Yesterday, as Mom and I walked down the hall to the dining room, one of the newer residents came out of his room with a phone to his ear. He suffers from Parkinson’s, has a grimace on his face, and sways and moves in odd ways, probably because of medication. “Oh no,” said Mom, “there he is.” “Mom, that’s B–,” I told her. “He’s weird,” she said in a rather mean tone. I told her to move to the other side of the hall, and made the mistake of walking in front of her. Mom came to B–, and swung her walker up toward his face and jabbed it at him, but did not touch him. “Mom! Stop that. You could knock him down!” She ignored me, and jabbed at him again. “MOM!” I pulled the walker down, and we started moving again. “He’s weird,” “Do you think that means that the right thing to do is hit him with your walker?” “I don’t know.” “OK, then I will tell you. NO. No, you should not hit him with your walker. Mom, he can’t help how he looks. He has Parkinson’s, and has no control over what it does to his body, any more than you can help having memory and walking problems.” She walked silently for a few moments, and then said, “You’re right.” “Yes I am. In this case I am right.” I was angry with her; a foolish response since she clearly has lost control over impulse.

Today she was quite good. We got her new jacket on, and walked out in the courtyard a little, then I said I was going to go say hi to Dad. “Can I go? I feel left out,” Mom said. My heart ached. Of course she could go! We put Coco on the leash and walked down to the living room where Dad and my husband were watching the football game. I greeted Dad and told him Mom wanted to say hi. They exchanged greetings, and I helped Mom sit nearby. “Hold on to Coco while I return these cups to the dining room.” I had taken Dad’s and my husband’s empty coffee cups. But within seconds Mom had released the leash, and Coco was in the dining room looking for crumbs, or perhaps a cookie. So–Mom can’t even retain an instruction for a few seconds, and obviously no longer understands it is important to control Coco outside her room. I connected Coco to a coffee table, and asked a staff member to help Mom get Coco down to the room when she was ready to leave.

Mom kept telling me today how nice I was to her. That she loved me. That she wanted to be included. She is fully human, and feels love and connection in a strong way still. The conundrum: how do we supply supervision to keep her “appropriate” so she can stay in her room? I talked to her about introducing her to some new “friends” like the woman who currently takes her out a couple of times a week. I told her that I would be with her, and that they were interested in staying with her to help out whenever she needed some help. Mom looked very skeptical. “Why would they want to do that?” The truth is, of course, that they would be paid, but I wanted to keep it friendship in her mind. “Some people just like to do this,” I said. “Would you be willing to meet someone?” Mom guessed so. Do I pursue this? Or wait until she knocks someone down? I think I know the answer. This is hard. Yet I didn’t feel depressed today–I felt like it had been a good visit for both Mom and Dad, and I have siblings to share this decision with.

In other news, I will be leaving for Jamaica with a dear friend who is newly bereaved. I am taking the place of her very dear boyfriend who died suddenly this summer. The two of us look forward to some rest and relaxation. I’ll be gone from Thursday to Wednesday. See you later!

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One Response to Conundrum

  1. megsp says:

    Oh, my.
    I am with you all the way. Go for the companion; mix up the dynamics a bit; help her be in the world. The worst thing that can happen is the “friend” quits. Mom thought for many weeks, if not months, that her companion was a woman who just liked to stop in and visit, go for walks, and play scrabble, all of which is immaterial.

    If you haven’t read it already, Contented Dementia is a solid (British author) real source for living, walking alongside all the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles.

    Joy to you and your friend as you travel to sunny Jamaica. May it be healing for you both.

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