My family, I don't know how you do this


Flock Mistress
10 Years
Apr 14, 2009
Benton (Saline County) AR
I don't know how you do this thing they call life. Really I'm at a loss.
My dad survived a heart attack a year ago last spring, and now he has prostate cancer, just found out this summer. He's doing ok, health-wise, as good as can be I guess, but the emotional toll is showing on him and my mom. Not to mention the financial toll from medical bills.
Over the summer my mom went to the dentist and when she came back she couldn't talk right. She sounds like she had a stroke. So just to be safe she had a MRI, no stroke, but they say she has something wrong with her that they see in "longtime smokers" --- except that she's never smoked a day of her life. She can't talk right, and my sister (who still lives at home) reports that she can't swallow pills anymore and frequently chokes on drinks. She doesn't talk to me about it much though, and really I can't bear to listen to her talk. She sounds like my grandma did after she had a stroke.
Not to mention that she's a bit of a hoarder, with an online spending habit (shopping therapy??) and neither me nor my sister can figure out WHERE all the money is going, other than her spending it on stuff that she doesn't need. It's not really my problem, YET anyway, but it kinda concerns me. And my sister informs me that mom thinks the end of the world is coming after Christmas 2011....sometimes I think they missed something on that MRI and she really HAS lost her marbles!
Which also leads to my grandparents, who aren't doing just real well (they are in their 80's) but visiting them is very hard for me. So I feel guilty that I don't visit them more, because they won't be here much longer, but it's just SO hard for me to do. I mean, there's not much to talk about with them, visits always feel really "awkward" My grandma (who had a stroke in 2005) usually can't figure out which granddaughter I am, and she's all in a "medicated happy" most of the time, and my grandpa (also her caregiver) I think he is still mad at me for dropping out of college (because I couldn't afford it) I'm just not sure what topics we can even talk about. My sister (the good one, in college) also says she has the same trouble finding conversation with them.

Remembering how it used to be just makes it so much worse to me.

I wish there was a user manual for life, like "conversations to have with aging grandparents who can't remember which grandkid you are" and "how to fix your mom when she goes looney" and maybe one for "dealing with the emotional toll of serious health problems"
I mean, on the one hand I can kindof stay out of it because I don't live there, but on the other hand, they're my family!

It just seems like it's hit me hard tonight. I just had to write about it.
I feel like throwing things and crying
I completely understand!! All I can offer are hugs.
Oh!! And when you find that manual....send me a copy.
I'm so sorry it's hard... there are times when everything cascades all at once into crazy terribleness. It's tough when you come up against the fact that you can't rescue / take care of everyone who needs it. The easy-to-give, hard-to-follow advice I'd offer is to give what you can and then forgive yourself for not being able to give more.

Visiting old people is rarely easy. Remember: don't beat yourself up for not being able to visit more. Sometimes it helps to bring things with you to talk about; pictures (even in magazines) to look at together, or some kind of craft you're doing. It's ok if your grandma doesn't know who you are; she'll still enjoy whatever amount of visiting you can handle. You could bring some flower catalogs and scissors... maybe she can help you cut out photos of flowers. You can have some little crafty thing that you're gluing the flowers onto in a collage. Even if you'd never choose to do that on your own time, and even if all she can do is look briefly at the pictures. You just sort of have to turn into a cheerful little broadcasting station, and don't worry too much about the response you get.

Older people who still have their minds (like maybe your grandpa) often have the clearest vision when it comes to the past. Ask him some question about the past. If he was old enough to have been in World War II, tell him you've been reading about the war or saw something about it on tv, and you wonder if he could tell you something about where he went and what he did. If he's not that old, he still would have been alive then. You could ask him about rationing, about what he and other teenagers thought about what would happen, and so on. Or just simple stuff like, when did you get your first tv set? Who taught you to drive a car?

Family illness is always hard. If it's any consolation as far as your dad's health goes, prostate cancer is often VERY slowmoving, and frequently people live relatively comfortably for years and years with diagnosed cases of it, and then die at an advanced age of something totally different. My father in law was an example of that.

Your mom? That sounds mysterious. Probably all you can do is let things play out for a while and see how she does.

And take care of yourself, because all these stresses on you DO take a toll. What do you love doing? What makes you happy? You're still entitled to joy, even if people you love are struggling.
I won't comment on the rest except to say

But as to your Mom... my Gran had COPD and Emphysema... I KNOW without a doubt what happens. I saw day to day for years and I was there in the ICU and later in "managed care" to watch her... and the not speaking clearly stuff was NEVER there. That has NOTHING to do with breathing. Even after having a tube down her throat she was able to speak, if hoarsely. And again, that was due to the damage done by the tube... no different than when you have a bad sore throat it's caused by throat damage. There were wheezy days, sure, but again that was because her lungs were failing and her oxygen levels were low. She could still speak clearly, just had to take her time in order to get enough breath.

So, if your mom is struggling that much, with NO history of damage there is very much something wrong. Maybe something with the lungs, if wheezing is the problem. But if she's slurring that's a totally different thing altogether and do NOT let them just blow you off with that excuse.

I am no expert on neurology, heart, strokes and such but I saw years worth of lung problems... that just does not sound right even to someone as inexperienced as me. I think it would be worth it to seek a second opinion.
I don't think it's a lung problem, some kind of swelling in the throat. It happened after she went to the dentist and they stuck needles in her gums. I know she went in for the MRI and they ruled out a stroke. I forgot the name of whatever they said was wrong with her, but I remember they said it was usually associated with long-term smoking

I think she may just be a bit hormonal and stressed, on top of the health issue, and she's still raising a teenage daughter as well. She's always been a bit of a......what's the word, well she was worried about Y2K, so her being worried about 2012 doesn't really shock me, it's just annoying.
My dad's doing fairly ok health-wise. I think his bloodwork has shown improvement, and he's been working out a little to lose some weight. He likes shopping at goodwill for new "skinny jeans" and he's taken up hiking/backpacking with a few other guys. Of all my family, he's the easiest one to talk to. He'll tell me about his backpacking trip, or fishing, or whatnot. Last time I saw him he was repairing some straps on his backpack and re-lining his fishing rod. Easy stuff to talk about.

He's old, 82 I think. He fought in WWII, but he doesn't like to talk about that. I like to hear about when he was growing up in the depression, so that's probably a good idea. He kinda likes to talk about raising chickens actually, but he never had "pet" chickens, so we kindof view them differently. He said once they used to trade eggs for flour, and stuff like that. We used to spend a lot of time together, doing projects around the house, but he doesn't do projects anymore since he has to care for my grandma - that is kinda depressing. Basically he watches a lot of news, and CNN, and such, and doesn't get out much except to go out to eat (he doesn't get to socialize with other guys like he did when he worked) so hyped-up political BS is all he knows about thesedays and well, I don't even watch the news, so there's not a whole lot we can talk about that.

My grandma always liked doing "useful" stuff the most. When she first had her stroke she was really depressed because she couldn't cook and clean and feel "useful" anymore. They kinda drugged her up for the depression, so I don't even know if she knows what she's thinking anymore. She tends to be a bit pessimistic, and she never was one to carry on a conversation anyway, not chatty or gossippy like alot of women are, so talking to her now is even more SUPER hard.

We've dealt with my mom and the speech thing - it's SO hard! My mom however OD'ed on my dad's medication (sigh - he's been a hospice reject twice now), and was in a coma - now, only 3 years later is starting to roll the right way to "normal". For so long though, she is so hard to understand, and so.....strange. It really, really sucked to see teh parent that you grew up with, someone who was active, smart, and witty, turn into someone who would sit for hours with a bovine stare, and couldn't speak more that three words together.

She has done a LOT of therapy. A lot - the kind of therapy they give stroke victims.

But it's's like you lose some of the trust a person has in their parents - even as an adult.

All I can say is life is a big suck sometimes, but it's still worth living.

I find it crazy how yours is like mine - looney mom, sick dad (mine is from malpractice, he's a walking dead case, most systems do not function, but he still gets around). My grandparents are all dead, but I get to deal with my parents forgetting which kid I am - and they aren't even "old" yet!

One day at a time....or rather, one hour at a time. I find that more doable - the days get to darn long sometimes.
Just a thought, but my grandmother went through something like this, now she did have a stroke, but what we found out is that some of her meds were not compatible and it caused dillusions, odd behavior, etc. If they have recently changed her meds or even changed to say a generic, this can cause problems. Someone needs to go to the DR with her and ask the DR questions.
I hope you can get this figured out.
I agree with this one. I have also been down this road with both parents. Both were long time smokers, but the speech issue with my mom happened when she had a bad reaction to the combination of meds she was given. She also almost died when two different doctors gave her incompatible meds. Slurring like that is not breathing related. Nerve damage in the mouth from the shots?? Ask Mahonri he's a dentist.

It's alot of stress. Both of my parents are long gone now and now I am getting ready for round two with DHs parents.....
Not much else to offer you.
There is a condition that elderly people get where they have difficulty swallowing. My aunt had this and I know she has never smoked a day in her life. I think they did a surgery to correct it? She had a lot of health problems all at once in a very short timeframe, and I was not there to see all of them, only got updates from my folks, so I don;t remember for sure all the treatments she went through. But the good news is that she has recovered from all of her significant issues and is quite hale and hearty for a 97 year old.

I am guessing from what is written that the OP is in her early 20s? That is a time where it is difficult dealing with parents on an adult to adult level versus a child to parent level, and the issues of aging parents and grandparents is difficult. Spending time with them may be difficult, but if you avoid seeing them, you will regret it. Think of some of your favurite memories with whomever you are visiting and start talking about them, ask them to tell you stories of their childhood, or of you when you were little. Tell them about your favourite pastimes and interests. You might find that more frequent, shorter visits and phone calls are less upsetting that a few longer ones.

And yes, meds can interact badly. All prescription meds should come from the same pharmacy (many have a database to check for drug interactions of concern), and the doctors should know of all OTC meds or supplements that are used (for the same purpose).

Until they figure out and treat the cause, she needs to be seeing a doctor who will keep looking and testing until he/she finds the cause. As for the shopping, if your mom is of sound mind, not much you can do other than express your concern. If she is not of sound mind, then you need to intervene and get a guardianship set up to protect her interests.
Thanks for your kind words.

Yesterday my 16-year old sister texted me that "Mom is sad. Doc said her voice is unfixable. Her tongue quit working" --- so you see what kind of non-technical updates I get. She told me that mom cried most of the day, so I figured it wasn't a good time to try to get more information from her. Today she said that mom cried a lot more, and that they visited my grandma who had the stroke (mom's mom) AND that mom is going to another doctor tomorrow. I won't be off till Sunday, and since I really can't understand mom on the phone I guess I will have to go visit then.
Best I can deduct, when she went to the dentist in June, they damaged her nerves to her tongue, so now it's not moving right. Heh, just when I was "about" to work up the nerve to go to the dentist, looks like I may NEVER go!!!
But being ticked at the dentist I can handle, dealing with sad and frustrated mom - I have no clue!!!!

Moms aren't supposed to cry. They're supposed to comfort crying kids. This adult stuff is a whole new ballgame, and I don't even know all the rules yet!!!!

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