Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Parenting the Parent

They call us the 'sandwich generation', don't they?

You know, a little bit squashed. Trying to raise our children. While taking care of our aging parents. And work to make a living. Add in everything else that goes along with. Little wonder there are many days when I feel like toast.

Apparently, we've been studied. Poked and prodded. And some have gotten quite creative with their definitions:

Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.

Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. OR those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.(Term coined by Carol Abaya)

Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care. (Term coined by Carol Abaya)

So. Mom came back from her trip over the weekend. She had spent three weeks out west at my brother's. I picked her up at the airport, having decided that we would get a hotel and spend the night in the city since we both had doctor's appointments there the following day.

Tell me, how much can a person actually 'age' in just three weeks?

I don't know but this person deposited with me by the flight attendant was not the mother I knew. Something's been up with mom, not quite right, for the past year or so. I suppose its longer than that actually. She had always looked very young for her age and been very independent. Then she fell and broke her wrist a few years ago. Shortly after that she ended up in the hospital with other health issues.

And overnight, she changed. In her physical appearance. Her voice. Her physical abilities. Almost out of nowhere. It was scary. It still is. Even though mom is only in her 70s, she had always been very young for her age. Now she seems very old for her age. We had a geriatic assessment done shortly before she went away and they said that it was an early form of dementia. They will do neuropsych testing next week and they should be able to tell us more then.

Anyway, I picked her up at the airport. Even though she gets wheelchair assistance when traveling, we've never had to even consider using a wheelchair to get from the luggage area to the car. I guess maybe I should have this time. She fell. Twice. Outside. In the parking lot. At night. Did I mention that I was by myself with her? And that it was dark?

Yeah, it was a little disconcerting. Especially since there was no way that I was going to be able to pick up that dead weight myself. Thank God for Good Samaritans. I saw a man walking and called for him, asking if he could get us some help. He came over and helped mom up. I guess I should say, picked mom up. We got her across the roadway and she went down again. So he picked her up again and we got her sitting on one of the concrete abuttments. He suggested that I get the car and bring it to them.

But I was a little hesitant to leave mom with this stranger. No matter how helpful he had been. Before I could really contemplate this dilemna, an older couple appeared out of nowhere wanting to help. So I left mom with the three of them and got the car. Eventually we got her strapped in and said our thank yous.

You know those emails that like to circulate about guardian angels and some people being angels on earth? It sure felt that way that night. First the young fellow, then the older couple who appeared literally out of nowhere.

We continued on our way. Got a hotel. Made our appointments the next day and eventually got back home again. But it wasn't just Mom falling ... 'just', as if that wasn't bad enough. She was a lot more confused than 'usual'. And really not herself. I am hoping that it was just the traveling that threw her off so bad. And then being back home again, things will eventually get back to normal ... or what passes for normal around here.

Because if not ... I'm not sure what we will do. I certainly don't see how I can take Mom out alone if she is going to keep falling. Nor do I see how it could be safe for her to stay in her own little house if she stayed so confused. But they say traveling and airports and such can be very aggravating for someone in mom's condition. So I guess we will wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, we soldier on. Or, we will anyway, after a nap. For me, that is. Not her. But I was just wondering ... Are we having fun yet? And if I had a crystal ball, would I really want one?


Anonymous said...

Zane here, from you-know-where. Not much to say, other than I hear you. I'll drop by more often, if you don't mind.

MMC said...

Hey Zane.
Good to see you over here. Drop by whenever the mood strikes. Tell us what you fancy and we'll keep some of your favourite poison on hand.

Kris, in New England said...

Michelle - I'm sorry to hear about your mom. I worry about those same kinds of things with my mom (she's 71) - and she lives nearly 7 hours away. I hear her repeating herself, sometimes 15 or 20 minutes after she said it the first time. She tells the same stories over and over. And I don't know how to broach the subject with her. She is fiercely independent, especially since my dad died in 1995. She is very proud and headstrong - not a good combo by any measure.

So I feel for you, facing the kinds of decisions you are facing. Perhaps all the travel is what affected your mom. Give her a few days back in her own environment, in her own routine and you might be pleasantly surprised to see her bounce back as if nothing happened.

Keep us posted. For your own sake if nothing else. Sometimes the caretakers forget that they themselves need to be taken care of - and certainly you are more than just a "club sandwich"...

Anonymous said...

I have a "new" title--
I had decided that the term sandwich generation didn't imply the extreme pressure I felt raising three teenage daughters and juggling my mother's caregiving responsibilities.

Being sarcastic, snarky, and finding the ironies in my situation kept me from snapping--and even my mom would laugh at how crazy/stressful life would get at times.

Use your vices--chocolate, a glass of wine--whatever relieves a bit of pressure. I used to pick up extra glass pieces at garage sales just so I could hurl them against the side of my house and hear them break--somehow that lovely crashing sound kept me from crashing.

~Carol D. O'Dell
author of
Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
available on Amazon


MMC said...

Thanks, Kris.
Well, she is better than she was that first night. But its still far from good. After spending the morning together I dropped her off at the grocery store yesterday. She was going to get some prescriptions and groceries and get a taxi home because I had some appointments. Four hours later I got home and realized she wasn't. After a bit of mild panic, we found her. Still at the grocery store. Sitting, waitng for me all that time. Because she was sure that I was suppose to come back and get her. Not that she had bothered to phone home when I didn't come. And, oh yeah, she never did get the groceries in all that time. Because she thought I would be back too soon. And there shouldn't have been any confusion around the issue ... she clearly knew when she got out of the car that I wasn't coming back for her.

Thanks Carol. I'm prety good at sarcastic and snarky. A little too good sometimes I think. But I'm not sure if giving into my vices would be such a good idea. I tend to get a little obsessive, you see. Anyway, thanks. I will have to check out your book.

Punkys Dilemma said...

Its been a couple of days now M. I hope and pray everything is okay with your mom.
It's so hard when our parents get old and we need to start considering their care.
I'm so sorry it was a real scare for you both when you picked her up at the airport. Thank God for guardian angels indeed.
Praying things are back to normal now.