Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Collection notice

I am behind, of course. I have a fun little entry to write about an examination of a bruise on Mom’s butt from last week right before I left for vacation.

But first, I’ll just say that I was so not happy to find, upon my return from vacation, a letter from a law firm doing collections for a pharmacy company that says Mom owes it about $219. I think this is the pharmacy that serviced the account when Mom was in the nursing home for two weeks before moving to the Alz center. I’m pretty sure that company billed me ONE TIME and then, almost a year later to the day after she was kicked out of that nursing home, sent a collection notice.

I also had a phone message from the other pharmacy company that handled Mom’s meds at the Alz center for about five months, from last August to December, when it was replaced by another company. The caller asked me to call her back “at once.” Um, no. I have called that company numerous times AND sent a detailed letter about their failure to notice a problem with Mom’s account before the balance was above $4,000. I plan to resend that letter, just like the company resends me bills time and time again. I’m sure that account will be turned over for collection eventually despite the company’s apparent inability to BILL MOM’S INSURANCE COMPANY. And good luck to them collecting from a woman who is on Medicaid.

What is it about pharmacy companies that serve nursing homes? They charge so damn much, they can’t possibly be losing money. But their billing practices are the pits – at least the practices of these two sucky companies. God, I am so sick of this.

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Face time

It was Sunday, and a week and a half had passed since I last visited with Mom when Laura was here. I thought it was high time that I pay Mom a visit. But I have to admit, I didn’t have much enthusiasm for it. I don’t know why – I didn’t have any specific feeling of dread. My heart just wasn’t in it. And I didn’t stay very long.

On the way to the program area, I ran into the son of a resident, someone I had seen at a few support group meetings. His mom is young, only in her early 60s, I believe. She has had some kind of dementia-type disease for some time. Her mother is still alive and does not really approve of having her daughter in the Alz center. So there is tension in the family. The son and I paused to chat. I said I always try to greet his mother, who is often lying on a couch in the sunny hallway between the lobby and the program area. She never seems to notice but I say hi and call her by name anyway. He thanked me for doing that. He asked about Mom, and I said, “She has a boyfriend, and that keeps her busy.” Many people who hear about the boyfriend seem to first think it’s weird, then funny, then a really nice thing. All true.

I found Mom and Mr. R on their usual couch in the program area. It was just after lunch, and some residents were still eating. As I approached, Mom waved at me. I sat next to her on the couch. She was dirty again, with food stains on her shirt and her white pants. She had socks on but no shoes. She was as pleasant as ever. I asked her a few routine questions – how she’s feeling, is she sleeping well, does anything hurt. Has she seen the little kids lately. We didn’t talk a whole lot. Mr. R was pretty quiet, but not unpleasant.

We just sort of sat and appreciated each other’s company. One resident walked by, a tall man, and because he didn’t pick up his feet, his shoes made loud squeaking noises. Mom and I had a chuckle about that. A man sitting on a nearby chair introduced himself to me: “I’m John,” he said. He is actually Mr. R’s roommate. I have seen him before – he sometimes comes out of his room with a robe on and carrying a cup of coffee and a book. He seems fairly young and with it. I told him I am Emily, Bonnie’s daughter, and we both said, “Nice to meet you.” An activities staff member came around to ask if residents wanted to work on a craft. She didn’t bother to ask Mom and Mr. R, who I believe are known not to participate much. She asked John if he was interested, and he said no. But not in an unkind way. He got up and sat elsewhere in the program area. I am curious about him, I must admit.

A nursing aide approached us and said to me, “Your sister?” She was asking me if I was Mom’s sister. “She’s my mother,” I said. And she said how much she enjoys looking at the poster of family and friends in Mom’s room, and repeatedly said that Mom is beautiful. And I agreed. And Mom smiled. And the aide went on her way. And I felt a little stunned, wondering if I could look old enough to be Mom’s sister. I don’t mind looking my age. I am 44, close to 45. I am lucky enough to have good skin. I do have gray hair framing my face, but most of my hair is brown. And I refuse to cover the gray. But still, I would prefer not to be mistaken for a significantly older woman. I can’t deny it. I told Patrick about this, about my chagrin at the suggestion that Mom and I could be sisters. And he said it’s because Mom looks young. And that is true. And I thought about this – I do have a tendency to set my face into a frown, or a look of discontent, something like that. With a knitted brow and a slack mouth. And I am sure that expression ages me quite a bit. But with neurosis comes such expressions, I think, and I am a fretful person. Meanwhile, Mom is at complete peace. For so much of her adult life, she worried. She had anxiety and depression. And I imagine it showed on her face, too. But now, she is worry-free, and doesn’t have a care in the world. And it shows on her face. I think there is probably a lesson in that.

Four visits in four days

I picked up my sister Laura from the airport last Sunday and we went straight to see Mom, with a stop at Starbucks on the way. I admit I’m already forgetting some of the details of the visit. But I do recall that on this first visit, Laura wanted to take a picture of Mom with Mr. R for her own memory, and so she could show her kids, Mom’s granddaughters, Grandma’s new boyfriend. My unpleasant interaction with Mr. R by this time was a distant memory. I had later heard that on the day I visited when he was mad at me, he had already been irritated with Mom’s independent streak earlier in the day, when she participated in a baseball activity and got her fingernails painted. So by the time I got there, I guess he had had enough and wanted Mom’s full attention. I am willing to forget it, and I know he has forgotten it, too.

This first visit was sort of introductory in nature. Mom hadn’t seen Laura in quite some time, so we decided to just sit and visit in the program area. We tried to catch Mom up on who Laura was, where she lived, what her kids are doing, that sort of thing. Mom is interested in the news about people, I think, even when she isn’t exactly sure who they are. Including news about me. Mom showed interest in Laura’s purse, so Laura showed it to her and pulled out her boarding pass and some other miscellaneous papers from her flight. Mom started shuffling the papers in her hands and arranging them on the seat next to her. Laura placed the luggage sticker on Mom’s hand. She also put her reading glasses on Mom to see what she thought of them. Mom looked good in them, and kept them on. “It’s like a 2-year-old,” Laura said, about keeping Mom entertained. We stayed for about an hour before deciding we all had run out of steam and things to say.

When Laura and I returned to the Alz center on Monday afternoon, we had hopes about taking Mom out for some ice cream. It would be a first since Mr. R came on the scene, and Laura could tell I was antsy about it. And I guess I was. It was brought to my attention during Laura’s visit that I worry a lot. I do worry a lot, and I wish I didn’t. But a great opportunity presented itself on Monday, and it allowed me to stop worrying. Mr. R and Mom were sitting together at a table because it was puzzle activity time. Well, it turns out Mr. R likes puzzles. And Mom, once a big fan of doing jigsaw puzzles, no longer enjoys them. So an activity staff member distracted Mr. R while we went up to Mom on the other side of the table and said, “Would you like to go out for some ice cream?” She didn’t hesitate to say yes. So we signed her out and whisked her away in a matter of minutes.

On the drive to Graeter’s, Mom was chatty. She said things like, “This is the happiest day of my life,” and generally conveyed positive feelings about being on an outing. It was hot, so she also talked about how hot it was. At the ice cream shop, we ordered her a chocolate scoop. Laura and I had treats, too. Laura pulled a big chunk of chocolate out of her cone, and later, offered it to Mom. Mom got very messy eating that chocolate chunk, and I wiped her hands with wet napkins. But otherwise, she did a great job eating. Not much mess, no confusion. She admired some small children playing.

There is a park with a lake not far from the Alz center, so I suggested we take Mom there to see if she might enjoy looking at ducks and the dogs that are brought to the park to play in the water. We had to take a short walk from the parking lot to the lake, but Mom did fine. We sat in a shady spot on a deck overlooking the water and watched the ducks. We could see dogs at the dog beach in the distance, but I didn’t think we should walk anymore. One dog came over to our area and played in the water briefly. We didn’t stay all that long, but Mom seemed to enjoy it. Laura later told me that at one point, Mom looked out over the water and quietly said, “This is nice.” And it made Laura a little weepy – it was a moment of apparent clarity for Mom, and a reminder of the old Bonnie who would have liked this park, a view, some quiet time, the ducks. This was a reminder to me that it is worth it to take Mom out from time to time. Though I comfort myself with the knowledge that she doesn’t know what she’s missing, I also feel compelled, after seeing her finding pleasure in a simple outing, to give her a taste of freedom, of something special. There is no reason to deny her that.

Mom on the deck at Antrim Park.

Mom and Laura enjoying the view.

There were lots of ducks. I'm not sure Mom really found them particularly interesting.

We returned Mom to the Alz center, and she seemed satisfied to return to a familiar place, and to air conditioning. But Laura and I also felt satisfaction about this achievement, about spending time with Mom without Mr. R, if only for a short while. The activities staffer told us everything had gone fine while Mom was gone, and that was a relief. While we were out, Mom had started referring to a boy, who seemed to be missing. She wasn’t in distress, but she did have him in mind, which I thought was interesting.

On Tuesday, if I recall correctly, we found Mom wandering around by herself in the program area. She had taken to hugging me hello, and Laura would ask for a hug, too. We sat for awhile in the lobby and chatted. And took some pictures, in case it was our last visit together. Laura was to leave the next morning.

Mom wasn't quite ready for this one, which is what led to the laughter in the photo I posted a few days ago.

It turned out that we made time to visit Mom again on Wednesday morning. Laura and I had done some shopping the day before, and Laura bought Mom a couple of gifts: a child’s book with lots of different textures to touch, and a deck of Uno cards. Mom was a skilled bridge player in her day, and at one point during one of our visits, Mom had asked us if we play bridge. That took us by surprise, because Mom has so few memories of anything about her past. I told her that I had asked her to teach me bridge when I was in my 20s, but we were both so impatient with each other that we couldn’t even complete a single lesson. Mom used to recline on her couch and play Solitaire or, perhaps even more often, she’d deal out several bridge hands and play them all by herself. Laura wondered if the feel of a deck of cards might bring back some muscle memories for Mom.

Mom enjoyed the gifts, and did examine the cards. Laura and I both shuffled them, but Mom didn’t show signs of recognizing that. Laura tried to mimic a particular shuffling method that Mom had had in her prime, but Laura couldn’t really master it. Mom didn’t seem to absorb much of it. But we had a nice visit. We had found Mom sitting in the lobby by herself, wearing white pants and a yellow fleece shirt. Laura told her she looked good – very fresh. Mom seemed to like that. We couldn’t stay long before having to leave for the airport. I wrote Mom’s name on her new belongings and we walked her back to the program area and connected her with Mr. R.

Laura told me that Mom seemed to be very focused on me, that it was clear that I am still an important person in Mom’s life – from Mom’s perspective. That was comforting to hear after all of my belly-aching about her fixation on Mr. R. Laura also felt that on that last day, Mom recognized her – that after repeated visits, she was becoming familiar. Laura also later worried that her visit had been stressful for me. Laura as a visitor in my house is not stressful at all, and I hope she believed me when I told her that. But I guess as part of all the things I worry about, I worry about her emotions concerning Mom. Intellectually, I know I can’t feel responsible for that. And Laura doesn’t ask me to tend to her emotional needs. And we both agreed Mom is doing so well, and is very content. She shows no sign of frustration about her lack of memory or her confusion. But there’s just something about the changing family relationships that really gets to me. I guess I’m going to have to mellow out about all that.

A fun photo

I have a lot of writing to do. My sister Laura was here, and we visited Mom four times over four days. They were good visits. We finally took Mom out and it went just fine. Mr. R was his typical quiet and friendly self. No drama. Until I get the chance to write, here is a photo of Mom and Laura from one of the visits – I can’t remember which day, honestly. I think it was Tuesday, before Laura and I went to an afternoon movie. It sums up what we tried to do the most: Keep it light and simple, and laugh.

Mom and Laura share a good laugh.