Parental Journal 70 from Planet Elderly – Anger, Confusion and Root Beer Floats

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 – mid-morning

The past couple days have been a roller coaster of emotions again—for both of us.  Pretty normal for families in our situation.                going crazy

I Resigned from Project Driver’s License

Mom failed her third attempt last Friday.  Apparently I was mistaken in thinking she had only three attempts and then would have to wait a year.  We were told she could take the test as many times as she wanted.  Only doctors and law officials can complete a form to attest to someone’s ability to be a safe driver.  If people pass the test, they can drive.  No limit to the number of attempts to pass the test.

We had a conversation with one of the clerks because I questioned the policy.

“You failed the test three times?” she asked Mom.

“Yes.”

“Why did you fail?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did the examiners tell you after the tests?”

“Nothing.  They didn’t tell me anything.”

“They talk with you and review the results.  Who did you take your test with today?”

“I don’t know…someone.”

“Was it a man or a woman?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know??  Were they wearing glasses or not?”

“Yes…I think maybe glasses,” Mom said.

“Just a minute,” the clerk said, and off she went.  A couple minutes later we were escorted to the manager’s office.  He tried to tell Mom that it was time to stop doing all the work…time to be driven by others.

“NO!” she shouted and stormed out of his office.

I explained our situation with me living 400 miles away and how doctors and others, including myself, are concerned about Mom driving, especially when she is emotionally upset.  She doesn’t drive much and only to a couple places…but I’m trying to ensure that she does not hurt herself or others.  I told him I was hoping DMV could be the bad guys in this.

He handed me a form her doctor could fill out attesting to her ability to be a safe driver…or not.  The form requires Mom’s signature to give the doctor permission to submit the report.  Right.  If she knows what it’s for, she will not sign it.

The manager had a look of apology, but Illinois has its system and there wasn’t  much he could do.  Interestingly, Judy Beyer, a new friend here, told me she knew someone whose elderly parent passed the test.  The examiner said, “He passed the test…but he really shouldn’t be driving.”

Later that day I sat Mom down and said I am no longer involved in assisting with the driving exam…that I agreed with doctors and others, and if she wants to keep taking the test she will need to do it on her own or with neighbor Kevin’s assistance.  I’m done.    She listened quietly and said, “Okay.”

As I write this with light classical music playing in the background on TV and enjoying time alone, I believe she and Kevin have left to do some practice driving.  I thought she and I were going to visit Dad today around 10, but she probably changed her mind.  We’ll go see Dad later.

Next Steps

There were some wild outbursts over the weekend.  It’s not how she wants to be.  Vascular dementia can be fairly ugly from what I’ve read.  It is also terribly sad to see a loved one confused and angry…wishing she were dead…hating her life one minute and then enjoying a bowl of chocolate ice cream the next.  Sometimes Mom will say, “I don’t know what’s wrong.  I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

I finally had to have a careful talk with Mom about how I need help (got this idea from good friend, Bonnie)…how we need to talk about plans in the event that she is no longer able to drive someday.  At first she was angry and defensive.  She thought I wanted to put her away.  I was finally able to convince her that she is doing fairly well for now and that I want her to live at home and see Dad as often as she wants.  To do that, we’ll need more assistance than what Kevin can give.  He has a life, too, and he cannot drive her everywhere.  I told her I found an agency that provides all kinds of services to families like ours…including just simple transportation.  Then later, if more assistance is needed to keep her home, that can happen, too.  I stressed how much more at ease I would be at home in Missouri knowing she had resources to keep her safe and comfortable.

I was expecting more arguing, but she said, “That’s okay.”  I stressed that I wanted to just have a meeting to get to know more about what they do and tell them about our transportation need.  She was perfectly fine with that, so I contacted them through their website and should hear from them this week.

Another thing Mom agreed to was to have a visit with the attorney who drew up their wills and trusts.  Those are in place, but I want us to meet with her to give her an update on our family’s situation and find out if she has any recommendations for us, especially since I live far away.  There are some elder care issues I want clarified in terms of Illinois law, and maybe she has answers or can refer us to an appropriate attorney.  I hope to avoid the whole guardian thing.  If Mom starts accepting some in home assistance as her needs for it increase, then that will be fine.   I filled out information on the lawyer’s website as well and hope to hear from her soon.  I’m wary, though.  I attempted to contact her via phone several months ago and she never returned my call.

So…hoping to have two meetings soon…and resources in place to assist Mom as needed before I can return to my life in Missouri for a few weeks to recharge and see family and friends.

Incidents of Concern

To the Bank:  Saturday Mom had difficulty driving to a familiar place:  Bank of America…just down the road on Illinois 120.  She had a check to cash and I stayed home.  She was gone much longer than expected.  When she returned she said she had been to four banks and none of them would cash her check because she didn’t have an account there.  Trying to have her retrace her steps was of no use.

“Well, did you get the check cashed?”

“Yes I did.”

“Where?”

“I don’t remember.”

Finding Dad’s Room:  During this visit, I’ve noticed that Mom is uncertain where Dad’s room is.  She cautiously walks down the hall of Dad’s wing reading the names.  When she sees his name, she looks surprised.  A month ago, she just walked straight to his room with no effort.

Laundry Confusion:  Mom will do Dad’s laundry, fold the clothes (usually just a few items because she collects his dirty clothes every day), and puts the clean clothes on the couch, ready for her next visit.  What she keeps doing now is going downstairs to see if the laundry is done…even though it is clean, folded, and placed on the couch.

Thank Goodness for Root Beer Floats

Yesterday was hot and muggy.  We visited Dad three times, but each time he was asleep in his chair and fairly unresponsive.  He was eating well, but was quite sleepy whenever we showed up.

dog and suds

On our way home from the afternoon visit, I suggested we go get a root beer float.  Mom was thrilled.  We drove to Dog N Suds.  She didn’t wait for the person to come to the car to take our order.  Instead, she got out of the car, found the young lady server and ordered two large root beer floats.  The young lady was very kind…concerned that Mom would find her way back to the car, and she did.

We sat in the car like a couple of teenage pals. We didn’t say much…just enjoyed the floats.  When we got home, we were both full of root beer and creamy vanilla ice cream.  Suddenly we both felt tired.  I think we literally passed out.

I woke up about 5 p.m.  Mom woke up a bit later and thought it was the next day. Great naps!! We made a third trip to see if Dad was a bit more awake.  He wasn’t, but we sat with him, she held his hand, and shortly before we left he opened his eyes just wide enough to see her and give her a little smile.  She was happy.

Coneflowers folks July 2016 01

Bees and butterflies are enjoying the coneflowers I planted a few years ago in Mom’s little patch of ground next to her townhouse patio.

Coneflowers folks July 2016 02

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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