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.
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.