Parental Journal 07 from Planet Elderly: Wearing Out My Welcome

Parental Journal 07 April 6, 2015

I think I’m kind of wearing out my welcome. On one hand, Mom is extremely grateful I’m here helping to organize paperwork, help advocate, keep her on track, do a little cooking, etc. On the other hand, we sometimes squabble, but she takes it far more seriously than I do. This morning she mentioned how we’re both getting frustrated with each other. We are???? I told her the only time I feel truly frustrated is when we drive around and around because she doesn’t remember how to get somewhere. Other than that, I’m having a good time and glad to be of help. On her side, she is super sensitive to receiving suggestions…from ANYONE. Yet there are also times when she’ll come right out and ask, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” Also, she just isn’t used to having someone else around…and my stuff spread out here and there.

Dad is on the first floor now…in a wing reserved for persons with Alzheimer’s and severe dementia. The residents have their own TV area, and most receive their meals there. Dad can feed himself, so we take him to the dining room. We had Easter dinner there with him yesterday and it was delicious. Excellent food and very accommodating if someone wants something simple. Dad pretty much eats what’s put in front of him for breakfast, his favorite meal. Mom helps choose his lunch menu. A staff member picks dinner items for him and probably tries to ask what he prefers, even though he’s semi-asleep.
Yesterday he did more talking than we have heard in a long time. “I have to pee. Please help me. I have to go pee.” Two male staff members moved him from a recliner to a wheelchair and it took some maneuvering. Dad was scared. “I…I…I don’t know what to do!” Once seated, he said, “Thank you.” He was taken to his room and was returned a bit later, more comfortable. He is dressed for incontinence 24/7.

Several residents in Dad’s wing are merely bodies in chairs…slumped over…unresponsive and unaware. It is sad and it bothers my mom. One lady who is quite alert was so happy to see us yesterday. She remembered my mom from their school days. She chatted on and on and I went with the flow. It took a while for Mom to realize the lady was in another time and place.

There are two married couples in Dad’s area…or at least the couples were together in the TV area. When the aide came to take one husband away for a while, she gave them some time together. The wife was generally unresponsive, so I assumed she has Alzheimer’s. But before he was wheeled out of the room, the husband leaned over to give her a kiss…touching her face with his hand and sweetly holding his lips to hers for quite a long time. I was almost moved to tears. I imagined them as a young couple…having no idea they would be treading these difficult waters together so many years later.
I’ve come to know some of the regular residents in the dining room. There are two rooms actually, and Dad is assigned to table 14 in the smaller room. We have not seen any sign of his former table companion, Tom, for over a week.

Most residents are in wheelchairs and they are brought to their tables by aides. As residents arrive, dining staff speak with each one to ask which menu items they want. It’s a nice restaurant style atmosphere…and the soup is always homemade.
At the table next to us are Eleanor and Martha. Martha can be a chatterbox at times. Eleanor has a hard time hearing. Martha has a deep, graveling voice and is fond of addressing staff as “Miss.” “Miss, may I have a glass of water?” “Miss, when will I be taken to my room?” “Miss, it looks so gloomy outside.” Sometimes she thinks her daughter will be coming…or that someone has called to report an accident…and the staff seems very adept at easing her mind. What’s funny is that at the end of every lunch time, both Eleanor and Martha want “the check.” They are told, “It’s on the house.” “Oh…really? How nice!!”
Also at the table next to us is Jeanette. She is quite unresponsive because she has had a stroke; however, her eyes watch everyone and she seems very aware of all that is happening. I think the idea of a stroke is frightening…especially if one cannot move legs or arms. I think she has given some brief responses to questions, but for the most part, she is mute…and beautiful. Her daughter is a younger version…and I overheard the daughter telling staff that her own husband was in a horrible motorcycle accident and is in intensive care. It happened just after her mom had her stroke.

Dad continues to eat quite well, but he has labored breathing and his skin is cool to the touch. He has congestive heart disease. He doesn’t initiate conversation, except probably in instances like yesterday when he felt he had to go pee while in a recliner. His teeth are in terrible condition. He stopped going to the dentist decades ago…so his teeth are slowly rotting. I can’t figure out why he has not had a major decay/root canal type of pain. He chomps on his food like a contented cow…then spends a lot of time trying to use his tongue to clean in between teeth.

Dad will transition into the long-term care phase at The Village…same room, and for now he has no roommate. Mom and I spoke about this last night…pay for the third and last week of “respite” care, or go ahead and start him on the monthly schedule. We agreed on monthly because it did not look like he would improve much in one week. And, of course, she is so very, very guilt-ridden and cries when we visit him. Note to the Universe: if anyone ever has to put me in a facility…don’t worry about it. Get on with life and enjoy the ability to walk, talk, chew, toilet yourself, laugh, and know the present moment.

Concerns about Mom recently:
1. We agreed to have sloppy Joes for a late lunch the other day after visiting Dad. In the evening, I came downstairs after showering and Mom was fixing the same meal I prepared for lunch. She didn’t seem to remember we had that for lunch. All she could remember was that we planned to have sloppy Joes. Her response: “Oh well.”

2. The other evening she finished doing Dad’s laundry, went upstairs, and came back down all dressed because she thought we were going to see Dad. I reminded her that we see him from about 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and we bring his clean clothes then.

3. We drove to the city hall to pay an electric bill and get the bill put on automatic payment. She gave directions. We took several wrong turns and got lost because all she could remember was that it was near railroad tracks.

Tomorrow: she has an eye exam in the morning. I’ll need to carefully look up the directions in advance and write them out.

Within a couple of weeks we should have her finances organized at one bank. That will be a relief. It will also be easier for her to understand…I think.

It’s almost 5:30 p.m. Time for a glass of wine.
carefully look up the directions in advance and write them out.
Within a couple of weeks we should have her finances organized at one bank. That will be a relief. It will also be easier for her to understand…….I think.
It’s almost 5:30 p.m. Time for a glass of wine.

About jjmummert

Just another voice in the wilderness from someone who's lived on this planet for over 60 years and faces permanent residency on Planet Elderly. Update: As of March 2, 2017, I turned 70. I'm now an official resident of Planet Elderly. Dad passed away September 22, 2016. I view the Parental Journal entries as part therapy, part family history, sort of a case study of what our family experiences with one parent in a memory care unit, another living independently with short-term memory loss, and me, the only child daughter who lives 400 miles away. It's quite an adventure. Recommended readings for others who have loved ones who live with some form of dementia: The 36-Hour Day, The Myth of Alzheimer's - What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis, Alzheimer's Early Stages.
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