Parental Journal 29 from Planet Elderly – Thanksgiving Visit Part Two

Thanksgiving Day – Nov. 26, 2015 – early afternoon

Mom and I went over to visit Dad earlier than usual. The Chicago Thanksgiving parade was on TV, so we enjoyed watching it with others. Dad seemed quite mystified by what he saw…able to identify some things but not others. He enjoyed seeing “all the queens,” however, he could not make sense of marching bands.

It was kind of a loud morning in the Sunshine Wing. One lady kept trying to take her sweatshirt off. Constantly. As a result, a staff member had to sit next to her and help monitor her behavior while she yelled and carried on. Usually she is rather quiet. She’s blind and will often ask “Where am I?” Today, however, she took center stage. Staff had to watch her constantly.

While one lady kept trying to get undressed, another kept insisting that she had to go to the bathroom. She, too, was in top voice form today…eventually referring to everyone as “idiots” because they would not take her to the bathroom. Staff members kept reminding her that she had just gone to the bathroom, but she didn’t believe them. Eventually, she was rolled down the hall to have another “go” at going. I hope she was happy.

Mom, Dad, and I had a table to ourselves during lunch. The Thanksgiving dinner was quite nice, but Dad was only interested in his salad, the roll, coffee, and a small slice of apple pie. He doesn’t like green beans. He prefers his dressing to be dry and crisp. Today’s wasn’t. He doesn’t care for mashed potatoes, but he ate a few bites of sweet potatoes and a couple bites of turkey. The turkey was typical sliced stuff that’s mass produced from birds bred and raised in commercial farm hell, so it didn’t appeal to me either, but I enjoyed all the other carbs…of course.

When Mom and I got home, we immediately changed into our pajamas. Now we’re in leisure mode for the rest of the day and evening. She’s been upstairs organizing her new wallet which she thinks is too big. I showed her how it fits nicely in the new purse I bought her, so she has agreed to use the new purse with the new wallet. Lord only knows what she’s putting where. I just hope she puts her driver’s license and medical cards where she can easily find them. She is always and forever rummaging through a purse to look for things. It’s maddening for me to watch and I often have to leave the room.

Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 – morning

Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving were difficult days in some respects. Mom seemed more emotional and reactive. I was tired and bored of just sitting around. I remember driving back to Missouri yesterday feeling emotionally drained. At least we had Mom’s friend, Toni, over for beef stew lunch on Sunday and that seemed to go well. Toni did all the talking and brought some chocolate chip cookies.

Mom decided the wallet was too big, so we got an inexpensive small one. Of course, it’s too small, so I coached her in how to use it to carry just the important cards: driver’s license, health cards, library card, etc. She has another pouch she keeps cash in…and then a couple other gadgets stuffed with various business cards and whatnot…including the driver’s license we replaced. This tells me that her lost wallet did not contain her driver’s license, nor, I learned later, did it contain any medical insurance cards. We had had that wallet organized, but she moved everything around again. Oh, well.

Mom and I argued a bit on Saturday. I tried to stay calm and patient during the visit and avoid trying to rationalize things with her, but I failed now and then. It’s all kind of a blur now, but here’s what I remember:

1. At one point I asked her what I’m supposed to think when I see her spending five minutes trying to dial a phone number with the cable remote…and when that didn’t work out, with the TV remote. Her response: “Well. I get them confused.” Yup.

2. During one emotional outburst she once again wished she was dead…said I might as well put her away…she can’t take it anymore. An hour later she’s telling me how much she enjoys her townhouse.

3. She mentioned a few times the need to find a job.

4. She told me she was tired of me always watching her…that I make her nervous and when will I be leaving.

5. She is absolutely convinced Dad uses her name to get things sent to the house…that he can walk up the stairs if he wants to…that he must be having someone help him do things she doesn’t know about.

6. She claims he goes to other doctors and doesn’t tell her.

I had a brief conversation with the nurse on duty when Mom was out of the community room area. Apparently Mom called Dad’s previous doctor and told him he needed to be at last Thursday’s conference meeting. The doctor called and was told that he did not need to be there…that Mom was confused…that she gets confused a lot. “We didn’t realize that,” was the response from the doctor…or whoever called on his behalf. That’s a bunch of bull because I’ve sent this doctor three confidential letters stating concern for my mom’s confusion…requesting that he or another specialist check it out. Nothing. All he does is make an appointment for her every few months to check in, and, of course, collect a nice Medicare payment.

Overall, Mom is healthy. The short term memory loss is getting worse, but her blood work is fine and she goes up and down three levels of stairs quite easily. She is confused, has short-term memory problems, is nervous and often has faulty thinking. I know there are some medicines that could help her, but when I mention that possibility she flatly states that she’s never been a pill taker. She has two prescriptions she takes, but that’s it. She does not want to take anymore medicine…and she has the right to reject that option.

What I noticed during this visit was her many references to when she was put in an orphanage as a child. She had a very difficult childhood and at times the scars seem quite raw. She talks about never having been loved or hugged…not getting any candy when other kids received some…leaving the orphanage and remembering other kids telling her, “Never come back. Never come back.” I know she fears ending up like the other patients in Dad’s dementia wing; it would represent being put away in another type of orphanage.

I try to see things from her perspective, but it is difficult. My thinking is a bit clearer, I can read mail and understand it, and I remember things better than she does…at least for now. It seems as if she is desperately hanging on to threads of “normalness,” but inside she is terrified. And that is so difficult to watch day in and day out.

I cried a lot the last two days of this visit. I’m feeling a bit helpless because she won’t accept help, which is her right. She is maintaining a home, taking care of herself, and driving. I think a closer investigation into her confusion and short-term memory loss would be helpful. But it would be helpful to me. She doesn’t want to know.

During this visit I wrote notes about the different bank accounts and incoming funds. Went to the library and made extra copies for her. This is information she cannot keep straight. While there, she agreed to get a large print book to read. That’s good. She enjoys reading, but hasn’t done so in months. Reading a novel gets her away from her own world, so I hope she enjoys the book.

Now…I’m home in Missouri for a while. Plan to go back up Dec. 20 and return after Christmas if the weather cooperates. I’m not sleeping well at night, but at least there are naps.

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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