by Elizabeth Shean
On Sunday at 11:17 p.m., my home's security alarm began shrieking at top volume. The piercing blare sent a shot of adrenaline through my core and woke me from a sound sleep. What on earth is going on? I wondered in my groggy state. And why is Mom shouting my name at the top of her lungs?
Propelled by the adrenaline, I raced from my upstairs bedroom toward the stairway to get downstairs and disarm the alarm. The scene took another surreal turn as I discovered Mom seated on the top step - a place she should not be, since she is forbidden from climbing stairs due to weak legs. Looking anguished and confused, she said, "I got up to go to the bathroom and for some reason I pulled the front door open. The alarm is going off. And also, I fell."
My heart beat even faster as my brain tried to make sense of this new information. I instructed Mom to stay seated while I loped down the steps toward the alarm keypad. The monitoring company was just ringing me, and I gave the code word to turn the alarm off. Blessed silence returned.
I walked back up the steps to Mom, who was struggling to stand up. "Please just stay there for a moment, Mom," I implored as I sat down next to her. I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and pulled her head toward me, where I kissed her soft, graying hair over and over, relieved she appeared to be all right. "Are you hurt?"
Very nearly in tears, Mom kept apologizing. "I'm not hurt. I'm so sorry. I don't know why I went to the front door instead of the bathroom," she lamented. "I'm so sorry I had to wake you, but I knew the alarm was going to go off. I knew you'd be upset."
I wasn't upset, but I was thinking ahead to next week. I'll be gone for four days (and nights) to attend a conference. Will it be safe to leave Mom alone all night? I wondered. Or should I schedule a caregiver to stay with her?
Welcome to my world.
And welcome to my blog. Over the coming weeks and months, I'll be chronicling life with my mother, who is 83 years old and has dementia. Let me tell you a bit about how we got here.
In 2013, due to a complicated series of events, my late husband and I packed up our belongings and moved from Albuquerque to Houston. Mom had been living in her own house, a couple of blocks away from us in Albuquerque. But she couldn't drive anymore, and there were no other relatives in that city to care for her. So we decided Mom should move in with us.
The transition hasn't been easy. Mom's loss of independence has been stressful for her, despite what she describes as a "beautiful" living situation in our large, two-story home. For me, the loss of privacy has been depressing, since I like to keep to myself. But somehow we manage.
Luckily, we had the foresight to engage a Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGiverSM, Anita, to help with Mom's care. Anita is a lifesaver. Her assistance means I don't have to bathe Mom, which might be a little embarrassing for both of us. Anita also does all of her laundry, cleans the downstairs and helps Mom with tasks like organizing her closet and filing cabinet. Mom loves Anita.
The name of this blog is "To Us, It's Personal." That's the motto of Home Instead®, and it certainly describes my caregiving journey with my mom and Anita. I hope you'll take this voyage with us as I chronicle it in these blog posts - and by all means share your own thoughts and reflections below. We're all in this together.