Parental Journal 96 from Planet Elderly – Christmas at The Arbors 2017

Although it was a quiet Christmas this year, it was meaningful.

The decorations at The Arbors were beautiful, especially the spectacular Christmas tree.  Mom loved it…and kept insisting that “it’s been up for two years.”  Not sure how she came up with that since she’s only been in residence nine months.

Arbors tree 2017

In addition to great decorations, we enjoyed a delightful holiday gathering right before the hectic weekend.  It not only included fruit, dips, crackers and sweets, but for those who imbibe, we had a variety of beverages.  I brought a bottle of light, dry wine and Mom thought she would have “a little.”  I reminded her that we sip wine; it’s not OJ.  She took one sip and declared it to be “terrible.”

“Want to try some eggnog?” I asked, knowing she liked it years ago.


“Want a couple drops of bourbon in it or do you want it plain?”

“A couple drops.”  And she enjoyed it.

Several family members attended and it was a nice event.

Christmas Eve

I had morning coffee and chat time with Mom and pals…and said I’d be back after dinner to hang out a bit.  I brought my dog Cinnamon with when I returned, but the place looked deserted.  Mom was in bed, but got up to hang out with me.  Gil was walking around, checking to make sure everything was working.  No one else was in sight.  Most had retired to their rooms.  Party poopers.  Gil and Mom enjoyed some time with Cinnamon and then I found a good version of  the movie “A Christmas Carol” for Mom to enjoy before I left.

Christmas Day

Some folks left to spend the day with family.  Others were visited by family and friends.  I stayed for lunch and we had fried chicken breasts and some fabulous mashed potatoes.  After dinner Mom and I worked through an entire word find puzzle.  It was fun to see her so engaged.  While we worked on the puzzle, one lady made four attempts to “go shopping,” which set off the alarm system, but the staff was very kind and patient and repeatedly explained to her that the stores were closed.  She finally sat down and dozed off.

When I arrived, I gave Mom a gift from my friend Bonnie, whom she knows.  Before opening it up, she just sat there and cried.  I knew where she was…a little girl long ago whose mother was too ill to take care of her and sent her to an orphanage where no one ever received any love or gifts.  That time at the orphanage, before her aunt came to get her and have Mom live with her, is a deeply embedded memory that will probably never go away.  It’s also a favorite story the staff and I have heard multiple times.  I don’t dismiss it when she talks about that time.  I try to acknowledge her feelings and redirect her to the wonderful life she had later when married to Dad.

The gift from Bonnie turned out to be a mug with a Christmas sweater…and Mom loved it.

Mug gift from Bonnie Dec. 2017

I brought Mom a gift of a top and new pants.  She was wide eyed.  “I have some new clothes!  But I didn’t do any shopping for you.”

“We live in the same city now, Mom, and that’s the best Christmas gift ever.”  She agreed…opened the box and loved the contents.


Mom still thinks she needs to get a job somewhere, and she frequently crabs about my taking her vacuum.  She claims she could use it; I tell her the vacuuming is taken care of, but since it has always been her favorite chore, she’d rather do it herself…sort of.

She is requiring more assistance with dressing.  It’s not unusual for her to wear two or three bras…three pairs of nylon knee hi stockings…backwards pants…two or three pairs of Depends, different shoes.  It doesn’t bother her; it drives the rest of us kinda nuts.

Not changing clothes:  She seems perfectly  happy to wear and sleep in the same clothes for two days or longer.  Staff have different approaches to trying to get her to change clothes.  Some work; some don’t.  “People around here don’t want you to wear something more than once.  They think you have to put something new on every day,” she reports.

About those Depends:  She loves them.  She still manages her own toileting mostly, but she thinks these are “the best things…so comfortable,” and I remind her that if she has any accident, just throw them away.  “You don’t have to wash these, Mom.”   “Yeah, that’s great!”

Dental Care:  A matter of importance to everyone, but at her last cleaning with a new dentist here in Columbia, the dental hygienist cautioned how important for Mom to brush close to the gum.  Lately I’ve been reminding her to brush.  I didn’t want to make her made thinking I was telling her what to do, so I created this question:  “Have you had time to brush your teeth this morning, Mom?”   She responds quite well to that, and the answer is usually no; then she gets down to business.

Wrong Toothpaste:  After leaving her to brush her teeth, I returned to find her making faces.  “This toothpaste tastes TERRIBLE!”

“You’re right, Mom.  It tastes terrible because it’s the Benadryl itch gel, not toothpaste.  Here, try Crest…and we’ll keep the itch gel out of the bathroom.”

We laughed because it reminded us of the time when I was in school and Dad got Mom up to get ready to go to work. She was so tired that she tried using his shaving cream instead of toothpaste.  When we went to join friends for coffee and chat time, I told them about the itch gel being used as toothpaste.  Gordon and Joyce roared with laughter and Mom joined in.

Mobility:   As time goes by, Mom seems more and more unsteady on her feet.  It takes some time to go from sitting on the bed to standing up and walking.  Sometimes she says to herself, “Don’t fall, Pearl” because she did…but no one knew.  A couple of weeks ago, she had a red spot on her face…deep pink and then sort of a scab over one eye.  I asked if she had fallen and, of course, she said no.  Later she admitted to a staff person that she had fallen.

Once she’s up and going, she is fairly ok.  According to her, she walks a lot every day.  We have Dad’s rarely used walker ready for her, and I’m told that occasionally she has used it.

Itchy Skin is still a problem.  She gets relief from the various creams she has and Zyrtec is available for the staff to give to her.  She doesn’t seem able to realize she’s is scratching and then get the itch creams.  She just itches and tears at her skin, so several of us are keeping an eye on that and assisting with administering the cream.

Overall, it was a nice Christmas holiday.  I remember Mom asking, “Will you be visiting for Christmas?”  “Oh sure…Christmas Eve morning coffee and afternoon visit…lunch with you and your friends on Christmas day…you can’t get rid of me.”

“Good,” she said with a big smile.

About jjmummert

This blog was originally titled "Drifting Toward Planet Elderly," and it shared a journey I had with my elderly parents as they both finished their lives battling the complexities of dementia. After both passed on, I changed the title to "Living on Planet Elderly." I am a retiree who is reluctantly adjusting to the reality that she is now elderly. In July of 2021, I relocated to Middleton WI after living in Columbia MO for over 40 years. I decided that I want to experience a new and vibrant location in a cooler climate with lakes...a bucket list item of mine. I have a first cousin who lives in Madison. We have nice childhood memories, and I thought it would be wonderful to spend some time together as elders. It was. AND March 2023, I returned to Columbia. I had a wonderful time experiencing the Madison area of Wisconsin, spending time with my cousin, and making some wonderful friends. No regrets.
This entry was posted in Parental Journal, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Parental Journal 96 from Planet Elderly – Christmas at The Arbors 2017

  1. It sounds like you have found your mother a great place to live and I love that you don’t treat her like a child but let her have her dignity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.