I’ve debated a lot about whether to write about this, as I believed we failed my mom in many ways, in spite of how hard we fought for her. This topic hurts…
Dad was her “caregiver”, but he was not able. He has Parkinson’s. He has funny ideas about what an acceptable norm is – always has been that way.
During his care, Mom was not fed well, her diapers were not regularly changed. She was not cleaned up. She was often left for 8-12 hours on the floor when she fell, though on better days he did call us after about 5 hours, sometimes sooner (but not usually). He would put a blanket over her, bring her cookies, and sit with her. I’m sure there is more that we would all cringe about…
Dad would not bring in care. Later, Dad often turned care away…
When Mom was still pretty able-bodied, when I would take her to the doctor, she would say that her husband abused her. She may have even said beat her, I don’t remember exactly. But she would also say similar things about us kids – how mean we were to her, and things we said about her, none of which were true.
Dad was never the violent type, but he did always have a mean verbal and controlling streak. We never believed that he was physically abusive at that time, and still believe that. We did however, always believe that mom felt abused by Dad’s verbal treatment – he has done that to all of us.
The verbal abuse dramatically increased as he developed his own dementia.
Mom fell one night last summer, and ended up in the ER and a facility. I think this was the second to last facility that she was in. Her kidney values were elevated, she had a UTI. They thought she had pneumonia.
But she also had a really bad black eye.
We all know how easily the elders in our care bruise, how fragile they are. We, us sisters, thought a lot about this black eye. I firmly believed that if it was caused by Dad, that it must have been when he was trying to help her up and couldn’t and slipped. We assured the social workers that it was not something he would have ever done, but we were careful not to say we knew for sure. There was also the chance that she hit it on something during the fall.
I would like to still believe that.
Shortly before we kidnapped Mom from Dad and placed her in a facility, Dad let slip, while talking to my sister, that one night she was yelling so loudly in the middle of the night that he had to stick a washrag in her mouth. I do not have the words to describe how one feels when they hear that coming from their demented father, knowing that the victim was their demented mother. Horrified might come close, yet still inadequate.
It was not unlike Mom to yell, or be really difficult in some ways, as her version of dementia. But I also believe that some of that was the only power that she had, and she did use it. Us girls could usually talk her down, but my sister had been hit on several different occasions.
There is still some question of whether the neighbors called the cops on them at one point. We know that the night around there was crazy and difficult – frustrating before their dementias got bad, as Mom was a night-time wanderer, always. As Dad became less able, and more frustrated, and it was unsafe for her to wander, this became a dangerous mixture. She also had nightmares, and often the illeostomy bag would break in the middle of the night (huge stressful mess). I don’t think we will ever know half of what went on in that house.
So, today Dad hit me, struck the coffee cup from my hand. I do not know what he was aiming for. I was walking between him and my sister, trying to stop them arguing. He continued to try to hit me with his walker. After a minor scuffle between us, I asked him if that’s what happened with Mom, that he got mad, and hit her, like when he got mad and stuffed the washrag in her mouth. I was seething and unkind. He was stunned, had no response other than to ask me who told me that. I basically repeated what I said, then turned to pack up and leave.
His version, as told to a family member, is that he confronted me about not helping with Mom and so I tried to hit him.
Now, is that dementia, or is he just an asshole?
We didn’t have a service for Mom. We were supposed to do that today, just have a small family gathering to remember her with love. My niece and I had gathered some old photos and I made a slide presentation, to celebrate my mom. I just wanted them to stop arguing, so my sister wouldn’t have to leave and we could remember Mom, the way a normal family might grieve. #Fail