Tuesday, April 19, 2016 – evening
We didn’t see Dad today until the afternoon. In the morning we took Mom’s car in to have her mechanic assess why the engine light is on. Some part for emissions is needed. The same thing happened in 2014, I was told, but it did not last. They will order a better one and replace it with no charge except the difference in the cost of the part.
Fair enough. Confusing for Mom. She keeps thinking she has to get a check book to pay for the car repair that will take place “tomorrow.” Three times today I explained what’s happening. Also told her we can use the household checking to pay for this. She relaxed…then worried about it all over again a couple hours later.
The highlight of the day was lasagna lunch at Judy’s, Raymond’s daughter. Raymond used to be Dad’s roommate, but he eventually qualified for Medicaid and was moved to a different wing.
Also attending lunch were Judy’s mother and Judy’s aunt, a retired nun. Both ladies have apartments in the independent living section of Victory Lakes. We sat down to visit a bit before lunch and bingo…it was clear they were on a sort of campaign to help Mom see how much easier things could be if she had an apartment at Victory Lakes.
“Do you live independently?” they asked.
“Yes,” Mom said. “And I drive, too. I like my place.”
“Isn’t it getting too much to care for?”
“No. It’s small.”
“Are there stairs?”
“Yep. Upstairs and downstairs. I go up and down at least 5 times a day,” Mom said.
“Yes she does,” I added. “That’s probably why she is so healthy. She loves to clean, too.”
Mom made it clear she is happy where she is, does not want to move, and is managing just fine.
So Judy took another tactic, explaining that before deciding on Victory Lakes, they looked at other places…but Victory Lakes was only a 20 minute drive. “How long does it take you to drive up?” she asked me.
“Eight and a half hours,” I said.
Mom didn’t get the point, but it was kind of these ladies to make an effort to talk about how convenient it is to live at Victory Lakes in the independent living apartments.
Lunch was delicious and we told stories about growing up…teaching…buying cars…families. We had a wonderful time and Mom kept saying how nice they were…so genuine and down to earth. Mom does not currently have that kind of socialization…and it is so important. She loved it.
I loved it, too, and I loved the ladies’ effort to steer Mom to the idea of living at Victory Lakes. During a tour of her home, Judy showed me a guest room with a day bed in it…in case things change for my Mom and the house is sold…I am welcome to stay with her when I visit. Very thoughtful. Very generous. How wonderful to have a new friend in this area and such support from her family.
I’m in Love with a Chipmunk
For years, a chipmunk has scurried around my folks’ little patio outside from time to time. We only see one and I’m sure it’s not the same one. I’m talking decades. We have no chipmunks where I live, just squirrels. This little guy/gal was so adorable! He/she found the scattering of bird seed I put out on the patio and binged with vigor. I managed to get a photo. Wish it could have been more of a close up.
Also took some starts from Mom’s patch of garden next to the patio. Plan to take them back to Missouri and plant them in the garden areas of my little rental home. Not sure when I’ll be able to go back.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 – evening
This was a busy but productive day that began with Mom’s annual exam with Dr. Gupta. Dr. Gupta was very thorough in reviewing the report on Mom’s blood work. Test results looked just fine, although she should be drinking more water.
Then the doctor moved on to a more extended look at Mom’s memory and balance functioning. She gave Mom two words to remember and asked Mom to pick a third…so a total of three words to remember: pen mouse house. Then she asked Mom to draw a clock that read 3:30. It took Mom a while to remind herself of where three is on the dial…and where the minute hand should go. I thought she did a pretty good job, but the doctor said it didn’t clearly look like 3:30. It looked more like 6:15. She asked Mom to do it again and to make the hour hand and minute hand different sizes. Mom did a better job.
Dr. Gupta had Mom stand with her eyes closed and her hands up. The doctor was there to catch her if she lost her balance and told her she would be safe. Mom did ok…waivered a bit. The doctor asked her how it felt and told her she waivered some.
Then Mom was asked to leave the room and walk down the hallway. The doctor followed. I suppose Dr. Gupta was checking her gait. When they returned, Mom was asked to remove her shoes and knee hi stockings. Dr. Gupta took an object that had a tiny, flexible plastic thingy at the end of it. She ran it up and down Mom’s leg and ankle area touching her skin here and there, and asked if she could feel it. Mom said, “No.” Dr. Gupta continued asking where Mom could or could not feel it. Mom occasionally felt it. Then Mom was told to close her eyes and if at any point she felt the object touching her skin, she was to say “Yes.” She didn’t say yes. Dr. Gupta touched Mom’s foot area. Mom said nothing. Then Dr. Gupta asked her…”Are you feeling anything at all?” Then Mom haltingly said yes, she felt a little.
Then came “the talk.” Essentially, Dr. Gupta said she wanted further testing for memory and Mom immediately shook her head no and clammed up. Even though Mom claimed that nothing was wrong with her brain, I admire the firm and consistent manner with which Dr. Gupta stayed with Mom…telling her that if she was Mom’s daughter, she would want to make sure everything was okay…it’s routine testing and some of it is quite interesting and even fun.
At one point Mom reached for her jacket and I thought she was going to bolt, but she sat and continued to listen to Dr. Gupta’s reasoning for more testing. Mom finally said, “I’ll think about it.” We were given the name and phone number of the Thomson Memory Center where neuropsychologists conduct a variety of testing on people of all ages with various conditions.
When we left, Mom was quiet. I was, too. We didn’t discuss the visit. I didn’t say anything about needing to make an appointment. We headed off to see Dad.
Dad was in the dining room having lunch when we arrived. He had picked at meat loaf and mashed potatoes. When Mom sat down to keep him company, she managed to get him to eat a few more bites and then he had some cherry cobbler.
When we took him back to the community room in his wing, we settled in to just visit. Dad quickly fell asleep. I waved at Wanda and she waved back. That was nice. She has been rather sullen and quiet for a few days. I walked over to her and asked if I could sit down. She smiled and we proceed to visit and chat like a couple of sorority girls. I wasn’t too clear of the topics most of the time or exactly what she was saying or asking, but I gave it my best. I answered questions, gave opinions, and laughed when she laughed. She was really in her element and we both had fun. “You’re my partner!!” she said with a big smile. “You betcha, Wanda.”
While visiting with Wanda I looked up to see both Mom and Dad napping a bit. I think the doctor’s visit wore Mom out a bit.
Chat with the Administrator
At 2:30 today, we were scheduled to meet with Jeanne, the new administrator at Victory Lakes. She had come to know my Mom and thought it would be good for the three of us to have a chat since I was in the area. I welcomed this opportunity with open arms.
We met for about 45 minutes and at first chatted a bit about Dad being here. Then I steered the conversation to how the past year has been difficult for Mom. Jeanne took over and we had what in essence was a meaningful family counseling session.
Jeanne probed a bit and helped Mom identify three options she would consider for the future in the event that she was no longer able to live alone: having help at home, living in the Victory Lakes community close to Dad, and moving both herself and Dad to Missouri to be closer to me. When asked which she would prefer, Mom said she would prefer to stay at home and take care of Dad herself. She tried making the case that she can still take care of Dad by herself, but Jeanne countered with points of reality. Mom dug in her heels, and her feelings were gently validated by Jeanne.
Mom was able to hear me say that my goal is to have both her and Dad safe and to keep them together. I also talked about how difficult it was to be 400 miles away and expect emergency phone calls at any time. Then I took the opportunity to stress that I wanted to follow Dr. Gupta’s recommendation and go ahead with the referral visit…that it would give me peace of mind. Mom agreed. “I don’t want to, but if you want me to I will.” She tried bargaining for three more months “to see how things go,” but I stressed the need to follow the doctor’s orders and make the appointment.
It was a meaningful and helpful visit guided by a very knowledgeable and dedicated professional. Mom and I both cried at time, and I’m very grateful for the guidance, understanding, insight, and kindness given.
After our visit with the administrator, we said goodbye to Dad and went home. As I drove I was trying to imagine what was going through Mom’s mind what with the doctor visit…referral for more tests…meeting with the Jeanne. I was imagining the worse…something like, “I don’t care what any of those people say; I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m fine.”
Instead, she sat back and calmly said, “Well, this was a nice day. We got a lot done.” Yup.
Most likely, in a little while she will not remember the additional testing she agreed to do, but I’ll just refer to it as “finishing the annual exam that Dr. Gupta wanted us to do.” Tomorrow morning I’ll make the appointment. With luck, it won’t take forever to get the appointment. With luck, Mom will grudgingly go and complete whatever tests are given.