Friday, March 16, 2012
Blog 21: We Were Drowning In Our Own Ocean
Things were really starting to get bad between me and my sisters. As I said in an earlier post, we had only one family meeting between us and that was right after getting Mom’s diagnosis. Never again did we all sit down to discuss our mom’s illness as a family, to talk about what we were doing that’s wrong, what we were doing that’s right, what can we do to make it better, and what can we do to help each other. We needed to stick together and support each other, but were drowning in our own ocean.
I had the power of attorney, but I had no power in making my sisters come together during this crisis. I had no power to do what I wanted to do for Mom, at least I didn't think I did, because I wanted decisions to be made as a family. I was working with the visiting nurses until Mom’s insurance wouldn’t pay for it anymore and Mom didn’t want them there anyway, and they had done all that they could at that point. And I was going to be moving out of state soon and I wanted to get everything in order before I left.
I told each of my sisters that I have a plan. I wanted to set up a schedule for mom’s care. I wanted to set up adult day care for mom at a place just a mile down the road, where she could go when my sisters were at work. There was room for her and it was inexpensive. I asked my sisters to help me put together a schedule of when they can be there with Mom. Annie had the most freedom and she was able and willing to do the bulk of the responsibility in staying with Mom during the week, as long as she could go home on the weekends. All we needed was someone to cover the weekends and give Annie a day or night off during the week so she could attend to her antique business. I said we can hire someone to come in at different times to relieve my sisters and possibly even cover an entire weekend. I had it all planned. I made phone calls and did the preliminary ground work. It was going to be costly to hire outside care but considering the alternative, which was nursing home care, it was going to save a lot of money.
The problem was, nobody would come together for a meeting. I heard excuses like...‘I can’t be there’, ’why do it, it’s not going to work’, and ‘she’s not going to agree with me so why bother’, and ‘it’s only going to turn into a big fight’, and ‘I’m mad at her so I don’t want to talk to her (meaning a sister).‘ It got to the point where I decided they are either going to sink or swim, because when I’m gone, they need to figure it out. I had already told them my end of the bargain. I was going to come home every six weeks and stay with Mom for two weeks at a time, to first and foremost, spend time with Mom, but also to give them a break. That was going to cost me a lot of money in airfare but that was my choice. In another post I will tell you that I held up my end of the deal.
My sisters and I all knew we needed to do something but everyone had their own ideas and I think they were all hoping the other one would take care of things. I was moving, and just waiting for the phone call from my realtor saying when the closing was approved on the house I was purchasing out of state. I don’t think my sisters actually thought I was going to leave, because when that call did come through, and I told them I’m leaving in two weeks, Lynda said, “I really didn’t think you were going to leave us.”
Lynda and I had already discussed that I would give her power of attorney with the power of attorney for health care decisions, too. She was the alternate power of attorney, and she is the second oldest daughter. This irritated Renee, the youngest one. She was always trying to tell me and everyone else what needed to be done. She didn’t care what anyone else said, because she felt that she was the only one who knew best. Yet she was the one who hadn’t lived near us since college. She only saw Mom maybe three times a year, whereas the rest of us were with Mom about three times a week, all through our adult lives. She only came to see Mom once every four or five weeks after she became ill, and yet she wanted to tell us all what we had to do. WE knew her better than she did. We saw her during her illness, and tended to her daily needs. Of course she loved her as much as we did, but she only wanted things done her way, which was to put Mom away in a home. As you can tell, I’m getting upset just writing about it. There will be much more on that later.
The bottom line was this. We promised our Mom we would not put her in a nursing home. We told each other that we would not do that to Mom. She took care of us and did anything for us in times of need and sickness, and we were going to do anything we could for her. She’s our Mom and we love her more than life itself. We also said to each other that we knew the time would come when Mom won’t be able to feed herself, or dress herself, be able to walk, or even know who we are. That would be when we may have to put her in a home if it’s too difficult to care for her. We understood that was a possibility, but that day was long off. More will come on this later, too.
As I said, everyone had strong feelings about what to do and we could not come together as a family and compromise, and work it out. It’s really sad when I look back and see where we all went wrong. That was back in the spring of 2010.
Unfortunately, Renee was urging me to find a nursing home for Mom before I moved. I told her that is not necessary. I was living with Mom, I knew what she was like, and she was not by any means ready for nursing home care. Assisted living maybe, but why do that? She had a house that was paid for and her money would run out quick if we placed her now. She could live for years and how would we pay for nursing home care then? It was not even an option I wanted to entertain because I didn’t want my Mom living in a state run facility when the money runs out. Mom had five daughters, there wasn’t any reason why we couldn’t take care of her. Renee became increasingly difficult in her demands. She said we can’t come together to take care of Mom, it’s not working. She said Annie is not the one to do it. (Remember I said that, and you will know why later.) I was so frustrated because nobody would communicate effectively. It was always a big fight.
Renee lived three hours away and did not have a regular 9 to 5 job and was here maybe once every 5 weeks, to spend usually one night over the weekend. That was her contribution. Her only other contribution was trying to tell everyone else what should be done. She had a husband and two school-aged daughters and a part time job. I understand her responsibilities to her family and her work, however, she was making strides to advance in her career at the time, too. She didn’t want to give that up, yet she expected others to do more, give up their time, work less, not move, and she just wanted Mom placed, period.
Kathy had a full time job and would trade off on weekends with the rest of us to care for Mom. She would occasionally come one night during the week to visit Mom. But she pretty much remained neutral in whatever decisions were made. She didn’t offer much input and she didn’t care one way or another what was done. She did not like confrontation. And she was one of the avoiders for a meeting. She wasn’t able to handle Mom’s moods very well and would say, “I don’t know how you do it, I wouldn’t be able to handle that.” If Mom got angry with her, she wasn’t as strong as I was in handling it. But Mom rarely got angry with her...which was good.
Lynda was to carry on the power of attorney after I moved, and she was feeling pressured by Renee to find a nursing home, too. Lynda is a very loving person, with a soft heart, but according to Renee, she didn’t move quick enough and was not a suitable POA because she ‘didn’t get the job done’. Lynda didn’t like that Renee was being so bossy and not understanding that she couldn’t be on the phone taking care of everything while she was at work. Yet Renee didn’t want to make any phone calls because she didn’t have POA.
This was the mess we were in back in the spring of 2010. All we needed was a plan. Instead we lost our ability to communicate effectively. Had we started off keeping the communication going, not forcing things on each other, compromising, helping, listening, and understanding each others feelings of anger and hurt, and loving each other unconditionally the way we always used to, then things would be a lot better today.