Straight Talk

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About Money

What is not talked about, but looms in the background in discussions of elder care, is the price to maintain a “quality of life.” We want to see that our loved ones have good care at the end of their lives- they deserve it. We are faced every day with decisions to see that this is so. But it makes you wonder, though, at the cost.

Every month I receive a bill in the mail for my mother’s lodging, meals and care. When she first moved to Atria it cost $3,300 and it has risen a little every few months as her care increases.

When my mother first arrived at Atria she qualified for care level one. This level is for residents who are mostly independent. Every month each resident is evaluated by the staff and given a numerical score depending on how much care they receive. This determines the care level they are assigned. Of course, after she had been there six months they saw that she needed more oversight and help, and she was placed at care level three. This increased the cost $400 which didn’t seem too bad. I knew she was not able to make her bed any more, she called for help more often, and asked them to bring her meals to her room. She soon required even more attention when she began to have hallucinatory episodes.

What you don’t count on is the “do-able” rate they start at will inevitably increase year after year and month, by month. One day I opened a bill from Atria that I dropped in shock. $7,087!! It was high, I finally realized,  because they charged her retroactively for part of the the previous month. In the middle of that month the Haldol had taken affect and she lost use of her legs. She then needed help with almost everything: using the toilet, dressing, getting in and out of bed and being taken to the dining room in her wheelchair.

After we sold my mother’s house, I put $50,000 into her checking account and the rest into a money market account. With my Dad’s pension and my mother’s small social security allotment I estimated we could use the checking account money to supplement her assisted living costs for three years before we had to delve into the money market account. When her care costs rose to over $4,000 I recalculated and determined the checking account money could last for two and a half years.

When her bill jumped to over $5,000, not dipping into the money market account became moot. It was not a question of if we would have to draw from it, but when. Last month I wrote the last check to Atria from the checking account. We had to transfer all her savings to an annuity that will pay out every month. Now, according to my calculations, it will take three years and four months before her savings is used up. She can live until ninety-eight until she runs out of money.

She is now on care level six and her bill evens out to about $5,400 a month.That comes to $64,800 for twelve months, more than most people earn in a year!

For the amount spent on caregiving a person could live in a four star hotel with room service. It is sad that at the end of our lives so much money is required to sustain us at a time when we are not physically and mentally able enjoy it.

At times, I have considered what it would be like to put my mother on a cruise ship and send her on a world tour. Same cost.

Her Birthday

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On June 5th my mother turned 96. That morning I drove over to see her and thought I might stay for lunch. I also had her mail and a small bouquet of flowers to bring to her. I arrived at Atria at 11:30, and as I walked to the front door I noticed someone sitting outside by door. To my surprise, it was my mother. Not only had she never done that before, but the temperature outside was close to 107 degrees.

But there she sat in her wheelchair holding a blue and pink helium balloon that said Happy Birthday!. She looked as if she were waiting for someone. It wasn’t me. I don’t tell her ahead of time that I am coming because she never remembers anyway.

“What are you doing out here, Mom?” I said.

“I’m waiting to go home,” she said.

“What do you mean?” “Who are you waiting for?”

“What do you think I mean? I’m going to Riverside. A limo is picking me up. There’s nothing left for me to do here.”

This is where my guilt kicks in. At that moment she looked sad and vulnerable. I know she misses her home in Riverside, but we sold her house and all her belongings are gone or in storage. We haven’t told her because it would devastate her. We want her to think everything is as she left it and she always has the hope of returning.

“Well, it looks like they celebrated your birthday today,” I said pointing to the balloon, trying to bring a more positive tone to the moment.

“Oh, I guess they did give me that. I forgot,” she answered.

“Have you eaten lunch yet? Why don’t I take you inside and we can eat lunch.”

“ No, I’m not hungry. I want to sit out here for awhile.”

After I tried unsuccessfully to convince her to come in, I finally gave up and told her I would return in a few minutes, and entered the lobby. I went to the desk to sign in and greeted Carla, the aide who is usually at the reception desk.

“She didn’t want to come in,” I told her as I shrugged my shoulders.

“ I’ve tried to get her to come in too, but she said she was waiting for her father to pick her up, then she changed it and said her husband was coming,” Carla said.

“Now she is waiting for a limo. I’m going to her room and be right back.” I had to set down her mail and the flowers, and I thought if I gave her a few minutes she would be ready to come in.

When I returned to the lobby Mom was no longer outside. Carla pointed to the dining room. It wasn’t hard to find her; she was at her usual table near the front, sitting with her friends Sylvia and Ann. I sat down in the remaining seat.

“So you decided to eat lunch anyway,” I said to her, after I said hello to everyone.

“No, I,’m not going to eat. They just brought me in here. I’m having cranberry juice.”

I am grateful to the aides. Since Mom has been in the wheelchair, they make sure she comes into the dining room every day, I guess whether she is hungry or not, to give her a chance to be out with the other residents.

Soon Sylvia left and Mom and I were talking with Ann, when Erika, my daughter, walked in with the two grandchildren. Two young children entering the dining room full of eighty and ninety-year-olds was like a jolt of electricity. Jayden, the six-year-old, ran up to my mother and gave her a big hug and a present. My mother’s eyes lit up. This was the just dose of reality that “grandma” needed and a perfect birthday gift.

And How Are the kids?

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And How Are the Kids?

If there is one thing my mother loves more than anything it’s her grandchildren, and this has not abated, even with her memory loss. My daughter and two grandchildren live close to me and my mother looks forward to seeing them. However, she is confused about where they live. Whenever I talk with her she asks, How are the kids?”  She thinks they live with me, much to my daughter’s dismay. I always have to remind her that they live with their mother and father, and the last time I saw them they were OK.

When the grandchildren grew up and had children of their own and she became physically slower and mentally not as acute, we knew Mom would not able to do the things with the greats that she had been able to do with her grandkids. Sometimes, it is hard for her to realize this.

     When she sees my daughter she will say , “ Bring the kids over any time. I can watch them for you.”

     “We’ll see,” says my daughter tactfully, picturing her very active three and five-year-olds alone in the room with her grandmother for even ten minutes.

My mother must have realized her own nightmare, though. One day Mom and I went out to lunch with my daughter and the two great grandkids. The lunch went well, the kids were good, if a bit squirmy, which is normal. That must have been on her mind because at 10 o’clock that night I got a phone call.

     “Are you coming to pick up the kids?”

     “What kids?” I said, “You mean Erika’s?”

      “Yes…They’re running around the room and up and down the hall. I’ve tried to get them to stop. They’ve been here all afternoon.”

     “ I will call Erika,” I said playing along.

     ” No, Erika is here too,” she replied.

     “Let me talk with her,” I said.

When my mother turned from the phone and called for her I knew I had gone too far with this game.

     “She must have gone out of the room,” my mother said.

     “She probably took them home,” I said.

Just then there was a knock on my mother’s door and I heard an aide talking with her.

     “Ask her if she has seen any kids in the hallway,” I said.

After hearing her ask and the response, I knew that was my “out.”

     “Mom, you’re going to be fine. I’ll talk with you tomorrow,” I said, hanging up.

And the next day when I called she had no memory of it.

     “How are the kids?” she asks.

     “They’re fine,” I say.

Ode to my Mother

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Happy Mother’s Day! . . . to you, whether you are a mother, have a mother, or carry memories of your mother in your heart.
If you are sole caregiver of your mother, Bless You!
As a daughter of a mother who through memory loss and physical disabilities is no longer the mother she used to be, I think this is a good time for reflection. I think of all the care-taking my mother did over the years. Now she needs the caregiving, and though she valiantly  fought to keep her independence, she is now slowly realizing she needs help from others. This must be very hard to accept, but she is trying.
      When we go out somewhere and I push her in her wheelchair, she’ll say,”I hate to have you do that.You don’t have to push me.”  
      I will respond, “Yes I do have to push you. Remember all the times you pushed me in the baby buggy (I’m dating myself here.) or stroller? This is pay-back.” And she’ll laugh. My mother, thankfully, still has her sense of humor.
 
What best represents my feeling about my childhood is the poem I wrote 26 years ago on my Mother’s 70th birthday.
 
Ode to My Mother

 

Memories, memories
come flooding to my mind.
Ones of my years of growing up
from toddler to a teen.
At age of one and twenty-one
and all those in-between.

 

Christmas and Santa Claus,
the Easter Bunny.
The faithful tooth fairy
who always left me money.
Birthdays and parties,
picnics at the park.
Night lights kept burning
when I was afraid of the dark.

 

Measles and chicken pox
and having to stay in bed.
Cotton and ear aches,
painting my throat red.
Brownies, Girl Scouts
loving to go to school.
Taking swim lessons,
our rubber swimming pool.

 

Wearing halloween costumes
that took a lot of time to make.
Peanut butter cookies
and devil’s food cake.
Washing dirty clothes
in the wringer machine,
Ironing my smocked dresses
so I’d look neat and clean.

 

Dancing lessons,
learning how to skate.
Typing term papers,
staying up late.
Playing with my dollhouse.
getting my first bike.
Having the dentist fill my teeth
getting haircuts I didn’t like.

 

Full skirts and petticoats
hanging on the line.
Patent shoes for dress up
that always had a shine.
Watching the Lone Ranger
on the black and white set.
Running through the sprinklers
getting sopping wet.

 

Dressing up and feeding dolls
I had quite a few.
Reading, reading, reading books
especially Nancy Drew.
Taking summer vacations
to the mountains and the sand.
Burning our bodies
so we’d look tan.

 

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa
who loved to have us there.
Looking in the attic
running up the stair.
Memories, memories
ones I hold so dear,
Memories, memories
In recalling them it’s quite clear.

 

None would have been possible
without that special one
who stood beside me,
helped to guide me
to see that things were done.
By her love and caring
she always found a way.
This very special person
is who we honor here today.

 

It was never said
but I think she always knew.
For all the years,
for all you’ve done
Mom, Thank You!
 

Lunch with Mom

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Lunch with Mom

 I usually try to see my mother once a week. I feel bad that I can’t take her out anymore now that she is in a wheelchair, and I picture her bored, sitting in front of the TV all day. One day I was feeling a little guilty about not seeing Mom for over a week, so I thought I would surprise her and drop by to have lunch. In the past she had never wanted to go to the dining room and had them bring her lunch to room, so I thought it would be a treat to go the dining room.

When I went into her room, the television was on, but she wasn’t there. This startled me; most times she is sitting in her favorite chair watching TV. I went to the front desk.

“Oh, your mom’s in the dining room,” she said.

What, I thought, it’s only 11:15 and the dining room doesn’t open until 11:30. 
But, sure enough, as I walked in, there she sat with her wheelchair pulled up to a table. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was that she was sitting with another woman and as I sat down she introduced us.

“Sylvia,” she said, “this is my daughter, Kathy.”

Sylvia, a neatly dressed Asian woman, nodded and murmured hello. My mother told me that Sylvia had lived down the street from my grandparents in Glendale. Sylvia was, in fact, from Los Angeles, but to my mother that was close enough to connect her to my grandparents’ house when they lived there in the 1930’s.

I began to show Mom pictures from my iphone of the great grandchildren which she enjoyed and grounded her more to reality. After looking at each one, she handed the phone over to Sylvia to look at. Sylvia nodded as she viewed each one.

After a few minutes we were joined by another woman, Ingrid, who said hello to my mother and Sylvia. While Sylvia hardly said a word, Ingrid chattered and seemed to be constantly looking for something in her large purse propped up next to her. She wore a long skirt, with plenty of jewelry and her hair was in a long braid down her back. She could have been thought of as a hippie if she were younger; now she would be called eccentric.

“Your mother doesn’t eat enough,” Ingrid said, turning to me.
“I do eat,” my mother said.
“Well, you eat like a bird. She also steals Sylvia’s tea.”she said.
Both Sylvia and my mother looked at her and didn’t say anything.
“I see Sylvia has a teapot. Maybe my mother thinks it’s coffee,” I said in her defense.

When it came time to order, Sylvia just said, “soup,” my mother couldn’t make up her mind until the waitress suggested salad, and Ingrid ordered salad, but complained because they didn’t have the salad dressing she liked. After our meals came, Sylvia and my mother ate silently, while Ingrid talked to me. Her sons made her sell her house. She loved her house and didn’t want to leave, but she guessed she had to. She couldn’t remember where her sons lived, when I asked her. She thought one lived in Palm Springs.

I looked over at my mother saying, “Yes, it is hard to leave a house you’ve lived in for a long time,” but I didn’t get a reaction.

Then I noticed my mother, who always ate slow, was having difficulty getting the food to her mouth.

“Mom, you need to sit closer. You’re getting food in your lap.” I could see now why some of her clothes were stained and she had so much laundry.
“Yes, you’re spilling your food on your clothes.” said Ingrid.

My mother reached down and pulled the lettuce leaves off her blouse and continued eating, still not sitting closer.


Sylvia, who hadn’t said a word this whole time, had finished her soup and was soon approached by an aide who asked her if she was ready to go back to her room, and wheeled her away. My mother said she was finished having eaten only a fourth of her salad.

As I wheeled Mom back to her room my mother said, “I hate to have you do this. I can walk back.”
“I know, I don’t mind,” I said, letting her keep up the façade. “Its nice you have friends to sit with.”
“Yes,” said my mother.


Yes, I thought, even though they didn’t have much to talk about, they had companionship. I was going to surprise my mother for lunch, but instead, she surprised me. And her surprise was better.

 
 


A Visit to the Dentist: Part II

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A Visit to the Dentist: Part II

We had to wait about half an hour before the dentist returned. The last time I had been to the dentist with my mother I was in the dentist’s chair and she sat nearby, so it felt strange sitting there with my mother in a reversal of roles. What was not like the long-ago trip to the dentist, though, was our conversation. Whenever my mother is in an unfamiliar place she gets very confused, and this time it was no different. My mother knew that a tooth was to be removed, but was mixed up about whose tooth it was.

        “Don’t you have to get back to work? You don’t have time to get your tooth pulled,” my mother said, looking at me.

“Mom, it is your tooth that has to be pulled. Not mine. Are you trying to get out of it?” I said, trying to use humor to help her save face.

A few minutes later we were talking about my daughter when she said, “How can she have her tooth pulled today when she has to take care of the kids?”

“Now I know you are trying to get out of it,” I said. “You are the one with the loose tooth. Can’t you feel it in your mouth?”

My mother pushed her tongue to the side of her mouth. “Oh yes, it is loose.”

The dentist finally arrived along with a large syringe filled with Novocain. I always wonder about the size of syringe dentists use. You’d think they were going to knock out an elephant, not numb a gum! The dentist had to give my mother five doses before she said she couldn’t feel anything, and then it only took two minutes to remove the tooth.

After the nurse packed her gum with gauze and we listened to instructions from the dentist, I went to the front desk and made an appointment for the hygienist to clean her teeth.

This appointment, it turned out, had to be cancelled twice, because of a “lockdown” at Atria. I know, it sounds like a terrorist threat, but it wasn’t. There was an epidemic of gastrointestinal flu among the residents and everyone was confined to their rooms for two weeks. Residents could not leave and no one could visit. So the last time I saw my mother before the restriction was lifted was the day after the dentist appointment when I stopped by to see how she was doing. “You’ll never guess what happened yesterday,” she said, when I sat down to talk. “I didn’t want to worry you, but I had a loose tooth. But it’s OK now. I pulled it out.” She opened her mouth and showed me. The gum was healing nicely.

Toothbrush Dilemna

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 Toothbrush Dilemna

My mother’s teeth look terrible.  I knew she had not been brushing them.  I hated to think for how long!  She complained for a long time that, “I can’t brush my teeth. Someone is using my toothbrush.”  When I ask “How do you know?” she replies,”Because it’s wet.”   When I bought her the twenty pack of toothbrushes from Costco I thought the problem would be solved.  The next time she complained I checked under the sink.  The pack had not even been opened.  Maybe, I thought, it is hard for her to brush.  It may be too much effort to move her hand up and down.  I came up with, what I thought, was the perfect solution.  I would buy her an electric toothbrush. I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond armed with my 20% off coupon.  After looking at all the options I decided on a simple battery run model without a stand.  I didn’t know if she would use it so I didn’t want to invest too much money into it.
I took the toothbrush to her and she seemed pleased with it.  She assured me she would use it.  After I opened the package and installed the two batteries, I handed it to her. “Just press this button down,” I said as we watched it vibrate.  She made several valiant attempts to start it, but could not press it hard enough.  I needed to take her to a dental hygienist.  An understanding one. Soon.

When I called to make the appointment to have her teeth cleaned I was told, “She will have to see the dentist first to see if there are any problems.”  When I asked for my dentist, he was booked for a month.  “We have a new dentist, Dr. Cartter. He has earlier openings.  I can fit her in in two weeks.”
“Perfect,” I said, thinking she would probably like to see a young face. We agreed on a date, and I decided to wait on the hygienist appointment.  One thing at a time, I thought.

The week before her appointment I called Atria to make sure they could take her to and from her appointment.  If I tried to do it, not only would I wrench my back lifting the wheelchair, but I would probably drop her when I tried to get her in the car.  I would meet her at the dentist’s office for her appointment.
When the Atria driver wheeled her in that day she was confused, as I knew she would be, even though I had told her the day before that she had the appointment. “Why am I here? You didn’t tell me I had an appointment,” she asked over and over, followed by, “I have my own dentist, why would I come here?”  She also told me it did feel like she had a cavity on one of her back teeth.

My decision to go with a new dentist for my mother was a good choice.  Not only was the dentist  young, he was also very good looking, friendly, and patient.   After he checked her teeth over and they took X-rays he told us the reason for her “cavity” pain. She had a loose tooth that needed to come out.  And it had to come out that day.    . . . to be continued

It’s Looking Up

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Hair update: After almost two years of trying to get my mother to have her hair done in the salon at Atria, and her constant refusals of  “Several of the ladies here say the hairdresser isn’t very good.” or “I have been there myself and have seen the way she does hair.” ( both unverified statements), she now has no choice. My inability to take her to her favorite hairdresser at the JC Penney salon has finally forced her to use the in-house salon.
After the mix-up with the hairdresser the first time, I make another appointment.  An aide is there to remind Mom this time and she goes.  I call her the next day.
                      “Did you get your hair done, Mom?”  I say, waiting for a negative reaction.
                      “Yes, I did,” says my mother, “The girl is very nice.  I like the way she did my hair.  Those ladies that said she wasn’t any good, don’t know what they are talking about.”
                      “I’m glad you like her.  We’ll have to make an appointment next week for you,” I say aloud.
                      “Yes!” I scream in my head. “Why didn’t you listen to us in the first place . . .”

It’s Looking Up

Yeah! They finally took my mother off Haldol.  She seems more alert. She still can’t walk, though, and I am convinced it was the Haldol that caused  it. One article I read says it can cause symptoms  similar to Parkinson’s. Her being unable to walk is a mixed blessing.  Before, she refused to use the wheelchair and used the long walk as an excuse to not go to the dining room.  Now, she agrees to let Chico, the aide,  wheel her down for her meals.  It is also easier when we take her out; we can push her in the wheelchair and are not slowed down by her pace.  However, since she is off the medication she has gotten some of her  contrariness back.  I received another Atria call.   Whenever they call I feel like a parent with a recalcitrant child.

“I just called to tell you your mother is hallucinating and not being cooperative. This morning she said she didn’t know why she was here, and wanted to leave. She also told the hospice nurse she didn’t have to do what she said,” the medical aid related.
“We  tried to give her a Lorazipam to calm her down,” she continued, ” but she refused.  Maybe if you came over to see her it might help.”
“Don’t count on it helping, she doesn’t listen to me,”  I said, laughing.   I had a ton of things that I needed to do, but agreed to drop by sometime                      that day.

That afternoon, I brought her a bouquet of artificial daffodils and a white pitcher. This is the time of year her daffodils would bloom by the front steps of her house.   She always picked some and we’d see them in a large ceramic pitcher on her dining table. I thought it might cheer her up.

She did seem pleased to have the flowers, and didn’t even remember what happened that morning.  She looked fine, great in fact. Most times when I visit she has on a bathrobe, no makeup and her hair is straight and tucked behind her ears. I don’t know who is helping her, but she was dressed, her face was made up and her hair looked styled even though it had been four days since she had seen the hairdresser.

As I left Atria I checked the agency sign in log.  It looked like the hospice workers visit her twice a week. Though I have had serious doubts about their care, I’ve decided to stay with it for awhile longer.  It’s hard to know if I’m doing the right thing.

Meds

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Mom has always had a strong sense of right and wrong.  And she has never been afraid to let you know how she feels about it. My mother’s room at Atria  has a small patio which is very close to the street.  It is in a residential neighborhood, but it still gets a fair share of traffic.   According to my mother the cars that she hears  coming down that street drive much too fast.  Most times we visit her she will complain about it. She also suggests that my husband sit outside and give out tickets!  She apparently thinks he has a lot of power.  At times, she tries to convince us he should put her former caretaker in jail. After all, he is the chief of police!  The latest cause celebre did involve the police.  One day two weeks ago a police cruiser pulled up in front of Atria.   An officer got out. As the officer entered the facility the director came out to meet him.  “Do you have a resident named Wanda? She  called in to the station  to say there is a woman in trouble.  We have had a hard time determining the problem.”  Indeed, my mother had had numerous conversations with the 911 operator and several deputies over the course of a couple of hours.  After talking with my mother they discovered that she thought a woman down the hall was in  trouble and she wanted to help her.  The name she gave of the woman in trouble was an aunt that had died many, many years ago. 

Meds

It’s hard to know, sometimes, if medication given to help, is itself worse than the disorder it was prescribed to treat.  This is the dilemma  I was now facing. As I had feared, not being able to stand up and walk was not just a temporary condition for my mother.  The week after my sister left, I received two phone calls from Atria.  They woke me up one morning at 6 o’clock to tell me she had fallen early that morning.  They had called the paramedics, but they said she was OK.  At 11 o’clock I got the second call; this time she was taken to the ER.  She had numerous bruises, but after x-rays and an MRI of her head, she was released. I called Hospice the next day, which was Monday, and asked to speak to the nurse assigned to her.  I told her my concerns about her medications.  Instead of addressing my concerns, she explained that my mother’s inability to stand could be a further progression of her dementia.

That week was Thanksgiving.  I made an appointment for my mother to have her hair styled on Wednesday, and asked my husband to drive us so he could  help move the wheelchair in and out of the trunk. I didn’t think about moving my mother too!  Mom still could not even stand up and my poor husband had to lift her in and out of the car.  My mother only weighs about 95 pounds, but when he attempted to lift her into the car she tried to hold onto the chair and was so weak she had a hard time pulling herself up.  She ended up falling in a heap between the chair and the car.  With additional maneuvering and encouragement we finally got her in, although we had to repeat the procedure of lifting her in or out three more times that afternoon.

Thanksgiving day my son-in-law offered to help my husband when he picked up my mother at Atria to come to our house.  Bless him!  Before they arrived I tried to prepare my daughter that that her grandmother had physically declined; however, she didn’t anticipate what she saw..  Mom was slumped over in her wheelchair, legarthic, and she was difficult to understand because she talked in a very soft voice. After greeting her, my daughter pulled me aside and tearfully said, ”Poor Gamma, what’s happened to her?  She’s like a different person.”

That  Friday I called Hospice. After insistence on my part, the nurse agreed to talk with the doctor.  I then called the med tech at Atria and related what I had said to the hospice and that I hoped they were going to change the medication.  I got a call back in 15 minutes! It was approved for the Haldol to be reduced in half.  That was a least a step in the right direction.  You probably can’t stop an anti-psychotic medication like Haldol all at once, I thought.  I was willing to see how this would affect my mother.  I was hoping her grogginess would go away, and that she would have control of her leg muscles once again and be able to walk.

Overly Sedated?

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My brother was coming for a visit.  My mother hadn’t seen him for six months and it was two weeks before Christmas.  This was special. I made an appointment for Mom to get her hair done at Penney’s with her favorite hairdresser the Friday before my brother and his wife were to arrive.  I also called Atria arrange to have them take her and pick her up.  Since the time we took the wheelchair  for her appointment  my back hasn’t been the same.  I just can’t lift it.  We would have to rely on the Atria driver.   I thought all went as planned, until I spoke with my brother the next day.  “I thought Mom was going to get her hair done,”  he said.  “What!” I said. “It should have been all set up.”  I had to wait until Monday to call and find out what happened.  “We thought you were planning on meeting her at the hairdresser’s,” she said.  “We tried to call you.”  It was true that I had been out all day shopping.  They may have left a message on my phone which I usually can’t hear in a crowded store.  “Why would I have to be there?” I asked.  “Can’t you just wheel her into the salon?” “We are not allowed to leave anyone in a wheelchair.  Someone has to be with her and we do not have staff that can do that.”  I did not tell her what I thought of this.  What could happen in the salon?  When I took her we just wheeled her up to the hairdresser’s station and she stayed in her wheelchair for the whole appointment.  This was ridiculous!  My poor mother had to go another week with dirty hair.  Finally I made an appointment with the hairdresser at Atria.  My mother could get mad at me.  I didn’t care.  I wanted her to have her hair fixed for Christmas.  I called and made an appointment for Christmas Eve morning.  When we picked her up Christmas  morning to spend the day with us she still had  straight, greasy hair.

Overly Sedated?!

It was  the weekend my sister came to visit that we first noticed how weak my mother’s legs had become.  She had let me use the wheelchair the week before, but she was able to walk. I hadn’t seen her since then.  That Saturday I received a phone call from my sister who was over visiting Mom.  The guys were playing golf and I was at home catching up on chores.  “Kathy, can you come help me?  Mom has been sitting on the patio with me and I can’t get her inside.”  “Why doesn’t she want to go back in?” I said.  “It’s not that she doesn’t want to, she can’t.  She can’t get her legs to work.”  When I arrived they were still on the patio.  We tried to get her to stand, but each time she would collapse back into her chair.  I got the wheelchair and, with a lot of maneuvering, we managed to pull it to the patio door and hoist her in.  I spoke with the nurse and caretakers at Atria and expressed my concerns.  “Could it be the medication she is taking that could make her so weak?” I asked.  They assured me that what she was taking could be the cause.
The next week  I received two phone calls from Atria that my mother had fallen.  The paramedics had been called both times.  The last time  they took her to the emergency room.  She was OK except for a couple of bruises and cuts from where she had fallen.  It was when  they gave me the papers to sign when she was released that I noticed the paper with the list of medications on it.  I stuck it in my purse to check over later.  I got it out the next day to see what it said.  At the top of the list was ‘Haloperidol to be given twice a day, morning and evening.’  This must be the Alzheimer’s drug the doctor wanted to try. I thought.  I googled it. drugs.com: “For use in treating schizophrenia. Has been used to treat aggression and agitation in  patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it can cause serious side effects.” WebMD: Elderly patients with dementia related psychoses treated with anti-psychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.”  OMG! It could be the cause of her falls.  And her doctor prescribed this?!