Parental Journal 24 from Planet Elderly: “She was always a pretty good girl.”

Into day three of fifth visit. Mom’s short term memory seems worse to me, and I’m trying to be patient and stay calm because she is so easily upset. I’m doing a pretty good job so far because she keeps saying, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Plus, I continually remind myself to try to see things from her perspective.

Mom can sit around and have an interesting and fun conversation like anybody else. Of course, she repeats stories from the past over and over and over and over. I expect that and just listen and laugh along with her.

On the other hand, she cannot keep appointments and dates organized. She writes different things on different calendars…then she writes little messages on pieces of papers. It’s not unusual to find her at the dining room table searching among scraps of paper and calendars…reading, rereading, picking up and putting down. She’s trying to stay organized, but has developed a complex system that doesn’t work. We’re correcting calendar errors and putting correct appointment information on ONE piece of paper. At least it will be that way until I go back to MO.

She also has difficulty making phone calls to doctors’ offices because she usually runs into a phone tree. She often presses the wrong number and sometimes disconnects herself. If she’s on her rotary phone, that’s another issue. I’ll give her credit, though, she just gets back on the phone and tries again….and again and again. I don’t offer to take over. She wants to do what she can and if she needs my help, she will ask. I’ve been told that.

I’ve also been told not to put dishes away after I dry them. (With so few dishes, she’s not a fan of the dishwasher, and the last time we used it I think she put liquid dish washing detergent in it because we had a mass of bubbles spewing out of it. She just shut it off and never spoke of it again.) Mom is convinced I put things in the wrong place and she can’t find things where they ought to be. No problem. I dry the dishes and let her put them away. Then…in the future…if she can’t find something, I can plead “not guilty.”

My first evening here we talked a bit about future plans…options that are available. It just sort of came up at the right time, even though I had planned to bring it up later during my visit. So many times when she calls me she is upset and ready to give up…saying she doesn’t know how long she can keep doing this. I want her to know that she does have options…both here in Illinois and in Missouri. So we talked about them a bit…and she didn’t go ballistic.

Mom was very clear that she does not want to move to the community to where Dad is because if he should die, she would not want to stay there…so then why move. I agree. She did say that she would consider moving to MO after Dad dies, which is different from what she has said in the past. For now she is happy where she is and feels safe.

Yesterday she asked, “How old is Daddy?”
“You don’t know?” I asked.
“No.”
“Well, how old do you think he is?”
“Oh…in his 80s?”
“He’s 93, Mom.”
“He IS?”
Then I reminded her that I am 68. She didn’t seem to believe me.

Before visiting Dad today we went to the bank so Mom could get some cash on hand. We also took out tons of stamps Dad had in the safety deposit boxes. Mom has decided it’s time to do something with them. I volunteered to try to organize them and get some appraisals. It’s a pretty large project because he was a stamp collector for most of his life. Once organized and appraised, Mom wants to sell the stamps and add the funds to the account that pays for his care. It will be very interesting to sort through them…a unique look at history and the world.

After visiting Dad Mom asked, “Do we need to go to the bank today to get some cash?” I reminded her that we went this morning. She didn’t quite believe me until I told her how much she withdrew and that we took stamps home. Then she remembered that we were there.

For the past two days Dad has been groggy and sat with his eyes closed, unable to open them. He has also acquired a cold with runny nose and chest congestion. Lunch yesterday was a bit scary because he would sometimes choke as he tried to cough and eat at the same time. Today he was wide awake and much more animated and conversational. He still has a very loose, chesty cough and receives some medicine for it. We didn’t take him to the dining room. We had him eat some fruit in the common area where most of the others eat. He refused to eat the homemade turkey rice soup, which made Mom mad, so she ate it and told him he didn’t know what he was missing. Of course, he could not hear her. When offered some pudding, he loudly announced, “I don’t like pudding.” It went untouched.

Mom and Dad June 2015

Mom and Dad June 2015

At one point when Mom sat down next to Dad he looked at her and said, “Where do you creep up from? I’ll just have to call you creepy!” The look on her face was priceless…but his comment made me laugh.  She just asked, “What do you want to talk about?”
“How am I going to get more money?” he asked. Then he said, “I must have been working at Walgreens.”

Toward the end of our visit Dad was giving advice. “I don’t want you people to overdo what you do. I don’t want to get in your way. Looks like you’re doing okay.”  I assured him that everything is fine, but then Mom put him to the test.

“Who is she?”
“Huh?”
“Who is that lady next to you?”
“Oh…I have no idea.”
“She’s your stepdaughter.”
“My what?”
“Your stepdaughter, Jeanette.”
“Oh…well. That’s okay.”

After more advice from Dad, Mom left the area to check on something in his room.
“She was always a pretty good girl,” Dad said. So I asked him, “Were you a pretty good guy?” He just smiled and chuckled. He got the joke. Ha!

His parting words to me today were, “Don’t worry that you have to get everything done. Just go along.” I promised him I would.

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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