I’m throwing myself a bit of a pity party right now, pardon the incoming rant….
If you read the blog regularly you might remember that my Father has Alzheimer’s and I don’t recall if I (or We) mentioned that he was also diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer recently.
My mother has extreme, untreated anxiety and as you could probably imagine, my fathers health concerns aren’t exactly improving that situation. While she always managed the house and finances, she’s always been extremely dependent on him in every other way.
Denial has been a warm comforting blanket for her, for – well, forever. If it was scary to think about it, she just didn’t.
Where as I feel bad saying that as I am guilty of a similar charge by way of dissociating under stress, at least my “parts” take over and collectively we still get shit done, I just might not remember it later.
My mother just ignores issues hoping they will go away and she is the Queen of procrastination when it comes to important things such as Paperwork relating to power of attorney and so forth. But some things don’t go away by themselves, Alzheimer’s, Cancer… crippling anxiety.
She won’t contact anyone to ask for help caring for my father, but she also isn’t properly able to care for him herself… She doesn’t want people “in her house” to help clean or cook or take care of him because she’s worried they will judge her for some imagined wrong doing.
She still leaves him alone for full days at a time and allows him to wander off and catch buses by himself if he wants to even though I have had to drive an hour and a half from interstate to come and find him more than once.
They argue a lot now, although it’s a bit one sided as my father usually doesn’t understand what they’re arguing about- he has always had a viscous temper and I’ve become pretty good at calming him the fuck down over the years but now she escalates him with lots of nagging about little unimportant things, expects him to make decisions or remember details like his doctors name and gets uppity with him when he can’t, she keeps pushing the issue “come on, you know this!” which overwhelms him and makes him snap. Granted he’s a lot more frail than he used to be, but he’s still a big man and I worry that he could end up accidentally hurting her.
One of her biggest anxieties is driving and if I hadn’t forced the point with his doctor behind her back to get him retested officially for his driving competence (he failed the test with flying colours) she’d probably still be wanting him to drive just so she didn’t have to.
Denial can be powerful. When he had the PET scan to see how far the cancer had spread, she commented she’d read up on PET scans being able to detect Alzheimer’s and that maybe it would turn out he doesn’t have dementia after all.
When it’s been suggested she seeks counselling or a support group she’s “too old to worry about that nonsense”. She LOATHES medication, is terrified of shrinks because she’s “not crazy, no offence darling” – yeah… none taken.
They reckon chemo will prolong his QUALITY of life so after some pushiness from me end of the table we’re starting that this week, they’ve also booked him in for radiation after that as the cancer is in his bones now too and he has a lot of pain from that around his hip/back which they reckon the radiation will help with.
Unfortunately, my father currently believes my mother wants him dead, or so he told me on the phone the other day. This has come about because my mother is absolutely terrified of Modern medicine and likes to peruse side effects of medication for fun. (For example, she would be the first person I’d bitch to for confirmation bias if I wanted to stop complying with meds and the last person I’d talk to about anything else mental health related)
So when we were at the oncologist appointment they suggested he do chemo, my mother freaked out big time because “chemo can kill people” and while yes, chemo sucks balls, there’s a reasonable amount of evidence suggesting stage 4 CANCER kills people far more frequently…
She kept saying to my father all the reasons Chemo is an awful, terrible thing to do but “It’s your decision, you are the one with cancer” Now keep in mind my father no longer has the ability to decide what he wants for lunch but is still quite certain that he doesn’t want to be dead and that he also doesn’t like being in pain. I was attempting to interject with the good points about how the treatment could reduce his pain and most difficult urinary symptoms and my mother was accusing me of forcing chemo on to him when it will make him terribly, violently sick.
The poor oncologist was giving wild “wtf” eyes as he tried to explain to my unwilling mother that there are some excellent anti-nausea meds around now and most people he speaks to suffer the most from the mental anguish of experiencing hair loss – this was amusing because my father has been 99% bald since he was 20.
Since he’s already stuck with the terminal cancer prognosis, if they reckon the chemo will make him feel tired for 3 months or so but shrink the primary tumour enough to stop him needing to pee every ten minutes and subsequently reduce the quantity of accidents occurring in public not to mention increase his life expectancy from about 6-12months through to a few years then I feel like everyone is a winner here. Except maybe my mother.
Chemo makes things harder for my mother, chemo makes things undeniably REAL for my mother. Chemo makes my dementia affected and rapidly declining father live longer… and while she doesn’t want the man she married, the man who looked after her, dead; the prospect of having to care for a terminal cancer patient who has increasingly limited understanding of what is going on around him is understandably utterly terrifying.
She can’t cope, but getting her to understand that that is okay and it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed and that it is okay to ask for help is like talking to a brick wall.