January 8, 2023

Rachel Strella

Mom’s Mental Health Update: Improvement, But No Answers and More Concerns

Mental Health

Two of my top blog posts of 2022 were related to the mental health issues my mother experienced (which came to a head last year). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the situation, you can catch up by reading the posts in the series: 

In short, my mom experienced an erratic and sudden change in behavior, which started shortly after the pandemic. She did ridiculous things, like flushing a towel down the toilet, calling 911 repeatedly (even from within the hospital), and making accusations that my father was trying to electrocute her.

It was a sad, frustrating, and infuriating experience. The fact that we couldn’t get any help for her made it even worse.

As you may know, the mental health industry has faced several challenges, including a shortage of mental health professionals, a lack of access to care for many people, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on mental health. A perfect storm of circumstances led to Mom’s deteriorating mental state. 

Since I wrote my last post on the topic in June of last year, many people have asked me, “How’s your mom doing?” So, I thought I would take a moment to update you on her health. 

How’s Mom?

Considering where we were a year ago, Mom has turned over a new leaf. She’s no longer making crazy accusations, placing unnecessary calls to 911, or destroying my parents’ home or property. However, Mom’s not entirely “cured,” either. Medication helps keep her paranoia at bay, and she’s mostly calm. But she’s not the person I knew before all this started.

Nevertheless, my Dad and I will take this outcome over what we experienced the previous two years. Mom has developed new and surprisingly positive habits. For example, she’s become a voracious reader. She reads books cover to cover in no time. This is the same person who would not peruse a magazine, let alone crack a book. 

She has been pleasant, which is new. In the past, my mother was pleasant when she got something she wanted or did something she found enjoyable. However, an agreeable disposition was never her mood on a general basis. Now, she’s friendly and nice. It’s almost startling. We will take this behavior over the alternative. 

While we are grateful for the “quiet,” we are disappointed that we still have no real answers about what triggered Mom’s mental health issues or the actual diagnosis. Although we face a better situation, it’s still a sad and puzzling one.

I still worry for Dad, a disabled veteran dealing with his own issues. A lot — if not most — of my mom’s care falls on him. Although he and I are Mom’s co-guardians, he lives with her and handles the day-to-day of things since my mother is incapable of taking care of herself. She doesn’t drive, and she’s not fully in her right mind (though we don’t know what exactly is wrong with her). I do what I can to help Dad while he helps Mom.

Issues Beyond Mental Health 

It’s evident to me that what’s happening with health care goes beyond the mental health crisis. The healthcare system struggles with staff shortages, the inability to retain physicians, and rising costs. Later this month, Lauren plans to talk about these concerns in her next Galli Gripes column. It’s an unfortunate reality, and it will only get worse if things don’t change. 

In the meantime, I will remain grateful for the peace we have currently with my mother.  I hope everyone struggling with mental and physical health issues can get the help they need as we climb deeper in 2023. 

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