‘You’re my best person’
I think I might need to call Mom’s guardian angel. Not to complain, necessarily, but to make sure the aides who work with patients in Mom’s new area know that she needs some attention to her hygiene, dressing and grooming. I had noticed last Wednesday that Mom’s hair was greasy. And that was the day she was wearing two pairs of pants over a very dirty pair of underwear. When I visited Sunday, her hair was even dirtier. And she was wearing her pajama bottoms – really cute ones, light green with brown polka-dots – and three shirts: a black and red dress blouse, a blue button-down and a purple velour pullover. She also was holding onto a stuffed sheepdog that she must have swiped from another resident. And dog/cat was nowhere to be found. She was wearing no eyeglasses at all. I noticed a pair in her room, on her bed, which was also scattered with several articles of clothing. All this suggested to me that Mom is being left to her own devices to start the day, and she isn’t very skilled at doing that.
I wouldn’t even care, necessarily, except that I think it has an effect on Mom. I found her sitting at a table with some other women, and they were generally just sitting, not really interacting. She seemed glad to see me. I sat down with her and we just chatted, as well as we could. She seemed just a little disoriented – moreso than she has been. She seemed a little unhappy. Nothing serious, at all, but just a little less cheerful than she has been lately. “I do feel lost,” she said at one point. She finally conveyed to me that part of her problem was that she didn’t have any glasses on. I went back to her room, and rather than giving her the pair on her bed, which do not belong to her, I found a spare pair of her own glasses that I had set aside and gave those to her instead. I don’t know if they’re the same prescription. But they are trifocals, so I figured they would be close to what she had before. These frames are large. I’m really not sure when she wore them – maybe her early 60s? I remember them. They felt funny on her face, she said. But they did help her see more clearly. I realize now I didn’t tell anyone they need to be engraved with her name. I’m planning to visit tomorrow. One wonders what I’ll find on her face then.
She has said a few nice things to me lately: “You don’t know how important you are.” I responded that we are both important to each other. And on Sunday, she said, “You’re my best person.” And, “We always feel better when we’ve seen our friends.” She asks about my husband sometimes and how he is. Sometimes she calls him Patrick and sometimes just my husband. I had arrived about half an hour before lunch. When her tray arrived, it was turkey, stuffing and green beans. A perfect Bonnie meal, really. She pointed to her plate and said, “I’m not really happy about this.” I was stunned. Maybe because there was gravy on it? I don’t know. I told her it was good stuff and that I thought she would like it. And I kissed her goodbye so she could concentrate on her meal.
On the way out I ran into Penny, the nurse, who seems to always be at the Alz center when I am there. She assures me she does get days off, but I am surprised at how often I see her. She said Mom had had some harsh words for a staff member recently. The woman, a nurse administrator, apparently had been hovering over Mom in the program area. If Mom left her purse on the floor, the nurse would take it to her. If Mom lost track of dog/cat, the nurse would retrieve it and give it back to Mom. And Mom said to her, “I don’t like you.” And then she apparently said she might hit her if she doesn’t watch out – something along those lines. Penny thought it was funny, and more evidence that Mom doesn’t like to be followed around. I think even the administrator took it just fine. Virtually everything that happens there has happened before, I imagine. Penny has worked there for 18 years, for example, so she has seen a lot. Though she loves to tell a funny story, she is not all fun and games. As we walked together to our care conference meeting last week, she said the previous week had been rough. I asked why. “We lost six people in one week,” she said. That is not typical. She said most deaths occur between Thanksgiving and Easter. The staff members are used to death, of course, but death with that type of frequency took its toll on a lot of people.