Yesterday’s visit did little to relieve my feelings of depression and hopelessness. Now, wait a minute, Kathy. Hopelessness? Well, yes, kind of. I walked in to find Mom in the bathroom, struggling with painful constipation, and being assisted by a dear, kind, wonderful aide who was “massaging the area.” [the people who do the grunt [ha ha!] work are NOT paid enough. I’m getting her a treat.] And only a little blood with the bowel movement? Swell. I spoke to the nurse, and we concluded that Mom needs fluids pushed to make the Miralax work, which means her bladder will fill more often, which means she’ll be incontinent more, which means the room will smell…. Yeah. A bit of hopelessness. No matter what we do, Mom suffers, or loses her dignity.
Apparently, Mom had just gotten up, not surprising, since she seems to have a cold or laryngitis. She staggered out of the bathroom, dressed, but with her hair sticking straight up. I greeted her, and got comb and hairspray to calm her wild locks. Mom looked at me tenderly, and made kissing noises, so I kissed her, wet the comb, and went to work. Sweet helpful Mom sat up straighter and leaned toward me so it would be easier for me to reach her hair; she’s always just wanted to Do the Right Thing in all circumstances at all times. I finally got her hair under control, and took her and Coco down to the dining room to get Mom something to eat. It was after 11, but she’d had nothing to drink or eat since 5:30 the evening before. Happily, there were some sweet rolls set out, and she chomped one down, along with coffee and and some G2 Gatorade. Next she needed pills, so while she got those, I headed to Dad’s room, dropping off the dog in Mom’s room on the same trip.
Coco has been gaining weight again. Our system of dog food in bags has broken down, so I suspect she’s been getting a bit too much food, with practically no exercise. After dropping her off, I entered Dad’s room; I was sure he was in the sunroom, since I’d seen him go by when with Mom in the dining room. I filled the Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs-Fri-Sat-Sun bags, and Dad said, “Hello!” Well, well. He WAS in the room, so I sat down to visit with him for a bit. After awhile, I heard a dog bark. And bark again. That couldn’t be Coco, could it? I went to investigate, and yes, she was standing by the door, woofing for attention. I let her outside, but she didn’t need to go out, and as soon as I put her back in the room, she barked again. This is not like her. Usually, Coco gets on the bed or a chair and has a snooze. Yesterday she was anxious, panting, desperate to get out of the room. Urk. I felt sad for Coco, who, after all, is shut up in that little room most of the time. I put her back on the leash, picked up my stuff from Dad’s room, and took Coco back to Mom, thinking that would calm her down. I delivered the dog food bags to the med person, and talked over Coco’s strange behavior with the nurse. My impression at first was that Coco had not eaten, but she had. We decided on a pain pill and then I returned poor ol’ Coco to the room, hardening my heart against her woofs.
Lastly, having made sure that aides would push fluids for Mom (I’m also hoping more fluids will improve her confusion–dehydration can cause it), I seated her for lunch, waved at Dad, and headed out the door, feeling a bit defeated. As I drove home, it occurred to me that the room closest to the office, dining room, living room and front door, is empty. Would moving Mom to that room have a positive effect on both Mom and Coco? Mom wouldn’t have to walk so far, which is getting so hard for her that my sister and I have decided to get a wheelchair, to be used especially on outings as simple as a walk up the sidewalk on a nice day, or as daring as a visit to the Dow Gardens to see flowers. With Mom’s room close to the hub of activity, perhaps she would join in activities more, the aides would be able to check on Mom more often, and Coco might be able to get out of the room more regularly. I decided to see if the room had been rented already, and when I found that it was available, I called my sister to see what she thought.
We shared a serious concern, based on our experience with our grandmother’s decline. In 1971, when, Grandma moved into a local assisted care facility, she was functional, but clearly not herself. Within a year or so, she needed a higher level of care, and Mom moved her to a room “on the other side,” where Grandma would get more attention. Grandma, who had been well oriented to the location of her room and the fact that she was in Midland–not the Chicago area where she had lived for many years–lost her orientation, and Mom began to receive calls that she (Grandma) was in Chicago on the El and didn’t know how to get home. That she was in a car garage and couldn’t get home, please pick her up. We all used the orientation strategy of asking her to look and see if her side tables (which she recognized as her own) were visible, and gradually we would convince her she was in her room. One time, my sister (the other one who lives in Penn.) got a call from Grandma that “I am in Chicago, and YES, I see my side tables!” Clearly the strategy had worn out, and Grandma had taken a further step from reality.
Thus, my sister and I worried that a move for Mom would mean a similar, scary disorientation for her, the thought of which we hated. I remembered that Grandma had still been able to dial the phone when she was moved, which Mom definitely can no longer do, and hasn’t been able to do for quite some time. She also isn’t sure where her room or anything else in Bickford is, so perhaps Mom’s experience would be different. We decided to check with Bickford’s very experienced nurse, which Dear Sister did do this morning. Nurse thinks it is a good idea to move Mom and that yes, she will have to adjust, but she thinks Mom will adjust within two weeks to a month. So that move is a go, and we shall proceed. Wish us luck….
And finally, a word about Dad. He’s still in a good place, telling me how he’s enjoying the birds, the beautiful sky, and sitting in the little alcove near his room drinking in the sunshine. Yes! Good for you, Dad! The shirt situation has taken a new, POSITIVE turn. My sister brought in another basket labeled SHIRTS, and she and Dad got into a conversation, which Sister reported in an email:
I think you are very brave [that's me! Thanks!], having the really, REALLY hard first discussion with Dad about shirts. I took the basket today and while we were talking, he said he thought that 2 of his shirts could be washed. I pulled out a few other ones and we looked at the washing instructions. He agreed to have some of them washed once and if they came out all right we could let Bickford wash them. One of the caregivers (I am embarrassed that I don’t know all their names) said he agreed to have one washed and it is back in his closet, so we’ll see. Oh hurrah. Results of this shirt-washing to be seen. Stay tuned!
The email also included this information:
Mom had a bad night and all her bedding was being washed. Caregiver also used some vinegar to get the urine and smell out of the mattress. I found the plastic mattress pad I bought last year in her closet and bought another one and dropped it off. I also put a note on the dry erase board that the pads are there. Argh! The plastic mattress pad has not been on the bed?! Why NOT?! Why ask why–it’s been solved with an additional pad, and the fact that the dear sweet kind smart helpful aide (the one mentioned earlier in this post) is back from having her baby, and she will make sure the bed is properly made. The well-meaning young man who was “doing the cleaning,” was really, REALLY bad at it.
Final Bickford weather report today? Gathering hope, with periods of concern and potential for despair. Bring your umbrella, just in case.