She knows me

Two weeks passed between my last visit with Mom before my vacation and my first visit with her upon my return. I was a little worried that she might really forget me. But when I arrived on Saturday afternoon and found her in the program area, she gave me a big hug, kissed me, and then hugged me again. She took my hand and we started walking. She had just been stepping away from a couch where Mr. R was sitting. Hard to tell what she might have had in mind before she ran into me. We walked down to the lobby. There wasn’t much action there. We turned around and walked back to the program area. When we switched directions, Mom took my other hand. Mom’s old friend from Cleveland had called the day before to say he wanted to take Mom to dinner on Saturday evening, to a mutual friend’s house in Columbus. So I visited Mom after lunch in case her clothes were dirty and she needed to change. Her clothes looked fine. She had on pink pants and a pink shirt with sparkly accents. She was wearing beige socks but no shoes.

I took her to her room to find some shoes. Her pink Crocs have bitten the dust – a strap is missing completely on one of the shoes. The blue Crocs weren’t in her room. I found an old pair of Mary Jane-style shoes in her closet, and put them on her feet. She probably hasn’t worn those shoes in at least two years. She said they felt good on her feet. In case she got chilly, I also put a dark denim jacket on her. This also covered a terrible rash on her arm. There have been repeated problems with scabies at the Alz center. Mom’s recurrent rash has been treated a few times. I think there is some doubt that it is still scabies, but it has been persistent. I checked Mom’s stomach, though, and she didn’t have a rash on her trunk, as she has in the past. Just an itchy-looking patch on the inside of her left elbow.

I left Mom with Mr. R and told her I’d be back in a few days. I mentioned to her that her old friend from college was coming to take her to dinner. She liked the news, but I’m certain she didn’t really know what it meant. As we walked, she did some of her usual nonsense talking. She was in a very good mood, and I had high hopes that she would enjoy the upcoming social activity. One thing I wanted to check was Mom’s toileting habits these days. I took an aide aside and asked her how Mom does with the bathroom. She said Mom cannot articulate that she needs to use the bathroom, but her behavior shows it clearly. She starts pacing around kind of quickly and enters people’s rooms. The staff members have come to recognize that this means Mom needs to go to the bathroom. “She won’t poop in her pants,” the staff member said. That was good to know. But apparently that might mean that she now sometimes pees in her disposable underwear – either as an accident or at times when the sensation to pee doesn’t mean anything to her. I left a voice mail for Mom’s friend to watch for this behavior while Mom was with him, so it would be a sign that she needed the bathroom. He called the next day and left me a voice mail to say Mom had had a pretty good time, but that she seemed anxious. He also said Mom had a bad rash on her arm and asked if the Alz center is treating that to my satisfaction. So that means her jacket either came off sometime or that she had removed it before she ever left the center. I don’t know what to think about Mom’s anxiety. She enjoys visits and chatting, but I wonder if taking her to an unfamiliar setting for a dinner event is too much for her now. Figuring out how to give her special outings that she can enjoy without making her uncomfortable will be a delicate balance for awhile, I think.

Before I left for vacation, a nurse had called to tell me Mom had a bruise in “the cottage cheese area” of her body that troubled her, so she was going to ask either the doctor or nurse practitioner to take a look at it. I went to the center the next day with hopes that I could be with the doctor during the exam. The nurse practitioner arrived first, and since I was there, she agreed to look at the bruise. The exam strategy was interesting: A nurse who doesn’t normally work with Mom held Mom’s hands from in front of Mom and asked for a hug. I stood to the side and was telling Mom I was worried that she had hurt herself. The nurse practitioner stood behind Mom and yanked down her pants. “Hey, you’re pulling my pants down,” Mom yelled. She was fidgety, and the nurse started tickling her to make her laugh or at least distract her. The NP and I looked at the bruise, which took up a lot of Mom’s right butt cheek. I had thought it was on her upper thigh based on the description on the phone. It was nasty, to be sure. Huge, but with a white-ish spot in the middle that made me think it was caused by some sort of trauma. Mom apparently had tried to explain to the nurse that she had fallen onto the side of a chair. The NP said she would do some blood work just to check Mom’s platelets. I never heard any news about it, so I assume all is well. I imagined that the initial nurse was concerned that Mom has a bleeding disorder of some kind. Her arms are sort of bruisy all the time. The NP said that’s more of a skin problem, if I understood correctly. So luckily I didn’t have worries about her while I was away.

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5 comments so far

  1. Jennifer Jayhawk on

    I think it’s pretty cool that your Mom’s old friend volunteered to take her to a dinner party. It’s also hard to let the “outsiders” see what is going on.

    My Mom always has her latest “obsession”. This occupies most of her day. Two of my friends, with older parents, say they take Xanax (the older parent not them :). I’m just curious if your Mom takes anything like this.

    It is unfortunate that they have a hard time just relaxing and enjoying life. I could probably benefit from my own advice.

  2. mirroredImages on

    “Cottage cheese area” is such a great description! And I’m so glad she recognized you when you returned. You’re a good daughter.

  3. momsbrain on

    Jennifer: Mom’s friend is great about taking her out. As for Xanax – my mom took it off and on, but at the time of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the neurologist didn’t want her to take it anymore because it can make confusion worse. She takes a small dose of Zyprexa, which might have a similar effect in curbing anxiety. Meanwhile, I take Xanax sometimes for my anxiety.

    MirroredImages: Thank you. I was relieved that she was SO glad to see me.

  4. Lauren on

    You may listen to this–Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac? The other day he read a poem about sons dealing w/ their mom’s Alz. and I thought you might like it. Here’s the link: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/09/06

  5. momsbrain on

    Wow, Lauren, that is quite a poem, and it does hit home. Thanks for sharing the link. This line is particularly interesting: “Doing nothing means I do nothing wrong.” I have been lucky, in that Mom generally hasn’t turned against me – but I know many people who have had that experience.


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