Monday, March 8, 2010

Watch Out! Mom Plans a Car Trip. She'll Drive

My mom wants her car. Not in a few weeks. Now. She wants to go the big Giant Eagle she sees from her window at the Willows. She wants to buy some hard candy and some other snacks to keep in her apartment for any guests that might stop by. She realizes she doesn’t know where anything else is so she’s not planning a big trip. Plus, for over 20 years she’s been away from the Pittsburgh hills and winding curves that define our landscape. They make her dizzy, and she’s not sure she can drive up or down any hill or follow any of the curves without getting nauseous. She says it’s ok that she can’t go anywhere else. When she’s not driving to Giant Eagle she’s going to look at her car in the parking lot.

This has gone from a longing to a fixation and now, for me, a big problem. She’s already forgotten the arrangement with my cousins that they will be driving her car and that it will be a few more weeks before she gets the car. She’s become extremely agitated. When she’s agitated she takes off her oxygen because it gets on her nerves. That affects her breathing and then she becomes even more forgetful and confused. She’s now enraged. She wants to get up to that Giant Eagle.

After I leave her for the night and go home the phone calls begin. This car situation has pushed the calls way beyond the usual number. Now the calls are non-stop and continue for a few hours. For the first several days of this I remained, outwardly at least, pretty calm.

The hospice social worker told me to “redirect” her. We used to be told to “change the subject” or “divert” her, but now we’re supposed to be redirecting. A new word but the same idea. Redirection is not any more successful than changing the subject or diversion. She’s not into redirection about this subject.

The other night she again brought up the subject of the car and her driving. She seemed pretty calm, even reasonable, but she was only calm for a minute or so and then she began screaming at me and she became more and more angry and was struggling for breath. I was hoping we could resolve this matter peacefully and I was banking on my skills of redirection as a back-up. Instead I finally fell into the trap I had so miraculously avoided until now and that I had promised myself I would never, ever fall into. I began to respond to her in the same way. I was screaming at my poor mother and saying things I am now ashamed of. She doesn’t deserve my terrible behavior and now I have guilt. I have cried and not slept.

Scott says he thinks she’s already forgotten, but I see in her face that I have hurt her and I never wanted that. Too tired, too worn down, whatever, - I have no acceptable excuse for inflicting this kind of pain and anger on her. Last night I went to see her and make amends. She heard my apology but I'm not certain she accepts it. She's lost too much of her life already and now I've taken her dignity and she must feel so terribly alone. That is too much for either of us to bear. I am the one person she needs to count on to take care of her and give her unconditional love and she deserves my understanding and patience. She needs to know that I love her always. No matter what.

So, I looked at her driver’s license hoping to convince her that it had expired and maybe that would end this awful state of affairs peacefully. We could apply for a new license, I tell her. Instead I discovered that her driver's license expires in 2012. TWO THOUSAND TWELVE!!! Her Florida doctor, the same one who told me she was suffering from dementia, put her on oxygen, and got her into hospice, signed the paperwork only a couple of months ago when she was already sick, to extend her license.

So, until this is resolved I think you may want to stay off the roads.

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