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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

I know this, too, shall pass.

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

It’s been almost two months since I sat alone in my meditation garden and actually meditated.

Today, the birds and squirrels are in full show. So far, I’ve counted nine individual squirrels and 12 birds. But, even after I threw out a bunch of peanuts, one squirrel decided it would rather have a piece of mulch for breakfast. I get him. I'm weird that way, too.

I wish I could say I haven’t been in my garden because the intense heat in Central Florida has kept me inside. But, no, it’s not because of the heat.

For the past year, especially over the past several weeks, my world has revolved around caring for, advocating for, and fighting for my mom.

My mom’s dementia has become increasingly worse. Since the end of June, she’s experienced:

  • Nine falls

  • Prominent memory impairment

  • Deficits with attention and her executive functions

  • A decline in her visuoperceptual ability

  • Fluctuations in her cognitive abilities

  • Recurrent visual hallucinations and delusions

  • 4 known instances of REM sleep behavior disorder

  • Resting tremors

  • Episodes of unresponsiveness

  • Incontinence

  • Suspected orthostatic hypotension, causing her to sit on the floor and not want to move

  • Hypersomnia and insomnia

  • Reduced ability to detect an odor

  • Apathy, anxiety, depression, belligerence, and combativeness

Dementia is killing my mom. It’s ugly, vicious, and devastating to watch.

And some days, I feel like it is killing pieces of me, too.

So self-care, relationship-care, home-care, work-care have been nonexistent for me.

The anticipatory grief that comes along with a dementia diagnosis is painful, deep, and oftentimes overwhelming.

The resulting response of my body is to shut down my emotions, not to feel ANYTHING, for me to be able to complete my list of tasks:

  • Research and find the right LTC Memory community for Mom

  • Hire an elder law attorney to protect her assets

  • Hire a specialist to help with the LTC program benefits application

  • Gather all documents required for the application

  • Find notary and witnesses for other documents

  • Sort through 100 years of family belongings

  • Have a full-house “garage sale”

  • Get the house ready to go on the market

  • Spend one day a week with Mom, more if I can, since I live 70 miles away

  • Complete work for the three clients who have been kind enough to stick by me through this season

And among these tasks, I have to remember to eat, hydrate, and try to sleep.

But none of this has come easy. I’ve lost 10 pounds. My skin is malnourished. My hair is brittle. My hydration levels are inconsistent. My sleep is never enough or of adequate quality. I have psychogenic fevers throughout the day.

I went for a restorative therapy session this past Monday after working for a week straight at my mom’s to get the home/garage sale finished. My therapist had to stop the session repeatedly to remind me to breathe. It felt like my body was giving up, even with its involuntary actions.

My mind does not stop thinking about my mom. Wondering if she feels alone. Or scared. Or abandoned. Or mistreated.

And as an empath, I absorb all of these emotions, whether or not I have proof that she is feeling them.

My mom was there for me during the hardest times of my life - early pregnancy, my ex-husband’s affair, subsequent divorce, and moving from the only city I’d ever known after 45 years. She was the strong one in our family for so long, always cheering us kids on, giving too much of herself and her generosity for others and loving without conditions.

And through all of my hard seasons, I feel so much more pain for her because of how much she’s lost in just six years - her husband of 55 years, her only sibling, her oldest son, her mother, her independence, and now herself.

And so I must be strong for her because she cannot do it for herself anymore.

And on days like today, when I can’t even see the screen to type words because I’m crying so much, I don’t know where to get the strength I need for her.

And even though I haven't worked in two months, it's probably not a good time to apply and interview for a new job. I feel so alone, isolated, helpless, out of control, and like I’m losing my mind.

Because I feel like I’m swinging on this bird feeder that the squirrel is trying to sit on and have breakfast.

Precariously dangling, hanging on for dear life, just to grab a small piece of sustenance.

Or I feel like this guy who’s perched on a narrow, swaying trellis.

And one wrong decision, one wrong move, one big gust of wind that comes by, I’ll fall off and be so injured I can’t be there for my mom.

I know this is “just another season” in my life. I know that all the other times I’ve been a caregiver for my loved ones it’s been preparing me for the hardest time yet.

I know this, too, shall pass.

But when it does, that means I’ve completely lost my mom. She’s gone to her eternal home.

And I’ll have to start the grieving process all over again.

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