June 30, 2015 afternoon
This two-week visit is coming to an end. Dad’s birthday is tomorrow and I return to MO on Thurs. July 2. My next scheduled visit is Aug. 13 – 20 for Mom’s birthday on the 16th…unless some emergency surfaces.
The second half of this visit had a bit more drama and plenty of humor. The drama comes from Mom…the humor from Dad.
Dad was a veritable comedian last week…chatting about how good looking he is and how all the gals like him. He mentioned he liked the “young folks here” and thought it was “amazing that these houses can manage so many people.” He greeted Mom by name and sometimes told her to “have a good time. Everything’s okay.” Then he’d chuckle and wink, “What a gal!”
This week he confused Mom and me. He asked her if she’s still teaching. Then when she told him she is Pearl, he asked if she still works for Walgreens. Mom is doing better at realizing his comments come from where he is at the time. At times she can kind of go along with a neutral response; at other times she thinks he’s asking her a direct and important question of relevance. Yesterday he thought he was at Walgreens and kept mentioning “Mr. Petrie.” At one time he asked, “Is that him?” when he saw another resident wheeling himself down the hall. Mom said, “It better not be. Petrie’s been dead a long time.”
The other day I told Dad that he has a birthday coming up and I asked him how old he’s going to be. “18. Yeah….I feel great!” then he laughed more.
More recently he’s been talking about going home. This upsets Mom. She would still like him to be home, but knows she can’t manage him by herself and she refuses to have in-home help. She cries when we leave him because she feels guilty when he says things like, “So what are we gonna do now?” Today we tried not to mention that she was going home. “I’m going to do your laundry.” “Oh…that’s okay,” he replied. “You gonna do it here or at your house?”
Dad is much more alert and talkative now than when he first arrived at Victory Lakes. He’s thriving in some ways…but in terms of his communication process, it’s sad to watch him start a sentence or question and then be unable to finish it. “Do you think that we’ll be able to…………oh…….I don’t know……..” “I suppose it will be ok if…………uh……..if………” “Maybe if it’s one and a half….” Then there will be full sentences: “I don’t even know my own name.” “Wow!” when I bring him a glass water. “You just do what you need to do.” “There are a lot of people here. You can’t tell who is who.” “I think I gotta go wee wee.”
Mom’s episodes of drama stem from her confusion about bills, statements, and bank books. This is ongoing. We’ve gone over things many times…everything has a label…and there are notes and reminders. With each visit I mention that I can take over managing finances whenever it becomes too much for her. She doesn’t say no….because I know she wants to try to take care of things herself with just coaching from me. For now, practically everything is on auto pay except for an occasional medical bill that will come in or when she wants some cash on hand. She has never had and does not want a debit card. She would have trouble remembering a pin number anyway. She does not believe in using credit cards. A few months ago her bank set her up with a credit card so that she could more easily make payments if she’s shopping. Now she no longer wants that. She has never believed in using credit cards, and has done so only a few times in her life. “Things can happen. You never know. If I need to buy something, I’ll pay cash. If I don’t have the cash, then I won’t buy anything.”
I set Mom up with a little filing system using folders and a small plastic file box. It confuses her, and with every visit I have to remind her of what’s there and why. Then she feels better…until three days later when she forgets again. Without the filing cabinet, there are things tucked in envelopes stashed in drawers or in boxes here and there. At least the basic filing system helps me keep track of things…once I find old statements and put them in their proper file. Mom seems to understand when I show her how to use it, but then she forgets about it.
We were in the closet the other day when I saw all these shoe boxes. I asked if there were shoes in them because she’s been saying she has no shoes. Sure enough…over 10 pairs. When I looked at another area of the closet I thought a saw a bottle of liquor. “What’s this?” I asked. There were two bottles. One was an unopened Jim Beam. The other was still wrapped in Christmas paper, probably a gift from someone 15 or 20 years ago. She told me to open it and we discovered a bottle of Southern Comfort. “Take them home,” she said. “I won’t use them.” …and she won’t….although on occasion she has joined me in a glass of wine and seemed to enjoy it. “This ain’t bad,” she often says. We had “happy hour” yesterday after a particularly grueling session with some paperwork she did not understand. She was a happy Chatty Cathy by the time she finished her little glass of wine. “Yeah….this tastes pretty good!”
Mom’s short-term memory problem is sometimes quite pronounced and at other times, not a problem. For now, she continues to manage most things in a halting and shuffling way, but woe unto anyone who gets in her way. I must say that with this visit she has been far less explosive and frequently thanks me for helping. She has been more childlike.
Wed. July 1 2015 afternoon – Dad’s 93rd birthday
Well, it wasn’t the joyous day my mom expected, but it was what it was. Dad said thank you to birthday wishes and cards, but he was agitated much of the time, trying to explain things he could not finish expressing. We ate lunch with him, but he was not hungry, and when Mom tried to feed him something, he shouted at her. So we had a little drama in the dining room. It happens from time to time. Mom, of course, was upset and ran off to cry. When she returned she was angry and she told Dad never to yell at her like that again. He just sat for a while and still did not eat. Eventually he said something about being angry with Jeanette when he should have kept his mouth shut. Ok! He had the wrong person, but he knew he said something that hurt the feelings of someone else. Mom held his hand, an attendant got him a small bowl of fruit and he ate most of it, and we returned to Unit C where I served pieces of cake to the residents. Jan, a former school teacher, jumped up when she learned it was Dad’s birthday. She took his hands in hers and sang Happy Birthday to him. He was smiling. We joined in with Jan. Of course, ten minutes later Jan asked, “Aren’t we going to sing Happy Birthday to him?” I told her we did already and she led the song. “Oh.” Five minutes later she asked if we were going to sing Happy Birthday…so I just repeated the message. She seemed pleased that Dad had been sung to….”by someone.”
We learned that at breakfast the kitchen staff gathered at his table and sang Happy Birthday to Dad, plus staff placed a banner on his door. So by the time we arrived, he’d been “birthday’d out,” so to speak. Also, he was having BM issues and needed diapers and pants changed twice during our visit. I’m sure he was ready for his nap after we left.
Just relaxing tonight with the usual…evening news.”Wheel of Fortune” (G.R.O.A.N…..) and whatever else might be on TV. I try to find movies Mom might be interested in, but often by 8 p.m. or so, she is slumped in her chair with her mouth open…snoring away.
I’m planning on a 7 week stay in MO, but something tells me it will be interrupted. Thus, it’s difficult to make definite plans. I have another spot of basal cell skin cancer to be surgically removed on the 6th…then a few days of looking like I was in a street fight big time. Once the stitches are out and the swelling goes down, I’ll feel like being more sociable. Will likely inhale the third season of “Orange Is the New Black” while I sit around with ice packs. Went through this in 2013; just very glad it’s the easiest kind of skin cancer to treat.