Better days

Jeff and Tom left yesterday morning. They stopped to see Mom before they left. With trepidation, I sent Jeff a text asking how Mom was. He sent back two messages, one saying the nurses were reporting she had a rough morning and one with a little more detail about how she yelled at people at the nurses station. I’m sure she behaved better once Jeff and Tom got there, so they didn’t see any of this firsthand. I went over right after lunch. I found her walking the halls with an ice cream in her hand. She was with Tiffany, a nursing scheduler who might be my favorite staff member so far. She laughs a lot and hugged and kissed Mom the other day. She is giving Mom a chance to show her good side, and I appreciate that. Tiffany turned Mom over to me. I also ran into Mom’s one-on-one for the morning, who said Mom cussed out the nurses station and had done a lot of pacing. Mom also had had a messy bathroom accident in a public restroom and wouldn’t let anyone help clean her up and absolutely refused a shower. The one-on-one managed to change Mom into some new pants and bag up the soiled pants. She also bagged up Mom’s dog/cat because it got poop on it. I told her I would give her some relief from Mom for the day. She was maintaining a decent attitude, but I’m sure she had just about had it. Mom continued to complain to me about her, but I tried to explain that everyone is there to help. Sometimes, Mom just cannot be convinced that a person is really on her side. So Mom still has one-on-ones, but she hasn’t tried to escape since Friday.

I told Shana, the aide, that I would give Mom a shower. She set me up in the bathing area with towels and washcloths. The shower in Mom’s room doesn’t work, and it’s pretty common for residents to be bathed or showered in the staff bathing areas because they have lots of space to move around, plus draping for privacy. I coaxed Mom out of her clothes and all of her jewelry, which wasn’t easy. I sat her on the chair in the shower and just started the washing process. I washed her hair and face first to get that part over – she doesn’t like her face to get wet. I scrubbed her as well as I could all over, and though I didn’t see any obvious poop on her butt or legs, I tried extra hard to get those areas clean. I dried her and put her in clean clothes, got her many bracelets back on her wrists and took her to her room to dry her hair. I put lipstick, powder and blush on her. She looked pretty good. I also decided that it would not do for her dog/cat to be gone for as long as it might take me to get it cleaned at my house, so I took it out of the bag and gave it a bath in Mom’s bathroom sink. It didn’t look visibly soiled, but I gave its fake fur a good scrubbing and dunked its whole body under water. I tried to wring water out of it and hung him on the shower curtain rod in her bathroom to dry. Mom was a little upset about not having him to carry, so I tried to accelerate his drying with the hair dryer. But it wasn’t making much progress. I gave her a black stuffed dog as a substitute until dog/cat gets dry, and that seemed to work.

We went to the lobby to read the newspaper. We walked back to Mom’s room, and she was ready for a little nap. I had brought a couple of magazines for her, so I read People magazine while she slept. Her second aide for the day came in and I told her I was hoping Mom could be part of the manicure activity at 3:30. Instead, her aide, a recent cosmetology school graduate, gave Mom a private manicure in her room. She also told me she would give Mom’s roommate a manicure, too. I left them as that process was starting.

Today, I decided to go over in the morning to see how Mom was doing. When I got there at 9:30 Mom was resting, and her aide told me she had had a good breakfast and a good bowel movement – no accident, and no fighting about the cleanup. Mom had on a new outfit and she seemed to be in a pretty good mood. I told her aide I would stay until lunch time. Mom got up then and we went to the lobby to read the paper. I like this routine. Mom tends to read mostly the life section, and looks at the comics. She can still read, but I don’t think she absorbs anything at all. Sometimes she’ll read headlines out loud to me. We sit together on a couch to do this. I’m hoping I can make this part of our pattern a few mornings a week. After we finished, we checked on dog/cat, who is still damp. I put him in front of Mom’s little fan so he might dry more quickly. We went to the lounge to watch TV, and there I found Mom’s coloring book and crayons that Patrick bought for her on Friday, the day she tried to escape. I colored a picture and then asked Mom if she wanted to color one. She selected a picture of a cat and drew a smile onto its face. She picked another picture, which had a little cutline that said “Neat and Sweet,” and Mom wrote “Neat” on the little cartoon animal’s face. She flipped to another page and followed an outline of a picture for a brief time. She doesn’t know how to color in a picture in the traditional way. This made me kind of sad. But I also told her she can do anything she wants: it’s art. I colored one more picture, and she said, “I think you’re having a good time,” and I said “Yes, I am.”

We decided to take a walk around the whole place – the building is shaped like a giant square with a courtyard in the middle. We stopped at a small aviary and admired the birds for a little while. There is a piano in this little lounge, and I plunked out a few things I know – the background music to Ave Maria and chopsticks. Mom sat at the piano and tickled the ivories a little bit. She has done that a few times. She likes to try, but she can’t remember anything she used to know. My brother played piano a few times while he was visiting. He is a professional musician, so he was really offering a nice treat to the residents. I wasn’t there for any of those short recitals, but I was glad he did it. I’m sure the residents appreciated it.

Mom likes to give the piano a try. Behind Mom is the small indoor aviary. This is a popular lounge area.

Mom likes to give the piano a try. Behind Mom is the small indoor aviary. This is a popular lounge area.

It was finally time to take Mom in to lunch. There was a pizza special today for people who paid ahead, which I forgot to do, so Mom was one of the few residents in the dining room. Her roommate also was in the dining room – she usually has a full table, but today Mom was able to sit with her so neither of them had to eat alone. I told the aide I was ready to go, and she and I chatted a little. She said Mom is very sweet to her roommate, and seems concerned about her. I’m glad she has seen that side of Mom – she has developed into a nurturer of little kids, animals, and, I guess, old and frail people. Mom’s roommate is tiny, and is in a wheelchair. Her husband recently died, and he shared her room with her. She has been lonely and waiting for a roommate, and the staff thought Mom would be a good fit. That warmed my heart, to know that people know Mom well enough to figure out that she can be kind and friendly when she is not afraid or confused. Today’s aide seems to like Mom, and I was glad to leave Mom with her for the day. I’m going back tonight for a concert; this facility has a free summer concert series and I’ve heard reports that Mom loves it. I think it’s about time that I see one of these shows, and it’s a good way to keep up the visits with Mom as she continues to adjust. And by the time the concert ends, it will be Mom’s bedtime.

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4 comments so far

  1. Jeff on

    It’s nice to hear about the free concert series. Playing the piano seemed to be the one thing I could do well there, and yes, many other residents hung around and appreciated it.
    I’m sorry to hear about your trying day… hope there aren’t any more like that.

    Love, Jeff

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Jeff! The concert was really fun – free food, door prizes, festive atmosphere, big crowd. Arnett Howard gave a good show to a tricky audience. I’m sure your music felt like a concert to the residents, as well. Your talent and willingness to share it don’t come around often, I am quite sure. Thank you so much for being here for the toughest part of it all. It helped a lot and I know it was not easy for any of us. Love, Emily

  3. Laura on

    Wow. Thanks for everything you did for Mom the past two days. You are amazing and she and we are very lucky!!

  4. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Laura! I know it might seem weird, but even I am lucky. Mom could be so much harder to deal with than she actually is. I try to keep that perspective.


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