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FREE AT LAST?

I went on vacation a few weeks ago.  We rented a trailer at the beach for 7 days.  My husband, myself , our 4 adult children, one boyfriend and one granddaughter were there. One daughter left after 5 days to attend a wedding, and the one with the baby only stayed for 3 days, at the end of the week.  It was a wonderful, sun filled week, where I could forget the problems at home for awhile.  It was all possible because of my natural family!

My adoptive mother has been on a downward spiral.  She fell at the end of May and fractured her shoulder.  This required a hospital stay, followed by 2 months of rehab at a nursing home.  A-mom is 90, and lived in an apartment in my home.  She’s lived with us for 23 years, since my youngest was a baby. 

She was a widow, living alone and did not drive.  We had just had our 4th child, and money was tight, so we combined households.  She paid for the renovations to expand our home, and build an apartment for her.  She used the proceeds from the sale of her coop apartment to fund the project.  She was working full time then.  Neither of us were really happy with the idea, because we really don’t like each other, but we did it anyway. Both of us got something out of the deal, but we both lost something too.  

A-mom’s insurance decided she was ready to be released.  My heart sank.  It had been so nice while she was at the nursing home.  There was no visiting, because of COVID.  My family and I were perfectly happy not to see her at all.  Of course, this makes me feel like a monster, because what kind of person doesn’t want to see their mother, ever?  She’s done so much for me! Raised me. I guess I’m that kind of person.  It’s not just me.  My kids don’t like her either.  She did a lot for me, but there was always a price.  I guess I’m just ungrateful, but I never asked for any of it.  I’ve always wished she had never adopted me at all.  

A-mom was released on August 1.  Our weeks vacation was scheduled for August 16.  There was no way we could take off for a week and leave A-mom here alone.  She’s very hard of hearing.   There were aides and nurses coming and going.  She was unable to make her own meals.  We also have 2 dogs and 2 cats who needed care.  I was scrambling for ideas.  

My own natural family came to my rescue.  My dear Auntie S, Mom’s youngest sister volunteered to come help. If you’ve read my blog, you’ve met Aunt S before.  She came to take care of my mother when Mom passed in 2015.  I haven’t seen Aunt S since we put her on the bus back to her home state nearly 5 years ago.  

We paid for her plane ticket.  She came a few days before we left.  The dogs and cats loved her.  She took care of A-mom with kindness. She had to clean up bad messes with both animals and humans.  While we were gone, A-mom soiled herself, stepped in it and tracked it throughout the apartment.  My family, whom I was never supposed to know, ended up helping take care of my adopted mother!  I cannot get over this fact.  A-mom has a niece and some nephews, but none of them could help, or even called while we were gone.  I could never have imagined this would happen.  

We came home, tan happy and refreshed.  A-mom and the animals were doing great.  Aunt S was glad to see us.  It had been a hard week alone with A-mom.  We came home on Saturday, and Aunt S’s flight back was the following Friday, so we got to spend some time together.  I took a 6 week leave of absence at half pay from my government job to take care of A-mom, so I was home all day with Aunt S and A-mom.  

The nursing home had suggested we get a transfer bench, in order to get A-mom in and out of the tub,  It’s a long bench, and one set of legs goes inside the tub, and the other outside.  You sit on one side, then while seated, lift your legs one at t time and get them in the tub.  Then you slide your bottom over, and you can bathe, while seated.  It’s a great system.  

Since A-mom hadn’t been washed for weeks, Aunt S and I decided we should get A-mom in the tub.  The bath aide had tried to bathe A-mom while we were gone, and it was a disaster.  The physical therapist was supposed to work with A-mom and teach her to safely get in the tub, but A-mom refused physical therapy. We were on our own. Aunt S did a dry run.  A-mom used the transfer bench while fully clothed.  Then she took off her clothes.  When she got her pants down, Aunt S saw what had been going on.  A-mom was not cleaning herself, at all.  There was caked mess all over.  The small was awful.  Somehow, she had been hiding this from everyone.  

I stayed out of the bathroom, at first.  A-mom responds better to Aunt S than to me.  I could hear them in the bathroom.  I started hearing banging noises after about 20 minutes, and I realized things were not going smoothly, so I went in.

“What is that smell?” I exclaimed when I went into the bathroom.  “It’s her!” said aunt S.  A-mom was naked, in the tub on the transfer bench.  Her back was pressed against the bench, her arms were gripping the bars she has in her tub, and the banging I heard were her feet, rhythmically going up and down.  Her body was stiff and she was flailing around.  She was in danger of sliding off the bench and hurting herself.  We tried to get her to calm down, and get her feet out of the tub, but she was unable to control her body.  We’re in a tiny bathroom, 8 X 5 feet, tub included, and it’s hot, and smelly.  Aunt S, who is 62 years old, and on disability for a bad back, gets in the tub by A-mom’s feet, and I grab her under the arms, and we get her out of the tub and onto the floor.  

Now, A-mom’s on the floor, naked and still unable to control her body.  Her legs are splayed out, on either side of the toilet bowl, and we can’t get her out.  We try for a time, covered in sweat, then realize we’d better call EMS.  This happened once before, 3 weeks prior.  She had one of these attacks in my living room.  She was fully dressed then, and we had to call EMS.  When she got to the hospital, both times they can’t find anything wrong.  When it happened the first time, my daughter said don’t take her back home, but I did.  I thought we could take care of her.  I now realize we cannot.  

A-mom is still in the hospital. I got her into an assisted living nearby, and we’re waiting for the paperwork to be processed.  I don’t want to bring her home, even for a day, because I’m afraid she won’t leave.  I really think she’ll be happy there.  She’s not happy or safe here with us.  

Aunt S went back home, and I miss her.  She would tell us stories about her mother, and my mother.  They’re both gone, and she’s the only person we can talk to about our family.  On the day of the bathroom incident, there were 7 women in the house, 6 of us related! My daughter and her daughter were visiting, myself, Aunt S, and my two younger daughters and A-mom. My youngest said when she came down the stairs, the police officers eyes bugged out.  She thought he was thinking, another one? Where are they all coming from! 

Hopefully, this will be the end of my 23 year sentence with A-mom.  I’m 58, and maybe I can finally be free! 

2 thoughts on “FREE AT LAST?”

  1. That is a phenomenal account of the realities of life. Adoption, “gratitude” to the adopters and the “messiness” of old age. You have done your part. Aunt S is a treasure! Your description of the care of your adoptive mother rang true for many caregivers. The transfer bench shows that people care. More people are aging at home, thanks to assistive devices. Thanks to your natural family, you were able to have a well-deserved vacation.

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