Parental Journal 55 from Planet Elderly – One Royally Pissed Off Elderly Car Passenger

Friday, April 29, 2016 – 1:30 a.m.

Yesterday was a long day and I ended up going to sleep around 7:30, exhausted. Now I’m up, rested and enjoying some coffee.  Will nap later.  But the mission was accomplished.  Mom had two hours of testing at the Thomson Memory Center.

It was a quiet start to the day and I thought maybe Mom had forgotten where we were going.  When she received her daily check in call from friend Jerry down in southern Illinois, I overheard her say something like, “but I don’t really want to go.”

The first three quarters of the drive to the center went smoothly as I followed directions printed out from an email the center staff sent.  I was thinking, “Gee…prayers are answered.  I’m so relieved she’s okay with just going and getting this over.”

Nope.

Our destination took us into unfamiliar territory and it took a long time.  She finally spoke and our conversation went mostly like this:

“I don’t like this.  Why are we going to this place?”

“Dr. Gupta wants us to finish up with some testing.”

“What kind of testing?”

“Cognitive testing.”  I thought I’d see if that would ride past her.  It didn’t.

“What’s that?”

“Well, it has something to do with how we do things and how we remember things.”

“Turn the car around.  I’m not going!”

I didn’t respond.

“I mean it!  I don’t want to go there!”

“I know,” I said.

Then she became very distraught and kicked up the volume.  I was worried that she might try to bolt from the car.  I was also concerned about being a distracted driver with a hysterical elderly passenger.

“I mean it!” she yelled.  “I want to go home!  NOW!  You’re killing me!  Just put me away!  I’d rather die!  I just want to open this door and jump out!”

I made sure I power locked all doors.

“Mom…it’s not safe for me to be driving when you are so upset and yelling.  I understand you don’t want to do the testing, but we have to follow Dr. Gupta’s orders.”

“I don’t care!  I’m never going back to her!  This is ridiculous…traveling all this way for an appointment.  I can’t be doing this.”

“It’s just one time…not a regular doctor you’ll be seeing.  Just one time for the testing and then a follow up visit.”

By this time we were in the parking lot.

“I’m not going in!  I want to go home!  I’ll raise a stink!”

“Ok…here it is,” I said as I pulled into a parking space.  I turned the motor off and we proceeded to get out of the car.  Mom was walking with determination to let anyone and everyone know that she didn’t want to be there.

When we walked to the reception window we were warmly greeted by Annamarie and asked how we were.

“Terrible!” Mom announced.  “I don’t want to be here.”

I handed Annamarie the 12 page pre-interview questionnaire and in the process I realized I was shaking.  At least Mom didn’t ask what that was.  She has no idea I received it and filled it out.

Annamarie escorted us to a nice waiting room with refreshments, a TV and magazines.  Shortly afterwards, another staff person came in to obtain insurance information.  I would have bet money that Mom was going to refuse to show her the cards, but she got her wallet out and the lady went to make copies.  She also gave us some documents to sign, briefly explained them, and Mom signed them.

At that point, I had a lot of admiration for Mom.  She is tenacious.  She may hate a situation, but she always figures “You just have to get through it,” and she demonstrated that yesterday.  Plus she has a healthy respect for medical and legal authorities.

Dr. Franzwa entered the room, introduced herself, and visited with us a bit.  She’s young, warm, and empathetic.  She explained that the three of us would visit for a while and then she would have some time with Mom to fill out a questionnaire and do some word and drawing tests.

With the pre-interview questionnaire I completed in front of her, Dr. Franzwa then interviewed Mom…getting her take on items to which I responded on the questionnaire.  Occasionally, she would look at me for sort of a confirmation of what Mom said and I would signal “no” or “yes” with some weird eye movements.  It was kind of awkward, but I think it worked.

For example, when asked if she spends time with friends, Mom said yes.   Actually, it’s rare. Mom mentioned that she plays Bingo.  When asked when she replied, “Every Thursday.”  I rolled my eyes big time at that response.  When she did go to Bingo, it was once a month and she stopped going six months ago.  The two friends who would meet her there also stopped going.

After the family interview, I went back to the TV room and Mom continued her time with Dr. Franzwa.  I had a cup of hot cocoa and looked at magazines.  Before I left, Dr. Franzwa said that if there was any other information I had, to leave it at the front desk.

I stopped at the front desk and asked Annamarie if it would be helpful to send her an email with attached letters I had written to Mom’s doctors in the past.  These letters addressed observations and my concerns about Mom’s short-term memory issues and her occasional confusion and delusions.  Yes.  Annamarie assured me that she would make sure Dr. Franzwa received the attachments.

When finished, Mom was escorted back to the TV room and we left.  Total time:  about 2 hours.

“She was nice,” Mom said as we walked back to the car.  “But I’m not coming here again.”

I did not respond.  I was concerned about how well I would be able to reverse the directions so we could get back to familiar territory near Grayslake.  I’m directionally challenged, but Mom has good intuition and with her assistance, we did ok except for one wrong turn I made which led us to Carpentersville.

The ride back to Grayslake was calm.  I didn’t ask about her time with Dr. Franzwa and Mom didn’t talk about it.  Once in a while she would start crying, but quickly recovered.

“I don’t see why we need to go back on Monday,” she said.

“The appointment is for Monday, May 9,” I said.  “It’s just a follow up visit to go over her report.”

“Can’t they just mail us the report?”

“They probably could, but the follow up visit gives them a chance to answer any questions.”

“Well, I’m not going.  You can go, but I’m not going.”

“Okay.”

Then the conversation turned to stopping for a bite to eat before going to see Dad…having a taste for a tuna fish sandwich…and we ended up back at Mom’s where I made tuna fish sandwiches.  Then we visited Dad.

For the rest of the day/evening Mom was cheerful.  We had pork loin for dinner and she kept saying over and over and over how tender it was.  She said nothing about the time at the center. There were no more complaints. Instead, she seemed quite upbeat that we would have company for lunch on Tuesday.  She will do the twice baked potatoes and decided to do the dessert as well, a recipe she’s received compliments on many times.  Me…I’m in charge of the chicken and vegetable.

By 7 p.m. I was worn and exhausted.  I also wanted some time alone, so I said I was going upstairs to read and would probably go to sleep early.  When I bent down to kiss Mom goodnight she smiled and said, “Good night and thank you for everything.”

Sure.  No problem.

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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