Can I take her dignity?

My mother in law is 86 going on 87. She lives in her own apartment and is probably one of the most secretive people I’ve ever met. She won’t tell us how her health is. Perhaps she doesn’t understand it herself. But from what she says about her certain doctors,  her meds, and therapies, I can guess that she has Congestive Heart Failure. It is a disease with no cure and no certain known cause. However it is wicked. Her CHF is hurting her kidneys. She has poor kidney function, mobility issues, fatigue issues, among other things.

She will admit to being tired and she cannot hide the edema in her legs. She has Chronic oedema which is swollen legs that are now starting to leak fluids. She maintains it is ‘Nothing’ out of the normal. This week she was put on antibiotics because she said the legs were a bit ‘warm’ but it is to prevent infection. She of course is perfectly healthy. I did point out that antibiotics were indeed were prescribed to treat an infection. [Don’t tell her, I saw it on the bottle].

Oh? When my husband and I brought a meal I had prepared for Christmas we walked into something of a disaster area. At Thanksgiving, we asked mom if she needed help cleaning up her place. [There were boxes of papers scattered all around, things piled up on the stove and counter…her bedroom was cluttered with clothes on the floor and the extra chair…]  She was adamant, she had a house keeper or cleaning lady. I suggested that she have a cleaning lady more than once a month. She said no.

It was Thanksgiving, so we ate our meal and visited. She mentioned that the maintenance man was leaving. He had been so nice to take out her garbage. Oh and the once in a month cleaning lady did dishes if there were any.

I looked around the apartment which used to be quite the little showplace and made a snap judgement that Mom no longer even saw the clutter and mess. She said she was too tired and didn’t care anyway.

I came back a few days later and helped get her apartment decorated for Christmas.

Now it was Christmas Eve and we were back again. I went to put the pan of lasagna down on the stove and stopped. The stove top was filthy and littered with dirty dishes. I turned to put the pan down anywhere in the kitchen and all open spaces were filled with dishes, cups, saucers, and most of the dishes had garbage of one sort or another in them.

I bent down to open the doors under the sink. I had to pull out 5 bags of rank garbage from under the sink. I turned and looked at Rich, I’m sure my expression was quite odd.

Mom pipped up. “While you are here, could you take the trash out?”

Rich asked his mom. “Don’t YOU take it out?”

Mom. “No, the handy man used to do it, he isn’t here anymore.”

We stood stunned as Mom got up and started to retrieve even more bags of garbage from a closet in the bathroom, the bedroom… Rich’s body language changed. “MOM!” he said, “You need to take your trash out! You cannot leave it in the apartment! It STINKS! You need someone to come and help you!” His voice got a bit louder, deeper, and sterner. I held up a hand. Mom didn’t have the hearing aides in and it was Christmas Eve after all. I took him to the hall as we piled a huge load of trash onto a shopping cart.

“Let this go for today,” I said, “We need to get ADRC involved or something. I’m on it.”

Now I can stop here and say…OH Val guess what? You live 10 minutes away, why don’t YOU do it all? Huh.

I currently care Full Time for my own husband who has COPD, PTSD, cancer survivor, stroke survivor, depression, and cognitive issues leftover from the stroke. I don’t have another ME. I am but one person.

This is a woman who won’t let anyone go to the doctor with her. She thinks she is fine as long as she has pills. She has lost a lot of mobility, she is tired all of the time. She insists on driving and has had two warnings this summer and a ticket last year. She says she is not ready for home help because it depends on your income. She believes she is independent and is just fine, thank you.

CHF and Kidney Failure is nearing its last stages and it is visible to a non medical professional.

I want to hit my head against a brick wall.

I spent about an hour finding stashed dirty cups and plates and washing them. I cleaned the kitchen and tossed some fuzzy beans in a pan that was in the fridge. I tossed [boxes of opened and expired] food that I came across.

We enjoyed a nice meal of lasagna. And just before leaving to go home I decided to go use the bathroom. I had to wash the toilet seat. Yeah, that nasty. I finished up and noticed a cloth that was on the side of the tub. I went to straighten the shower curtain up and … wow.

There was a huge bag of adult diapers. It was full. I counted about 8 more diapers that had just been flung into the tub.

I was too stunned to speak, too stunned to do anything. I walked into her bedroom and noted that she had not been doing laundry at all. Just piling clothes up in the corner. This from the woman who always had the picture perfect house and later the perfect apartment that could appear in “Better Homes & Gardens”. It now appeared as if a homeless person lived here.

I’d have to come back soon with someone with ADRC whether mom liked it or not.

ADRC is…Aging and Disability Rescourse Center. I need to contact them for myself as a CareGiver to Rich. I need to talk to someone about how to get much needed help to my mother in law.

I am not taking away her Dignity. I want to help her keep it and live in her apartment longer with more assistance. Is that so bad?


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