My mother Ginny lives in a rented two bedroom condominium near Clearwater, Florida. She moved there in 2000 from the Cleveland area so she could be closer to my sister Hailey. At that point, my father had passed away 22 years ago and Ginny had never re-married. After falling on ice outside her home in 1997 and breaking her ankle, mom’s mind wandered towards Florida. She officially retired from her work in retail and packed up her life to move south.
She chose a place quite close to Hailey’s home in Largo. I was still living in Chicago.
For many years, Ginny kept active socially. She discovered an art group which held activities to support the local museum. She also volunteered at a consignment shop every week sorting through clothes and creating displays for resale.
And of course, she saw Hailey. But a little too often for Hailey’s liking. There were times when she would come by Hailey’s house unannounced, expecting her to drop everything if she needed something. She didn’t respect Hailey’s space.
My sister was not prepared for this newest evolution of their relationship. There was not a strong enough bond formed in those earlier years when our mother did not really spend time with us that way.
In 2004, my sister and her family had the opportunity to build a new home north of Clearwater and they took it. She would now be an hour away from Ginny. My mother needed to adjust to this move. She wasn’t particularly happy but she found a way to accept it. As she walked through Hailey’s home under construction, she would say “this could be my room” or “the bathroom over here will need safety bars in the tub area.” She constructed her own fantasy that she would be joining them one day.
In 2015, we made the decision to leave Chicago and join our family in Florida. Dennis’s family also lives close to Clearwater. He was retired and I was agreeable to leaving my job and being in much closer proximity to my own family. Leaving the polar vortex was another plus.
We selected a new development on the east side of the state. It was less expensive, was 15 minutes away from the Atlantic and was only a two and a half hour drive to reach family. This was a huge improvement over the two and a half hour flight from Chicago. I won’t lie, I also needed buffer space from Ginny.
A Little Health Background
In 2016, at age 86, Ginny’s health was relatively good. She did have significant bone deterioration from osteoporosis and had recently begun treatments with the drug Prolia. It is administered by shot every six months. We had to investigate this option though. The doctor’s original recommendation was Fosamax. When Hailey asked the pharmacist the cost for one month, she froze. It was $1200.00 per month and Medicare didn’t cover it. We had to return to them and advocate for a treatment covered by Medicare. That is when they suggested Prolia.
Ginny had a pacemaker implanted several years ago after diagnosing low blood pressure and her hearing is not good at all. Unfortunately, she often forgets to put in her hearing aids.
This is an example of the start of a typical phone call:
Me: “Hi, mom. Do you have your hearing aids in?”
Mom: “I can’t hear you. What?”
Me: “DO YOU HAVE YOUR HEARING AIDS IN?”
Mom: “Hold on. I can’t hear a word you’re saying. Let me go put my hearing aids in.”
She has also struggled with sleep. It’s been an issue for almost her entire life. She has been prescribed Seconal, Doxepin, Lunesta and Temazapam to name a few. They never seem to work.
“I got 2 hours last night” and “I was up all night again last night” are phrases we have heard our entire lives. I have always wondered why she fights sleep so hard. I also wonder if she gets more sleep than she realizes.
And lastly, there is her vertigo. Vertigo is an inner ear condition that makes her dizzy and sometimes nauseous. She’ll feel normal one minute, and then suddenly, she is grabbing the edge of a table for balance. The dizziness can be constant or erratic. It can disappear for months and suddenly return. She first suffered a bout of the illness in 2014. It affected her confidence to drive and even shower. The risk was too high for a fall.
A vertigo professional (referred by her doctor) once came to her house. The results were astonishing. He had mom lie down on her bed, and gently held her head, maneuvering it side-to-side and when she sat up, it was gone. It was a miracle. Actually, it had to do with “crystals” that get out of alignment in the inner ear and the movements help steer the crystals back to their resting area.
It creates unwelcome ripple effects too. The dizziness removes your desire to eat because of potential nausea, and that in turn makes you weak and confused. I went into high alarm mode when she called one morning and wondered why Hailey had left “early” without saying goodbye. (She had not been there.) She hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before and I was sure she was hallucinating. She was rambling and I didn’t want her to leave her bed to even make some toast for fear of falling.
I called Hailey and she drove down to feed her and bring in some food. I had been ready to call 911.
I have noticed that Ginny has developed defenses against potential dizziness. She will deny this, but she always holds onto a chair now, or has a hand on the wall or countertop when she is standing. In truth, we all fear its return. Her latest attack lasted almost three months.