Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Who is taking care of the caregiver? 5.7.2012


When my Dad was ill with Alzheimer’s, I subscribed to two forums/support groups.  I suppose I am not good at letting go because I have not left the groups despite the fact that my dad lost his fight against AD on the 20th of May 2011.  On the other hand Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness and there is a lot of synergy between my Dad and Vicky’s journeys.  I don’t think I would have gotten through my Dad’s journey if it had not been for the Caring.com group.  http://www.caring.com/home-care.  The practical advice of caring for an AD patient was of immeasurable help.  The members support helped us as a family in understanding the destruction of Alzheimer’s and recognizing the stages of the disease.

So when I received the latest post: “Who is Taking Care of the Caregiver While the Caregiver is Taking Care?” written By Carol Blackwell Alzheimer’s Reading Room, I was delighted.  I am in such a depression and totally at a lost as how to get out of it. http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/05/whos-taking-care-of-caregiver-while.html

I just knew there would be solid, practical advice in the article.

Carol Blackwell’s opening question is: “Are you taking care of yourself? You can’t be there for them if you aren’t there for ‘you.’ Your mood and stress affects their mood. It surely isn’t easy and life is sometimes stressful and difficult. Here are some things that helped me—you can decide if they will work for you.”

Exercise

Carol Blackwell wrote “I know you may be thinking you have no time to exercise because you are so busy taking care of your loved one and too tired at the end of the day. I say, that is exactly why we need to exercise.”

Right on Carol.  I don’t have time.  My days are very long and I don’t get a lot of off-time.  Last year Danie and I went for a walk every night.  Sometimes the boys joined us.  It was great and I miss it.  But I have decided that I will start exercising today!

Volunteer for service to others.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  “I imagine you are now thinking I am really weird. How can we find time to work for others when we are struggling ourselves? For me, initially, I found it was easy to sit in the house and feel sorry for us. We didn’t sign up for this disease invading our lives, we had just had gotten to the point where we could be free from work constraints, etc. Etc. Unfortunately, sitting in the house feeling sorry for us didn’t help much. It wasn’t fun and served no purpose except to make me crabby and Bob depressed. No one wants to be around crabby people.”

Carol you are weird.  I don’t have time to sit and do anything.  I have a career, a household to run, two grandsons to fetch and carry, Vic to take care of…  For many years I was very involved in working with the less fortunate.  I however believe that in the Chinese Proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Done and dusted.  One day I would love to do some community work again but for the time being I have to concentrate on my family and their survival.  Selfish – maybe…  For now that is the way it has to be.

Do things you enjoy—you deserve it. 
Carol Blackburn wrote:  “What do you find fun and what gives you pleasure? It is different for all of us. I enjoy Wii games—I love the Wii Fitness Plus activities. They are fun. “

Tick.  I love my Children and grandchildren.  I love the patter of little children’s feet in the passages of our home, the sound of children’s laughter, and their little arms around my neck.  I desperately miss my UK grandchildren.  I am permanently miserable when I think of them.  I miss them with every fiber of my body.  Sometimes I am so weepy that I cannot even Skype with them.

I am so happy that Lanie and Tom have moved to Johannesburg.  Now we see them and the girls on a regular basis.  We spend a lot of quality time together.

Yuri, our youngest grandson asks his Mom whether he can’t come visit his Oumie every day before school…

Liza (the youngest daughter) and her husband have finished sailing around the world.  I look forward to flying down to Cape Town to visit with them.  As soon as Vic is able to cope without me we will fly off…

Vic finds the noise a little distressing.  But the little ones know Aunty Vic is ill and are so good!

Carol is right.   I enjoy having the grandchildren around and I deserve to have my grandchildren around me.  Grandchildren are the joy of my life!  And I love playing Cityville on Facebook.

Consider meditation/yoga.
Carol wrote:  “Research has found that taking time to meditate and to engage in yoga is beneficial in reducing stress.”

Maybe one day when I have time… and the energy.

Don’t be a martyr.
Carol wrote:  “Martyrs may be noble, but they really aren’t much fun. You can’t do it all and you shouldn’t have to. Find help if you need it.  Are you in a support group? Check the Alzheimer’s Association link to fine one near you. Join it—it will help to find others who are going through what you are. “

“Is there someone who can come in for a few hours and let you take a break? Someone from church?  A friend? There are people who would love to help us, but we don’t ask. Ask. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones!”

My dearest friend, Gillian, wrote:”I would like to half your work and cares.  Put you in a bed for sleep therapy.  But I know you won’t trust a soul with your family”.  Few people know me as well as Gillian does.  I cannot leave Vic.  There is that beautiful John Lennon song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.  Vic ain’t heavy she is my baby.

I am trying to get Hospice involved.  Danie does help a lot and so do the boys.  Esther bathed Vic on Tuesday whilst I was at a meeting.  The church and I deserted one another some time back.  I don’t have many friends.

People have their own lives.  We live in a world where we don’t have time for other people’s problems.

Only a mother who has watched her child suffer will understand the despair of another mother.  Will understand how difficult it is to face every day, the depth of despair when you cradle your vomiting child in your arms….to say “Just one more hour baby” when she begs you for pain medication…

Smile or laugh each day.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  

We do.  Today I watched Rango with the boys.  It was so funny.

Cut yourself some slack.
The wise Carol Blackwell wrote:  “Everyone has ‘blue’ days. It’s OK to have a ‘pity party’ once in a while. It just doesn’t help to let those days happen too frequently. Also, don’t beat yourself up. We can’t always be calm, patient, understanding and saint-like. We are all just doing the best we can. Wallowing in guilt for occasional impatience won’t help either.”

This week I am truly wallowing in self-pity.  I have been guilty of impatience, I have lacked understanding.  I am petrified that Vic’s pain and suffering will continue for many more years.  It is strange that Vic is having a better week than she has had in three months.  As Esther said, her eyes are bright and she has mobilised pretty well.  She is less tired… What if this vicious cycle of pain and suffering continues?

Don’t lose hope.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  “There IS a cure for this awful disease. Out there—somewhere, someone is working on it. We just don’t know it yet. It will come. Keep the faith, baby!”

Just as there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this stage there is no cure for Osteogenesis Imperfecta.  But there may just be a cure for the adhesions that I believe will ultimately cause a fatal obstruction.  Today I found a website where a doctor who claims great success with the treatment of frozen abdomens.  On the surface it seems very positive.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/5/prweb9432209.htm

Anyone who has ever wrestled with God can understand the bargaining prayer. I have bargained with God all of Vic’s life.  If there is a cure I will do this or that…. For MANY years I have put the Church and God ahead of Vic and my family and yet all my love and commitment has resulted in further pain and suffering.  I know this paragraph will result in many emails or comments but I ask of you “Do not judge me if you have not walked ten miles in my moccasins!”

So for today and maybe the rest of the week I will hold onto my new hope.  “Hope removes the blinders of fear and despair. Hope opens up our minds and allows us to think positive under dire circumstances.”  Until I receive a reply to my enquiries…

To all my friends, cyber friends and family thank you for your support and love!  Yesterday I considered stopping the blog as it has opened up fears that I have suppressed for so many years. I however think it is something I must do – for myself.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

“I’m tired of living but I do not deserve to die. I am motivated by nothing yet I move on… “


“I’m tired of living but I do not deserve to die.  I am motivated by nothing yet I move on.  I have nothing but I have everything.  I just don’t want to understand.

Muriel posted this message on Vic’s Facebook page.  Today it echo’s my feelings.  I am so tired of living.  I am so tired of this miserable existence that we call life.  Surely, there must be more to life than breathing!

Today was a day out of hell.  I had to leave home early this morning as we were testing some systems that are critical to a contract that we are negotiating.  I got up with great difficulty, showered, and made Kreemy Meal for my family.  Both Jared and Vic need soft foods.  I left on time with strict instructions for Danie as to where and when to collect Vic’s morphine syrup from the Pain Clinic.

Within 5 minutes, I was stuck in terrible traffic.  Five lanes reduced to two…

Once we reached the test site, the subsystem manufacturers arrived 2.5 hours late!!  I phoned Vic to check on her only to be told that she had gotten ill all over herself!  She had to bath and I was not home to help her!  I told her to take anti-nausea tablets, lie down for 15 minutes, and take morphine tablets again.  Once she felt better, she would have to ask Primrose, the helper, to help her bathe.  I could not leave the test site.

Danie phoned to tell me – “No Morphine Syrup – come back next week”.  Some good news was that Esther came to visit and helped Vic bath.  That girl is an absolute saint!  Esther also took Jon-Daniel to the movies.  I am so grateful that he could get out of the house of gloom and illness.

Then the system failed…  The shipment would be delayed by at least another 5 weeks!

Another traffic jam to my next meeting…

An hour and a half later, I left the meeting for home and was stuck in the 17:00 peak hour traffic!  A 20-minute trip became a 1.5-hour trip!  Arghhhhhh

At home, I quickly prepared dinner. Vic has to have dinner by 18:30 as she must take her medication at 19:00.  In my haste I forgot poor Jared is only allowed pureed food so I started cooking (a second meal) some gem squash, potatoes, and carrots for him.  I put it through the strainer and rushed off to his room with a tray and his pureed food.  I do not know what I did but the next thing pureed vegetables and broken Noritake was all over the floor!  I just burst into tears.

I cannot believe that something that I would normally laugh off as an accident set me off.  Poor Jared had to eat soup for dinner.  He is so tired of soup!

Well today, I am fed-up with life.  I am tired to the core of my soul.  I do not want to hear that I am doing a great job or that I am strong.  I do not want to hear anything!  All I want is ONE carefree day in my life!! One day with absolutely NO responsibilities.

Oh dear God, the boys offered to do their Mom’s tablets tonight so I can have a full night’s sleep…What am I doing with my pity party?  I have Vic in tears because she is feeling guilty because of the stress her illness has caused me, the boys feel guilty because I am tired and Danie wants to take me away for a weekend so I can rest and relax…How can I ever relax whilst my child is so ill.  I do know I cannot afford to cry.  It distresses everyone around me.

I need a stronger anti-depressant.

I am going to bed.  I am going to feel sorry for myself in the privacy of my room where I cannot cause more stress in my family’s lives.  Life is already so hard for them.  Tomorrow is another day and we will face whatever life throws at us!

“I’m tired of living but I do not deserve to die.  I am motivated by nothing yet I move on.  I have nothing but I have everything.  I just don’t want to understand.

A lifetime ago…
Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

A Mother’s Love for her Sons


I have been researching the effect of a mother’s illness on her children.  The boys are two beautiful, well-adjusted, honest and compassionate young men.  Vic’s illness has certainly deprived them of a childhood in the true sense of the word and prematurely matured them into compassionate, caring, young men far too early in life.  At the tender age of thirteen Jared was cooking for the family…  This must certainly have an effect on how the boys perceive relationships with people.

Now according to my research the boys have become what is called ‘parentified’ children. These children solve the problem of sick and inadequate parenting by taking care of their parents. They in effect become parents to their parents, giving to the sick parent what they need from the parent. Now the roles are reversed. This seemingly creative solution is unfortunately too self-sacrificing to be healthy in the long run.

“‘Parentified’ sons who take care of their sick mothers in order to cope with their inability to parent, struggle to suppress obvious needs for love and feelings of loss. They learn to work hard taking care of the needs of others and living off of the scraps that come in the form of reinforcements for their competence and reliability. Their needs for love are overlooked and overshadowed by everyone else’s needs.”  The boys, especially Jared, falls into this category 100%.  When his little girlfriend was hit in the eye by a hockey ball, he immediately went into caregiving mode,  At the time I thought it to be extremely unhealthy that he already has this caregiving character trait.  He used to always make the tea and offer to do so much around the house and for his Mom.

I have put a stop to this.  I pray it is not too late for the boys to adjust to a “normal” household…

It is however important for them to realize that death is a part of the circle of life and that it is not something dark and something to be feared but rather, if happening in a timely fashion, something that one can embrace. The boys appreciate and respect Vic as their mother.   Vic has raised her sons to be respectful.

“The power of a mother’s strength comes from her heart, from her unabashed, unconditional, and unwavering love for her child. There is, as J.K. Rowling wrote in her Harry Potter books, a magic in that love. No matter what happens, a mother is always there for her child. A mother’s love is never to be questioned, and – though she may not know it at first – neither is her strength.”

Vic literally rose from her deathbed to be there for Jared with his operation on Wednesday.  When my Mom died I related her final moments to someone jumping from a diving board into a deep pool, reaching the bottom and kicking to rise to the surface of the water for one more breath… only to sink again.  This is what Vic does.

Before Jared was wheeled into theatre he whispered into his mom’s ear.  She took his hand and said “I promise”.

Vic, drip in hand, walking with Jared to theater!

The surgeon said the operation would last two hours.  Vic dutifully went back to bed and rested.  One hour and forty-five minutes later she was, IV drip in hand, standing outside the theatre door, waiting for her son.  I begged her to at least sit on the chair but she refused.  “Mommy, I promised Jared my face would be the first thing he sees when he comes out of theatre!”

It took a superhuman effort but Vic’s love for her son drove her to keep her word.  It is true that no mother wants her child to suffer in any way, but life is unfair like that. So, we as mother’s do what we can to provide support, comfort, and protection. And we grow strong enough to bear their hurt as well as our own.  As Vic did.  As I do. Motherhood cuts deeply, brings you to your knees most days; but it also brings a strength that may surprise you.

The vicious cycle of anger truly rose to the occasions on Wednesday.  I got angry with Vic because she was not putting her health first!  I KNOW I would have done the same but it was terrible seeing my child do herself harm to be a Mother.  I want to wrap her in cotton so she would be spared that extra day…

Yesterday Vic said she doubted whether she would see the end of the year.  She is however adamant to be at Jared’s confirmation…one more goal…

Go Girl!!!

Well, Vic is home.  I am so grateful.  She is conceding that she is too sore and ill to go to hospital…Saturday Jared comes home!!

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

“I’m going to dance my way to heaven…” 14.6.2012


“I am going to dance my way to heaven because I have already been through Hell” – is the copyrighted saying of a brave lady who is terminally ill.  I cannot find her blog nor a reference in Google that this is the case, but I would like to credit her with this.  It was posted in Vic’s facebook by a family member.  If I created the impression that it is my clever line I apologise!  The credit goes to  Martha Mayhew-Merson – Meriale46@aol.com

This afternoon Vic and I were chatting and then she said: “Mommy, why does God hate me?  Why does He let me suffer like this?  Why doesn’t He allow me to die?”

I could not come up with a reply.  I don’t have an answer to this question that not only haunts Vic but so many other people.  Today Rob Cramp, Tracey, (both very dear friends to Vic) as well as Hermien, the pharmacist, asked me exactly the same question.

“I’m going to dance my way to heaven, because I’ve already been through Hell.. Vicky Bruce you are one of God’s special angels.”  My young niece, Muriel, posted this apt message on Vic’s Facebook Page.  Sometimes I think the Catholics are right about purgatory.  Only this must be the purgatory stage of our existence.  This existence of ours can only be Hell…

I omitted to say in yesterday’s post, that with a few exceptions, euthanasia and assisted suicide are very cowardly actions – the ill person getting their caregiver to do the dirty deed.  It is such a selfish action.  If the sick person can swallow their own tablets they can take their own lives.  This is my opinion.

Life is hard but death is even harder.

Tonight I am feeling mentally and physically exhausted.  Depressed actually.

Tomorrow I will feel better.    Tomorrow my brave child will continue her relentless battle against pain and indignity.

God have mercy…

Vic and the boys in better days – 23.8.2011