Parental Journal 89 from Planet Elderly – Relocation Saga: Are We Settling in yet?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017  early afternoon

Settling in yet?

Kinda…sorta…a wee bit now and then…depends on the time of day.

A few weeks ago, friends Susan and Bonnie helped me arrange Mom’s furniture in her room and stock drawers/shelves.  Mom was next door engaged in some activities.  The plan was to leave before she saw it, so we did.

Good thing.  From what I heard the next day, Mom was royally pissed to see her favorite and cherished things set up in her room.  On some level, I’m sure it registered as a confirmation that she is not returning to Illinois.

We had a visit with Mary Kaye, Director of Activities, and Mom was given an opportunity to tell me how she felt about everything.  She did a wonderful job expressing her emotions.

After listening to Mom I was asked to promise that I would never lie to her again.  I agreed… basically.  No lying about the relocation or anything else important, but I may need to fib a bit about small stuff if it’s in her best interest.  It happens when a loved one lives with dementia.

Threats

General thinking was that once Mom had some of her own things moved in, she would adjust to the relocation more easily.  Not exactly.

I tried taking her on an outing to Stephens Lake.  We drove over to the lake, started walking around the area, and she immediately started talking about wanting to go home.  “I don’t fit in here.  I like Grayslake better.  I’m bored.  I miss my place.  Can you take me home tomorrow?”

“I can’t, Mom.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve made the relocation thousands of other families have to make every year so that we live in the same area.”

“Well I hate it here.  I don’t know anyone.  Please…can’t you just take me back so I can live by myself in my own place?”

“I can’t, Mom.”

After hearing my third “I can’t,” Mom turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “Goodbye Jeanette.  I’ll go myself.”  Then she started walking…presumably to Illinois.

Mom attempting to walk back to Illinois from Stephens Lake Park April 2017

I waited a bit and then followed her, trailing behind a bit.  After about 10 minutes of walking she saw me following her.

“Just leave me alone.  I might as well just walk out into the street and get run over.”

Eventually, I convinced her to get back into the car.   Well, it was more like, “We need to get back into the car, Mom or I will call the police.”  I’ve used that line twice before and it was never an empty threat.

While driving back to Mill Creek Village, Mom continued talking about how unhappy she was.  I just let her vent.  She needed to.  Just as she began to proclaim that she might as well jump out of the car, I made sure the doors were locked.  We made it back without further threats but I was spent.  I needed to leave and go home where I could feel half sane.

Looking back on the relocation, that day was probably the worst. Mom was clearly distraught and obsessed with going back to Grayslake.  I was just recovering from having her stuff moved in and feeling guilty because she never saw it coming.

Adjusting

More recently, I can say with some confidence that Mom and I are both adjusting.

I’m adjusting to her being in Columbia, visiting her several times a week, and learning not to feel guilty if I don’t see her every day.  My son visits on Monday mornings.

She’s adjusting but forgets that she’s doing so.  Thus, there are still conversations about wanting to go back to Grayslake…even though “The people here are very nice.”  Sometimes she says, “Is this where I live now?  I’m not happy about this one bit…but I gotta make the best of it.”

Weekdays are best.  There are various activities Mary Kaye makes sure Mom enjoys, either in the memory care building  with walks, gardening, crafts, baking projects or next door at assisted living building where there is bingo, chair Zumba, chair yoga, special activities, etc.

Weekends are when I try to step in and engage Mom.  Most communities have fewer staff and fewer activities on weekends, so for someone like Mom who is easily bored, her contentment on the weekends is iffy.  Going on outings is iffy, too, because it usually ends up with a monologue about wanting to go back to Grayslake because she can take care of herself…and if she falls and hurts herself, just let her die.   g.r.o.a.n.

Mother’s Day   

In contrast to the day she thought she might try to walk back to Illinois or at least to a bus station that would help get her there, we had a very nice Mother’s Day.  I bought Mom a top and a pair of jeans with an elastic waist.  She loved them.

Mother's Day 2017 wearing new top and jeans

We shared a spaghetti dinner at Babbo’s and Adam joined us.  His portion of lasagna was monstrous and he took half of it home.  We gave him remainders of the giant meatballs that came with the spaghetti.  Mom believes meatballs need to be small.  I agree.  Not a fan of the huge meatballs at Babbo’s, but the spaghetti sauce was delicious…a bit creamy.

Observations

Mom speaks of being tired a lot.  Plus one toe on her left foot hurts.  Her feet and ankles tend to be a bit swollen.  Podiatry appointment in early June.

She is still packing her things to go home.  One day she had a large pillow case stuffed with clothes.  She told me she had done laundry so I helped her put things away, including the winter gloves packed between sweaters.

Based on staff recommendations, she is going to have a month of occupational therapy three times a week.  I suggested they teach her how to turn the TV in her room on and off.

Things continually get “lost.”    The TV remote:  found it in her purse.    Her purse:  found it hanging on a hanger in her closet.   Her shoes:  often under the bed.  Certain items of clothing:  occasionally stashed in Wal Mart plastic bags on closet floor.

The drawers of her dresser were once well organized.  Now each is a jumble of various items of clothing.  Gloves from the 1960s lie on top of sweaters; various pieces of underwear are located in various drawers; a bundle of nylon knee hi stockings nestles next to pj bottoms.  Matching pj top is in a different drawer.

An expedition is needed to find something if it is missing.  Well, at least it’s something to do.

I find myself in wonder during times when Mom is witty and with it.  A recent conversation in the car:

“Are you dating anyone?”

“Huh?!!    Uh…no.  I don’t date, Mom.”

“Why not?”

“Oh…just done with all that.  Been married twice, had a couple relationships…so now I focus my time on family and friends.  I’m good.”

“Well,” she said, “you never know what life will bring you.”

“Life brought me my perfect match:  an 11-year-old cockapoo who is mostly blind.  We don’t get on each other’s nerves.  I like my independence.”

“Me too, but if you meet someone and they offer to take you out to dinner….”

“Oh…sure.  I’m up for a free meal and good conversation.”

“You know, some men like ladies with a little meat on their bones….”

I gripped the steering wheel and kept my mouth shut…sorta.

 

primate  youtube.com

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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2 Responses to Parental Journal 89 from Planet Elderly – Relocation Saga: Are We Settling in yet?

  1. Elly says:

    Nice blog. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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