For the past year, my siblings and I have faced the reality that my parents’ increasing dementias are problematic, burdensome, troubling and sad. They are unable to handle their lives and unable to recognize their inability to manage safety.
My brothers came to town and have collected the car keys, disabled their cars and moved them into their retirement community full- time. My mother is a very strong-willed individual and after getting past her first few rebuttals, they now recognize the emotional toll this is taking on my parents. They were unprepared for the obvious sense of damaged pride.
Because of the dementia and severe short-term memory loss, my brother made reminder signs and taped them inside their doors with reminders and his phone number. My mom has been very specific that she did not want anyone to see these signs. When he tried to put these same signs in the retirement community she was visibly upset and he moved them to the bedroom.
My mom has created a “cover story” of why they would be spending more time at the retirement community and not in their town home. This is a typical “m.o.” she used with us often. When my dad lost his license, she forgot she told me about the letter from the DMV. She then wrote a letter to each of us saying the reason he lost his license was because my dad “got a terrible speeding ticket.”
She visited the neighbors at the town home community and told them while her sons were in town, they were taking advantage by having them move their things to the retirement community. My brothers recognize my mom is embarrassed and hurt that their way of life is coming to an end. We have been sad to watch as our parents have been unable to find any way to fill their time beyond driving between their two homes. We knew this day was coming and we thought they did too.
However, as my brothers progress through the transition, it’s obvious my parents never thought this day would really come. They have no recollection or recognition of the dozens of discussions with doctors as well as us children about their life becoming very unsafe.
My mom has told us for more than 30 years that she would never do to us what her mother did to her. My grandmother came to live with us and my mom then moved her to a retirement community. That progression of events feels like a piece a cake to me now.
My parents set milestones for moving into the retirement community full time and each one came and went. They didn’t remember how many times they were getting lost, or how often 911 was called or the number of other issues they faced. They were ready to ignore the loss of their licenses and continue their lifestyle unchanged to keep this sense – and public appearance — of independence.
It’s clear my mom is truly stunned and wounded. Granted, my parents did a magnificent job at holding each other up and maintaining their independent life for several years. We noticed a significant difference in my mom’s ability to manage after she had her stroke three years ago. My mom would admit to memory issues and problems both she and my dad were having, but would quickly recant or deny them if you brought them up. My dad is just silent and compliant now.
We believed my parents would be relieved when we forced this action. The last year has been filled with many phone calls and letters from my mother that felt like calls for help to all of us. However, we think it’s just us children who are finally relieved. Tempered.
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