Apologia for these journals:
They are not about taking care of a relative with moderate to severe Alzheimer's/senile dementia.
For an explanation of what these journals are about, click the link above.
For internet sources that are about caring for relatives with moderate to severe
Alzheimer's/senile dementia, click through the Honorable Alzheimer's Blogs in my
links section to the right.
Things that Have Changed Since Mom Died
- As I predicted in an earlier post (can't find it right now), my electric bill has been reduced by about two thirds (sometimes more) since last year. I've catalogued some of the reasons, here:
- Before Mom's death I used the stove at least once a day to cook breakfast (Mom almost always insisted on eggs and meat for breakfast) and more often than not used the stove, oven or both to prepare dinner, as well as our vegetable steamer. I'm still using the vegetable steamer a fair amount and I'm using the microwave only slightly less than before, but I'm lucky if I use the stove or oven once a week.
- I used to do at least one heavy duty load of washing and drying once a day, including running the dryer extra long to dry the blankets on Mom's bed. At least once every couple of weeks I did an additional wash per day. Now I estimate that I do one medium duty load of wash about three times every two weeks.
- My mother had a finely tuned internal thermostat that tolerated a narrow range temperature range. Thus, during the winter, the entire house, except my bedroom, was artificially heated well within what the house thermostat considers a "comfort zone". The bathroom she used was always artificially heated, day and night, including in the summer, because she was most often fully or partially naked in there and, as well, sink bathing exposed her skin to the coolness of evaporation. Now, I've turned that bathroom's heater off at the circuit breaker.
I prefer a much cooler home than my mother. All the thermostats are set a little above 50 degrees in the winter; thus, the heater rarely clicks on. During the day sun floods the living room during the winter and that heat is enough for me except on really, really cold days.
This winter, too, I'll be able to use the fireplace, although it hasn't yet been cold enough in here to do that. Since Mom was diagnosed with her various lung problems (long before her diagnosis of lung cancer) the fireplace has been off limits.
- During the summer, because of the heat generated by the variety of health appliances in our house (oxygen concentrator, humidifier, breathing treatment machine, etc.) we used the front room air conditioner steadily during the day for about two months and used the portable evaporative cooler steadily pre- and post-monsoon. Last summer I used the front room air conditioner maybe seven times, only in the afternoon and usually only when the humidity from the monsoon dew point became overwhelming. I used the evaporative cooler maybe an equal amount of time. I was, in fact, surprised at how little I used both. It was a revelation to discover how compatible this house is with my internal thermostat.
- For Mom, lights blazed quite a bit more than they do for me. The kitchen, dinette and living room overheads were always on from late afternoon until she went to bed. Her bathroom light was on a fair amount of time. Even when the living room overhead was on, so was the lamp on her coffee table next to her rocker; the combined light made it easier for her to read. Now, the coffee table light is usually the only light I use significantly. When preparing a meal in the evening I use the kitchen and/or dinette lights but they go off when I'm done. Bathroom lights are used only when I'm in the bathroom, which isn't often.
- Her health care appliances, I'm sure, accounted for a fair amount of electrical usage, especially the concentrator, which typically ran 12 to 14 hours a day (more during the last few months of her life when she was sleeping more). The heat they generated, as well, was not insignificant. The concentrator, alone, helped heat her bedroom at night.
- We used to use the electric kettle several times throughout the day. I now use it once or twice a day, never more.
- I use the computer probably about a third less than I used to, especially since I'm not writing in these journals as much as I used to.
- I no longer use the dishwasher for washing dishes. Previously, I used it once a day.
- I watch probably a third to a half less television than my mother did (including movies through the DVR).
- Water usage has been cut by only about a quarter, maybe less, although this only barely reflects on the bill because of all the other city services tacked onto this bill. I even had the city come out and evaluate the meter because I thought it should be registering less usage than it was, but the meter's fine. We just didn't use as much water as I thought we did or I now use more than I think I do.
- My hours are significantly different. I am rarely up past midnight, anymore. I can run errands any time I want, which continues to delight me.
- Grocery expenses are so much lower that it has been several months since I've been able to use the five cent per gallon discount on gasoline that my usual grocery allows if one buys over $100 a month in groceries. I'm sure I'll be downgrading my membership at Costco to the lowest category, since I buy only a few thing there, now: My carbonated water and paper products are about it. When Mom was alive it was typical that she'd get a yen for fast food about once a week. I can't remember the last time I bought fast food for myself.
- I used to awaken and spring into action. Now, I awaken and, after an early morning walk, I mosey into action.
- I'm reading, again! A lot! It's wonderful!
- Although my extended family mostly remains about as communicative as it was before, one of my sisters and I have rebonded since my mother's death and we communicate much more often than we have in the last several years. That, as well, is wonderful.
- I've changed the arrangement of the living room to suit me. It took me some months to do this but, it's done, now, and it's much more comfortable for me.
- I haven't, however, yet, permanently taken up sleeping residence in my bedroom. Although this may seem odd, considering that my mother and I slept in separate bedrooms, from my bedroom I was always aware of the sounds of my mother's sleeping in her bedroom. I depended on hearing these sounds as I slept. Although I try, occasionally, to sleep, again, in my own bedroom, I am still uncomfortably aware of her absence and the lack of mother-white-noise that used to accompany my sleep. So, I continue to sleep in the living room, the heart of the house, although I recently decided I should pull the futon couch into a bed, instead of sleeping on it as a couch. This has much increased my sleeping comfort and I'm finally sleeping more restfully.
- I haven't at all felt at loose ends since my mother died in regard to "doing". I was surprised at that. I thought, considering how full my day was of the various chores that accompanied keeping my mother alive, comfortable, feeling well and feeling loved, that I'd probably have trouble filling those minutes for awhile after her death. I didn't.
- I've switched to using the shower in my mother's bathroom rather than my own. I'd been considering the switch almost immediately after my mother's death but it took some months to accomplish. It's a better shower, though, in a larger, more amendable bathroom and I'm very pleased to have finally made the switch.
- The yard gets significantly more attention now than it did when my mother was alive.
- The cats clearly enjoy not having to share my attention with Mom. Neither of them appeared to grieve her absence. I was concerned that The Little Girl might, since she considered herself my mother's primary caregiver and was always at her side, awake or asleep, but she carried on admirably after my mother's death, maybe because she so closely attended her death.
- Although my household cleaning habits haven't changed (such as they are, thanks, Mom), the house is much less cluttered than it was when my mother was alive. Some of it, I think, is because I have the time, now, to put things away right after I use them, so I do. Some of it, too, is that I use so much less paraphernalia than I used to.
- My hands no longer hurt and cramp when I use them. I can open new jars and bottles again without resorting to pliers, knives and other tools. I'm convinced, now, that the hand problems I used to experience were probably connected to the leg and arm massages I used to give her daily and, as well, especially during the last four to five years, using my hands and arms as her human walker.
- I drink significantly less coffee than I used to.
- My mother remains on my mind all the time. I have not yet reached the point where I suddenly realize I haven't thought of her for periods of time here and there. That's okay with me, though. I am in no hurry for this to change.
- I do not dream about my mother, at least not that I'm aware. I expected, after her death, that I might, especially since she and I dreamed about the other fairly often. But, I don't.
- I miss reading out loud to her. A lot. Thus, since her death, at least a couple times a week, I read out loud to her and imagine the images her mind conjures as I read. She used to talk about these images frequently when we read together. It was one of my favorite times with her.
- I almost never talk to her, nor think to her. I don't try to avoid it. It just isn't something that feels natural for me. I think I assume that, if she is capable of being aware of me she knows how much I think about her. Occasionally, if I'm pushing through a rough spot, I'll have a moment when I'll say something like, "I wish you had been right, I wish we were still together the way we were before your death," or something like that but I am rarely provoked to utter even that much to her. In addition, I think some of my lack of need to talk to her is that anything that ever needed to be resolved between us was resolved. I also think that, since we were no longer living out a classic "mother/daughter" relationship I didn't feel orphaned by her death. Recently, when I spent an afternoon learning and refining chainsaw technique with my nephew and having an exhilarating afternoon, I sorely missed not being able to enthuse about it to my mother. I imagined how excited she would have been to hear about it. I imagined that she would respond with something like, "Well, I think I'd like to try that. When will MPNP be bringing the chainsaw up next?" which is a typical response I could have counted on from her right up to the moment of her death. The extent to which I missed being able to have this conversation with her surprised me...but it didn't do me in.
- Some of my friends that I made since becoming my mother's companion have been unpleasantly surprised that I remain as insular and "isolated" as I was when my mother was alive. My penchant for the lived-alone life, though, has been a hallmark of my life. That didn't change when my mother and I lived together and it hasn't changed since her death. I think some people I know expected that I would suddenly become social after her death, if for no other reason than to negotiate the sting of my mother's absence. Didn't happen. In addition, although I miss my mother, sometimes terribly, living alone, again, required no adjustment for me. As I remember exulting to my mother and father a few weeks after I first lived on my own, "I was born to this!" That remains true. I expect I will die, happily, alone.
Although there were adjustments I had to make, mostly internal, when I became my mother's companion, I think there are two reasons I had a knack for being a fine companion for her despite my love for living alone. First, I think, since my mother was very aware that I am a living-alone-and-loving-it person, she watched me grow up that way, she knew how to be with me "together". Second, I think she also understood that my desire to live alone is not because I am not socially skilled, nor that I am socially awkward. She raised me, after all. She knew I'd quickly find a happy medium, we'd both benefit and neither of us would make more, or less, of our companionship than we could stand.
- I continue to love that this house and property feel like her home as well as mine. I love that members of the family love this, too. I am in absolutely no hurry to change this into "my" home, exclusively. In fact, I suspect I never will feel this way. It is, and I hope it remains, one of our family homes, "Mom's and Gail's home."
In the meantime...later.
All material, except that not written by me, copyright at time of posting by Gail Rae Hudson