I went to Bickford today for the first time since Sunday; it’s been a week since my laryngitis symptoms first showed up. I called the nurse this morning and asked her if she thought it was OK to come. Wash your hands, she said, which I did with vigor, and added some anti-bac gel. Do viruses also die upon gel application? Or only bacteria? I found Dad in front of the fireplace, napping, but he woke readily, and he could hear me, which was a relief. We visited about the snow, the pleasure of the fireplace, and when he said, “I’m often in the fireplace,” he corrected himself with a laugh, and we joked about his hidden talent of walking on hot coals. Dad checked his watch, since he didn’t want to get caught up in the weekly hymn sing! but there was still about 40 minutes until it started.
Another resident, whom I will call “Bob” (not his real name), was wheeled into the living room near the fire. Some background: Bob has been at Bickford for a couple of months, and speaks well, though he is very confused about what’s going on, and often asks what is going to happen. Today, when I came in, I saw D.–an aide who is fond of my parents, and whom my mother likes and knows–in the dining room. Once I found out last night that Mom’s favorite companion will unfortunately be out of town at the same time I will, almost to the day, I decided to ask D. if she could fill in on Wednesdays. As D. and I talked, Bob, still at the breakfast table, called out, irritated: “What is going on here? Aren’t you going to serve these people?” He gestured impatiently at the others still at the table. I think he had concluded that he was in a restaurant–very plausible, given the surroundings–and that the waitress was nattering away with a friend, and failing to do her job. Um, Bob? Breakfast is over.
As Bob was wheeled into the living room by one of the aides, he asked what was going to happen. The aide, clearly at a loss, said there was no activity for the moment. His expression got angry, and he said to Dad and me, “No one will tell me what’s going to happen.” He obviously felt that something was being kept from him by these people–why wouldn’t they tell him? What nefarious purpose had they? I told him that there was going to be a hymn sing soon, and did he like to sing hymns? Yes, he did.”If you stay where you are, there will be some song leaders and you can sing,” I said brightly. How very helpful I am. “What will happen if I DON’T stay here?” he said, his tone dark and his expression suspicious. Dad spoke to me, a little reprimand. “You’re putting him on the spot,” Dad said, clearly sympathizing with Bob about my demanding ways, but of course he couldn’t hear what I had said. Fine. I gave up. I sympathized too, but rather with the aides who had to deal with monotonous Bob all day.
I saw another aide, A., in the hall as I headed for Mom’s room. A. stopped me, saying she had just finished with Mom’s shower, and that Mom needed some “A&D ointment”–diaper rash ointment–for the sore places she developing due to incontinence. Oh dear. Poor Mom. A. also told me that Mom isn’t even noticing when she needs to go, today actually eliminating in the shower, and surprised when the aide wanted to get her on the toilet. My heart sank; another undignified step down the dementia staircase. I told her I’d get some ointment, and fretted as I walked down the hall to see Mom. I opened the door and found……a wet brief on the floor, with Coco just getting into tearing it up. Perfect. I warned Coco away, pulled the cord for help (I was scolded once for cleaning up–they don’t want family members to have to do it), and waited, and then noticed Coco was snacking again. Argh! Coco! I said again, as forcefully as a croaking laryngitic can, and Coco slunk behind the bed. I put on a plastic glove and got the worst of the mess off the floor; this mess couldn’t wait. Then in came the dear sweet competent aide I’ve mentioned before–she’d been cleaning next door and heard me reprimand Coco. She finished cleaning up the residual mess, bless her. The aide who had bathed Mom now joined us, responding to the alarm I set off. She was dumbfounded that Coco had gotten the brief. Neither of us could believe Mom had gotten shoes, pants, and briefs off, discarded the used one, redressed herself and got back on the bed. Who knows what happened, but at that point I decided it was time to go shopping. Time for a new, SERIOUS wastebasket (if an $80 one doesn’t keep the dog out, I don’t know what will), a big rawhide chew for Coco to relieve her boredom, sensitive skin wipes for Mom that don’t sting (I bought the biggest box of wipes I could find), and then, to cheer myself up, I bought an outfit for my smallest granddaughter, whom I will visit in about 12 days!
Dragging in all the stuff from good old Target was a struggle, since the wipes box was heavy, and the wastebasket big and awkward. Dear sweet aide saw me and took the wastebasket; we’ll see if the new one helps. It was time for lunch, so Mom struggled down the hall with A., who was enthusiastic about Mom moving closer to the dining room/living room. She told me that even with Motrin in her for a couple of hours, Mom’s legs were hurting, probably because of the arthritis in her spine. Rats. Until Mom moves, the wheelchair we ordered– which should arrive soon–will help, I hope.
Do I feel guilty about the upcoming trip that will last 2+ weeks? Oh my yes. That tyrant, Guilt, has its claws in my shoulder and whispers, “Your mother needed you today. What’s going to happen when you’re gone? She’ll suffer without you here.” His breath is foul, and I say sadly, “She suffers even when I am here.” He cannot argue with this, and disappears. But he will be back.