Yesterday confirmed for me our choice of Atria for my mother was the right one. She has continued to want to stay in her room and not even go to the dining room for meals. I had come to get her to take her to Penney’s for a hair appointment. As we walked down the hallway to the door we passed several aides. Each one of them smiled and greeted her. “Oh, she’s out of her room!” several remarked. When I took her back after the appointment she decided to get some water or juice from the lobby before going to her room. I took some packages to her room, and as I was leaving I glanced in the lobby. She was talking to the Director as he was helping her choose what she wanted. I felt good about leaving her. I knew she was in safe, caring hands.
Living with or helping an elderly person takes patience. Lots of patience. I thought I was patient. Didn’t I live through my children’s teenage years? Surely having taught school for 35 would qualify me. Nothing prepared me with what was required to deal with my mother.
My mother always took a lot of time to get ready. Before she could leave the house it had to be spotless; no dishes in the sink, no shoes on the floor or toothpaste left uncapped. Now multiply that by ten, no, by 100! As you age your body doesn’t move as fast, but when it is complicated by arthritis with which my mother is afflicted, it takes forever just to get out of a chair and move to the closet. When she has to put her feet through two pant legs and ease her slacks over her hips it is an ordeal along with slipping her curled toes into shoes. It takes half an hour to put on makeup that used to be done in ten minutes. It is sad to see my always stylish, “put together” mother just opt for a quick dab of lipstick because it takes too much effort to do anything more.
When we have to pick Mom up to go anywhere I call two hours in advance and tell her I will be there in an hour. She readily assures me she will start to get dressed. An hour before we leave I call again. She usually has fallen asleep and the call wakes her up. Sometimes she doesn’t remember we are coming. “Yes,” she says again, “I’ll start to get dressed.” At this point I tell my husband that we’d better go early.
When we arrive, my husband, who has the patience of a gnat, usually decides to wait in the common area and read his book. I let myself into the room not knowing what stage of dress my mother is in. Sometimes she has fallen back to sleep. If she has not begun to dress Mom has trouble deciding what to wear. Often several outfits are strewn on the bed. She asks me which outfit would be the best. This, from a mother who easily made decisions for herself and had an opinion on everyone else’s! After she is ready I make several attempts to leave. It always takes time to find her purse which she has either hidden in the closet or in a drawer. Her keys should be in the top drawer, but sometimes we have to search for them. Closet doors need to be closed and curtains pulled. Most times she will go back in to get tissues for her purse.
She navigates her walker slowly down the hall apologizing for going so slow. My sister bought her a newer walker with a seat that has large wheels and moves faster. She refused to even try it. She also nixed the wheelchair which is paid for by Medicare and would make it easier for us to travel with her. “I just can’t walk very fast today. I need to get out and walk more,” she says. She says this every time. I always agree. We’re both in denial that she’ll be better tomorrow.