Christmas Day 2015 – early afternoon
I think I’ve had 3 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday we experienced purgatory on Christmas Eve: Wal Mart.
Mom decided she wanted to get Dad a pair of sweat pants as a little Christmas gift, so after visiting him we joined the multitudes at Wally World. Too many people, too many fussy kids, too much stuff everywhere, too much traffic, too many impatient drivers in the parking lot. Purgatory. At least we survived it and headed on to lunch at Panda, a Chinese Restaurant in Grayslake, and not Panda Express.
It was our first visit to Panda, and we both had beef with snow peas. It was delicious with a light sauce and fresh vegetables. The portions were enormous, so we took half home and had a replay for dinner.
Overall, the day was fairly calm. About 5 or 6 times Mom said we needed to go to the bank to get some cash, and I kept reminding her that we got some earlier in the week. Her obsessional thoughts about having no money are deeply rooted and have a tight hold. My reminders don’t stick.
In the evening she spent time sorting through little packets of cash here and there. She counted money for about 30 minutes…over and over and over…adding up numbers on a piece of paper. She finally announced that she had enough money for a few days and then proceeded to stash bits here and there. I didn’t make any suggestions or ask any questions. Instead, I watched a PBS special about elephants in Botswana, had a small glass of Christian Brothers Egg Nog with brandy and took deep breaths.
At 10 p.m. I went up to bed and Mom stayed downstairs to watch the news. She wasn’t sleepy.
At 12:15 a.m. a volcano of delusion erupted. I was wakened by an overhead light and a sobbing mother. She was furious at Dad because he had been in the house…probably when we were at lunch at the Chinese restaurant.
I had a choice: reason with her or enter her world. I entered her world and from 12:15 a.m. until a bit after 5 a.m. I listened while she talked. I’m typing with sleep deprivation, but here are some things I recall from “the all-nighter.”
**Anger at Dad for being so selfish and not ever consulting her about money matters. There was evidence of her having spent time rummaging through drawers, as is often her habit. She could not find her money or her checkbooks. I saw her checkbooks on top of her dresser, showed them to her and she was very relieved. Then she decided that because they were not in the regular place, Dad had not been able to find them when he came by earlier. She seemed delighted that she had fooled him and laughed.
**Furious that Dad comes into the house and takes things. “He can take it all, for all I care. I’m through. We’re separated. I want to get a room somewhere and a job. To hell with him. I’ll leave my rings on until after we see him on Christmas.”
**She said we needed to take all the money out of the banks tomorrow. Here I offered a fiblet: “Well, I think in Illinois they have a law that someone can’t take all the money out of a bank account at once.” Her reply, “Well, you’re on the accounts. I’ll take half and you can take half. That will work, won’t it?” I deflected and said we could plan better after Christmas.
**She decided she would not want to move the long couch into a small apartment. Maybe neighbor Kevin would want it for his basement. When she moves she just wants the loveseat hide-a-bed, the recliner, and the two side chairs. She’ll have to think about what else to take.
**She told me about finding condoms. “Where?” I asked. “In his dresser!” she replied. “Maybe they were just old ones…like from World War II or something,” I suggested, knowing my Dad saved everything. “Oh, no,” she said. “They’re fresh ones. And we haven’t had sex in years!” I just gave her a knowing gal pal look.
**At one point I asked her if she’d maybe come down to Columbia for a visit…just to get away for a few days. She loved the idea…at least for a few minutes.
**Since it didn’t feel much like Christmas, she packed up all the decorations and I helped her carry them downstairs. She was positively giddy…laughing…almost manic.
**Once the decorations and tree were cleared away, she vacuumed and announced that she felt so free. “I feel so happy now.”
By 5 a.m. she was still wide awake and I needed sleep, so I suggested we change the TV channel to Movieplex. She parked herself in the recliner and settled in for some movie time. I went up to sleep and the next thing I knew it was 8 a.m., Mom was all dressed up for Christmas lunch with Dad and she thought I should get up because “It’s 9 and we’ll be going to see Dad soon.” She did not set her bedroom clock back one hour in the fall, and decided not to do it because in a few months it would be correct.
Then while I was getting ready I heard Mom sobbing in her room. I went in.
“My jewelry box! It’s gone!”
Sure enough, it wasn’t in its usual place on her dresser.
“Can I look in your closet?” I asked. “Sometimes when you are worried that somebody might take something, you find a place to hide it.”
“Wait a moment,” she said. “I think you’re right.” She opened a garment bag, rummaged in the bottom and pulled out her jewelry box. Then she sobbed. “Can you please stay a few more days? I just don’t know what is happening.” I assured her I could stay a few more days.
Later Mom was not pleased with Dad’s reaction to her gift of sweatpants. At first he did not want to open the gift, but I encouraged him. Once open, I’m not sure he knew what it was, but he didn’t really react and she was offended. I gave him my gift – a framed photo of the two of them. He smiled and recognized Mom. He did not recognize himself. “That’s me?!” he exclaimed when told him. “Well, how about that!”
When we sat in the community area of the Sunshine Wing, Mom was taken hostage by Wanda. She insisted that Mom sit next to her and hold her hand.
Wanda, I learned yesterday, is 100…and bossy, but she likes my mom and Mom always reaches out to her with a greeting and a hug/kiss. Wanda often screams in terror when showered and yells when someone tries to take her blood pressure. She kept giving Mom orders as to where to she could and couldn’t look around the room. Wanda looked at me and announced that I was her grandmother. I just smiled and waved.
We had lunch with Dad and he was only interested in a salad and a hamburger. Mom decided he would not want either of the other two choices, turkey or ham, so she ordered him a hamburger. She said she might order a cheeseburger, but she changed her mind and ordered the turkey dinner like I did. When her dinner arrived she said she didn’t order that, but I reminded her that she did and showed her the menu sheet she filled out.
She enjoyed the meal but was not happy with Dad because he did not touch any of his vegetables and did not seem to be happy that we were there. He was awake and chowed down a salad and a burger much faster than usual, looking perfectly content, but she was not happy. Toward the end of the meal she started to tear up as usual and decided to leave. I waited for Dad to finish and then wheeled him back to the Sunshine Wing.
Once again, before leaving she tried to lecture Dad. She was crying as she tried to explain to him how she felt. One of the staff tried to reassure her that God loved her and she could give it all up to him, but she just said she had had enough.
It’s been drama free for the rest of the day. Mom has been busy vacuuming, doing laundry, and obsessively going through things. At least we had no outbursts and I slept for a couple of hours. When I came down after my nap, she said she wanted to go lay down. It’s been quiet upstairs; I don’t hear her walking around.
Witnessing Mom’s delusional volcano last night underscored just how emotionally unstable she has become over these past nine months. I also believe she has had other similar episodes based on troubling phone calls when she spoke of Dad getting inside and taking things.
She needs to see someone and I hope she will continue to agree to the idea of changing doctors. I’ll go online and see if I can find a female internist with geriatric background …then hopefully talk Mom into scheduling a get-to-know-you visit and have her records transferred. It will be important for me to provide background information to the doctor.
A change in primary care physician is the best option now for obtaining the kind of care my mom needs. Despite her mood swings, tirades, and episodes, once she calms down she simply thinks, “I just have to take it one day at a time” and she dismisses any need for outside help.
The other option that concerns me and others is that she will have some kind of accident or fall and hurt herself and possibly others if she is driving. It is difficult to leave her alone to her own devices, but neighbor Kevin continues to check in on her and assist when needed.
During this visit I have attempted to be more of a listener. I don’t interfere with her routine or try to take things over. She trusts me…and I’m trying to gently guide her in the right direction. For some families, a medical emergency or catastrophe of some kind is the only way the confused loved one gets the treatment the family has tried to set up. I’m hoping we are not in that category…that eventually she will wear out and admit she would like some help.
Saturday, December 26, 2015 late afternoon
No drama today. No tirades, weeping episodes…just a nice visit in the Sunshine Wing. Dad ate well and Mom liked that he smiled at her. Contrary to her plans during her volcano of delusion, we did not take all the money out of the bank accounts. In fact, she didn’t even suggest that we go to the bank for cash.
Instead of leaving tomorrow morning as originally planned, I’ll do as I promised and stay another couple days. I’ll return to Missouri later this week when the weather looks favorable.
Because of Mom’s delusional episodes, I will need to make more frequent trips to Illinois. I’ve been going up about every 5 weeks, but that will need to change.
Short-term goal: have a meet and greet visit with a new primary care physician who has more understanding of aging and cognitive confusion/decline.