Taking Stock – June 2024

June 26, 2024

It’s time for another Taking Stock post. In case you didn’t know, I do quarterly Taking Stock posts each year (so four). This will be the second one for 2024. The first Taking Stock post for 2024 can be found here!

This Taking Stock post is a bit of a different one. I usually like to keep the blog uplifting and light and fun and positive and inspiring but sometimes life is more challenging than other times and sometimes it just doesn’t feel appropriate to pretend otherwise. So, this Taking Stock post has some moments within it where I am quite open and vulnerable, sharing the pain I’m feeling these days as my mother’s condition declines.

I always feel uneasy when I share my feelings in this way. I’m not sure why. Perhaps mostly because my siblings, relatives and friends may read it. It is harder knowing people that you know read what you write than it is knowing strangers read what you write. Perhaps also because it shows my weaknesses, when so many others going through similarly hard times may soldier on in silence never sharing how much they struggle. Perhaps it’s also because so many others are travelling even harder paths (and I know some that are) and I feel bad that I dare to admit how tough I’m finding it and how I’m struggling, when what they’re dealing with is even tougher and yet they seem so much stronger than me. Regardless of the reason why, I’ve decided to share because I believe in being authentic and honest and real as much as I can within reason because this is part of life!

What I share here are little snippets of my life at the moment. This is something we all face at some point, though in different ways. I can’t pretend that this isn’t happening to me and that this isn’t my current reality. It dominates my life. It’s my highest priority and takes precedence over all else right now. I am of course talking about my Mum and the current situation with her.

I also can’t help that I’m a highly sensitive empath type and therefore, a very deep feeling and emotional person. I have my own turbulent emotions these days and I can absorb those of others if I’m not careful. I most certainly absorb those of my mother and that is very hard. Being this way can be a good thing and it can be a very hard thing too.

A bit of background: Many of you would know that a sister and myself looked after Mum at her home for a couple of years. Mum became unwell around October 2021 and that is when it all started and my sister and I starting taking turns staying with Mum … full time … until an ACAT process was completed and eventually a Home Care Package was in place that gave us a little bit of respite (we still took turns staying with Mum but part-time, not the entire week like before). This continued until Mum went into Residential Aged Care in November 2023 – basically two years later.

After a fall, hospitalisation (where she contracted Covid!!), and with further cognitive decline, the safest option was to progress Mum to Residential Aged Care (and Mum actually agreed) as it was no longer safe for Mum to have periods of time alone at home or to be alone overnight.  However, the decline has been rapid since then and it’s not been an easy time. She had a fall at the Aged Care facility in February. There’s a long story to that which is quite upsetting but this is not something I will go into on the blog.

Mum has cognitive decline that has never really been properly/formally identified and diagnosed. One hospital doctor (when she was hospitalised after her fall from bed at home) who barely knew her said Alzheimer’s so maybe it’s that but whatever it is it affected her speech initially and then some other cognitive decline followed – mostly around executive function. She’s always known who we are and all those who she knows and she understands what we say to her (if we ask for a smile she will smile for instance). She just can’t communicate to us at all verbally anymore. She was still saying Yes or No at the time of this fall. Without going into all the detail, it turned out she had a broken femur near the hip and had to have surgery. Surgery went well and the wound area healed well. However, rehabilitation never happened, even though we paid for extra physio sessions in addition to the two per week provided by the aged care facility. The claim being that it was impossible because of her cognitive condition. She wouldn’t follow instructions. I know it would have required patience, but I also know she followed directions by hospital staff (but I’ll say no more on that). Mum would not follow directions now though and besides it’s been too long and she is too frail now.

Mum’s on pureed food, soups etc. and thickened liquids now. She will never walk again. Her legs have whittled away to just bones and skin as they’ve not been used since before the fall in February. There’s no muscle or fat left. There are lots of stories I could tell all of which have caused us enormous stress, worry, frustration, sadness, upset. Ultimately, when you have a loved one in aged care, you need to have almost a daily presence at the Residential Aged Care facility to keep an eye on everything. We have every day covered except Wednesdays.

I fought tooth and nail to keep Mum home as long as possible because I knew she would decline rapidly once in an Aged Care facility. I didn’t realise how rapidly though. Mum loved her home (now sold but we don’t know if she knows it). She’s always been very house proud. She and Dad built that home back in 1963 and it contained a lifetime of precious memories. Also precious to Mum has always been her five (5) children. Her family and her family home have always been her haven and purpose.

We couldn’t have left our own homes and lived with Mum full time and cared for her to the extent that she needs care now. That is what would have been required to keep her home longer unless we won Lotto and could afford to hire 24 hour nurses to care for her at home and even then that wouldn’t work as the bathrooms and other aspects of the home were not appropriately set up for the care she would require. I know that, but yet still my mind tortures itself day and night with the guilt of having moved her to residential aged care … taking her from her precious home and memories and where she felt at home and safe. I feel responsible for her decline and how she is now. It’s a terrible guilty torture that I’m sure that many who have to move parents to aged care must suffer with. Surely it’s not just me? 

I’ll get on with ‘taking stock’ now – NOTE that I’ve added the word prompt DRAWING in the hopes that it will help me get back into my art. We shall see.

Getting:  to hold Mums hand every visit gives me joy. It offers her comfort and support and it makes me feel like I am helping her. I mindfully soak it up and lock it in my memory & sensory bank.
Cooking:  Soups –  I love soups in winter! And I made some protein balls (for a sweet treat for me when I need one) and lemon butter (using up some of the lemons my sister-in-law gave me from her tree)!
Drawing: Has come to somewhat of a standstill in recent times due to my inner turmoil I guess. A sister-in-law gifted me some art supplies for my birthday including a little sketchbook. It’s not one for watercolours but I thought I’d try and use it for some casual sketches with a little watercolour. I thought maybe I’d do sketches from my visits to Mum. I did two and I haven’t got back to it. I might again. I included one of those sketches in the photo gallery above in this post.
Sipping:  on some Kombucha that I bought from ‘The Source Bulk Foods‘ to try. It’s Mango Lime flavour and I really like the taste. It’s empty now so I need to find time to get a refill.
Reading:  All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton, while away in Fiji but have not found time to continue & finish the book since I returned home.
Thinking:  too much about too much and it’s too much!!
Remembering: lots of remembering … lots of flashbacks playing in my mind … of Mum how she was and is supposed to be!
Looking:  for bright spots, positives, things to hold on to as life takes me on this very hard path
Listening: to Podcasts when I need distraction from my thoughts
Wishing:  that the hard parts of life were not so hard but knowing they are all part of this life gig and lead to growth and wisdom 
Enjoying:  the week away from reality in Fiji but I still worried about Mum be cause she got sick with a virus while I was away
Appreciating:  that my life up until around 7.5 years ago was mostly carefree
Wanting:  my Mum to be as well as possible, calm and at peace 
Eating:  too much food when we were at Lomani Island Resort in Fiji
Finishing:  that mega long post on our week in Fiji for last week’s #WWWhimsy was such a relief. I nearly didn’t make it in time!
Liking:  wearing jeans and a nice top again. It’s so me!
Loving:  my Mum and telling her how much I love her every time I visit her 
Buying:  a few trinkets in Fiji – a bowl, a fan, some Fijian oil, gifts for our kidults, a tea towel, a wee little fijian girl doll, and goodness knows what else! Oh and I bought some Magnesium Spray to help me sleep (plus for other ailments).
Watching:  YouTube – a lot of stuff from psychic mediums about what happens when we die and from people who have had NDE’s (near death experiences). Believing our souls continue on and it’s just our bodies that die provides me with enormous comfort.
I have the strength to cope with what lies ahead of me.
Wearing:  Lots of warm clothes when in the house and either my ugg boots or socks (our house is built for summer, not winter!)
Walking:  I need to do more of it. I did go for a big long walk recently along the waterfront (some photos included in the gallery above) but I need to try and do it more often. Not beating myself up  though because I have so much I’m trying to deal with and I’m doing the best I can.
Following:  My gut – on how I spend my time, how much I rest, when I need to get out, when I need nature or a walk, etc.
Noticing:  I am grieving. My mother is still alive but I am grieving. I can be in the middle of brushing my teeth when I hear noises that frighten me and it’s me … sobbing … deep primal sobbing.
Saving:  quiet moments to talk to Dad, asking him to help Mum and to look out for her and look after her and to help me and us to cope with it all
Bookmarking:  the book I was reading in Fiji (see ‘Reading’) and just as well as I haven’t got back to it yet!
Feeling:  not so great these days. My mother has declined a lot and it’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to see her this way when I know what the real her is like and she was like herself what seems like not very long ago! You realise how very deep the love is – the mother/daughter bond – so deep that she is me and I am her. Yet I keep going, for her. I’m stronger than I think. I learnt that about myself when we lost Dad.  I’m not sure if I’ll be as strong this time. I feel my seams coming apart. I’m struggling.
Hearing:  Mum’s voice in my head. We don’t hear her anymore. She doesn’t speak. I miss her. I hope I will always be able to hear her voice in my head. I still have a couple of voicemail messages from her. I’ll keep them forever.

Life cannot always be happy smiles and fun times. Where there is light there is also shadow.

In this universe where there is light, there must be a shadow. Shadow proves the light. The bright the light the dark the shadow is. Shadow is the soul of light. ~ Haruki Murakami

Have you walked (or are walking) a similar path? If so, please accept a big hug from me. It’s so very hard isn’t it?

If you’d like to take stock too you can visit Pip, the creator of the Taking Stock concept at Meet Me at Mikes for the prompts (scroll to the bottom of the post). My next Taking Stock post will be towards the end of September 2024!

Ciao for now,

P.S. Today I’m going into the city to meet up with an old work colleague and she’s a very good friend. She’s at least two years older than me and still working at the same place where we both worked together. She’s travelled a similar path as me with her mother (now deceased) and so understands what I’m going through. She’s also a very genuinely warm, kind and compassionate person and I look forward to her company very much. For this reason, I may not get to responding to comments and reading and commenting on linked posts until Wednesday evening and/or Thursday. I know you’ll understand. Thank you!

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  • Reply Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid June 26, 2024 at 6:43 am

    Oh Min, sending so much love to you. I think it’s natural for you to have all these feelings – you’re grieving the way your mum was and the life she had but how wonderful that you and the family are there for her and surrounding her with such care and love. I am sure she knows how loved she is and what a special daughter you are. It’s just like Winnie the Pooh said, “you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” Also how beautiful is the sketch of your mum? You are very talented. Big hugs Min xx

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:07 am

      Thanks so much Sammie. Love the Winnie the Pooh quote. Big hugs back! xo

  • Reply Denyse Whelan June 26, 2024 at 10:29 am

    The lengthy grieving process is incredibly draining Min.
    Recognising it for what it is, from you, is a huge step in helping yourself.
    You know you are the only one who can do this. Your Mum knows you are with her and she is responding with enjoyment of her soup and holding your hand….

    What I learned, if you are able to take anything from the relatively recent time of Dad’s severe illness, hospitalisation and death, is that each of grieves in our own way.

    I spent most of my 2023 visits to Dad when we had moved back to Sydney, in a quiet observer mode, and my brother (who saw Dad more frequently) and I connected via texts/phone calls as Dad deteriorated into late January and died late February. We were (and still are, as co-executors) a team with different strengths and we support each other too.

    There are no rules about grief, nor stages, nor time limits. I found the work of Julia Samuel very helpful and still do. Her book is Grief Works. Oh, and about Trent’s book..I found it a hard one to wade through. In fact, it was my least liked!

    Back to you….what an inner life you are struggling with…I hear you and hope you can find some comfort here and with other friends who may connect with you. Letting go, of anything that is tied with love and life, is just too hard. And no-one suggests you do.

    I just want to say, that a short walk outside each day, not for steps or any fitness, but allowing the sun to shine on you, to feel the ground under you and view the world around you, is a helpful way to ‘de-stress’ …for a time.

    Love and understanding
    Denyse x

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:11 am

      Thank you Denyse – you’re very kind and understanding. I do believe we all grieve in our own unique ways. You’re right – the winter sun does make me feel better when I get out in it. I do need to get out walking and in nature a bit more. I’m finding it really hard to ‘do’ everything that I want to or know I should do. I’m sluggish … and I think I need to be kind to myself as I guess that’s what my body needs right now .. a bit of sluggish time. xo

  • Reply Leslie Susan Clingan June 26, 2024 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for continuing to be authentic and open with your readers. You have helped me feel better about the struggles I had with my mom in her last 10 years. Knowing that I am not alone in all that I felt, even now two years after Mom’s passing, is a comfort. I am so sorry you are having such difficult, dark days. But like you, I found it reassuring to believe that while our bodies die, our souls do not. And I want to believe that I will be reunited with all my loved ones, kitties, puppies, rabbits, fish included, someday, somehow.

    My mom took pleasure in having her teeth brushed, her face washed, a bit of lotion put on her hands and arms and feet. Holding your mom’s hand must be calming for both of you. Could it be that she has had some small TIA strokes that are impairing her cognition and ability to speak? We didn’t realize that my mom was having little strokes for at least a year or so before she died. Now, looking back at photos, we can see physical evidence we somehow couldn’t see then.

    Hallelujah for your small drawing notebook. The pictures you create now will be very precious indeed. Hope you can continue to find beauty in this new chapter of life and in the world around you. Sometimes just a walk in the sunshine would help me through a tough day.

    Sending you big love. And again, thank you for being honest, vulnerable, genuine. Kisses for you and your precious mum.

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:15 am

      Leslie, thank you so much. It makes it so worthwhile that I’ve put my emotions out there knowing that it has helped you feel better about the struggles you went through with your mom. I’m also glad to hear that you find comfort from believing that while our bodies die, our souls do not. I want to believe I’ll be reunited with all my loved ones, including all my deceased pets too. What a beautiful thought and one that really helps me! We do the lotion on hands, legs, feet etc I read to Mum too and I give her manicures etc. My heart isn’t in my art at the moment. I really hope it comes back. I figure if I try and draw, it might lead to more and the more I draw, the better they become. Thanks for your love and kisses – sending some back to you too. Thank you Leslie xo

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee June 26, 2024 at 5:01 pm

    It is so rough, and it is understandably confusing and overwhelming and painful. I think it’s ok to grieve now. Be aware you are doing it means you might cut yourself slack. Do whatever you can to look after your mum. That is what you will remember so don’t worry it’s not what you would have liked to do for her – you are doing what you can. make her the soups, sit with her, talk to her, laugh with her (even if she isn’t doing it back). It’s your gift to her.
    Alain De Botton says listening to audiobooks (and presumably podcasts) has the same benefit as meditation. I know for me, doing it in the car on the way to the hospital to see dad meant I arrived in a good state of mind. So I believe him. Take whatever little luxuries you can to fill your cup so you can in turn fill your mum’s (and lift your sister should she need it).
    Don’t waste energy feeling bad about how you are feeling. In Ron Webbs book he tells this story where the dr says to him, ‘Say you have a broken arm and the guy in the waiting room has two broken arms and a broken leg. there will always be someone worse off than you, but you’ve got this broken arm that’s causing you pain, so it needs fixing.” You are going through a lot. You are entitled to feel whatever you feel. Look after yourself. it’s hard.

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:19 am

      Thanks Lydia. It is overwhelming, and exhausting, and confusing and frustrating and stressful and ultimately very very sad. It only recently dawned on me that I was grieving and that is the day I heard a noise that frightened me and I realised it was me. I recall similar experiences when my Dad died. It’s been years and years now of Mum declining but the last 6-7 months have been the hardest. I think Ron Webbs is smart … pain is pain. Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. xo

  • Reply Joanne Tracey June 26, 2024 at 5:08 pm

    This is such a tough emotional time for you all, you’re going through so much. Holding your Mum’s hand and caring for her in the ways you can mean so much. Take care, Min x

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:19 am

      Thanks so much Jo. xo

  • Reply Debbie Harris June 26, 2024 at 8:23 pm

    Oh Min,I admire your honesty and can feel your grief through your words. I feel for you. When we had to put dad into aged care it was the worst time and I remember thinking it was worse than when he actually died, as we were losing him bit by bit by then. I know you’re beating yourself up but you shouldn’t, it’s just so hard and I totally understand your feelings, after watching my father slowly decline. Take care and try and maybe talk to someone about your feelings, it may just help. xx

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:22 am

      Thanks Debbie. I often wonder if it is wise to put my feelings out there in the big wide web but gosh it would feel so superficial if I did my Taking Stock post pretending life was all fine and dandy and not being honest about my true feelings these days. I don’t want to have a fake and superficial blog. I want it to be real and authentic. Putting them into an aged care facility is so hard and so heartbreaking. What a shame that is the case. xo

  • Reply Joanne June 27, 2024 at 2:48 am

    Oh Min, I love that you are so open and honest on your blog. I can feel your grief and your pain and even as a granddaughter I remember feeling some of that when it was time for my grandmother to go into a nursing home. She too declined rather quickly and it was so sad to see that and yet at the same time we knew she would not have been safe at home; even with nearly round the clock care. My prayers are with you and your family as you continue to navigate this tough time.

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:24 am

      Thank you Joanne. It’s tricky being open and honest … you need to be careful to share honestly but being careful not to cross any boundaries. Thank you for the prayers and your kind comment! xo

  • Reply Christie Hawkes June 27, 2024 at 6:25 am

    Sending you a big virtual hug, Min. I have been on my own journey with my mother and mother-in-law. In fact my MIL also had a fall that resulted in a broken hip that required surgery. This was during the height of COVID and we were not able to visit her in person at all during her recovery, and she did not get any real rehabilitation. Like your Mum, she never did walk again. I’m sure this entire experience accelerated his cognitive decline, which was so painful to watch. I know that each person’s experience is unique, but sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone in your suffering or the associated guilt feelings that seem to tag along. Please be kind to yourself, and thank you for being so honest and vulnerable with us.

    • Reply Min June 27, 2024 at 9:27 am

      Hi Christie, oh that would have been terribly hard not being able to visit your M-I-L after her surgery during Covid! Isn’t it so sad what can result from a fall! The whole experience has accelerated my Mum’s cognitive decline too. It’s horrible to witness. Best wishes to you and your mother and mother in law and families. Thanks for your understanding and kind comment Christie. xo

  • Reply Sue from Women Living Well After 50 June 27, 2024 at 10:54 am

    Min, it is such a difficult path you are walking at the moment and unfortunately it comes to all of us. As you know I lost my Mum and Dad many years ago but they are still with me. We also went through the Aged Care Facility with Mike’s Mum but she had a wonderful experience and actually ‘came to life’ living there. I’m not going to tell you that it will all be okay because at the moment it isn’t and you just have to go with your feelings and thoughts. Please take care of yourself, which I know you are doing but the emotional toll is high. On a different note, Mike recently tried Magnesium Spray for night leg cramps which seems to be working. I hope you can find some comfort getting back into drawing but of course, you mind is full of ‘Mum’ at the moment. Sending a big hug and hope I can give you one in real life soon. xx

    • Reply Min June 28, 2024 at 9:29 am

      Hi Sue, yes we all face this at some time or other in various different ways. I know you lost your Mum and Dad many years ago and I’m so sorry and sad for you that you lost them not only when you were young but when they were young. I think its fabulous that your m-i-l enjoyed her time in her aged care facility. I see others that do at the place where Mum is too but they are usually of sound mind and still relatively mobile with their walkers. They can participate in activities and have some independence to make choices etc. Mum has none of that which is very sad. You’re right about the emotional toll. It’s very hard and it’s been over quite a long period of time now. I suppose when I think about it … I’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve managed a lot over the years. It’s this stage now that is unravelling me .. where a lot is now out of my control and the decline is too fast to fathom. Hopefully we’ll get that real life hug soon but meanwhile the virtual one is very much appreciated. Thank you! xo

  • Reply sherry June 28, 2024 at 4:25 pm

    It’s so so hard Min. I feel your pain. We went thru the same with hubby’s mum. It’s just awful – the guilt and the fear and all the rest of it. Sending best wishes!

    • Reply Min July 1, 2024 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks Sherry. It’s all awful. Just a matter of trying to find a way to cope with all the emotions related to it. So sorry you’ve been through it. So many have. It’s very sad. xo

  • Reply Jeanne June 29, 2024 at 10:51 pm

    “It is harder knowing people that you know read what you write than it is knowing strangers read what you write” –> So true. I’m glad I found your post and read it. My 94 year old mother passed away in May, similar story, she ended up in a wheelchair (after a fall), blind, and in a memory care ward, and needed to be fed. Not the same person at all. Aging is not perfect. Prayers for you and your family.

    • Reply Min July 1, 2024 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Jeanne, I’m so sorry to hear you lost your mother so recently and had a similar experience to what I’m having. It’s heartbreaking to see your mother decline like this isn’t it? It’s just awful. Thank you for your prayers and all my very best wishes and sincere condolences to you. xo

  • Reply Patricia Doyle July 2, 2024 at 7:20 am

    Min, I lost the woman my mother was many years before I lost my mother, due to her cognitive decline. But I grieved. and had (have?) massive guilt because I was the one who pushed for the assisted living (our term here). I really do want to give you the biggest hug and tell you 1) you are stronger than you believe and 2) if there was no love, there would be no grief. Also, I did find grief therapy helpful. Hugs across the ocean.

    • Reply Min July 2, 2024 at 9:20 am

      Hi Pat, I’m so sorry you too had to grieve your mother before she had even passed and I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. Also that you’ve suffered the guilt that I too feel. It’s true that without love there would be no grief. It’s how I’ve come to realise just how very deep the love is because the grief is intensely painful. Thank you for the hug across the ocean – I can feel it and it’s very much appreciated! xo

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