Well, that therapy didn’t last long

An aide from the Alz center just called this evening to give me a report from a dietitian about Mom. She said that because it is difficult for staff members to convince Mom to remain seated during meals, the dietitian recommends finger foods for Mom as well as a high-calorie drink twice a day. So Mom can eat and stay on the move. I asked if the occupational therapist had already given up on working with Mom on re-learning proper utensil use and other eating skills. The aide said she believed this order came from dietary. But by the end of the call, she said, “I can’t really read this signature.” So it might be coming from the occupational therapist. I don’t see any other explanation but that Mom is not a good therapy candidate. The Alz center is small enough that the therapist and dietary have got to be working together on this kind of thing. I told her I thought it sounded like a good plan. With all the walking that Mom does, she needs to take in some calories.

I asked if Mom had become more mobile recently. The last time I visited in the middle of the day, Mom was contentedly sitting with her leg hoisted on a chair. The aide said that when the activity level is high in the program area, that’s when Mom wants to be on the move. Mealtime is a fairly busy and noisy time in the program area. I do recall that Mom seemed very distracted and restless on Valentine’s Day, when the lunch hour was more chaotic than usual, with visiting family members invited for the meal. At quiet times, Mom is more relaxed. “Right now, she’s lying on a couch with her feet up,” the aide said. That sounds like my mom. She also said Mom strays away from Mr. R with regularity, and sometimes it upsets him. I don’t know much about this element of the disease – the tendency to make a patient so physically agitated but emotionally at peace. I skipped support group tonight because I was exhausted and had a headache. So I will definitely have some questions for the next time I go.

What I did do today, however, was attend a memorial service. A support group friend of mine lost her husband. I have written about her a few times before; we had cake with her at the center on her 60th wedding anniversary – three of her four children live far away, and had sent cake and flowers to the center so their mother could have a proper party. She always so stoically described the events in her household. She often talked about how much she learned from attending support group – especially about letting go of worry about her husband’s idiosyncratic behavior. Certain things bothered her until she realized it didn’t really matter. But it can be hard to learn that lesson. And based on what the pastor said about him today, he lived a very orderly life before he got sick. So changes in his behavior must have been hard to adjust to.

She developed hip problems several months ago and needed surgery, so she moved her husband into the Alz center while she recovered. Once she had recovered, however, she and her kids had decided that he would do well to stay at the center. He has been there since shortly before Christmas, I think. Recently, at my most recent care conference, the staff members told me that sometimes he took walks with my mom. I didn’t know him well, but I thought he seemed very sweet. And he had twinkly eyes. At age 84, he was a handsome man. He died suddenly last week and I was stunned to see his obituary in the paper on Sunday. Today, after his wife and I shared a strong hug after the service, she took my hands and held them tight and we talked briefly about the sudden turn of events. She seemed to be doing really well, considering. It is not that the loss doesn’t make her ache to her bones, I’m sure. But maybe it is somehow easier to accept than the prolonged and painful process of watching an Alzheimer’s patient slowly slip away. I imagine for a spouse, there is nothing worse. It’s bad enough to see it in a parent.

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