Parental Journal 34 From Planet Elderly -Christmas Visit 2015 Part Two (“Dont Get Married!!”)

Tuesday, December 22, 2016

At 6:30 this morning Mom said she had a doctor’s appointment.

“You do? Who with?”

“Dr. D,” she said.

“Oh, I thought you had your appointment with him last week on the 15th.”

“Maybe I better call and check,” she said.

“Sure, just call to find out what time you have an appointment today.”

She never called. Guess she decided that she did not have an appointment.
I was going to let her call so that her doctor’s office would see one example of her confusion, and she would also have another example of “being mixed up.” Most likely, she would not remember.

This morning’s visit with Dad was great. Dad was smiling and alert. His roommate’s daughter, Judy, was playing 12-string guitar and leading Christmas carols. We joined in.Judy 122215

Mom became upset with Dad at lunch because he would not eat the fish she ordered for him. He said it was okay to order it. She started to cry and told me she’d wait in Dad’s room. I wish she could just let some things go, but that’s not her way.

Dad and I just sat for a while, waiting for dessert to be served. Of course, he didn’t know why we were still sitting there. He kept looking at his table mates trying to maneuver forks and spoons…slowly and shakily. Then he made a bunch of funny faces and chuckled…like a kid.
He summarized his observation with: “We need all the special special. Bing. Bing. Bing. Bing!” Then he laughed.
“We sure do,” I replied…and I laughed with him.

Dessert never arrived, so I asked if he was done. He was and I wheeled him back to his wing. As we passed his room, I saw Mom sitting on the side of his bed, sobbing. I stopped and she came out. Dad saw that her eyes were red.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“You hurt me very much, Victor,” she said.

“I don’t know what happened,” he responded.

He could tell she was upset and he was, of course, clueless. He shook his head and shrugged. She became furious and told me to take him down the hall…that she was done!  I did as I was told.

I settled Dad near the TV. Other residents in the wing were finishing up their lunches. When Mom came into the area she went straight to Dad and quietly lectured him. I stood back a bit to let her have her space with him. I could hear her telling him, “I love you very much.”

Of course, he couldn’t hear.  “What?”he asked.

“I love you very much. You’re my life. I’m sorry you’re here. I wish you could be home.”

She wasn’t speaking loudly enough for him to hear, so all he could do was give her a confused look. Then she bent down and gave him a kiss and he kissed her back.

“You’re okay, kid,” he said…then he laughed.

“Don’t laugh at me,” she yelled. She made a motion to slap his hand and barely touched it. Then she left.

Dad became a bit agitated. It seemed clear to me that he could sense Mom’s emotions and he was confused. He kept wanting to figure out what we were doing and if he could come with. I had to redirect him and finally convinced him that everything was fine…we’ll see him soon…we need to go do his laundry.

On the drive home, Mom said she was sorry I had to go through this. She cried a bit and then settled down. “Don’t ever get married!” she said.

“Not gonna happen, Mom.  Been there; done that.”

Very gently, I spoke a bit about Alzheimer’s…explained how it is a difficult disease because essentially Dad’s brain is dying. That might have been difficult for her to hear, but it laid the foundation for my attempt to explain to her that Dad lives in the moment and loves her very much. I told her I hoped she could maybe relax a bit and not take his comments or expressions too personally.

“You know, Mom, if Dad took one look at me and said, ‘Holy Cow, she’s a weird one!’” I’d just shrug it off. It’s just something he says at the moment and he might not even know why. After you kissed him today he said, ‘You’re okay, kid.’ And he smiled a lot when we were singing carols with Judy.”  She nodded her head in agreement.

“This is a terrible disease,” I said. “It’s possible that one day he may not know who we are…he may not be able to say anything. If he says something you don’t like, it’s not the real him talking anymore. His brain is changing. Let’s remember his smiles and chuckles. I know it’s hard.”

Mom calmed down and when we got home I started making a chicken pesto dish. While preparing food we talked a bit about different things. Most of the time she kept asking about money and could not remember that she had her own bank books. She also thought we should go to the bank to get a hundred dollars, and I reminded her that we went yesterday and she should have some money in her special place. She went upstairs to check it out and find the bank books she does not think she has.

It’s late afternoon now. Things should be fairly quiet. I’ll read. Mom will watch “Wheel of Fortune” and probably snooze a bit.

Unfortunately, I hear her on the phone now…saying over and over, “Hello. Hello. Hello”…. telling someone her name.

Not sure who she called or why. At the moment, it’s none of my business.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 – late afternoon

Overall, a nice day. Of course, this morning Mom said we should go to the bank to get some money and I reminded her that we did that Monday.

Yesterday the wife of Dad’s roommate asked me, “Is your mother still living by herself?”

“Yep,” I replied. She gave me a wide-eyed raised eyebrow look. She’s in the independent living unit on the campus and visits her husband each afternoon.

Today a staff person stopped by to chat. Mom and Dad were in the dining room and I was relaxing in the lobby.

“They’re both doing really well,” she said.

I figured that was my opener. “Dad is thriving,” I said. “Mom is now having some confusion and memory loss problems.”

“Well, yes,” she said. “She seems confused a lot. One day she left a bunch of things here and I worry about her driving. Would she consider living here?”

“Oh…no,” I said. (“Hell, no” is what I should have said.) “She’s keeping her house up, she’s keeping herself up mostly, and she is allowed to drive. She refuses to be referred to a doctor. She’s not going anywhere until she has to, plus she lives with enormous guilt because Dad is here and she is at home.” Mom started walking toward us, so the conversation ended.

The staff knows my mom well. They see her helping Dad…trying to help other residents when staff don’t want her to…crying when she’s mad at Dad…yelling when she’s mad at Dad…crying when she leaves. They also know her as someone who openly gives hugs and likes to laugh. They know I live in Missouri, so they look out for her. We are all aware of her cognitive decline. We all worry.

Mom’s cell phone has been missing for weeks. When she lost her keys this afternoon and emptied her purse, there it was on the couch with the other purse clutter.

“There’s your phone!” I said.

“Yes. You want me to keep it with me so I do,” she replied.

I didn’t remind her that she’s been telling me she could not find it. I just took it over to the charger and plugged it in.

Last night I told Mom about a visit friend Bonnie and I made to Lenoir Woods in Columbia. I told Mom that friend Lynette wanted us to tour it because her mom stayed there for a while. Rather than cut me off, Mom showed some interest. Maybe I can entice her to look at the slide shows mailed to me. It’s a lovely senior care community that’s well respected. I think it’s nicer than where Dad is now. It’s also a bit less expensive.

Well, small baby steps…to show Mom her various options. I know she is thinking about the future and what she will do.

Holiday bulletin board in The Sunshine Wing:  A thought for the day.

holiday board 2015

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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