Following friends

Mom has done two things recently that, as far as I know, she has never done before. She did these things with her two pals at the assisted living facility – Ginny and Alice. I don’t think it jeopardizes their privacy to mention their names, and it makes things so much easier. Alice and Mom occasionally scrap and end up sad, then I think they both forget what happened and go on as if nothing ever happened. Ginny always seems cheerful and friendly, and if she ever gets into an argument, I never hear about it. Mom has been hanging around with them for months and months. The three of them sit in the lobby most days and chat. Other residents know who they are and where they are most of the time. Since Roxy died, Mom’s attachment to them seems just a little bit more pronounced.

Last Friday, when I went to see Mom before lunch, she was in exercise class. I went up to wait for the class to end and the activities director saw me in the hall. “You’ll never recognize your mom,” she said. It turns out Mom had followed Ginny and Alice to the hair stylist’s little on-site salon, which is open on Thursdays and Fridays. Mom had her hair done. I don’t think it was cut, but it had been washed and curled. And she had on dark pink lipstick. I loved it. The receptionist had once asked me if it was OK with me if she encouraged Mom to get her hair done at some point. I told her to please go ahead. Mom rejected the idea at that time. I had thought I might make an appointment there and accompany Mom to make her more comfortable. Turns out she just needed her friends to get her through it.

Then, on Sunday, I went to visit, again before lunch. A woman who always sits near the mailboxes, who has started reporting Mom’s whereabouts to me when I show up and can’t find her, told me Mom went to church. “Church,” I said, and laughed. As far as I am aware, Mom never practiced any kind of religious activity. She may have attended church as a young person, but she didn’t take us kids to church, or encourage us to go to church, or ever talk to us about anything remotely religious. She did regularly instruct me, though, on right and wrong. That’s how I remember things, anyhow. I was actually free to cuss while growing up, and those who know me know that I enjoy a good swear word on a regular basis. But she corrected me when I said mean things to or about someone. Despite her somewhat self-destructive behavior, I believe she instilled in me principles that shaped my current thinking. But anyhow, none of that revolved around God. I explored religions on my own as a kid, and Mom didn’t stop me or really pay any particular attention to what I was doing. Now that I think of it, Mom began attending church on occasion with a friend perhaps 15 or so years ago. I forgot about that. A Presbyterian church, I think. At any rate, for a long time, she has not talked of church. But Ginny and Alice attended the nondenominational church service on Sunday morning, so Mom did, too.

The chapel is in the nursing home side of the facility. I went over to look in the windows. I could see Mom sitting in the back. I sat on a couch in a little lobby area and waited for awhile. I thought I’d walk with her back to the dining room and at least visit briefly before she ate lunch. While sitting there, I welled up just a little at the thought that Mom is so attached to these two women at this particular time. Pretty soon, she will be taken out of that familiar environment with familiar people. I have no doubt she will be able to establish new habits and get used to new people. But I am sad about the potential that she will be sad about the change, at least for awhile. The clock neared noon, and at that point, I left. I didn’t want to rush a visit with Mom. That confuses her sometimes. I went to her apartment and tidied up a little, cleaned out the dead flowers from her birthday and sprayed various air fresheners in my ongoing attempt to make the place smell urine-free.

I visited her Monday after the Medicaid appointment to make up for missing her on Sunday. She was lying on her bed when I arrived. “It’s a miracle,” she said when I walked in the door. Routine greeting now – that or “Hallelujah.” More religious references… And the housekeeper came in with her laundry, and we talked a little about how little laundry Mom has now compared to the past, when she used to scatter clothes, socks and disposable underwear all over her room. She now just wears everything until someone comes along to change it for her. Mom continued to lie on the bed. I assumed she had been napping. “I’m lazy,” she said. I just laughed. She had on a Christmas fleece sweater over the shirt I put on her on Friday. And new pants – gray fleece – instead of the white pants I had dressed her in. She said she might have to poop, and I absently told her that was fine while I went through her closet, trying to pick out an outfit the staff could put on her after her shower the next day. “How do I do it?” she said. Whoa. This was new. “How do you poop?” I said. And she said yes. “You pull all of your pants down and sit on the toilet,” I said. “Oh, OK,” she said. She said, “You might get poop on your clothes.” I asked her if that had happened to her – and wondered if that’s why she had on a different pair of pants. “Well, if it gets on anything you can just wipe it off,” she said. I just nodded and tried to not look alarmed at what she was saying. The loss of independent toileting, as the books and brochures call it, is pretty much inevitable. And is even more evidence that she is pretty much ready for the nursing home.

The dog on Mom's bed, and pink Crocs with no socks.

The dog on Mom's bed, and pink Crocs with no socks.

Speaking of friends, Mom’s best friend continues to be the stuffed dog. I don’t think he’ll ever have a name. Sometimes he’s called a cat. But he goes wherever Mom goes. Sometimes he’s in her purse. I’m so glad she has him and has become attached to him. He will never let her down.

2 comments so far

  1. Pam on

    Crocs with no socks, and a dog in the blog. Poetry abounds.

    The loss of independent toileting is a scary thing. But if it means anything, I think you’re handling it in a good way — like it’s all normal. And it’s great that she’s showing adaptability to new situations.

  2. momsbrain on

    I don’t know if I feel particularly poetic. But I did notice the “Crocs with no socks” had a nice “sound” to it in my mind. As for the toileting talk, thanks for the support! I never want Mom to feel ashamed of anything, so I try to just stay very matter-of-fact about stuff that people without dementia might be embarrassed about.

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