Sunday, September 03, 2006

When the Caregiver Becomes Sleep-Deprived

All night Bea talks quietly to herself, despite the sleeping pill I administered at 7 pm. It is just dawn when I enter her room.

“Will you answer me, Martin?”

I hear annoyance in her voice, but nothing like the murderous rage I feel at having been awakened over and over during the course of the night. In a flash, I understand Lizzie Borden and empathize with the occasional loony on the local news driven to eliminate an elderly mother.

My presence makes Bea forget Martin. “Am I glad you’re here!” she declares. “I can’t get them to do anything.”

Whom we are talking about is not clear. She mentions some names I do not recognize but, at this point, I do not really care.

Then Bea asks, “Do you know what Barbie is up to?”

“Barbie the doll? No, I don’t know what Barbie’s been up to.”

Lisa has explained that lack of sleep causes confusion whenever Bea is unable to nap, but her talking nonsense upsets me even more than sleep deprivation.

In the afternoon, Bea helps Martin celebrate Ruth’s birthday. When I point out both friends are dead, my mother just stares up at me in disbelief.

“I’m balmy today,” she says by way of excuse, accepting a sip of water for her parched throat.

My daughters visit and find their mom a zombie. Their grandmother’s brain clears long enough to recognize them.

“Sometimes I’m stupid; sometimes, brilliant,” she tells Stephanie.

“Time for something to eat,” I say. I hear annoyance in my own voice.

Sleep deprivation is reason enough for a substitute caregiver. I ask my daughters to feed the sleepless one, awake now for at least 36 hours, and leave ...

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