Another Mother’s Day

About a month ago, I received a mailing from the Alz center about Mother’s Day festivities: a two-hour party on Saturday and an ice cream social on Sunday. In my mind, I planned to attend the Saturday party, and perhaps the Sunday event. The rest of this week is also full of events to observe National Nursing Home Week. I put a few items on my calendar that I’d like to see: Celtic dancing on Wednesday and an Elvis impersonator on Friday.

The week before Mother’s Day, I thought each day that I could try to squeeze in a quick visit with Mom. I hadn’t been to the center since Friday, April 23, followed by some busy days at work and a weekend off from visiting. But I had another busy week, and didn’t get to visit. On Saturday morning of Mother’s Day weekend, Patrick and I talked about going to the party together. I wanted him to come for something like this, especially since I might feel like a third wheel if Mr. R was around.

We decided to take naps before we went to the party, which was to run from 2-4 p.m. I was restless. Couldn’t sleep. By about 1:30, I realized my heart was pounding. My mind was racing. I was having an anxiety attack, albeit a mild one, about seeing Mom for the first time in two weeks. I didn’t know what to expect. I felt guilty for letting so much time pass. I was afraid staff might think I’m an absent daughter. All the while, I thought hateful thoughts about Mother’s Day, which, well, just doesn’t have much meaning for me anymore and mostly makes me sad. I rushed through a shower, woke up Patrick and told him I was going to the party without him.

When I arrived, Mom was in the program area as usual, sitting with Mr. R on their usual couch. As I approached, she smiled and said hello and held out her arms for a hug. All was fine. She recognized me. She was with her beau. She was content. I sat for a moment and then suggested we go to the party, which was in a dining room off of the lobby. Mr. R came with us. I fixed a plate of cheese cubes and cream puffs for Mom and got a fruit cup for myself. Mr. R loaded his plate with six cream puffs and two chocolate eclairs. I got a cup of punch – pink with ice cream floating in it – to share with Mom. We sat at a table and ate. I tried to get Mom to sit in the middle, but she plopped down in the chair on the left, so I was between her and Mr. R. I imagine he didn’t like that. Mom got chocolate all over her lips and fingers. I tried to clean her up with a napkin. We sat for awhile, but it was sort of loud. So I suggested we return to the program area.

We found a different couch to sit on. Near the couch Mom had been sitting on earlier, a new resident was sitting in a wheelchair saying over and over, to no one in particular, but pretty loudly: “They won’t let me out of here. They won’t let me out of here.” She didn’t seem particularly distressed. Just stuck. And noisy. On this couch, I noticed Mom’s whiskery chin, so I got out the tweezers and plucked until she complained that it hurt. We took another walk to the party room to see the results of a raffle drawing, but it hadn’t happened yet. We went back to our couch. A staff member brought a vase of flowers over that had just been delivered for Mom – from my sister, Laura. I showed Mom the card. The staff member took the flowers out of the glass vase they came in and put them in a plastic pitcher. No glass is allowed anywhere. I took the vase home. I took a picture of Mom with her flowers and then suggested they be put on the nursing station counter for all to enjoy.

Mom and her beautiful Mother's Day flowers, sent by my sister.

Mom said she had to pee so I took her to her room. With one hand beginning to pull down her pants, she used the other to start pulling back the covers on her bed until I opened the bathroom door and guided her to the toilet. When she was done, I pointed to the memory poster on the wall – of Mom, family and friends, from the research project she was in gauging whether pictures are more meaningful when accompanied by captions.

Young Bonnie, looking beautiful. Mom no longer recognizes herself in this picture.


I asked her if she ever looks at it. She said yes, and she pointed to the photo of her from her college graduation (I think?) and said, “That’s my daughter. She is so beautiful.” I told her that was actually a picture of her, and that she was, indeed, beautiful. She didn’t seem to agree that it could possibly be her. She didn’t seem interested in the other photos at that time. And I was sort of discouraged, so I suggested it was time for me to go and that she should join Mr. R in the program area.

I pointed him out to her, and suggested she go sit with him, and at this point, I could swear that she had forgotten who he was. We walked toward him, and I wanted her to sit with him so I could leave. But she was antsy, and thought she wanted to go with me somewhere. I told her I was going grocery shopping and that would be no fun for her. Meanwhile, Mr. R was getting angry, and said Mom wanted to sit with some other man. I don’t know what led him to think this – she had greeted a male staff member at one point, and I have thought once before that he mistook me for a man. I found the deterioration of the situation very stressful. We all started walking toward the lobby, and Mom tried to take Mr. R’s arm but he pulled away. We got to the lobby, and I drifted away from them, and they started to talk quietly to each other, and they headed together back toward the program area, where I assumed they would forget any confusion or anger and resume sitting together on the couch holding hands. I escaped without saying goodbye.

And I didn’t go back again on Sunday.

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8 comments so far

  1. Jennifer Jayhawk on

    My initial reaction to your post was, you are WAY to hard on yourself!!!

    Then I laughed to myself. I feel the exact same way. I feel awful that I am not doing enough and I resent my Mom’s boyfriend of many years. He dumped her about five years ago but they still go to the “foot Doctor” together every 4 weeks. She gets all “fixed up” for this grand event every month. I resent him for what he put my Mom through during the break up. She still goes over and over this (he left her for another woman. That woman has now left him). Ah, the soap opera of senior citizens. It’s like High School all over again.

  2. Gemma on

    Oh, sweetie. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes we all need a freakin break. Maybe even longer than a week or two. Maybe skipping a holiday.

  3. viki on

    BEEN THERE,DONETHAT. i’M REFERRING TO THE FEELING THAT STAFF WOULD THINK ME A BAD DAUGHTER- AFTER COMING SO FAITHFULLY FOR SO LONG I STARTED SLACKING OFF BIG TIME.
    BUT ONE OF THE BIGGEST FEEL-BAD TIMES WAS WHEN I LEFT AND MOTHER WOULD EXPRESS HER DISMAY- OR FOLLOW ME OUT.HER STROKE LEFT HER SPEECHLESS AND SHE WAS IN A WHEELCHAIR.
    IT NOT ONLY WAS HEARTBREAKING, BUT GUILT-MAKING. AND i WAS EVEN LESS EAGER TO GO BACK…

  4. momsbrain on

    Jennifer: I don’t blame you for resenting that boyfriend. The good thing about Mr. R is that most of the time, he and Mom are completely content. But he can be quick to judge her, and I don’t like that. Then again, I assume he forgets pretty quickly.

    Gemma: Thank you. I didn’t know just how guilty I was feeling until Saturday. It was weird.

    Viki: I can totally imagine the heartbreak of your mom trying to follow you or being sad to see you go. That is the worst, and I try to avoid that – hence my strategy to usually leave when she is eating. I’m lucky, though, that Mom doesn’t seem upset when I leave – just confused sometimes.

  5. patwhite67 on

    Emily,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Mother’s Day. I enjoyed the photos of your mom. Wow, was she beautiful as a young girl!

    You know I now realize I have spent a good part of my life trying to make a good life for my mom. Now, I realize that in spite of my dad’s fronto temporal dementia and her having to make her own way financially, she really did make a good life for herself and I did not need to worry about her nearly as much as I did and always be trying to do special things to make up for the years when she was burdened caring for my dad.

    I hope you will now permit yourself to enjoy time developing your own interests and time with your husband, visiting your mom when it feels like a good time. Take the boyfriend as a good thing – your mom’s being content is a wonderful thing! I wish my mom had opted to have a boyfriend in her later years.

    I want to thank you also for summarizing Dr. Liss’s comments from last week’s caregiver support group. I missed again. You are so right; we caregivers try to keep ourselves as healthy as possible, always with the knowledge that we are at a heightened risk of developing dementia. I was told last week that dancing is a great preventative, as it uses both sides of the brain. Pat

  6. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat-I didn’t know that about your mom’s history. I’m sorry you experienced that with your dad.

    I do think of Mom’s boyfriend as a good thing. I’m just still figuring out where and when I fit in best with them. 🙂

    Dancing: that’s good news! I don’t dance much, except around my house. But it’s a feel-good activity, so why not?

  7. Sherri on

    Hi Emily –

    I just read this and am trying to remember – yes, it’s clear now… you were always so hard on yourself 🙂 – albeit in a very cheerful way. Your Mom does so appreciate you, doesn’t she? And what a beautiful photo you posted. Happy spring! I’m glad to see you’re giving yourself breaks now and then.

  8. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sherri. I do think Mom appreciates me and it’s very nice that she says so. I do love the old photo of her, and I like the peacefulness of her face in the current photo, too. Happy spring to you, too!


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