The New Normal
It feels strange sitting at breakfast by myself. I’m getting used to the wrenching change in my life. Last Sunday, Audrey had an episode that, without a doubt, showed us that our home is not the best environment for her. Not that we aren’t loving her and caring for her every need. The issue is that we are a young family with children. Our children run and play, sleep late, bounce around, go to camps and sleep overs, and generally act like children. While Audrey used to love watching the children do their thing, now she has a hard time with changes in routine or people who act silly. We are barely halfway into summer and she is constantly mad at them.
We knew this difference between her and them had become an issue and we kept a close eye on their interactions when she would get agitated. Last week though, while the kids were playing a board game on the floor, she got aggressive even while Jaime sat next to her and Nicky and I were in another room. It scared our son with autism. All three of the kids ran and hid in their rooms and locked the doors. Nicky and I came running and the protective parents in us reared forth. There had been other incidents of shoving and cussing against the kids that worried us, but this time, without warning, she became violent and assaulted him.
It has been a traumatic week for all of us. The kids cried when we left with her. We have been burdened with guilt and feeling inadequate. It’s been a huge change of our lives. She doesn’t want to be there and we are trying to piece back the life our family had before we molded it around Audrey’s. We had gotten used to an amount of “you won’t believe this” realities and planning our life, every trip to the grocery or school event, around Audrey’s needs. She didn’t care for going out and was really too wobbly to go far. This required a sitter for her for some amount of time every day.
There have been many days when I would be trapped, sitting beside her for hours on end, answering repeating questions and watching television. I’m not a television watcher. I have seen more “The Price is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal” than is medically sound. Frankly, I hate the endless mindless chatter in the background. I relish the quiet. She hated the television off. I learned to deal with it.
Today, I wasn’t sure what to do. I did dishes as usual and then actually watched TV for an hour. The routine I had before she came is gone. Her routine doesn’t fit my life without her. For several days I still woke up at the crack of dawn, despite hating having to do that every day for the last eight months. On the one hand, I am relieved my job as caregiver is over and on the other hand I feel lost. One thing I can see now is how much I pushed the kids’ needs back. They just lived here. They have been getting along without a full-time mother for a long time.
I know she will get used to her life at the nursing home. They have a routine and the residents are calm. She has her own personal television. She gets physical and recreational therapy. It really is a nice place and suits her needs. She will adapt and so will I. Our minister stopped by to check on us yesterday. He had a thought that stuck with me. Now we can visit her and enjoy the person she is without having the constant stream of thought of caring for her. We can let go of the difficult parts of taking care of her. Some things we went through were shocking and unexpected. Now we have a chance to cover the hard parts with memories of just talking to her.
I’m glad. I don’t want my last memories of her to be ones that I wish I could forget.