Tues. July 31, 2018
Mom and I have been coasting along with a regular schedule for the past year and four months since she moved into assisted living memory care.
Shelter Gardens outing Spring 2018
Our current schedule includes daily visits except for Mondays. That is my “work” day. Essentially it’s my day off. And it was highly recommended by my psychologist and group of gal pals.
Admittedly, it’s been wonderful to wake up each Monday morning and know that I have the whole day to myself.
This past March I decided to move from a rental house to a duplex located next door to a friend. The house was nice, but I did not have a sense of community. Apparently, I’m more socially oriented than I thought I was.
The duplex is a bit smaller than the house, 30 years newer, it’s located on a quiet cul-de-sac on the very western edge of the city with a diverse population, and I absolutely love it. I call it my Independent Living Nest. This is where I plan to stay until such time that I either die or can no longer live independently.
At the same time I was moving, it was recommended that Mom move to a private single room. She had been in a double room, but in anticipation of more residents eventually moving in, the private single was agreed on–even by Mom.
We spent a lot of time joking about downsizing at the same time. I hoped it would ease the transition for her. Overall, she did quite well and thinks it’s cozy. The main issue is that she can’t remember where it is.
I have read that one characteristic of vascular dementia is that changes seem to happen in “steps” rather than a gradual decline. I think Mom is currently going through her second step of changes since arriving here March 31, 2017.
*She will experience bouts of feeling okay with bouts of anger and unhappiness, which she calls “being crabby.” Her emotional quality of life is failing, and we will be visiting with her doctor to have a urinary tract infection test done…and to propose that a low dosage antidepressant be tried to help take the edge off her bouts of crying, anger and unrest.
*Her short-term memory is failing even more. She cannot remember what happened ten minutes ago. During a recent visit with two of her great-grandchildren, the 14-year-old great-granddaughter was sitting at a table with us. We greeted Mom about ten minutes earlier when we arrived. Mom turned to me and asked, “Do you know who that is?” I explained and she responded with “Oh yeah…She is so pretty.”
With oldest great-grandchild
With youngest great-grandchild
She is often found napping in her old room. When she wakes up and goes into the bathroom there she becomes upset. She thinks someone has stolen all her stuff. She is directed to her new room and finds familiar things, especially the bed comforter that she loves.
*I am told that she wanders and more recently has set off the door alarm a few times. She has joined that club now, apparently.
*She has had two altercations with the same neighbor when Mom attempted to slap or actually slapped her. She has always had a short fuse. I know. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was afraid of my mother’s temper. I know she has also been extremely rude and unkind to staff. She tells me sometimes. At other times, staff have shared that “she brought me to tears.” Kudos to all the staff who work with the elderly, especially those elders living with dementia. Some residents are quite sweet and obliging. Then there are spitfires like Mom who shoots dagger of hate at anyone who suggests she take a shower or spa bath.
*Although she still goes to the bathroom by herself, accidents happen more often. Often she is not able to tell if she has soaked a disposable panty or soiled herself. Staff are cleaning up more messes now. That’s one reason why they want her to shower or bathe more often–to make sure she is nice and clean. When they suggest a shower or bath, she interprets that as as meaning “she stinks” and it pisses her off. “They should just tell me I smell,” she will snarl.
*But who resents “being told what to do all the time”? Mom. She has been fiercely independent her whole life, even when married. Now she needs more assistance. In recent weeks, she acknowledges that fact, sometimes agreeably; sometimes with a scowl. I often try to put myself in her situation. How would I react? In all honesty, once I could no longer sit through a movie, follow the story line in a book, or be able to work a computer, table, or radio, I, too, would probably be a miserable bitch and occasionally take it out on others. In addition to not always appreciating staff assistance, she will complain about not liking “all the busy bodies here.”
*She is losing a bit of weight; does not like to eat if she is upset or angry.
What Stays Pretty Much the Same
*Coffee and morning chat time with others when I come to visit
*Going for walks and engaging in activities most of the time
*Listening to other gal neighbors and me when we tell stories and share tips on getting old…and laughing loudly together
*Our outings to doctor appointments followed by lunch out…usually a cheeseburger, sometimes a taco or fried fish filet…or a craving for a root beer float:
*Her appreciation of her best staff friend, Mary Kaye, who continuously weathers all the up’s and down’s of residents’ realities with dementia. She is a pro…and a saint.
After a recent refusal to take a bath, Mom shuffled off to her old room and laid down on a bed. I joined her and just sat in a chair next to her. She did not talk a lot, but she was honest. “I am so angry most of the time.” “I hate my life.” “Don’t be surprised if you come to visit sometime and I’m not here.” “I should find another place to live.”
After a long silence, she gazed at the doorway and said, “I need to find myself. I don’t know if I can, but I need to try to find myself.” I didn’t respond. I was struck by the profound reality she was expressing as a person who is so often confused because she lives with dementia.
Slowly I mentioned how she has told me she likes how clean it is here. “Yes, it is very clean.” Then I mentioned how she has told me that she thinks the staff are very nice. “Yes, they are nice…even when I’m crabby.” And the food? “Yes, the food is good.” And you have nice neighbors. “Yes…well, most of them.”
Then I moved to the bed and sat next to her. We hugged and she told me, “I love you. I know you are doing a lot for me and I appreciate it.”
“That’s okay. Look at all you did for me over the years.” We laughed
“Yes, but you are happier than I am. Sometimes I’m jealous and wish I was as happy as you.”
Flowers from Betsy’s garden July 2018