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.
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.