Lunch with Mom


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


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


 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


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.



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.

Overly Sedated?


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. “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?!




“I’d like to put your mother on hospice”, the doctor said.  What?! My mother’s not dying. I said silently, but replied “Why do you want to put her on Hospice?  “ “Her assisted living facility calls me whenever there is a problem.  I want to try some new medication with her and see if it helps. If you agree I will have someone call you and they can set up an appointment to talk with you.”  “OK”, I said. “I want to find out more about it first.”

I had called the doctor’s office after I had made an unsuccessful attempt to get my mother’s test results from the hospital.  I thought they could talk to the hospital and get them to release the documents to me. Imagine my surprise when the doctor came on the line!   From what she said it sounded like she was getting tired of receiving calls from Atria reporting my mother’s recalcitrant and hallucinatory ways. She wanted to try something that might help her.  I received a phone call that that same afternoon from the hospice and set up an appointment for the next Friday, hoping my sister could come too.  I did not want to make a decision like this by myself.

At this point I had no real understanding of what being under “hospice” care meant.  I thought it was a group of volunteers who came to your house to assist and help the family at the very end of a person’s life.  I thought a week or a month before at the most. I did not realize it was a business that involved many people who worked as a team.

We were met that Friday afternoon by a young hispanic man who introduced himself as a chaplain.  I could just picture how his services were used by the hospice.  This sounded serious.  He explained to us that just because a person was under hospice care did not mean they were expected to die soon.  A person who qualified for hospice was someone who needed extra care and was not expected to recover from their disease or condition.  Thinking that any extra help my mother could get would be beneficial, my sister and I agreed to the care.  First she would need to qualify, though.

That afternoon when my sister was visiting with Mom in her room, a large, brusque nurse came to interview my mother to see if she qualified.  You could see how this was going to go! ”How do you feel?” she asked my mother to which she replied, “Fine.”  Who’s the president?”  “Obama”, my mother said.  “You don’t qualify.”  the nurse said and left.  An hour later I received a call from her confirming that she indeed did not qualify.   But an hour later I got another call.  “I talked with the doctor.  She said to qualify your mother.”

The next day I was called by the hospice social worker.  She began by saying that she had visited my mother and had enjoyed talking with her.  Then she asked what plans we had for her burial/cremation and if we needed help to set up a plan.  “My mother has a plot and it is paid for,”  I said a bit peeved.  “She is going to be buried on top of my father.”  This was something I did not want to picture just then.  I am not one to  dwell on the body of a person after they are gone, and therefore am not a regular grave visitor.  My father has been gone for 12 years.  His skeletal remains are in the ground, but his essence or ‘spirit ‘ is not.  His memories are what are important to me and so it will be with my mother.  “My mother is not dying,”  I said. “Yes, but it is good to plan ahead.  Does your mother have a preplanned service?”  “I don’t think we need to discuss this right now”, I said.  “All right”, she said, finally getting the point.  “I just want to be of help.”

I got very busy the next week and a half and did not visit my mother.  I did not get any calls from Atria and was reassured that the Hospice was also checking on her.  What happened during the next few weeks made realize all was not fine.

ER Nightmares Part III


Present day update: I spent last Saturday at the Emergency Room with my mother, again.  Atria called me at 6 that morning and said she had fallen at 2AM, the paramedics were called, but they checked her out and said she would be OK.  At 11 o’clock when I was getting ready to leave the house on errands they called again.  “Your mother has fallen.  She said she hit her head. The paramedics just took her to the Emergency Room.”  We were there all afternoon.  They had her neck in a brace and she complained about pain in her right arm.  They took x-rays of her neck and arm and nothing was broken.  I got her back to her room at 5 o’clock. She may not be able to walk again.  We’ll see what this week brings.

ER Nightmares Part III

The social worker quickly concluded that I wasn’t insane, and said, “We’d better talk,” and she led me into a private office next to the “computer room” which I had now dubbed Doctor Central.  “Your mother does not want the tests and there is nothing we can do,” she began.  “But the doctor says she needs them.  Can’t you sedate her and do the tests?  You can tell my mother is not a reasonable person and can’t make decisions for herself.”  I countered.  “Yes. . .” she said, “Maybe there is something we can do.  We can admit her as a 5150 patient.  It is usually reserved for a person who is in danger of hurting themselves or others.  I’ll see what I can do.  You can wait in the lobby and I’ll talk with the doctor.”  A few minutes later she came out. She told me they would be able to admit her as a 5150 under the H&S Code.  They would sedate her then draw the blood to do the tests.  Finally, we were getting somewhere!  “  It should take about two hours. “You can call the ER then and find out if she is to be admitted to the hospital, which they will probably do if they find something wrong,  or she will be released.”  I turned to my husband. “Let’s go home, ” I said.  “I’m tired and I could use a drink.”

I called at 7:30, two hours later as I was told, and asked about my mother.  A nurse came on the line.  “She refuses to have her blood drawn. She is being rather difficult.”  “Are you looking at her chart?” I said.  “She was admitted as a 5150 and needs to be sedated,” I said.  “I don’t see anything about that,” she said.  “I’m going to call the social worker who talked with us.  She can tell you,” I said hanging up.  I had just dialed the number for the social worker and began explaining the situation when our land line rang.  “It’s for you,” my husband said, “It’s the hospital.”  He handed me the phone.  It was the nurse I had spoken to offering me her apologies saying she had just come on duty and wasn’t aware of the situation.  She said they would call when the tests were completed.  We waited. And waited.  Finally at nine my husband went to bed.  “Wake me up if you want me to go with you,” he offered.  I waited.  Decided to have another glass of wine.  And waited.  Finally at 11 o”clock they called.  “You can come pick your mother up.  She is being released.  Her tests were negative.”  Should I wake my husband up?  I had been drinking wine.  I decided  to just go. At this point I didn’t care if they pulled me over.

When I arrived my mother was laying on the bed completely relaxed.  She was talking with the nurse. I looked down at her arm.  She had big bruises from her wrist to her elbow.  “What happened?” I asked.  “They must have had trouble finding a vein,” he answered.  “But her tests came out fine.”   I looked down on my mother, lying there so vulnerable.  Was I wrong to put her through this?   I thought.  Did my mother really know best?

ER Nightmares Part II


My mother surprised me last Friday.  I went to pick her up to take her to get her hair done and for lunch.  No, she still wasn’t ready when I got there.  What took me by surprise was when we left the room and began walking down the hall.  She took a few steps and then stopped.  “I don’t think I can go any further,” she said.  “Shall I get the wheelchair?” I said expecting an angry reply of “No, I’m never going to use a wheelchair.  I don’t need it.”  Instead it was a calm answer of, “Yes, I think that would help.”  Except for the pain of lifting it in and out of the car trunk, I think I was happier with using the wheelchair than she was.  Instead of walking slowly three paces behind or in front of her, we were able to zip into the restaurant and right up to a table. Afterward I took her on a quick tour around the mall before her hair appointment.  Oh, how free that felt!

ER Nightmares Part II

We only had to wait about 10 minutes before my mother was called in to see the doctor.  As we were shown into the small room back of the intake desk we passed several people with white coats who were facing computers.  When we were settled and my mother’s blood pressure taken, one of the white-coated doctors entered the room.  The doctor gave an explanation similar to what  the other doctor had said.  They were going to draw blood to do tests that would determine if there was an infection.  Septicemia could be very dangerous.  After my mother was settled in the room next to the “computer room”, I went back to sit in the lobby.  I well remembered the last time I took her to a lab to draw blood.  She refused to get out of the car.  This was in the middle of summer.  In 112º heat.  After an hour’s worth of time with my going back and forth to the lab telling them, “It’ll be just a few more minutes,”  she finally gave in.

From the lobby I had a view of my mother sitting in her chair waiting.  Soon a young male nurse walked up to her, talked for a few minutes and then left.  I knew what had happened.  I left the lobby, passed my mother and entered the “computer room”. The young nurse was sitting in front of one of the computers talking with the doctor.   “Are you going to take my mother’s blood?” I inquired.  “She told me she didn’t want me to do it,” he said. “So,” I said, or something like it.  “We can’t take her blood if she refuses,” he said, with the doctor nodding agreement.  “I thought the tests were important.  She doesn’t know what she is doing.  She isn’t capable of reason,” I said raising my voice a bit.  “Well, what we can do is call a social worker,” the doctor offered.  “Maybe she can talk with her.”  “Great,” I said. They said when she came they would tell her I was waiting in the lobby and she would meet me there first.  After about 40 minutes the social worker, a large amiable woman, came to meet me and I had high hopes. As we entered the small patient room she asked one of the nurse’s assistants to get my mother.  As I began to explain to the social worker why we needed to talk with her my mother slowly entered the room with her walker.  I still can’t grasp what happened next.  “She’s crazy,” my mother said pointing to me.  “I brought her to the hospital and she refuses to have her blood taken.”  I didn’t need to have taken psychology courses to know this was a classic case of projection!  As soon as I had closed my mouth, I began to protest.    Sensing conflict, the social worker asked me to leave so she could talk with my mother alone.  10 minutes later she came up to me in the lobby.  “Have you just been released from a mental hospital?  Have you ever been in a mental hospital?”
To be continued . . .

ER Nightmares


ER Nightmares

It all started with a snake . . . or a would-be snake.  One day last month I was getting ready to run some errands when I got a call from Atria.  It was one of the aides.  “Your mother is sitting in the hallway and won’t go back in her room.  She says there’s a snake under the bed.  Could you talk to her?”  Knowing it would do no good talking with my mother on the phone I said, “I’ll be right over.”  My mother has always been deathly afraid of snakes and it didn’t help that when we first moved to the desert and lived in a rural area we had our share of them on our property.  Once when she and my dad were visiting one came in the house. We found it curled up under the water heater.  Though we whispered and thought we removed it quietly, my mother found out anyway.  When I arrived at Atria my mother was still sitting outside her room.   “I’m not going in as long as there is a snake in there!” she exclaimed.  I did a full inspection of the room. “I don’t see a snake, Mom, I think it left.”  I finally convinced her to come back  inside, but I could tell she was still having reality problems when she began talking about seeing her parents the night before.

Soon after we had returned to the room the patient care nurse came to see how my mother was.  He then suggested that she go to a walk-in emergency medical clinic for a urinalysis.  “What does this have to do with what just happened?”  I asked.  He explained that sometimes elderly patients begin having hallucinations due to an infection.  If an infection that started in the urinary tract got into the blood stream there could be problems.  My mother hadn’t complained of pains, but she did use Depends which may make her more likely to contract an infection, I thought.  So over my mother’s objections I called my husband to bring over my power of attorney papers (just in case) along with the book I was reading.(I knew how these visits can go!)  After my husband arrived and I convinced him to go along, thinking that he could serve as a buffer between my mother and I, we left for the doctor’s office.

Luckily there were not many patients waiting to be seen  that afternoon so she did not have too long a wait.  When the results were in we were shown in to  see a doctor.  “There is some blood in her urine and her white blood cell count is up. She needs more tests which I can’t do here.  I would like her to go to the Emergency Room.  I will send some papers with you so they will know what she needs.”  Our long afternoon just got longer!

After checking in with the front desk we were soon seated in the waiting area near the admitting door.  It was then that the badgering started.  When my mother is angry she doesn’t cuss or yell.  She becomes snotty and caustic.  “I don’t know why I am here.  There is nothing wrong with me.  You’re trying to run my life.  You don’t know anything about doctors or hospitals.  I’ve worked with doctors. I know.”  I first looked to my husband who tried to placate her but gave up.  The rest of the time he kept his head in a book.  I next moved across the aisle from my mother, but she kept on.  People turned to look.  Finally I moved across the waiting room.  It was quiet.  I began to read my book.     . . . . . . .   to be continued.