On Being an Only Child

The day I dreaded for years has come. The only child syndrome has expressed itself in new and so un-exciting ways.

Happy New Year.

Since I wrote last my mother has gotten to come home from the hospital (New Year's Day). They put a tube into her lung to let it re-inflate and it has now healed and she's on oxygen for a few weeks. Besides the injury and being on pain medications (let's just say she doesn't have my pain med resistance…) she's a bit worse than usual in the mental department. While in the hospital, her family doctor came to visit. I happened to be there and in the course of the visit he said, "I realize you have been under some stress with your husband and now your own injuries, but when this is over I'd like to talk to someone who has been around you for a bit. I believe we have some memory issues that are ongoing." In the next breath he says, "I also believe there have been some issues with alcohol." My mother then proceeds to get defensive, saying she hasn't drank in two years. Oh, but she's been having a glass of wine in the evening…and she will probably have some when she goes home?

Uh. Hello? Since when is wine not alcohol? …and, no, mother, you can NOT mix wine and pain meds. Then I go home and find five used wine glasses in the dishwasher, a big bottle of wine in the frig almost gone, and another in the cupboard. Needless to say, the open one got dumped.

She is also on oxygen now and we have to carry a tank back and forth to the hospital – or when she travels. If she is just sitting still she doesn't need it, but sleeping and walking around she does. So she also has oxygen at home that they came and set up – it is a converter that takes oxygen out of her home air and it keeps her from having to have a tank at home. Okay. No problem. Except. They asked before we went home if she has a gas stove, etc. No, but she does have a gas fireplace. They say, "Do not turn on the fireplace unless you stay 25 feet away". The livingroom isn't even that big – she'd have to be in the far bedroom to turn it on. So… I say, "We'll just leave it off". The guy comes to the house to set up the oxygen. I ask about it and make sure it is okay to have it off, but if it is okay to have th pilot light on. "Yes, as long as you don't turn it on unless you are 25 feet away."

The fireplace turns on with a light switch. A light switch that is next to the kitchen light. I swear, not 5 minutes after the oxygen guy left, my mother flipped the switch to turn on the fireplace as she was fumbling for the kitchen light. Luckily, I was standing right next to her and threw it off before it could actually go on. I had already mentioned to my husband I was going to tape it down so she wouldn't do that, but I didn't know what switch it was. Needless to say, it got taped down – immediately.

So, now I not only have my father who is still in an unresponsive coma (he is breathing unassisted and did get moved out of the ICU into a room) and who the doctors are now starting to ask about "DNR" orders  – but I have my mother who, silly me, I thought just was annoyingly repetative and forgetful to me, but who as it turns out is evidently bad enough she has caught the eye of her doctor.

I packed my bag and am staying at my mother's for the time being, much to my husband and childrens' dismay. They had a birthday party get-together supper last night for my grandson who turned 11 and I couldn't go because she can't travel that far and she certainly cannot be trusted to be home alone. I was disappointed not to be there, they were disappointed that I wasn't there and my husband goes back and forth between being supportive and grouchy. Can't blame him, but can't change it. Seriously, they've all been terrific. Makes me glad I didn't make any of them "only children"… lol.

I have some extended family coming on Sunday (my father's sister) and we are meeting monday with a rehab facility who specializes in head injury. No idea what the outcome of that will be. Right now I feel like I've got most of the weight of it all on my shoulders. Hopefully we're going to get some insurance stuff figured out and I finally got mom talking about finances today. Babysteps. Bad thing is, Dad did it all… every bit of it. Obviously he's going to be no help figuring it all out. Arggh.

I once more want to thank everyone who has commented on here, on Facebook, or sent me emails. I appreciate it more than you know. It feels so nice to have such good friends – be it in real life or the cyber world. I hope all is going well with you as obviously no time or energy to be checking out your blogs. If anything big happens, please let me know in comments or send me an email. I want to know what I'm missing, even if I don't come look. I may actually get caught up sometime in the near future. I found out the hospital has super-fast wi-fi and my laptop is very happy with it. Now if I ever get my work caught up I may actually find myself reading blogs and WoW-ing from the hospital… Well, I can hope, can't I?

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Middle-aged. Anti-social. Mom. Grandma. Town-raised farmer's wife. Iowan. Want more? Come read the blogs.

16 thoughts on “On Being an Only Child”

  1. As a fellow only child I appreciate the difficulties. I didn’t go through what you are because, well, my parents both died suddenly and with little input from me. I did ask my mother not be kept on life support because she had emphasized that wish to me many times.

    I did work for about 2 years as a respite worker for Alzhiemer/dementia patients. That’s some hard work, I’ll tell you now. The main caregivers are worn down with guilt, worry, and responsibilities, and other family members just don’t see it (until they are asked to do a little day care).

    So, start thinking about yourself NOW. Be frank with family and friends. Tell them what you know, what you suspect, and what you are worried about. Tell them you can’t do this on your own without killing yourself, that if they want to see you, they are going to have to sacrifice a little. Even having one or two days ‘off’ can make a huge difference to you.

    I wish for the best for your parents. I wish for you to have strength, to be given understanding and helping hands from those around you, and courage.

  2. Sherri has some really wise advice. Is there anyone who can help with your parents. Are there any support services in your area to help?

    Speaking as the partner to someone whose father is deteriorating (in a home), it’s been painful to watch and so hard on The Man and his brother. Really Sue, you need support.

    (Brain injury rehab is where it’s at. I know the one where I work is amazing… )

    Hugs. This sucks.

  3. The only words of advice I have were already said: Think about yourself, first! If YOU get sick, then you are no help to ANYONE!

    I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Nothing more I can say.

  4. You sure are having a rough time of it at the moment honey. I’m thinking of you. The people above are right, keep yourself your priority, look after yourself and give yourself some time out. Big hugs from the other side of the planet.

  5. Hang in there – I know everyone gushes about how wonderful it is to take care of children, but taking care of parents can be very satisying as well. And don;t try to hide your tears, it’s not good for you.

  6. Sorry Sue, not a great start to the new year. I agree, you should try to get her some home health, just to give yourself a break even. Keep in touch and keep us posted. pat

  7. I know this is a difficult and trying situation for you and your family. I can understand your husband’s frustration, but at the same time, it might not hurt to remind him that he’s eventually going to have to go through this with his mother and will need your support as well (esp. given the stories of his flaky brother). I agree with Sherri above and that I think you have the right to be honest with your family about what you need or else it’s going to drain you and make you sick as well. However, at the same time, if it seems like they’re going to be in this situation indefinitely, it sounds like your mom might be best in assisted living — rather than having you sacrifice your life for the next few years. There’s a big difference in being there for a few months and an on-going situation. So sorry you’re having to go through this with both of them at the same time.

  8. Yep. I echo everyone else here – gotta put you first, or else you’re ultimately no good to anyone. And you need to make sure your family suspends some of their expectations of you, these are very difficult circumstances, and your choices are very limited. I’m sorry you have so much to shoulder right now, and hopefully you can find some resources to take some of the burden off you while finding a little time for yourself. (hugs)

  9. Knowing what I do of your relationship with your parents, this is going above and beyond. I suppose even when the people we are related to us hurt us they are still family and who else will care for them if not us? I am sorry all this happening, particularly all at once.

    You are in my thoughts.

  10. You know you are in my prayers Sue. We live such parallel lives for having not known each other for a large portion of our lives. I am far too well aware of what you are going through and my heart goes out to you, and your family. Stay strong and do not lose yourself in this hardship. We are only human but remember that when life seems overwhelming there is family nearby and friends no further than an email or phone call away.

  11. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such difficult times. It’s never easy when a loved one is ill, but I understand it’s especially hard in this case. Best of luck.

  12. Wow, that light switcheroo piece would be enough to at least tape it down like you mentioned or even get a light-locker (you can get them at home depot). I’ve done the same thing with light switches at work that NEED TO NEVER BE TURNED OFF THANK YOU VERY MUCH STUPID NIGHT PEOPLE WHO COME IN AND REMOVE TAPE OFF OF THE LIGHT SWITCH.

  13. Wow…I’m just now catching up on reading blogs…quite a lot has happened. I’m sorry to hear about your parents. What a wake-up call for me…talk about feeling old?!?! I missed a step on the bottom of the stairway and had a fall Sunday night and haven’t gone to the doctor. When I called the next day, they told me to go to the emergency room…I haven’t…hmmm…hit my ribcage, for one, and just felt that there’s not much they can do…I guess if I had internal injuries, I’d know by now? Anyway, your posts have given me reason to pause and consider my own health. Sigh…I think I’m just in denial…I should not be falling, yada yada….

    I’m truly sorry that you’re alone to handle these issues. My dad has been ill and I live 14 hours away…I feel guilty for not being there more often, but thank God for four sisters to help out.

    I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers and hope for some relief for you. I agree that you do not have to sacrifice your health in the process of caregiving…seek to let go of worry and stress, as well…you’re only one person…do what you can and be okay with that.

    I DO wish for things to improve for all of you in the New Year!!

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