Dixie Peach: About Miss Virginia

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

About Miss Virginia

Many, many thanks to y'all for your kind good wishes for my mother, Miss Virginia. My sister called me today to let me know what's being done for now.

The neuropathy thing isn't the big deal. I mean it's not good but it's not something new (my mother has been a diabetic for 20 years) and while I'm sure it does hurt and cause her distress, my mother is known for obsessing over things like that and taking them to the extreme. Nothing can hurt just a little when it can instead be hurting a lot. Twitches turn into spasms and spasms turn into uncontrollable writhing. In other words, Miss Virginia goes to eleven.

The big concern is her hallucinations. Mother often knows she's hallucinating - she knows what she's seeing isn't real - but it's still disconcerting for her because it's out of her control. My sister, who is a nurse and works for a large home health care company specializing in geriatric care, is growing concerned that Mother may not be able to live on her own too much longer but we'd like to extend it if we can and do something for her various ailments and symptoms so to that end yesterday my mom was admitted to a psychiatric hospital that works with the elderly. They're going to observe her, see how she responds to medications, see if some of her meds needs to be changed, etc. and perhaps they'll have a strategy for her condition's management. She'll be there for at least two weeks and we're hoping she'll be cooperative and not want to leave too soon.

When I spoke to my mom on Sunday night she did mention this place to me - that my sister thought she could benefit from it and that they'd see if they could get her admitted - but I always have to hear the story from my sister to be sure it's correct. My mother accepted the idea quite well, I thought, and hopefully she's going to be as comfortable as possible there.

My sister said that when they got to the hospital and they were doing the dance to get Mother admitted a woman suffering from some mental malady walked by shouting "Baby!! Baaaaby! BABYBABYBABY!!". The reaction from my mother was mixed. She shot my sister a look that said "I'm going to be in here with folks like that?" and then she got a look on her face that made my sister sad. A look that said "I'm afraid that's going to be me next.".

I think that's what's so hard on my mom right now. She's at that point where the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are pronounced enough that they affect her daily life but they're not to the point where she's so far gone she doesn't know what's she's doing nor gives a shit. Right now what's going on with her frightens her and she's afraid of what she'll be like when she's worse - and she's definitely going to get worse. She's afraid of being a pain in the ass and a mess and being the pitiful old woman walking the halls shouting "BABYBABYBABY!!".

I'm sorry for my mother. I'm sorry that she's going to end her life in a way that she wouldn't wish on a her worse enemy and I'm sorry she knows that's how it's going to end. I'm sorry for my sister and brother. They have to be the ones to deal with her on a daily basis. They're the ones who have to endure her symptoms and how they seem to bring out and enhance every crappy trait my mother has. If she was obsessive and demanding when we were growing up, Alzheimer's has made it much, much worse. I'm sorry my other brother lives too far away to help them and I'm sorry I'm even farther away but luckily my siblings are understanding. We have full trust in my sister, the one who does the most work in this whole thing, and we don't try to give her any crap or try to block her from doing what's best for our mom and we're there when she needs to call us and rant.

I'm sorry for me too. I'm sorry that I can't be there for my mom when she's scared and worried. I'm sorry that every time I get home for a visit I see her in a worsening condition. I'm sorry that one day I'll come home and she won't even know who I am. I think that scares me the most. I can't think of something more disorienting than to see your own mother and she doesn't know you from a stranger.

My mom isn't scared of dying. She believes in an afterlife and she believes she'll be reunited with my father. It's the living with Alzheimer's disease that scares her.

I pray that we'll all find our strength and comfort and dignity in this.


Blogger Libby said...

I'm sending you warm light this evening, much of what you said brought back memories of my own mother, who suffered from a head trauma injury the last 10 years of her life, and experienced many of your mother's symptoms; it was so similar to alzheimers, and you've written about the condition so eloquently. All my sister and I could do was be there for her when she was scared and helpless. What I remember most is her mortification when she would say things she couldn't control, but we just loved loved loved her and she knew it, and I think in the end made peace with it. Big Love, Nee Nee

2:30 AM  
Blogger marshamlow said...

I continue to keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Your mother is surely so proud of how amazingly well her children are able to get her and themselves through this most heinous of illnesses.

4:24 AM  
Blogger amulbunny said...

Dixie, We have been going through delerium with my stepdad. Today was the first day he was actually a bit more lucid. He also suffers from neuropathy and they took him off the neurotonin and he was having terrible pains in his lower legs. But by this evening they transferred him to the transitional care floor where he will have rehab and PT.

I'll keep your mom in my prayers too.


5:52 AM  
Blogger Miz said...

Hugs to you Dixie. It's hard, I know. I am grateful that my Mother is is a safe place but I wish she was closer. I call and she says she misses me and I feel sad and guilty not to be there for her more. We do what we can do, but the inevitable end is sad and frightning. You are not alone out here in cyberspace.

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

I am so sorry that your mother and you and your family has to go through this. Gah. I wish I could think of something helpful and nice to say, but the reality is so awful that all I can do is tell you how much I admire you and keep you in my thoughts.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Jemima said...


12:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I don't know what to say. I feel deeply for you. I worked as a nurse with Alzheimer's patients for a time and I also have this disease in my family. I know it's hard. I can only say I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you face the coming years and their challenges.

One thing I do remember that gives me some hope, no matter the advanced stage of the disease all the patients I worked with had moments when they knew who and where they were and those around them, children and family. Especially those they loved the best. For those the moments were more frequent. I take some little comfort in that and I hope you can too, that this disease steals so much from our loved ones, but not everything. It doesn't take everything.

And I know you've already done this, but on the very slight chance you haven't, please reassure your mother firmly that even if she does come to the place one day she needs as much care as the woman who called for her baby, she will always have people around her that love her dearly, care for her and watch over her diligently, no matter what. You all love her, and because of that she will *never* be allowed to be a mess or be thought of as a pain in the ass. She will keep her dignity. Together, you will all make sure of that.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Kirsti said...

lisa has so eloquently expressed what I didn't have the words to say. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your sister and your mother. I can't imagine how hard it is being an ocean away too. Wishing you all much comfort and peace.

4:47 PM  
Blogger BarefootCajun said...

((((Dix, Miss Virginia, and family))))

I'll never forget the evening we spent sitting at Miss Virginia's feet while she told us all about your family and life in general. It was such a special evening and she is a very special lady.

I watched my grandmother deteriorate with Alzeheimer's to the point where she no longer knew us. It was so very painful to watch.

I see my cousins dealing with their father who has dementia that has made him into a person that no one can stand to be around.

I worry that one day one of my parents may be in the same boat. I pray that we can provide the comfort that they will need if that times comes and I pray for the strength to deal with it all.

I'm sending those same prayers to you and yours, my dear friend.

7:20 PM  
Blogger LeaderOfMyPack said...


8:08 PM  
Anonymous titankt said...

Being frightened like that is probably one of the worst of all human sufferings and I couldn't be more sorry for your mom and your whole family dealing with this.

A friend of my parents recently learned she has ovarian cancer and during her surgery, much more cancer was found. Obviously she's going to treat her cancer aggressively, but she's an older lady and at the very least, the next year is going to be damned unpleasant for her.

My point being, it's these kinds of things that point up what is precious in life and remind us all to be grateful for what we have. And it reminds me to put lots of energy into praying for my friends and friends families who are suffering. It's unfair that our bodies are so susceptible to such things as Alzheimer's and cancer and spinal cord injuries that paralyze. I hate it for everyone who has to suffer, and their families who suffer right with them.

My best to you, dearest Dixie. And your sweet mother. Hugs and best wishes from me and Michael.

10:37 PM  
Blogger christina said...

Oh this is so difficult for all of you, Dixie. Your family will be in my thoughts.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Jemima said...

Thinking about this as I had a lie-in this morning I came to dwell on times I've had to do more than my fair share. (as if life was meant to be fair!)

It's never the actual jobs that bother me, things need doing, someone has to do them. What bothers me, and boy does it infuriate me, is not being appreciated.

So this led me to think of your sister bearing the brunt of the work, will she, does she feel better knowing half the world appreciates her sacrifices? (By half the world I only mean the admiring bloggers who frequent these parts.) Sending lots of appreciateion her way! Caring (and I don't mean caring for so much as being bothered) about people is probably the trait I admire most in others. And something for me to work on, jemima x

10:35 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

You know as someone who takes care of a quadriplegic I know how getting some appreciation can change my whole attitude. Just when I get to feeling fed up, my husband telling me that he appreciates all I do for him completely renews me.

I've talked with my sister many times about how I feel bad that she's left holding the bag but she always reassures me that she understands and knows what I'm doing is important too. Plus she adores my husband so if he's happy it makes her happy as well.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Marybeth said...

I've been keeping yall in my prayers. Stay strong...and know that you've got friends to support you no matter what. Love ya.

8:40 PM  

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