Archive for June 21st, 2010|Daily archive page

Care conference and a haircut

I took a vacation. And apparently, that led me to take a little vacation from thinking about Mom. And writing about Mom. And that is OK.

Two days after I returned from a visit with my sister’s family in California, I attended a care conference with staff members at the Alz center. Mom has lost 6.6 pounds in the past three months but still weighs plenty so there is no concern about the loss being detrimental to her. She continues to like snacks and usually finishes her meals with no problem. A nurse had told me the day before that the medical director would like to lower Mom’s Zoloft dose by 50 milligrams per day. She is on a high dose, and he would like to see if she can manage with less. The staff will be monitoring her mood during this process. I am in favor of reducing her drugs as long as she remains content. I have never been against giving her drugs to maintain a stable mood, but I am OK with the philosophy of reducing meds when it’s possible. Looking at her pharmacy bill, I do believe she might also be off of Aricept, the memory drug. I have favored taking her off of that for about a year, so it does not surprise me if it is considered useless at this point in her illness.

The activities director said Mom’s mood fluctuates, and seems directly related to how much attention she is getting from her gentleman friend, Mr. R. Staff try to get them to sit together for meals, which helps Mom focus on eating. It turns out Mr. R is not the one-woman man some say he is. When Mom is not around, he will still cuddle with another lady friend. The staff said that when Mom comes upon this scene, she will sometimes just stand there until the other woman goes away. “Her territory is marked,” a staffer said. The activities director’s concern is that Mom is less social with others now that she is so focused on Mr. R. She can still initiate conversations, but she is less likely to do so with other residents. She also participates less frequently in group activities. Mr. R never participates, so the two tend to sit and watch from one of the distant couches in the program area. Everyone seems to know there is nothing we can really do about this. But it is there, as a bit of a problem. Mom is content most of the time. Even when her mood darkens, she is not combative or aggressive. Just sort of grumpy.

My sister and I talked during some long hikes we took together about her next visit here to Columbus, and what it will be like to visit with Mom if Mr. R is on the scene. I initially said I am afraid to take Mom away from him for fear that it will upset her and/or make him cranky upon her return, or both. But the more we talked, the more I thought the benefits of taking Mom out somewhere with Laura will outweigh the risks. Though there might be a rough patch, it will pass. That is one good thing about this disease. Most bad feelings go away, or are forgotten, or both. I talked about this a little bit with the staff. I will do a practice outing in the next few weeks to see how Mom does with separation from Mr. R, how she is on an outing (I suspect she will enjoy a Bob Evans lunch) and then how the transition back to the center goes. I choose to be optimistic that it will all be fine. I want to do what’s right for her. And there is no reason an outing can’t be the right thing.

While I was in the building, a nurse asked if I might be willing to get Mom to the beauty shop for a haircut. She was on the schedule and staff had twice tried to get her into the chair, to no avail. Even Mr. R tries to help with this, but Mom won’t go for showers or haircuts these days even with his encouragement, apparently. I agreed to give it a go. I found Mom wandering in the lobby, which was a lucky break. I called out, “Bonnie,” and she turned around and we had a big hug. I popped my head into the beauty shop and asked the stylist what she wanted me to do. She needed just a couple of minutes to finish up with her current resident. So Mom and I walked toward the program area. When we got there, I could see in the distance that Mr. R was in an embrace with his other girlfriend. Mom spotted them, too. She pointed in that direction, and seemed to want to go over there. I put my body in front of hers and just physically redirected her back down the hall toward the beauty shop. I think she was so startled by my insistence that she quickly forgot what was on her mind.

We got her seated in the stylist’s chair with no problem. When her head was tilted back, she said, “I just had a baby.” I said, “Uh-oh, I think I know what that means.” The stylist sort of chuckled uncomfortably. I thought it was gas, not poop. But I wonder, too, if the sensation of being tilted back just gave Mom a weird physical memory, because there was no sign that anything else had happened. It was an interesting brief moment. I told Mom to savor having her hair washed because that feels so good. She did seem to relax. The stylist did a nice, quick haircut, just trimming up around all of the edges and leaving enough for Mom’s curl to show. She gently blew Mom’s hair dry on a low setting. Mom did great, just sitting there and occasionally asking the stylist’s name or trying to otherwise make small talk in her own way.

After the cut, she and I sat on the couch in the lobby and a few staff members came by to admire her beauty.

Mom and her brand new haircut.

I saw that Mr. R’s lady friend was being encouraged to get her hair done, so I considered the coast clear to return Mom to the program area. We went back there and over to the couch, where Mr. R was sitting alone. Mom leaned over and kissed him. I told her she could sit with him and I could go back to work. Then, out of the blue, the other woman appeared. She had refused to have her hair done. She and Mom exchanged a few words – cordially, as far as I could tell – and then the other woman walked away. Mom seemed a little confused, but I managed to turn her attention to Mr. R and I walked away. I had been at the center for almost an hour and a half – much longer than I expected on a Wednesday morning. When I was ready to turn the corner toward the lobby, I looked back, and Mom seemed to have forgotten I was around. That was just how I wanted it.

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