Taking care of parents, when our roles change.
My Mother just turned 86 last month. For several years I have noticed she has repeated things several times in a day or in conversations. I no longer would ride in a car with her because of her judgement. So I tried to drive her wherever she needed to go. Shopping, doctor appointments and the gym. Not that my driving is any better, it’s just different when your in the driver's seat.
I live in the foothills and it’s 140 miles round trip to Mom’s and back home. So I brought Mom to stay the night with us the day before her Dr. appointment. It’s like a vacation night and easier to get to our destination in the morning.
That night we ate dinner, watched TV and had some good laughs. As we all were getting ready for bed, Mom said she had indigestion. Then she started telling us she had chest pain and said she ate too much. So what does every good daughter do? I gave her one of my heartburn meds and told her to go to bed. So twenty minutes later she said her chest still hurts, I told her it takes about half and hour for the pill to work. So five minutes later she said her chest felt like someone was squeezing the air out of her. It hit me, a heart attack. I panicked, for we are thirty miles away from the nearest hospital. I knew I could be on the highway and at the hospital before the ambulance. So off we went record time of 20 minutes. I was so proud of myself for getting her there before what I knew an ambulance could. Then it started, I was reprimanded by every nurse and doctor I came in contact with for not calling the ambulance. Not thinking in my panicked state, they could have started medications that might’ve lessened the severity of her attack.
We found out that mom had at least four heart attacks prior that we didn’t know about. This heart attack led to open heart surgery. After mom was released from her surgery she came to live with me to recover. The day I was to bring her home she was hallucinating. I did not offer a pill this time. The doctor said it was sundowners and normal for folks her age and this type of surgery. Later she was diagnosed with dementia.
We learned that it is going to take a village to raise mom. My eldest son and his wife moved in with mom to help provide 24 hour care. We want her to stay home for as long as she can. Even if there are days she thinks she is living with them.
Things I have learned from this, always call an ambulance if you or someone is having a heart attack or you think they are. Never give your heartburn meds to these folks. And it is hard taking care of your parents. When they become the child and you are the parent tell them often that you love them. This is our last chance to show our gratitude, respect and love for them, and for raising and loving us.