When Alzheimer’s Hits Close to a Nurse

Story---Nurse-with-Patients-No-BG-484x252-PNGMy mother in law insists she is a great driver. She tells me how well she drives in the snow and about how even eight inches is nothing to her prowess in the lake effect blizzards that plague our area.

I am a nurse. My mother in law, Carolyn, suffers from moderate Alzheimer’s.

At first, I tried all the tricks they teach you in nursing school: I tried to redirect her. I tried to reason with her. I tried to give her things to do that didn’t require much thought.

For me, safety always comes first. I want to protect her to the very limits of my abilities.

She insists on shoveling snow. She insists on driving, and my husband doesn’t see a problem with it.

I can hear you now. I know that it isn’t safe for her or for the other people on the road, but my husband and doctors so far feel that her judgement is not impaired – only her memory.

When she goes out to shovel snow – after I repeatedly tell her not to – I feel so enraged that she does not listen to me. I feel helpless and impotent, like I can’t save her from the broken hip or the heart attack that I know will come from these actions.

Again, my husband is not on board with my need to protect her. He thinks it is a rote task, and a rote task is something she can do to help out, something that she doesn’t need her memory for.

There is also the thought that she has the right to die in any way that she chooses to. If she chooses to die shoveling snow, then she died doing something that made her happy.

I am in constant conflict with my husband, my mother in law, and myself. The nurse in me wants to wrap her up in a bubble and protect her.

My husband is far too permissive, and I honestly think he is afraid to curtail her independence. Her driving is from my house to her house, a route she has taken many times.

To him, it is just another rote task, but to me, the nurse in me, I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. As a nurse, the safety first rule always comes up.

What makes it worse is that I can have conversations with her, and I get very frustrated. In the morning, I still hold my frustration, but she, of course, doesn’t remember anything of it.

This situation is untenable at times, and my nursing training doesn’t make it easier. If I could walk away at the end of the day, then I could afford myself the time to regroup.

Maybe I could care a little less and not feel the turmoil. I know my husband is wrong. I know my mother in law is wrong.

I know I am going to have to be the bitch, get the doctor involved, and have her license revoked by the state. I am a nurse, and despite my love for both of these people, I have a responsibility to the safety of all involved.

I just wish someone else agreed with me.


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