Caretaker: All the Wrong Words; All the Wrong Moves

On the Worst Days:

What I find the most challenging in the caretaker role is the hatred hurled at me. Rarely do I have the right words or  actions that heal and console. I am the bitch of the family.  I am the “one behind all of this” according to my mom. If I ask what it is that I am behind it is ‘all of it’….”you’re behind all of this. You told the doctors what to say. You are behind what the doctors decided. You are behind this guardianship.”

If anyone goes online to read about caretakers or to read about dementia what you will find are tender pictures of old people with a loving caretaker. Maybe other households have this, but more likely, it is an inaccurate picture. It is not the real world. It is not my world. The commercialized pictures show a kind old woman who is not angry that her daughter. That picture shows the peaceful daughter. The happy daughter. The rested daughter. It certainly does not show the daughter standing in the kitchen trying to find a morsel of food that satisfies the old woman. It does not show the mental burden of counting. Counting how many calls she must make when she arrives at work. Counting the number of calls she failed to make yesterday. It is not the old woman who is angry and calling her daughter’s name every five minuets to have her do something—anything. “Let the cat in—-Let the cat out”. Just make it disruptive. Make it hurt. It’s meant to hurt. It’s meant to vent.

The question is what is the natural human response to anyone who regularly and consistently blames, complains, and denigrates their caretaker? How patient the caretaker must be to take it over and over? I have the answer and it’s pretty g’damned patient because I handle it. I do not lash out. I do not hurt. I do not hurl back the anger.

No one knows. No one sees. No one cares. Why? Because I am the bitch of the family; the abuser and the attacker.

Yes, I am the bitch tough enough to step up and do this. Day after day; year after year.

And it’s all my fault. I am the one behind all of this.



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Caretaker: To Fracture or Not to Fracture

June 27, 2016

12:45am: Jolted from the deep sleep of REM by a crash and a cry out of my name, “DONNA!, DONNA!” I bolted from my bed. The two cats who were sleeping next to me momentarily scattered. My worst fear for my mom is her falling. When in the hospital, she wore the familiar wristband that prominently states: “FALL RISK”. The sign hung on her door and at the foot of her hospital bed, “FALL RISK”. That is my mom. “FALL RISK”. Yet she often refuses to use her walker, refused to accept any training from an occupational therapist and refused to do any exercises that the physical therapist taught her. In her mind she is fine. She is fine until she falls and screams out with the crackled voice  so typical of an ancient woman.

It is a gut twisting and heart jolting response to see your 86 year old mother on the floor moaning. She fell. Again. I vaguely recall hearing her walker crash but was soundly sleeping when the fall happened. She was making her way to the restroom when she fell and had not turned on any lights. She does that. Has always done that……walked around in a dark house. It drives me insane, but she does it anyway. Close the blinds and turn off all the lights. She fears someone will see inside our windows. For the last two days she’s been in a vile mood. She has picked and snipped at me over the least of things: “turn off that light! it bothers me; move this cat off of my bed; has Molly (the dog) been fed? (it IS my house, by the way) She asked the same question five times in an hour. I answered the same, “yes the dog has eaten and the dog has eaten something other than dog food.”

The challenge with being a caretaker of someone like my mom is determining what is dementia and what is her being lucid but her typical complaining, hateful and rude self. Being a caretaker is hard enough when the patient is compliant and good natured. Easy. That would be like my dad when he was terminally ill with lung cancer. He was easy. Good natured and still enjoyed things in life. I’d find him sitting on the edge of his bed playing Willie Nelson CD’s, or sometimes, Glenn Miller. Caring for dad was simple; just make sure he had a big cup of black coffee within reach. Cook him bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast and he was good to go. Dad always did have an easy going personality. Me and my siblings always knew mom would be the hard one. She always has been a difficult person to be around. She will say mean things and rude things: “too fat; too skinny; not smart enough; or not pretty. But she can be, and often is, a giving person. She will defend her kids to the death. A few years ago I explained to both my sister and brother that mom is nicer now; nicer than she ever has been in her life. I figured it was because she knew her options were limited. She was frail and now she needed me. Having her live with me for the last six years has been easier than it has been hard; it’s been more enjoyable than not.

Regardless of how difficult she is, how hurtful and mean the words she hurls at me, she is my mom. Seeing this little 100 lb curled up ball of worn out old woman lying in the floor immediately dissipates all of the hurtful words and anger she flings toward me. This is my mom. This is the woman who put me before herself when she raised me. I breath in emotional strength and exhale the hurt. Today, she called my name every five to ten minutes. Each time was a complaint or hurtful word. Just picking at me. Just being Bettie. I breath in. My brother is coming today. To stay for a while. To recuperate from his own surgery and to be home with mom when I’m away. My brother is coming today.

Thankfully, this time there appears to be no fractures. She was up off of the floor within five minutes of the fall. She walked to the restroom with my assistance. This morning she got out of bed and walked to the restroom without my assistance. No fractures. Not her bones and not my emotions.

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Hey there everyone. I’m back, though I have very few followers given I use this blog irregularly. I normally will write about animals, environment or nature and issues concerning those things. Today I’m adding to that writing list—-I will share some of my experiences about being a caretaker for my mom. This is a new role for me, sort of. Let me begin to explain.

My mom has lived with me since early 2010 but she wasn’t ill. She was simply older and she needed a small boost. It worked out fairly well. She was home with the pets when I was at work or traveled. There was no need for anyone to be with her all the time or every day.

Our relationship was always a bit rocky so back in 2010 when I first offered for her to move in I did so with caution. I also felt I needed something else to do so I started a master’s degree in environmental science. During introductions at the beginning of any new class I’d say, “well, my mom moved in with me and I wasn’t sure how it would work out being around one another everyday so I thought it would be a good time to finally start this this degree to have a place to go to in the evenings.”  I finished that degree this past spring and my mom was too ill to attend my graduation. I felt saddened that after all this time of me working full time at my job and going to classes in the evenings, doing the field research and analyzing the results, and the writing and revising/writing and revising/writing and revising of the thesis, that my mom was not even able to attend the culmination of the work—my graduation ceremony.

After mom moved in with me my sister said I was a caretaker. I’d respond with “not really, because I’m not doing anything for mom other than most of the shopping.” That was then. That was before February 22nd. A Monday. A day I took off from work to take mom to the doctor to see if we could determine the cause of swelling in her feet.  She did not keep the doctor’s appointment. She refused to go. She was in too much pain. She had fallen when I had gone to the store at her request. She also refused any help from the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) that came when I called 911. This is a typical response with my mom. Refusal of medical care. Non-compliance and combativeness—all normal behavior for my mom. After a day or so, I suspected she may have fractured a bone, but she still refused medical attention.

Her life changed that day, as did mine. I witnessed my mom’s severe and steady decline from that day forward and I did not know what to do or how to get her help. Our story will continue and it is constantly evolving, but now?

Now I am a caretaker.







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So. Do We Have an Oligarchy or a Plutocracy?

A good short read. It’s timely too, given we’ll soon have a new president.

Class War In America

It’s a hard call. Plutocracy means rule by the rich, oligarchy means rule by a dominant class or clique. Either way, it all comes down to money, and most of us—those of us without the money—haven’t had much say about it.

Democracy, alas, takes a distant third place lately. Yeah, we can still vote, but for thirty years, the politicians we voted for have sold us all downriver, with more and more laws and regulations penalizing the poor and middle class and benefiting the rich. It’s supposed to “trickle down”, but so far it hasn’t. There’s a very small group of zillionaires who control everything via their pet legislators. They have systematically trashed all restraints on their activities, and now manipulate lawmaking to their own financial advantage with thousands of lobbyists and stealth activities that seek to control who votes. Social equality is not one of their goals.

If we…

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American Trophy Hunters Travel to South Africa for Chance to Kill “Unusual” African Wildlife

I’m searching for psychological or sociological research that posits that trophy hunters, sport hunters or big game trophy hunters’ brains work in a similar manner to psychopaths. Good article. Thanks for posting. For at least 2 years I’ve stated it’s time for a paradigm shift in wildlife management. Now it’s time to dig deep and examine the mind of sport/trophy hunters.

The National Humane Education Society

pawsdownPaws Down!

To Africa Hunt Lodge in Texas for supporting a 2500-acre trophy-hunting ranch in South Africa.

According to a recent news article, businessman Barry York has become a wealthy man operating a

Photo by Arno Meintjes / Getty Images Photo by Arno Meintjes / Getty Images

ranch outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Although the landscape appears natural, the purpose behind the ranch is nothing short of bizarre and disturbing. It is here that Barry York breeds lions, gnus, impalas, and other African wildlife characterized by genetic anomalies. The animals are intentionally bred for traits that rarely appear in nature – such as blue eyes in a lion or white fur on an impala. Although in many cases the mutations occur alongside other, medically hazardous anomalies, many of these animals are not intended to live a normal lifespan. That’s because Barry York has found that American big-game hunters will pay small fortunes for the opportunity to kill…

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Today I quit Smoking

Me and Dad

I started smoking when I was 18. I quit once for about 6 months and that was 2 years ago. I’ve made plans to quite again and went to the doctor for a check-up; got a prescription for Chantix; and have a chest MRI scheduled to get a baseline. As usual, blood pressure and blood work are all within normal range, except my LDL was a smidgen high. Nothing wrong. I’m healthy. I can still out hike and get up and down stream banks; I started lifting weights again two weeks ago I’ll adjust diet for that.

Yesterday, I ran out of cigarettes at about 1:00, right before I headed to the gym for my workout. I had to make a decision; stick with my quit day of 07/26/15 or buy another pack so I could smoke through the rest of the day and night. If I bought a pack it would mean there would be cigarettes left that would tempt me on my quit day. I sat in my car with the sun blinds still hiding me and ran the numbers. It comes out to about $ 1,400.00 bucks/year. That is a f’n vacation to Washington!! I could go see my sister and nieces and nephew next summer! I chose to up my quit time to right then and there. I’ll never buy another pack. Never waste another dollar on cigarettes.

After I got home from the workout I signed up on the 1800quitnow program. If they got money from the tobacco lawsuit then I figured I’ll take advantage of it. Hope it helps. Bottom line is I’m healthy so I don’t have that motivation. My motivation is I loathe anything controlling me and I want the money that I will save. It’s been a battle of wills since yesterday at about 1:25. Yes, I looked at the clock and timed myself for every urge. They were hitting about every 15 minutes. So far, my will has won.

I’m use to going outside to sip coffee and smoke. It’s a trigger. About an hour ago that urge was strong so I took Molly for a walk and we clocked in 1. 7 miles in 32 minutes. (don’t laugh!! I was walking Molly and she really slows me down but the walk is still good, LOL) I just ate (feels like lunchtime to me, but I see it’s not yet 11:00 so time is dragging today. That urge to go outside and smoke hit, so I thought I’d go pull up facebook. The first thing I saw was this picture of my dad. A hundred different things ran through my brain in a matter of a second: When was this? I wasn’t there, why? Look at Apollonia! There is that walker mom bought for dad. Now she needs it. Within less than a second I remembered this was a trip my daughter and dad took with my sister that summer. They convoyed with walkie talkies. My sister had her truck and my daughter’s car was new. It was the first time she drove across the country. This was my dad’s last road trip. He was sick, but at that point no doctor at IHS had figured out what was wrong. This was in July. I am nearly certain. I know it was 2002. He was diagnosed with lung cancer the following September and I remember the day the growth on his lung was discovered as if it was last week. Every detail.

There was a day I came home from work early. I was working at a piss poor paying job at a different tribe where I was interim supervisor three of the cruelest, most backstabbing, gossiping trouble-making women I’d ever met in my life. Two White women and one full-blood. I was commuting 100 miles a day on a wage of 13/hr plus turnpike fees, and that was up from 11/hour only because I was interim supervisor. I walked into our house after dealing with 3 women who did everything they could do to undermine and hurt me, and found dad coughing again. He knew something was wrong him but the doctor at the Sapulpa IHS clinic couldn’t figure out what was wrong, that is, when he was actually there on my dad’s appointment day. (nice man but twice he called in sick on my dad’s appt. day and the damned clinic would never call us to cancel the appt. AND I would have to take off from work, commute 50 miles home to pick up dad then drive 13 miles over to the Sapulpa clinic). I heard dad and since I drove him to all doctor’s appointments I knew the frustration of not knowing what was happening. I told dad, “hey, this is ridiculous they can’t figure out what’s wrong. Fuck those appointments. They’re never there anyway. Let’s just go on over to Claremore (meaning Claremore Indian Hospital) and go through the ER. We might have to wait all day but, we’re going to find out what is going on with you.” My dad jumped out of the recliner and grabbed his meds (just a couple; a blood pressure medicine and one other thing) and we were off to Claremore. The mood was light. Dad seemed happy. I felt good and I was determined to find out what was making my dad sick.

Once you sign in at the Indian hospitals you wait to be called back for initial screening and to let them know why you are there. Then you wait. And then you wait some more. They called dad to go back for his vitals and initial screening. When he came back to the large waiting area I told him “well, we’ll be here for a while so I’m going out to smoke.” It didn’t take me long and right when I walked back inside I saw my dad with his lopsided gait quick stepping down the hall. Those bib overalls he always wore were hard to miss. I heard his name being paged on the overhead. The crumpled brown paper bag holding his meds was still on the chair where he had been sitting. I scooped up the bag of meds without missing a step and followed him knowing full well something was up. At the Indian hospital they never call you back to the doctor that quickly.

Within a few minutes he was in the ER. The LPN, yes LPN, that did his initial screening noticed something with his pulse. She had him walk down the hall and noticed an irregular heartbeat. She notified the ER doctor. We went from there. They x-rayed his chest and found a mast on his lungs. From there things  spun into a flurry. It was the LPN that caught it. Not one stinking physician he had seen had been caring enough or astute enough to diagnose it. If not for the LPN my dad would not have been diagnosed with the lung cancer. It would have continued to grow on his lungs. He had smoked for 40 years and quit in 1984; the year my daughter was born.

When I came to facebook to avoid smoking and saw this picture before I saw anything else, my eyes welled with tears. It was dad’s last road trip and I didn’t get to go. It was 13 years ago this month. My daughter wasn’t doing great during that period and, at the time, I only hoped she would eventually figure out how f’n smart and capable she was and one day act upon it. I wasn’t doing well. I had my degree but had a piss poor job with the worst bitches you could ever meet. I’ve never seen this picture, but when I did see it on this first day of not smoking it flooded me with memories of one of the hardest and most sad periods of my life.  But maybe, even though I don’t believe in things like this anymore,  maybe, this picture of my funny, mathematically talented, great athlete dad, in the final months of his life appeared for a reason.  When he was still living he wanted me to stop smoking! Desperately so.

Dad and Apollonia 2002

Today my dad told me it is more than just the money I spend on them; it is about more than the control they have had on me; it is also about my health and about being around for my daughter. (who incidentally is now a McNair scholar and doing fantastic).

This picture reminded me of a lot of things. The dad I love and miss so much. Those cruel women whom I’ve not thought about in a very long time. My daughter during her long dark period. Me, during one of the saddest and most difficult periods of my life. So lastly, I will say this: Don’ t fuck with me. Whether you are an undermining bitch or a cigarette.  I’m patient. I am smart. I am nice. I am honest. I show you my true face.  I forgive a few times but an unlikely to forget,yet I am not vengeful.  My will is strong. I will win.

Today I quit smoking.

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Pope Francis’s Encyclical for Earth

The buzz over Pope Francis’s encyclical has grown to sound more like the roar of a river during spring snow melt. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, will melt down faster than the glaciers in the Himalayas, and John Boehner, with his requisite tears will cry the battle songs of capitalism. Let’s face it. This Pope took the name, Francis of Assisi; that nature loving, animal protecting friar that called all animals his brothers and sisters, for a reason. For Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, he believed that nature was the mirror of God. This pope could not have come at a time when this planet needs him more. Whether you are Catholic or not, you can believe that the pope influences the world. World leaders know this and world leaders are concerned that this pope will expose their debauchery of the planet’s gifts; those gifts that have fueled capitalism and exploitation of poor people and indigenous people ever since colonization began.

My disdain for the religious and the rampant hypocrisy and greed that we witness daily has grown equally with my age. But for a couple, I’ve come to loath religious leaders that intentionally allow the shibboleths of greed, hypocrisy, and false piousness to fall from their tongues while the sword they carry is ready to behead those most in need; the poor, the voiceless people victims of capitalism; and voiceless animals that are slaughtered for fun and entertainment. I’ve watched as growth of megachurches have filled the thousands of seats with people there to hear the message of the richest liars in the churches; Oral Roberts, Joal Olsteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and countless more that are living in castles and driving the Rolls Royces while the flock that empowered them to be millionaires struggles to stretch the last dollar between paychecks.  My heretic mind is dizzy from the millions of dollars and message of hate they spew. I fail to grasp why people clamor to hear their message of damnation and hell, and judgement of non-believers and worship of money.

I have spit on Christianity for many reasons, but the hypocrisy and message of hatred, and love of money at the expense of the poor and the earth’s gifts was front and center. As my distaste for the religiouscrats grew, enter Pope Francis. Pope Francis, who chastises capitalism for the harm it has done to the world’s poorest; for the harm it’s done to this earth due to the pillage of her bounties has softened my views on Christianity. What comes to my mind is the bible story of Jesus when he cleared the church of the money changers, the Pharisees. Jesus’s seven woes of the Pharisees:

  1. They taught about God but did not love God — they did not enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, nor did they let others enter. (Matt 23:13-14)
  2. They preached God but converted people to dead religion, thus making those converts twice as much sons of hell as they themselves were. (Matt 23:15)
  3. They taught that an oath sworn by the temple or altar was not binding, but that if sworn by the gold ornamentation of the temple, or by a sacrificial gift on the altar, it was The gold and gifts, however, were not sacred in themselves as the temple and altar were, but derived a measure of lesser sacredness by being connected to the temple or altar. The teachers and Pharisees worshiped at the temple and offered sacrifices at the altar because they knew that the temple and altar were sacred. How then could they deny oath-binding value to what was truly sacred and accord it to objects of trivial and derived sacredness? (Matt 23:16-22)
  4. They taught the law but did not practice some of the most important parts of the law — justice, mercy, faithfulness to God. They obeyed the minutiae of the law such as tithing spices but not the weightier matters of the law. (Matt 23:23-24)
  5. They presented an appearance of being ‘clean’ (self-restrained, not involved in carnal matters), yet they were dirty inside: they seethed with hidden worldly desires, carnality. They were full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matt 23:25-26)
  6. They exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were in fact not righteous: their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. They were full of wickedness. They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. (Matt 23:27-28)
  7. They professed a high regard for the dead prophets of old, and claimed that they would never have persecuted and murdered prophets, when in fact they were cut from the same cloth as the persecutors and murderers: they too had murderous blood in their veins. (Matt 23:29-36)

I do believe the modern day Pharisees who profess to be messengers of God, are scared of this pope. This pope may very well clear the churches of the money changers. The encyclical on climate change is officially released this coming Thursday, June 18, 2015. It’s already been leaked to the press, but I will wait to read it when it is officially released. No, I’ll never again claim Christianity as my belief, but I have finally found a religious leader that I can respect. It matters not whether I believe God is Jesus or whether I believe all things possess energy; the energy of the spirit and the soul. That is God. We all possess that spirit and soul. The spirit and soul of Earth has been raped, pillaged and robbed for centuries. We kill wildlife for ‘family fun’ and entertainment then go park our ass on a church pew to beat up on gays and unmarried mothers. Anyone who has ever peered into the eyes of the injured knows all animals possess a spirit and soul; anyone that has ever waded through a stream polluted and screaming with the stench of hydrocarbons knows that we can no longer sustain the capitalistic pursuits of colonialism.

This planet and this planet’s wildlife, and the people that are the poorest of the poor, and the regular joes doing their daily grind, blinded by reality TV and Facebook will read a message lacking the hypocrisy of the ‘pious’ politicians. These people, oblivious to the coming droughts, floods, wildfires and wars that will be brought on by climate change will react. They will profess, “Oh Lord, do you not see my beautiful mansion? The ornate is for you. Did I not fly on my own jet to speak your message?” The politicians are already preparing their rebuttals. However, the climate change fueled by colonialism and capitalism will be dealt a blow; just as Jesus dealt a blow when he threw out the Pharisee money changers. Pope Francis of Assisi could not have entered the world’s stage at a more desperate time.

Polar Bear_Pope

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