Archive for February 18th, 2009|Daily archive page

That darn cat

Well, today was a two-fer. Mom called again at about 4 p.m. to report that the cat was missing. She sounded pretty distressed. She even said, “I’m distressed.” So I told her I would come check it out. I had heard this story before, and the last time, by the time I arrived, the cat was in her apartment and I assumed she had just lost track of him. I had to get my things in order at work so I could just leave and not plan to return. So I called Mom at about 4:15 to check on the situation, hoping that by then the cat would have appeared before her.

No such luck. So I told her I’d be right over.

When I arrived, Mom was pacing around in front of the building in her raincoat. I was stunned – she was really focused on my arrival. And she had probably set off concern among the facility staff, who might have feared she was trying to escape herself. We went to the apartment, and I looked in the cat’s usual spots – on the bench by the window, on the bed, in the closet. No cat. I looked under the bed and the couch. I began to be concerned. This is one fat cat so he’s not easy to hide. He also had never been much of a hider, unlike his sister, who recently died, and who ran for cover anytime I visited. With no cat in sight, we went to the receptionist to see if anyone had reported seeing the cat. Nothing. Mom and I walked around, and she muttered things that might be meaningful, about an area where dogs go. I thought perhaps there is a little courtyard for the little dogs living there to use the bathroom. But there wasn’t any obvious place. We went up a floor and looked around. I looked around the apartment thoroughly a total of three times before I gave up on that. I told Mom to go to dinner and told her to just wait and see, that the cat would have to turn up.

As I was leaving, the activities director happened by, and she said that once before, Mom’s cat got out and visited another apartment at the far end of the hall. So she and I scouted that apartment while an aide checked across the hall. No cat. We ruled out the neighbor across from Mom, who had come out to go to dinner and said nothing about the cat. Then we tried the next door neighbor’s apartment. The activities director walked in, and there was the fat beast, just sitting in the living room. I ran after him, and he was easy to retrieve from under the bed. He is too fat to move swiftly.

The activities director told me as we were returning the cat to Mom’s place that Mom had once carried the cat into the dining room with her. I was suspicious that she was doing inappropriate things, like letting him out to take a walk or trying to carry him to activities in the lounge. But the dining room – well, I’m not sure what she was thinking. Thankfully, this neighbor is quite sweet. When I told her what had happened (she was already at her dinner table), she thought it was amusing and told me not to worry one bit. I appreciate that. Mom said she might faint from the good news.

I asked if the cat might get kicked out because of this. The activities director said no, this was really nothing. Happens with some frequency. I need to keep that in mind when I worry to facility staff – they have probably seen so much. Mom might be a challenge, but she’s not the worst resident they’ve ever had. Not yet, anyhow…


I spent lunchtime today watching my mom disrobe in phases, sit around pantless on her bed, study a bra to figure out what to do with it, and ultimately completely change her outfit for no apparent reason. This was funny and endearing, and I mentioned before that nakedness was no big deal in my household growing up. But it also is a bad sign that getting and staying dressed no longer necessarily comes naturally to Mom.

I know the assisted living staff is supposed to help her with getting dressed, but I’m pretty sure they want to reserve that assistance for people with physical disabilities. They also might not find out how much help she needs without some visible indication, and that worries me a bit. By visible indication, I mean Mom being inappropriately dressed, or undressed, in a public setting. Mom doesn’t know to ask that she needs help. The receptionist today handed me a jacket that had been left somewhere in the facility and sure enough, it was Mom’s. But Mom didn’t recognize it. What I want to know is, why did she take it off?

It seems Mom is skating on the edge of eligibility, I think – which isn’t disastrous, because her financial status indicates she is destined for Medicaid and a nursing home in a matter of months. But it’s just…another sad thing. That can be funny, as well.

We ran into the aide who gives Mom her weekly shower, and the aide said, “Are you still mad at me?” This was in reference to their weekly argument about the shower. Mom is difficult about it, but this aide seems to take it in stride. The night staff gave up on Mom’s showers, so I adore this aide for sticking to it. Mom says one of the reasons she doesn’t like being showered is because she has to be naked around someone she doesn’t know. That modesty does not apply to me – and I guess that makes sense. But I think there’s really something else she doesn’t like about it. She referred to it a long time ago, when it became clear to me she wasn’t being very hygienic. She said she felt uneasy in the shower – there must be some sort of vulnerability about it that she cannot articulate.

So she had called at about 10 a.m. I asked how she was. “Well, pretty bad,” she said. “I’m running out of clothes.” Well, if there’s one thing Mom doesn’t suffer from, it’s a shortage of clothes. She has tons of clothes. I suspect she was talking, again, about the disposable underwear. She doesn’t use that word anymore, underwear. So I went to see what was going on. Sure enough, her underwear drawer was empty. I had a stash in her bedroom and filled up the drawer. And I looked in her closet, and it appeared that many of her clean clothes had been recently folded and placed around the top of her walk-in closet. That could be confusing, because she tends to keep everything on hangers. So I started hanging up a bunch of pants, and when I turned around, she had taken off her pants and was showing me the inside, where she had placed a maxi pad “in case the pee came out.” Good thinking on her part. Then, naked from the waist down, she started lounging with her cat, petting him and visiting with him while I finished up in the closet. Earlier, while I was scooping the litter, I found her in her bedroom holding a bra by its straps, wondering what to do with it. She already had a bra on, so I told her she didn’t need it. I should have put that bra away, come to think of it, because seeing it made her think she should put it on. This is a common issue – she rifles through her things, finds something, leaves it sitting around, and later comes upon it – and thinks its presence means she must tend to whatever it is.

She eventually put on some underwear, but she wanted a new pair of pants. We picked out a pair and she put them on. And then she took off her shirt. This was sort of an autopilot thing, because I don’t think she had another shirt in mind. She had begun the process of changing, so she had to finish, I’m guessing. I picked out a pink T-shirt and black jacket to finish her outfit, and she was done. Of course, she also put on her adorable pink Crocs.

There are some things you don’t ever expect to say to your mom. One of those would be “You should probably put your pants on so you can go get some lunch.”

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