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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN / Hannah and Her Sister (and Their Mom) / Editorial List

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Gary Barg

Hannah and Her Sister (and Their Mom)

Dear Gary,
My mother fell about six weeks ago and injured her right leg, but healed with using a walker. Then, when she felt really good, last Saturday, she fell in her room and broke her left hip.
She had surgery last Monday with a nerve block rather than anesthesia (because of how debilitating anesthesia can be on dementia) and she came through, but is now in a very reputable short-term rehab.
We want to keep her out of adult undergarments, so using the bathroom remains normal to her. But, in order to keep her safe, we have to be there all night to alert the staff to respond to her bathroom calls.
My sister flew in last week and already we are burned out. I had to work yesterday, so my sister had to do 20 hours. After that, I was with mom for 18 hours. I'm so wound up right now, I haven't taken a nap yet, and then my sister will do another 18 hours!  
Mom is like a child now. Speaks quietly. Doesn't remember five minutes ago. She has no memory of pain, so every walk to the bathroom is this discovery of "Why is my leg hurting so much?" surprise reaction. She forgets that it hurt when she walked on it an hour ago, so there is no problem with her getting up to go to the bathroom.
We have reached a crossroads between pain meds and risking further retreat into dementia. The pain she is in is too much for us to bear. We've been selfish. It's time to give her enough meds to be out of pain. If she loses us, at least it will be our hands on her. I am screaming.
Oh, and she will be 97 in October.
Did I say that I am screaming?!!!!!  Life is cruel to the elderly.  So very cruel.

Your mom is extremely blessed to have you and your sister in her corner. You both have your hands filled with some of the most vexing challenges we face as caregivers. I am concerned about the hours you are both putting into your caregiving. Are there other family members that can offer any assistance? (OK. Donít laugh. Even a few hours a day between any willing family members can help break up the load for you and your sister). Have you contacted the rehab facility to see if they could offer any enhanced support? I appreciate the trade-off you have to make between effective pain management and cognition. Have you consulted with your momís doctor on the issue?
I would like to share your story with our readers to get any advice and support they might have to offer. 
P.S. When talking with family caregivers in Arkansas a few years ago, one caregiver told me she would go out in the woods behind her house and scream at the top of her lungs. I wouldnít suggest that if you live in New York City. Maybe, rather than dishing out loud screams, some dishes of chocolate ice creams would help.

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Gary Barg

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