Parental Journal 21 from Planet Elderly: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”

Thurs. Aug. 27, 2015  5 p.m.

Ending visit number four…with a few bruises, but also with some clarity.

Mom’s mood swings have been up and down a lot. It’s fear and confusion, and it’s difficult to watch. The two or three times I’ve gently said that we need some outside help…we need to see a doctor to help us understand why she is confused…she became extremely upset. We’ve had a few arguments, although I try to avoid explaining too much because it doesn’t do much good. However, I was exasperated at one point when she was particularly loud and defensive, and I told her if she refuses to go see a doctor, I may have to consult a lawyer. Her response: “Go ahead! Put me away! Do what you want. You always did anyway!”

We had our conference visit today with staff about Dad’s care. He attended with us. He’s quite stable, eats the most at breakfast, and does not really engage too much in planned activities. Mom said she wants more therapy to help him walk so he can come home. The director of social services explained that they can try to evaluate him to see if he can try therapy again, but it ended several weeks ago because Dad could not remember instructions like “step” and “pivot.” She said Dad’s brain is not understanding things…that this is part of his disease. Mom just knows that before he came he was walking to the bathroom with a walker by himself at night. Now he can’t. It was agreed that when they do the evaluation with Dad, Mom can be present to see how it goes…to be his “cheerleader.” She liked that idea. All staff members are incredibly kind and understanding…to patients, residents, and family members.

Because of Mom’s volatility and confusion, I did the following yesterday:

1. Looked up potential lawyers in case we need elder care assistance.

2. Spoke to staff at both of her banks and requested that they send me a written note stating that they have observed her being confused when working with her bank accounts. One bank said there would be no problem. The person at the other bank wasn’t sure anyone could write a letter like that, but the supervisor would be informed of the request when she returned to work on Friday.

3. Spoke with Jose, the office person for my Mom’s primary care physician. I told him that my mom refuses to see any doctor about her confusion and asked what we are supposed to do in such a situation. He said that per HIPPA, no one can force a patient to go to a doctor. He would tell the doctor of my concerns. My thinking is that her doctor should at least be willing to refer her to a geriatric specialist or neurologist, and then if she refuses, he has at least done his part.

Mom had some angry moments when we visited Dad today…and lots of tearful ones. At one point I reached for his cup to get him some coffee at lunch and she angrily said, “I’ll do it!” So I started walking away to give myself some space. She then came up to me and said, “If you walk away from here, I’ll never speak to you again!”

I walked away and sat in the reception area. She came over and said, “Are you going back in?”

“I need some space for a bit.”

“So do I,” she replied, and she went back to sit with Dad during lunch.

A short while later she came back to the lounge area crying. “He doesn’t want to eat.” I told her to sit and relax and that I’d try to get him to eat something. He ate most of a roll and a few bites of baked salmon. He didn’t want anything else, so Mom joined us and decided she wanted to go home. We took him back to the common area of the Sunshine wing and then left.

The day is ending quietly. Mom and I reviewed some bank items and some information about her health insurance. We talked about how I’ll be back Oct. 4, and I wrote it on her calendar. I would not be surprised to be called to return before Oct. 4…but I look forward to some calmer days with friends and family back in Missouri. I leave tomorrow morning.

I know some people in my position would choose to go in like gangbusters and take over everything. I’m going at a slower pace. I have to. Mom is capable of taking care of herself and the house. She is weak on remembering some things, but basically gets by. I have no legal authority at this time to take over. Her confusion may be treatable, but if it is dementia, I will need a diagnosis. We may also just find ourselves dealing with one or more emergencies until Mom finally admits she needs help.

I watched my parents today and began to feel something different. It was when Gail, one of the caretakers, played the piano and sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Mom’s eyes teared up, and I began to grieve.

Examples of Mom’s Recent Confusion:

1. She went into the kitchen to make tuna sandwiches. Ten minutes later I found a sandwich made with old salami.

2. Several times a day she refers to the driver’s test she needs to take. I explain over and over that it is an eye exam that will take place Oct. 6 at 10:15. Ten minutes later she is usually anxious because she has to make an appointment with her eye doctor.

3. Today she said she needed to go to the bank to get $50 so that she has some money. I reminded her that we cashed a large check two days ago and she has a stash of $20s in her special place.

4. The back burner of the stove was left on “warm” overnight. We had a snack before bedtime last night. Neither of us checked. She’s usually quite diligent about the stove and the front door, so I think this was just a slight mistake. I know I’ve left the damn oven on overnight a few times in my life.

5. A statement came from Comcast. It’s one of the regular bills that is paid automatically. Mom poured over it for quite a while and then brought down a bank book to write a check. Finally, she realized that it was a notification of what will be deducted from the checking account in September. I told her she just needed to deduct that amount from the check book register. Then I heard her plugging numbers on the microwave. I said nothing. After the microwave went off, she sat down with a pencil and paper. It took her about 20 minutes to subtract the amount of the bill from the bank balance. Then she gave it to me to make sure she did it correctly. She did. “I don’t like to mess with the bank books. I don’t want to do anything wrong. It makes me nervous.”

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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