To my “Friend In Need”:
I remember the time my dad went in to the hospital for surgery. I remember meeting up with my sister just prior to the surgery. We knelt on the asphalt in the hospital’s parking structure and prayed. We asked God to let dad survive the upcoming quadruple bypass that was scheduled for him that day. Better said…we pleaded. We prayed for the surgeons and nurses, that God would be with them and guide the hands and decisions of all involved. A few moments later, we were with my dad and all the members of the family. I bent over and told my dad that my knees hurt. I just smiled. He knew why.
God did answer my prayer. My dad survived this huge operation. I was amazed as I noticed better flesh tones on his face…rose colored cheeks and bright eyes. Things went good for a while. But as time passed, things grew dim. After some testing of the heart, there were no signs of any bypass done. NONE. It was as if his body absorbed every correctional measure performed on his heart. Sadly, it is unbelievable. No doctor could tell me exactly why this happened. We were dumbfounded, to say the least.
The doctors then performed stint implantations which seemed to hold up. This extended my dad’s life for two more years. However, during those two years, he was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the illness and passed.
This was devastating for everyone. I have four siblings. We all dealt with his passing individually, and in ways that seemed to help us. Thank God for the support I had and for my loving husband. We kept up with mom’s needs and support for her as well. But, it was very apparent, she was slipping into depression. After a marriage between dad and mom that lasted 56 years, the loss was just too much for mom. We also experienced 4 more relatives who passed away over a short span of only 5 months. The last death was my aunt, my mom’s sister. Mom never told us about her death and we only learned about it months later.
Mom’s depression is in full swing at this time. My aunts passing seemed to be the last straw in my mom’s life. Several of us, her kids, asked her to move in with one of us. She refused each and every time. Then she would turn around and cry out for help. Help Me. Help Me. Those words forever ring in my ears. One of the last decisions my mom made on her own was definitely a bad one. She decided that she no longer would eat or drink. She was extremely suicidal. She lay in bed all day and refused to turn on any lights because she did not want anyone to think she was home. During this time, there were several emergency room runs we made and unexpected physical needs that needed to be dealt with. One of the independent final needs came during a visit from my brother who came in from out of state. He called me at work and said that he needed my help getting mom to her doctor. I immediately left work and met him at mom’s house. The situation was very grave. We did not give any more options to mom. We managed to get her frail body into my car and went to the doctor’s office.
The staff separated the three of us and evaluated us, mom and the whole situation. The doctor commented that she would have not lived much longer if we had not brought her in. A clear indication was her clothing. Her regular clothes size prior to my dad’s health issues was 16. She now weighed in at 98 pounds. Mom literally looked like a skeleton with skin. She was immediately admitted into the hospital for about a month. Not a regular hospital, it was the psych ward. The doctor had her committed to a hospital for people with severe mental issues. This was quite a blow and apparently we children needed a major wake up call.
Mom couldn’t go back home after that. Physically, she may have been “healthy” enough to be released from the hospital. Emotionally, she was far from healthy. Mom’s needs are mental. And, sending her back home was not a solution. Mom needed care for her depression. She often said that she would like to go home and be with the Lord. The doctor pulled the 5150 card. She was not well enough to be left alone. He gave her a minimum stay of 30 days in the hospital’s psychiatric ward.
During her second week in the hospital, I began getting the necessary legal paperwork for conservatorship over mom. Interesting enough, the path God lead all of us down on ended up working out within days of being released from the psychiatric ward. I was granted conservatorship over my mom. The paperwork was completed and we got mom a room in the old age home….three houses away from my home. I visit quite often.
At first, mom was extremely upset about not being able to return home. And, we all tried to encourage her to take steps towards returning to her normal life. Unfortunately, mom remains in depression and needs two prescription to help her cope with her mental anguish. It has been five years since my dad passed and mom has made very small steps towards a more normal life. She doesn’t really want to be here on earth and often tells me that she wants to be at home with the Lord.
Living at home would mean taking her prescribed meds as directed, eating three meals a day and drinking plenty of fluids, and also taking showers and general hygiene…none of which mom is willing to do. We suggested having a visiting nurse come and also a meal program drop off a meal or two per day. We suggested so many variations…but everything was shot down.
All five of her kids agreed on getting mom into the old age home where she remains today. She is safe there. She remains in the skilled nursing section because she refuses to advance on recovering from her depression. It is sad to think that a women who raised all of us with pure joy, love and discipline and loved her husband, now acts in such a manner. An example is that mom is capable of walking. She is a bit unstable, but she is able to walk. However, she just sits in a wheelchair because “she doesn’t want to walk anymore”. Mom refuses to take care of herself. Her hair has grown very long. It is a stringy mess. And, no matter how often we suggest having a salon day at the in-house salon, she refuses.
Another hard to take issue is that mom absolutely refuses to go outside for any reason. I could easily take her to my home for a visit. The southern California weather and mild temperatures are long lasting. It’s not like I would have to wheel her in the snow. But she refuses. To this day, she refuses. Often she does not wish to visit with me, and, for the most part, that is o.k. …just not normal. I continue to encourage her and try to hold up a one sided conversation. Once in a while, something interests her and will spark up an actual two-way visit. It is most refreshing. As I walk to see her and on every visit, I wonder if today will be the day mom makes a step towards normal living. It was almost 3 & 1/2 years before she kissed me back and said “I love you, Pat”. I was thrilled! I reminded myself… baby steps. Just baby steps.
Easter 2016: Today my husband and I walked down to visit mom with a few fresh cut roses from our bushes. As we walked, our silence was a very clear indication that we both wondered how long of a visit mom would allow. We could only hope that she would be receptive to us. When we arrived, mom was slouched down in her wheelchair with her chin below her knees fast asleep. I gently rubbed her back until she opened her eyes and acknowledged us. We did manage to have a pretty decent 3-way conversation. Unfortunately it only lasted for 20 minutes and she was pretty much done with us. Some days, it’s just too hard to carry this part of living and try to appease mom with happiness and laughter. We did our best.
February 13, 2018: In April of 2017, my husband and I moved out of state. It was an extremely difficult decision that we made. I probably will not see her again here on earth as we have absolutely no intent to return to California where she resides. I miss her terribly, and I know she misses me too. I have made several attempts to call Mom to which I’ve only spoken to her twice over the past 10 and a half months. The nurse hands her the phone and explains that her daughter (me) is on the other end. Mom tells the nurse that she doesn’t want to talk. I know that is the depression and not my mom. Her depression to this day still has the best of her. In the meantime, I do send a 2 page letter via post office as she does not do email. On one of the two phone calls she did mention to keep the letters coming. So, I do. … On top of everything else, tomorrow, (Valentine’s Day) will be extremely hard on mom because that was my dad’s birthday. I cannot imagine how it would be to be without my spouse. And then I’m not there to be with her even for a few moments.
So, how does one deal with a family member’s depression? How can someone hold up through such a sickening sad situation. This type of situation is one that cannot be ‘fixed’ with a surgery, a pill or a person’s kind act. Although, many of the kind acts and pills may help ease the depression, it is not a fix and it never will be. Each person’s depression is as individual as they are. And, how one copes and interacts with the family member’s depression is individual as well.
The absolute BEST piece of advice I received was given to me in about a 2 minute conversation from a women who had gone through her own personal wringer with her own mom. She had so many parallel situations with me, it was uncanny. Anger, guilt, unaccepted, sadness, the list goes on and on. It took me a while before her words actually sunk in. Once her words hit me, I took a step back and re-directed my focus. Here is basically what transpired in the two minute conversation:
The Two-Minute Conversation That Will Affect Me For The Rest Of This Trial
1. Stop Blaming Yourself. This is not your fault. You did not cause this.
2. The anger thrown your way is actually not directed at you. She is just comfortable telling you everything. You were close to her and she feels that it is ok to unleash on you. Be a listener and stop taking it personally.
3. Continue to care. Even though this is one of the most difficult things to do, continue to care, to love, to let her rant and then turn around and be kind. Her world crumbled. Be there to catch the pieces for her.
4. Remind her of joy. Keep visiting. Keep inspiring her. Try to get her to reflect and smile…maybe even laugh.
5. Accept and continue to pray. Accept the turmoil. Accept it with an open heart and understand it is controlled by God. NOT YOU. and never stop praying.
It is no wonder it took me so long to understand those points. I was so wrapped up in the embarrassment of all this, that I couldn’t focus on what is really the important meat and potatoes of life. I kept hearing her words.
I simply thought about those 5 points over and over. Please remember, I’m not in YOUR predicament, but I’ve been through some real hair-raising moments.
As for my mom:
Will she ever start to mend?
Will she ever completely recover?
I’m still in the midst of it all. I have no answers. I only have a better understanding, a better focus on the actual situation and how it has and is affecting me…. and God who loves me unconditionally.
September 20, 2020 update: Today my mother passed away and is finally at peace. Please pray for me and my family as we mourn the loss.
…. I hope this helped.