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Part 5: The power of siblings, the little signs about Mom and the future we face together

Real-life medical and health advice from an experienced registered nurse and manager of health professions.

As much as I did not clearly see the signs of Mom’s decline, it is lucky for me – and even more for her – that I have four siblings – we are two boys and three girls. A sixth sibling passed away.

This is a time when you have to trust those closest to you, and those who know your parent best.

All five of us have opinions about Mother’s needs. We’re smart enough to know that each of us brings a unique and valuable perspective. Sometimes families must learn to think together.

I must say my younger sister and I were probably the most blind to Mom’s increasing need for care. Maybe that seems strange considering I am an experienced nurse, but it was true.

I wanted to believe that she was OK, doing fine and able to stay at home because that was what she wanted. But the other siblings were more critical than I and were pushing toward some sort of assisted living arrangement.

Mom? She was dead set against assisted living; so when my brother took her to see a new facility in her town, she cried and made him promise he would never put her there. That was before her fall that landed her in the hospital.

The state of her ability to live alone came into much clearer view with that fall.

Luckily, we five all have good but different relationships with Mom, and I knew we would never have to take legal action. Everybody has a friend who will suggest legal action in these situations. Perhaps that sometimes is needed in the most dire cases, but I can see it causing so much heartache and resentment that it would be counterproductive.

Plus, forcing Mom into a home seemed like surrendering.

But we would have to convince Mom that her living situation would have to change. And we did. I can’t imagine having to take legal steps. For me it would have been much too difficult.

But eventually it became clear to all of the family – and to Mom – that she needed help.

I think the first sign we saw that made us realize that something was wrong was the scuffmarks all over Mom’s car.  Driving is one of the first aspects a senior with dementia or declining motor skills must give up.

When I talked to Mom about it, she told me that she wasn’t running into things, but things were running into her.

I once said to her, “Mom you can’t drive anymore” and she replied, “I can drive; I’ve been driving since I was 15 years old. I just can’t see.”

That’s what I call full-fledged denial! She decided at one point to cover up the scratches and scuffs by using Bon Ami and white nail polish.

My brother was the one who ultimately disabled her car because she wouldn’t willingly give up driving.

Obviously driving is not just a statement of personal freedom. An unfit driver puts everyone on the road at risk.

And now? Where are we now? We’re all at home.  Mom, my husband and I. We’re all working on it.

We go from day to day. Some days are good. Others not so much. You pay more attention to that balance of good and bad. Yes, as you might be saying to yourself, perhaps there is inevitability to it.

But life is hope.

We choose not to give up on hope, or life. She won’t. I won’t.

We all do the best we can. We find ways to keep her active and alert. She is Mom. I would not give up that relationship and neither would she.

The future will come when it does. In the mean time, we will love her and care for her as she cared for us.

After all, she is Mom.

Who am I, and why would a person listen to me? Both fair questions. I’m Christine Hammerlund and I’ve been a nurse for years. I have delivered babies, saved lives, and cared for hundreds of patients through their medical triumphs and tragedies. Now I run Assured Healthcare at http://www.assuredhealthcare.com. We're a multi-million dollar medical staff provider in Illinois. I live in Antioch, Ill. Got health questions for me, whether large or small? I’ll answer. Visit us at http://www.facebook.com/AssuredHealthcareStaffing  and Chrishammerlund@yahoo.com

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