October 9, 2017 – afternoon
Mom’s been living at her memory care community for a little over six months. I visit her every day unless I’m out of town (rarely) or dealing with something like the upper respiratory virus I’ve just finished limping through.
It’s been six months of ups and downs, but I must say, I see mostly the ups. I hear tales of her moods and behaviors that take place in the afternoon and in the middle of the night. It can get quite dramatic at times, and I am ever so appreciative of the staff at The Arbors at Mill Creek Village.
What follows are various situations I’ve watched or heard about involving “Miss Pearl” and her friends.
Up at night Saying Her Goodbyes
When I visited Mom yesterday I was told she was up all night saying her goodbyes. She was telling staff she was leaving and wouldn’t be back. I walked into her room and she was smiling and calm. There was, however, a pillowcase “packed” with necessities. I was part of her preparation for leaving and she has done this before.
“Hi Mom. I brought some pumpkin bread with oatmeal and walnuts. Want to have a cup of coffee and have a slice?”
While we had our snack she told me how she was glad she was finally retired.
“I just woke up and was told I don’t have to do anything anymore. I can take it easy.”
“Well, yes…there’s not much we have to do now that we are retired. And here in your community, they take care of just about everything.”
“I know…and it’s wonderful,” she said. I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning feeling so happy. I was told I can just be free. You know, I think it was good to make the change.”
“The change to move here?” I asked.
“Yes. People are nice in general.”
“And you’ve made some nice friends…Eunice, Irene, Joyce, Mary Kaye, Shonna and others.”
I think she only recognized a couple of the names, but then announced that the pumpkin bread was “really delicious.”
A bit later she asked if we could go to the bank. I reminded her that we counted her money a week ago and that it was in her wallet the last time we counted it.
“I know, but it’s not there now. I think they come in and take it. You don’t know how embarrassing it is to go out and then when we stop at a store I don’t have any money.”
Ah….the continuous money dilemma. “Well, how about we go into your room and look around. Maybe you put it somewhere else where you thought it would be safe.”
Once again, we looked in every drawer to find all her purses and anything that looked like it would hold money. As I went through her purses I laid them on her bed. In one I found a black wallet, opened it, and there was her money.
“Oh, good. We don’t have to go to the bank,” she said. “I must have put it there to keep it safe.”
Then I seized the moment to ask if she thought she needed five purses.
“No…I don’t think so. Do you?”
“Well, if there’s one you don’t really need, I can donate it. Five is a lot.”
She pointed to a black shoulder bag. “I never really liked that one anyway. I thought maybe you could use it.”
“I have plenty, but I’m sure a nice lady will enjoy having this one. It’s so soft!”
Yea! One purse out of the way…and I’ll confess here that when she wasn’t looking I took a pair of her shoes and stuffed them into the purse. Black pumps with a little heel. She doesn’t do well in Sketchers…let alone any kind of heel…so I took them while the taking was good…figuring one falling hazard was now out of the way.
I picked up the packed pillowcase and saw that she had her favorite statuette in there. “Oh, look. Here’s one of your treasures. I wonder why it’s in this pillowcase.”
“I was getting things unpacked.”
Okay, so can I help you unpack the rest of what’s here in the pillowcase? We can work together.”
And we did.
All in all it was a wonderful visit…but so interesting to me that she was up half the night insisting she was leaving and saying her goodbyes, and by the time I came for my morning visit, she was happily retired in her new friendly community.
“Where’s the TV Remote?”
I don’t know about other memory care facilities, but at Mom’s place, TV remotes come and go like crazy. For a while, there was just one primary suspect: Mom. She might have two or three TV remotes in her room, but the one to her TV was not to be found until we checked purses.
At home, Mom often tried to call people with the TV remote. And she would try to change TV channels with the phone. This mix up probably continues, but there’s something about a TV remote Mom thinks is important to have.
Once I discovered her hobby of hoarding TV remotes, I announced to staff that if anyone was missing a TV remote, check with Pearl: drawers and purses.
There are some new neighbors now, folks rather high functioning like Mom, and one of them also likes TV remotes.
Yesterday was Sunday and Sundays are slow because the activities coordinator is off for the weekend. Regular staff members try to engage residents with occasional walks, visits outside, and TV time. Yesterday it was TV time…a popular Netflix program of high interest to the staff, and there was quite a group of folks gathered in the living room area by the TV. Mom and I were busy with other things.
All of a sudden Netflix posted its question, “Do want to continue watching?” Well of course they did…or most of them did. A few folks were napping. But no one could find the remote to press the button for Netflix to continue.
In the TV area there are three remotes…orphans from somewhere…but the needed remote was not among. So I headed for Mom’s room to search for the right remote while staff looked elsewhere. We knew it was in the building…but where?
I searched every drawer and every purse…under chair cushions…in all the cabinets in Mom’s room. I didn’t find the remote to the main TV. I did, of course, find the remote to her TV, so I put it next to the TV.
When I walked out to the group, the Netflix question was still on the screen. So I turned to Gil and said, “Gil! Did you hide the remote?” He’s fun to joke with.
“Well, gosh, I certainly hope not.”
Then I joked with sweet Rothy…”Rothy! Did YOU hide the remote?” She just laughed, shook her head and said, “No.”
About a minute later, one of the staff members saw an awkward shape in Gil’s pocket. BINGO. The remote was found. He hadn’t a clue and just chuckled.
Now we have two remote TV lifters: Miss Pearl and Gil. They will always be the prime suspects.
“How Do You Like Those Disposable Underpants?”
I will be forever grateful that Mom never even batted an eye at the idea of wearing adult pull ups. To the contrary, she thinks they are so comfortable and handy.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t quite grasped how to use them.
Yesterday, I found a used Depends stuffed into the packet of unused ones. I took it out and put it in the trash.
In Mom’s curio cabinet of treasures, I’ve seen an unused Depends resting on a butter dish. For a while I let it be. Today, I finally removed it and put it in the bathroom.
When I arrived, I also saw a used Depends in Mom’s laundry basket.
“Oh, when the disposable underwear is dirty, you can just throw it away, Mom. It doesn’t need to be washed.”
“Oh yes, that’s what’s great about them.”
Twenty minutes later while we were having coffee and chat time with Eunice, Mom left to go to the bathroom. She was gone a long time. Finally, I decided to check in on her.
“Do you need any help?”
“Yes I do!”
She was standing at the bathroom sink naked from the waist down trying to hand wash a Depends.
“Oh, you know, Mom, you don’t have to bother washing those. When they’re dirty, just throw them away. They’re disposable. Isn’t that convenient?”
“Oh, yes it is,” she replied as she tried to scoop up handfuls of whatever the super absorbent white stuff is that triples in volume when exposed to moisture.
I let her finish cleaning up the remnants of a hand washed Depends panty while I wiped down the toilet seat with Clorox Wipes. There were remnants of feces and I’m beginning to wonder if a bit of bowel incontinence is starting.
“I just had to go all of a sudden,” Mom said. “I couldn’t help it.”
“Well, isn’t it great that we can just throw away these disposable panties whenever they get dirty? You don’t have to put them in your laundry basket or even wash them by hand. Just throw them away. Nice, huh?”
“Oh, yes. So nice,” she said.
Not So Nice Confusion
Increased confusion is what I’m witnessing after these first six months.
Sometimes Mom is unsure of where she lives and she worries that she doesn’t have any place to go. “You mean I live here?”
Sometimes she wears two pairs of knee hi nylon socks.
Sometimes she wears two different shoes.
Sometimes she has her pants on backwards or her jacket/sweater inside out.
Sometimes she wears three tops. “Well, I get chilly!”
Sometimes she can’t remember what she had for breakfast.
Sometimes she thinks she slept the whole night when, in fact, she was up most of the night.
Sometimes she forgets that Dad died. “Can we go see Dad today?” And then I look at her. “Did he die?” “Yes, he died a year ago.” “He was such a good man,” she says as her eyes fill with tears. “Yes, he was; he was a prince.”
And sometimes I drive home so sad to watch Mom’s cognitive functioning die little by little…and so grateful that we still have lots of good talks, some teasing and laughing…and the never ending search for TV remotes.