A slap in the face, in more ways than one

Tonight, I had a call from an Alz center nurse. Someone whose name I do not recognize. She just called to tell me Mom hit someone today – another resident’s family member. And she just wanted to let me know.

I realize that the staff has to make these calls to family. But why at 8:30 p.m.? I am all stirred up by this news, with no opportunity to really resolve anything. If I understood the story correctly, at dinner, a tray was placed in front of another resident at Mom’s table. Mom reached in for some food, probably dipping a finger into ice cream or some other type of dessert. The man’s family member, I think, tried to correct Mom. So Mom hit her. In the left eye.

The woman is fine and was not actually injured or angry. Mom was agitated for awhile after the incident. But by the time I got the call, she was fine. All forgotten, of course. “Is there something I should do?” I asked. “No, no. We just want to inform you when these things happen.” Right. I get that. I just wish it had been earlier. Maybe I could have driven over to the center and apologized to the woman who got hit in the face. Or sat with Mom and tried to make her feel better. Or both. But visits after 8 p.m. are discouraged because the entire focus is on getting residents prepared for bed, and there are no front desk staff members available to let us out of the building.

“Mom is having trouble with food lately,” I said. Yes, the nurse said, and the staff is trying to keep her nourished with finger foods. I bought a box of Clif bars to take over on Wednesday, when my work schedule is a little lighter. I had a nice long visit with Mom on Friday, which I haven’t written about. While I was there, a nurse had suggested nutrition bars might be a good option for Mom, and she suggested I bring in a box. So we’ll see.

So I think I have reached a point where Mom doesn’t need me anymore, where she is settled and happy. And then I get three calls from the nurses in a week’s time with reports about various issues with Mom. She will never not need me, I guess. And no matter how well she seems to be doing, there are no guarantees she will stay that way.

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10 comments so far

  1. JenniferJayhawk on

    I am so sorry Emily. It is always something that’s for sure. I beginning to think things are never under control it more like whats next?

  2. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Jennifer. I’m sad to say I am beginning to get that feeling again, too, that there is always something new around the corner. I had fooled myself into thinking it would be smooth sailing now – of course, Mom will get sicker, but her care is good and her mood has been stable for so long. Not so sure I can count on that anymore. Sigh. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Andrea Carlisle on

    This is upsetting, but at least you know the person she hit is okay and the staff is okay with what happened.
    You’re wise to keep writing things down.
    Have you seen Dana Walrath’s blog about her mother (Alzheimer’s)? I think you might like it. It’s part of the Brooklyn Library Sketchbook Project. Here’s the latest post:
    http://danawalrath.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/it-takes-a-village-with-a-dog/

  4. Pam on

    Can you ask them to notify you of non-urgent things less frequently? I suppose it sounds a little callous, but, really, it’s reasonable to expect them to notify you of urgent things immediately, and notify you of entirely un-urgent things later. Or, you could specifically tell them not to call after visiting hours are over, unless it’s an emergency.

    It’s important to remember that you can’t make your mom act differently, and just because they notify you of something doesn’t mean you have to spring into action to fix it. You can’t. You are doing the best anyone can do!

  5. patwhite67 on

    Emily,

    I am so sorry you were called at that hour and were left with no way to respond. The staff member was in my opinion quite in error.

    Our moms in many ways react now as they would have as small children. My mom was spanking her aide (a different aide, very young) who was trying to bathe her last weekend. The aide just laughed about it but told me.

    I send you a hug today!

  6. momsbrain on

    Andrea: Thanks for the link! And I notice I write more when things aren’t going so well. Not surprising, I guess.

    Pam: I think they make the calls when their schedules allow, probably. I was just surprised because they don’t usually call that late, ever. But normal people might not think that’s so late. Thanks for the support.

    Pat: Yes, I often think Mom is child-like in many ways. I’m glad your mom’s aide could laugh about what happened to her. A nurse at the Alz center told me Friday that bathing is one of the most problematic elements of taking care of dementia patients. Thanks for the hug!

  7. arborfamiliae on

    Knowing how to help, when to intervene, when to be there to comfort–these are challenging questions. We always have to be thinking about these things in our relationships–especially our close ones. But when someone close to us is unable to manage themselves well (whether from age or disability or any other reasons) the burdens rest heavily on the one side of the relationship. I hope there’s easier times ahead for you.

  8. momsbrain on

    arborfamiliae: I imagine you see these struggles as you counsel families. I also realize that anyone who spends time at the Alz center knows unpredictable things might happen. If I were hit by a resident, I would not be angry at all. Or I would blame myself for letting an incident rise to that level. But it’s not easy to shake that feeling that somehow, I am responsible for Mom’s behavior.

  9. Jeff on

    Hi Em –
    I’m sorry you had to deal with that, and in that way. i agree with some of the previous posts, that perhaps you could have a conversation with someone at the center about the timing of these informational calls. I appreciate the feeling that you were left with being unable to do anything about it because the visiting hours were over. I think they would understand why you’d want information like that in a timely manner. Roller-coaster all over again. Hang on. Love you!

  10. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Jeff. I talked about it in support group, and the social worker running the meeting seemed to think the hit was isolated, not a sign that Mom is changing dramatically. I might have overreacted – but you never want your mom hitting people, just like you don’t want you kids to hit people, I imagine. Hopefully this roller coaster will have small hills… Love you, too.


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