Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Perfect Solution

Standard

Visits with my mother can be quite challenging.  For me.  If you were a stranger come to visit you would perceive my mother as alert, intelligent and able to hold her own in a conversation.  Only after about ten minutes would you see something was awry.  This, I believe, is the big difference  between altzheimers and dementia.  Mom recognizes people and knows quite a bit of what is going on in the world so she can carry on a conversation.  Other people first see the problem when she begins to repeat herself or ask the same question over again.  Where I see the biggest problem is when she relates stories about people and events I know.  She will often meld the past with the present or come up with a wild tale about someone or something that is completely false.  I used to try to gently correct her, but now I just let it go.

The Perfect Solution

My mother was back at home where she wanted to be.  We were apprehensive, but willing to give it a chance.  My mother’s expectations were far from reality, though.  Friends would come to visit, she would be able to fix her own meals and once again go to church services every Sunday.  All of her good friends were either dead or disabled and not able to leave their homes; we took the knobs off the stove so she would not leave something on to cook and forget about it and burn up the house; no one from the church would be able to pick her up for church, if she could even remember and be ready in time. Of course, Mom thought the only problem was to get her car back. If she had her car she would be able to go to church and do errands like she used to do.  No way!  We were not revisiting that scenario. If she even managed to get out of the driveway  she would probably get in a wreck or get lost.  She would have to depend on Michelle.  Michelle did not drive, but we thought she could order the city senior/disabled bus service for her or call a taxi.  We also expected her to manage or fix her meals, as sometimes my mother forgot to eat or would subsist on TV dinners which were full of salt.

Michelle took on the responsibility of caring for my mother to the best of her ability.  She came over every morning and got her up and made her bed.  She also vacuumed and dusted.  We found out she wasn’t much of a cook, but she made sure Mom had vegetables and fruit and meat and cheeses so she could fix meals easily.  Occasionally she would bring over  meals like hot dogs or hamburgers that she had fixed for her family.  She arranged for taxis to take her to the hairdresser every week.  She called about once a week where I could find out how it was going.  Most of the time, though, her calls were about her.  She wanted to make sure her pay was on its way.  I paid her in cash at first, but then when I got busier and was not able to go up for a visit, I wrote checks.  A few times when I knew I would be late I had my mother write a check for her.

Even though we all did not get up to visit her that often and she was more or less “housebound” my mother seemed happy.  She was home!  She moved back in September and by her birthday in June all seemed to be going well.  We came up for Mom’s birthday.  Michelle had baked her a cake that week. We invited her and her husband over for the celebration.   Michelle gave her a pretty planter for her porch.  It was two weeks later when I looked over my mother’s bank statement that I saw a problem.

Assisted Living Part II: Another Move

Standard

Today is my mother’s birhday.  She is 95.  I was going to call and wish her “Happy Birthday”, but I was surprised this morning.  She called me first.  She usually sleeps in late, but this was 9:30!  You never know what to expect when she calls.  Most of the time when she calls she is mixed up about something.  This was a good time.   She knew it was her birthday and when I suggested I take her out to  lunch she declined, saying celebrating it this weekend would be enough.  She actually remembered that my sister and brother were coming over to celebrate on Saturday.  What she called about: a TV program.  She has done this before.  She wanted me to turn on the TV to see The Doctors talking about Lucille Ball.  I am so thankful for her TV.  It keeps her connected to the outside world.

 I am glad that she is having a good day.  We won’t go out to lunch, but I think I’ll bring her a cupcake, chocolate, of course.

Assisted Living Part II: Another Move

Surprisingly, my mother settled into her new room quite easily.  She had lived  in rehab for three months and was still hesitant walking so I think she appreciated the smaller living space.  She was sociable with the three other residents who were women about my mother’s age, and she got along very well with the caregivers.  They were mostly young Hispanic girls who were outgoing and friendly.  The only problem was that there was always a caregiver who stayed in the living area of the home at night.  My mother, who was a night-owl even at home, would stay up until two or three o’clock in the morning talking instead of going to bed.   The next day she would want to sleep in and was tired!

It was in November when my mother began to complain.  I want to go home.  I’ve been here long enough.  I don’t like sharing a bathroom.

I was afraid this would happen.  I know I would have a hard time sharing after I had had sole use of my own bathroom for twelve years.  “Just until Christmas”, we told her, knowing full well she would have to stay longer than that.  My cancer treatment would extend into April. It’s a strange  feeling when you have a life-threatening disease and your mother, who has been concerned for your welfare all of your life, has little reaction or concern to what you are going through.  It did not bother me as much as it could have because I knew it was part of her dementia.  She had become very “self” centered and her world had shrunk to where she cared only about matters that affected her directly.

When we realized we needed to find another place for her, I immediately thought of Legend Gardens, the original assisted living facility we had planned to have her stay before.   Their units had small living rooms and a separate bedroom.  The units were arranged around a grassy area with a pool much like a motel.  Luckily they had an opening and it was close to the dining room so she would not have far to walk.

We made the move right after Christmas.  The apartment was unfurnished so we spent one weekend going to her house with a U-Haul and loading it with her guest room furniture, along with a small sofa and some end tables from the living room.  We also put in lots of family pictures.   We wanted it to feel like “home”.  She had been talking about wanting to move back to her house for some time now, and we were hoping she would not be too upset.  Unfortunately, she was extremely upset.  When we drove into the parking lot that first day, she would not get out of the car.  In anticipation of this I had called a psychologist recommended by the placement representative from Senior Living Options who had experience with senior “transitions”, and he was there to meet us.  I finally convinced her to come inside.  The psychologist talked with her, her arms folded in defiance.  She gave him the same litany we had heard many times before.  She wanted to go home.  Her children were trying to control her life.  They took away her car and now they were telling her where to live.  I know he tried to get through to her long after that day,  because I saw his charges listed on her Medicare bills for months.   But he didn’t know my mother like we did.