Monday, December 11, 2006

In the beginning-Guardianship

The journey to guardianship of mom started through speaking with her doctor privately. I needed a partner in dealing with things that overwhelmed to me. Together, we planned our best effort to manage mom's mental illness, diabetes, parkinson's, osteoperosis, and high blood pressure. The only problem was a hostile patient.

We had to do it this way because mom refused to take her meds. Mom refused her meds because she didn't believe she had any of the above diseases. In her mind, someone had "hit" her instead. (Remember a "hit" is an imaginary negative thing caused by someone else that creates a real feeling, illness, or problem for mom. Refer to the post What's living with a Schizophrenic like?)

The doctor warned her in numerous appointments that she was near a coma from high blood sugar. He told me that if we didn't get it under control, she'd be dead shortly. We called the short term mental facility. The only way in was through the E.R. associated with that hospital. Her doctor wrote the referral.

We showed up for the next appointment. He did a standard physical while the police were called. (The only way in to the E.R. to execute the referral.) We tried to get her to take the diabetes meds. No way! I stepped out of the room. We didn't want her to know I had anything to do with the police because she needed to keep relationship with me. I stood in another exam room and cried.

I had to sign the intake paperwork with the doctor. Timing was tough. It had to be within a certain time frame or the facility wouldn't allow it. I arrived and watched my mother being led into the hospital in handcuffs. It was horrible. I sat in my car and cried. I couldn't stop it because she desperately needed the help. But handcuffs? Give me a break. This happened several more times over the next couple of years. I never got used to it. That's just the way it works.

Why did it have to repeat so many times? As soon as mom would agree to take her meds, the facility would let her go. As soon as they'd let her go, she'd go off her meds. Lovely little merry-go-round.

Finally, she called the police herself because of imaginary little men sat outside her window drinking. She hid in her closet until the police arrived. They took her to the E.R., called me, and we agreed on an observation period. Observation periods are crucial, by the way. Without those three day observations, it is incredibly difficult to get someone the psychiatric help they need. The family is often asked if they would like to take their loved one home-DO NOT DO IT! By taking your loved one home, you accept full responsibility for them and the state can wash their hands of the need to commit that individual.

The apartment complex had numerous incidents of her episodes on file. The County Attorney joined the police and doctor's effort to help me better care for her needs. But a public defender also was assigned to protect mom's rights. Seriously huge sigh.

The County Attorney's office and I spent too many days in court to count fighting the public defender. Everyone could see mom could not care for herself, could not make financial decisions, would not take her meds, and continued in a fast downward spiral. The judge kept letting her go. Those "too many days" were spread out over calendar years.

I managed to get the public defender to sit down and talk with me privately. She understood the desperate condition of my mother's health, her inability to care for herself, and lack of recognition of reality. I showed her the doctor's statements, all the proof from the apartment complex, as well as my own, and the past records I managed to fanagle from Denver.

After the first major forced stay at the state mental hospital (by the short term facility) things started to turn around. She went back to her apartment, but immediately quit her meds. She spiraled faster. She became malnourished. She refused meals on wheels because she thought the food was poisoned. She wandered lost in downtown without proper winter clothes. The police picked her up. Here we go 'round the mulberry bush...

The public defender had a really fine line to walk. She could see the need, but needed to defend mom's freedom. In the end, she chose to remain silent and allow mom to do all the talking on the witness stand. Then when the time came for her to make a statement, she allowed my mother's to stand. The judge ruled that my mother was not capable of making decisions on her own and needed the protection of a guardian. Her files must have been boxes full at the police department. I know I have a huge box full. After three years, countless short term facility stays, and I think two major state hospital stays-I was awarded guardianship. Because she fought the meds, the judge allowed a "full" guardianship to protect mom from harming herself by avoiding necessary treatment. Thank you God! She had to go back to the state hospital to get her back on track.

We closed her apartment after the state hospital also determined she wouldn't be able to care for herself. I found a nursing home that allowed her kitty. Several months later she was released from the state hospital to the nursing home. It has been a huge blessing. She's in my town (instead of an hour and a half away at the state hospital.) We pick her up for holidays and take her out to lunch or dinner every now and again. But, I have the blessing of 24/7 help monitoring her meds and condition.

That was just the beginning...Where are you in your journey to help a loved one?

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