feeling trapped at home. It’s one thing to enjoy being at home because you have the freedom to just leave and return. It’s quite another to want to leave, but know you can’t unless you are willing to be completely irresponsible. I’m never completely irresponsible. Yeah, therein lies the problem.

So, yes, it’s been two weeks since I received a text message telling me that I needed to “find someone else.” That’s two weeks of not only being confined to home, but two weeks of putting up with MIL while attending to her increasingly laborious care with no help.

Since her last hospitalization two and a half weeks ago, MIL no longer helps when I transfer her in and out of her wheelchair. She doesn’t put her arms around me when I lift her and she doesn’t support her weight when I stand her up. Instead, she clutches her wheelchair making it all the more difficult. She doesn’t eat much. She refuses to drink. She fights me when I give her the insulin injection, and she is for the most part non-verbal, only occasionally muttering “yes,” “no,” and “okay.”

I’m not sure of how to handle any of this since Hospice has already evaluated her and decided she isn’t close enough to death to be their patient. So, I called the county’s Department of Aging & Disabilities to get them to do an evaluation. I wasn’t looking for anything more than for someone—anyone–to give me some guidance, to tell me what to do when she refuses to eat, fights my efforts to administer her meds, and can’t or won’t articulate why.

So, yesterday, we had that evaluation. A nurse from the department came to our home to talk with me.  She arrived early enough that we could discuss the situation while MIL was still in bed. I shared my concerns and she told me that for the most part, I’m handling it all exactly as I should. She gave me literature on dementia, information on workshops, and a brochure on ramps.

We discussed adult day-care as one possible solution. Previously, I had not wanted to consider day-care because MIL can be very disruptive and down-right verbally abusive. I just imagined a day-care worker calling me to tell me that MIL isn’t playing nicely and that I needed to drop everything to pick her up. After all, that is how my daughter’s preschool would handle that kind of behavior. The nurse assured me that it wouldn’t happen.

She told me that dementia is least hard on the person who has it. I found no comfort in that remark since the only thing that keeps me going sometimes is my belief that as hard as all this is on me, it’s harder on MIL. Damn! Apparently, that’s just not true, and hearing that made me wonder why I am putting up with her.

When I relayed the events of the night MIL was last taken to the hospital, I told the nurse that I had run outside to make sure the paramedics wouldn’t turn into our barn driveway but come directly to our house, and she said, “So, you were neglecting your children because of your mother-in-law’s emergency.”

“I wasn’t neglecting my children.”

“You just said you ran out the house.”

“Yes, but after I called 911, I finished dressing the kids for bed and put them in bed. I told them an ambulance was coming that they could look out the window, but not come downstairs.” Deep sigh.

I will maintain that on that night, no, I wasn’t neglectful. However, have I been the mother I want my children to have? Hardly. I let them watch way too much TV. I’m tired a lot. I give into them. I’m in a really bad mood most of the time.  I’m not able to take them places. My very reason for being a stay-at-home-mom is that I didn’t want my children missing out on opportunities, but I can tell you, since MIL has moved in, they’ve missed out on quite a lot—sports, dance classes, birthday parties, and even pre-school.

And as much as I want to believe that my kids will benefit in the long run from living in a multi-generational household, I’m not seeing it. Even before she fell, MIL wasn’t the cookie-baking, storytelling, cuddling kind of Grandma. I’m not saying she didn’t love her grandchildren. She just wasn’t much of a kid-person. She would pat them on the head, comment on their cuteness, and turn her attention back to adults. Since the fall, she mostly yells at them when she acknowledges them at all. Last week my daughter actually said, “I liked it better when Grandma didn’t live here.” Yeah, me, too.

But back to the nurses’ visit…

The nurse watched me get MIL out of bed. She watched our morning routine, and she made a few suggestions and frequently commented, “And this is what you do every day? It must be exhausting.” No joke!

Upon seeing the nurse observing, however, MIL decided to break her silence–and did so in English! She pointed at me and yelled, “Liar! Liar!” She told the nurse that I did nothing and that I was “acting, only acting.”

Oh, lady, you don’t even know how I fantasize about doing nothing. Yes, wouldn’t it be great just to leave that mean, old biddy in bed and let her die of neglect? It’s not like anyone would care. On most days, it’s the legal ramifications as much as the ethical ones that keep me from doing just that.

Despite her crying accusations of my neglect, I told the nurse that MIL was having a good day. She didn’t fight me too much getting out of bed. She even ate! I know the nurse believed me. If I did nothing, MIL would be laying in her own filth and she would be malnourished.

So, without griping any further, can you see why I am looking forward to having respite care next week, just three days a week in which I am not having to care for MIL? Three days in which I can be my children’s mother and not care-giver to their grandmother? Yeah, it will be like being paroled.

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