Parental Journal 12 from Planet Elderly: Pals in Unit C

Fri. May 8, 2015 – 2 p.m.

Winding down a 7-week stay with my Mom. Monday I leave to go visit MO for what I hope will be about 6 weeks.

I’m going to kinda miss some of my “pals” in Unit C. First off, there’s Wanda. Wanda sits with a baby doll on her lap and frowns at people; however, she can, at times, engage in companionship. Both Mom and I have been honored guests at the chair next to her at her insistence. Wanda hates to have her blood pressure taken and yells as if being tortured. Getting her to take medicine is also quite a chore. She’s given supplemental drinks throughout the day because she barely eats anything. She barely drinks those either.
One time when I sat next to Wanda, she had her hand draped over mine while holding on to her baby doll with her other hand.

When Wanda invited Mom to sit with her recently, Mom went right over and started talking about the baby. Wanda asked Mom if she had a baby, and Mom pointed to my dad. “That’s my baby,” she said. “REALLY???” Wanda replied.

Then there’s a married couple, Joe and Jan. Jan used to be a teacher. They don’t share a room, but they are across the hall from one another. Joe is in a wheelchair and is quite hard of hearing. Jan is up and about all the time; never in a wheel chair, but she sits next to Joe and they have these conversations with each other…conversations they can barely hear. They sit together at a round table for their meals.  It’s kind of sweet watching them. He often reaches for her hand, and she fusses over him.

Last Saturday when we visited, Jan was walking around with a white cloth cleaning. It was Saturday, after all, and that was probably the weekly cleaning day in her life. I mean, she was really workin’ it…dusting this…wiping down that…totally in charge and not just slouching along. She was on a mission! Her own version of a white tornado!

Jan loves her purse, also. It’s kind of worn and tattered, but it’s never out of sight. If Jan is busy with something, Joe keeps it close to him. I was kind of curious as to what’s in the purse when she opened it the other day and started shuffling through bits of paper. It looked like scrap paper…or old lists…and she pulled a few out, studied them carefully, showed them to Joe…he nodded his head…then she tore up a couple and he agreed it was a good thing to do…and so forth.

Recently an aide came to take Joe’s blood pressure and Jan had questions for her.
“Where are we?”
“You’re at Victory Lakes,” the aide replied.
“Well, I don’t live here. How long are we staying?”
“Oh…you’re living here now, Joan. This is your new home.”
“Does my family know we’re here?”
“Yes, they do.”
“I don’t understand how we got here. Who made these arrangements?”
“Your children arranged for you and Joe to move here where you will be comfortable and safe.”
“Well, I was perfectly comfortable before.”
“Ok…done with Joe’s blood pressure. It looks good. Why don’t you wheel him over to your table because it’s almost time for lunch.”
“Oh. Okay.”

When Joan is in a good mood she walks with sort of a “bee bop” rhythm…smiling…heading over to Joe who looks up and smiles. She watches over him carefully and lovingly. At least they are somewhat in each other’s world most of the time.

I’ve created a my two mile walk about three blocks from where my Mom lives. It’s sort of a public park/beach/fishing area.  I usually see geese, but also saw a blue heron the other day. Beautiful. Of course, one has to side step the various droppings of geese poop along the path.

I’m ready to return to MO and recharge my battery. I’ve had a bit of an apprenticeship here on Planet Elderly, and a close up look at the country of dementia. It has all very much affected my thoughts about living and aging for whatever time I might have left.
I’ve written to a few friends saying that this has been the LONGEST week, but that’s because I am so looking forward to being in Missouri and slipping back into my own life for a while.

Sat. May 9, 2015 4 p.m.

When we walked into the facility late this morning to see Dad, there was music coming from one of the common areas. A mother/daughter act was providing entertainment and engaging residents in sing along with Elvis hits…as well as others. The daughter works for a cruise line. She sings and plays saxophone. Some of the residents were really rockin’ it…as best they could. Lots of smiles on the faces of Elvis fans.

I saw Joe and Jan after the performance and I asked Jan, “Did you enjoy the show?” Her response: “I have no idea.” Ah….life with dementia. At least she’s honest.

Dad’s doing ok. Unlike others, he has a great appetite and eats well. Like others, he does not like to take his medicine. Sometimes he gets a little mouthy about taking it, but in general they think he’s a sweet guy.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, so I will do my very best to be a good shoulder/ear for Mom when she needs one…without explaining anything unless she asks me to. That seems to be her preference.  She’s been talking about wanting some pj’s, so I bought her some nice ones when I was in Normal, IL for a weekend with Steve. Will also take her out to dinner…and she’s been told three times that I am paying for the dinner, not her.

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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