Fashion statement

The last two times I have visited Mom, yesterday and today, she has had on one blue Croc and one pink Croc. Yesterday was particularly special. When I got to the program area, she was walking at a pretty fast clip across the room. She spotted me and came toward me. She was wearing a maroon and gray winter-themed sweater, turquoise cropped pants that I did not recognize, her disposable underwear outside her pants, and a pink Croc and a blue Croc. I’m not so surprised when she ends up wearing someone else’s clothes. I imagine that is typical. But I was a little surprised about the underwear situation. I asked her how she was and she said, “I just pooped.” So that gave me a clue, at least, that perhaps she had been left to her own devices in a bathroom and this was the result. I took her to her room to sort it all out. There was a male resident resting on her roommate’s bed. He offered to leave, but I told him it was fine to stay, and I would just take her into the bathroom and close the door for privacy.

I took Mom’s underwear off of her and she said, “They’re not wet.” I threw them away anyhow. I took the pants off of her and threw them into the bottom of her closet without examining their status. I gave her a clean pair of underwear and a new pair of pants – gray sweats. Since she had had to take her shoes off, I put both pink Crocs back on her feet. And I gave her some socks, too. While I was changing her, an aide opened the bathroom door. When she saw us, she apologized. I told her not to worry – there was certainly nothing happening that she didn’t in fact do several times a day. When we left the bathroom, the man was gone.

We went out and sat at a table. I had gotten there shortly before lunch, and the tray cart arrived fairly quickly. I got Mom her tray. While I was standing there, the same aide apologized again for walking in on us. I said, “Really, it is not a problem at all.” And then she said: “She had her underwear on outside her pants, didn’t she?” And I said yes, and I had just decided to go ahead and fix that. It’s tough to stay on top of these things for the staff, I imagine.

Today, in fact, I got a better sense of how it can be for the staff when Mom’s toilet overflowed. Before that, however, I observed that Mom once again had on a blue and pink Croc. I had brought a small chest of drawers for her room, so she sat on her bed while I sorted through some of her clothes, bagged up summer shirts to take home with me and put winter shirts in this little dresser. The buffet we were using as a dresser had started to collapse. I left the top of the buffet in place and slid these drawers underneath it. Not pretty, but that way Mom still has a large surface for her many stuffed animals. While I was folding her clothes, she said, “I’m proud of you.” I honestly have no idea the last time Mom said that to me. And I liked it. In this case, it was an expression of gratitude, and she has been generous with those lately. I’m not sure why she elected to say she was proud this time, instead of thankful.

While we were in there, Mom would reach down and straighten her other pair of mismatched shoes so they were lined up right next to her. An aide later told me that she had seen Mom’s shoes and suggested Mom go to her room and change them. Going in, Mom had blue on the right and pink on the left. When she came out, she had pink on the right and blue on the left. “Don’t make fun of Bonnie’s shoes,” Penny the nurse said from across the room – for fun; we were laughing, but not making fun of Mom. Just amused by her actions. “That’s her fashion statement,” Penny said. And I suppose it is true.

Mom and her mismatched Crocs

After I had arranged Mom’s clothes, she said she had to pee. I told her to go into the bathroom while I finished up. I didn’t watch to see how things went and a short while later, she walked out of the bathroom, getting her pants situated. I went into the bathroom and flushed the toilet, which was…full. Mostly paper, but she had topped it all off with a small bowel movement. As I was flushing, I said to myself, “It looks like your toilet might be leaking.” And then it overflowed onto the floor. I shut the door and headed to the nurses station. I told Penny, who pointed me toward a housekeeping cart, which had a plunger. I offered to take the plunger, but the staffer told me she would take care of it. When she saw the mess, though, she said she would need some help. She came back a bit later with a man from the maintenance staff. While he went in to tackle the problem, she stood outside the door with the front of her sweater pulled over her nose. I offered to get in there for the worst of it – it was my mom’s poop and I could deal with it, I said. The maintenance man would have none of it. “This is nothing we haven’t seen before,” he said. He was very nice. I don’t know what to think because I don’t know the extent of Mom’s bathroom behavior all day. Someone needs to check that toilet, though, because she will never, ever remember to flush it. She probably stopped flushing a year ago.

On Thursday, I will eat at this center for the first time. It’s the annual Thanksgiving dinner, a week early, and family members are invited. Patrick has a class so it will be just me and Mom. I’ve told her about it a few times, but I’m sure when I show up Thursday, she will be surprised to see me.

12 comments so far

  1. Vicki on

    Hey, did your mom choose all that jewelry herself? Great picture. Melancholy and cheerful, thoughtful and chipper all at the same time. Nice job, as always.

  2. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Vicki. She does look a little melancholy, but she got perked up at the idea of having her picture taken. I was going to just photograph her feet, but I didn’t want to disappoint her after she primped a little bit. As for the jewelry: she has been wearing all of those bracelets together, all day every day, for several months. It is another of her fashion statements. I had found the necklaces in a drawer and put them on her, too.

  3. Gemma on

    My dad was a handyman for a family who chose to keep their disabled son at home. They called him constantly because of toilet problems in the boy’s suite. I think the kid flushed toys and things that clogged the system. No wonder plumbing is an “attractive nuance.” It’s mysterious — where does everything go? And makes interesting noises. (Not that any of this has to do with your mother, I just mean that maintenance people are pretty philosophical about what they need to do to keep things running smoothly.)

  4. momsbrain on

    Gemma, I like that perspective. The maintenance man was definitely unflappable in the face of this little problem. And though I was initially surprised by the housekeeper’s reaction, it occurred to me that she cleans, but she does not change the pants and underwear of the residents. So her exposure to all of those…hygiene issues…might be somewhat limited.

  5. Pam on

    Have fun tonight. The holiday dinners that Bill and I had with Donna when she was living at Abbington were always special.

    PS: My grandpa was a maintenance man and plumber. He had to clear many a clogged toilet — because of feminine hygiene products. His advice to me: don’t flush a tampon, ever. Even if the package says it’s flushable. I still think of that to this day. :-)

  6. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Pam. I do look forward to this dinner and wonder how it will be organized. At Mom’s assisted living facility, there were three seatings. I scheduled us for a noon seating last year and arrived to find that Mom had eaten with her friends at 11:15. No chance for that mistake tonight, with all of us having dinner at 5:30.

  7. BillG on

    As Pam said, the holiday dinners were always fun. This is a picture of Donna during the Christmas dinner one year:

    Santa: “Have you been good?”
    Mom: “Who wants to know?”

  8. momsbrain on

    Ha, good for Donna! I’m hoping for a better Christmas party – it’s earlier in the day so Mom shouldn’t be as tired.

  9. jeff on

    I liked to hear the comment about the bracelets. I’ve bought several for her the past few years because I know she likes and wears them. Most were metal and easily on and off, but she doesn’t wear those anymore in favor of the elastic ones that fit well and go on and off even easier. I can still see, though, that there’s a reddish one that we bought in St. Maarten. I’m glad that part of me is still with herm even though she probably doesn’t know it.

  10. jeff on

    PS – just on re-reading, Emily, when Laura visited we talked again about how much you’ve accomplished, both with the first move and even more importantly the second. You’re right, we don’t ever say it enough, but we are so proud of you too. It’s mind-boggling to me that you have been able to successfully navigate all the legal and administrative things of the past few years. So, want to come with us to St Maarten THIS year? :-)

  11. Sheila Martin on

    What a tender-funny post … thank you for sharing your stories and photos of your dear Mom.

  12. momsbrain on

    Sheila: Thank you for commenting, and for tweeting my blog!

    Jeff: Thanks so much for saying you and Laura are proud of me. I really appreciate that. It helped immensely to have you all here for that first move … and made the second move much easier to handle. But still, thanks. As for St. Maarten – I would love to, believe me, but Patrick is in school, which is expensive, which means a little hiatus from vacations for now. THANK YOU, though, for the invite. One of these days…. Love you!


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