Two weeks, small changes

After seeing Mom in such good shape right before my trip, I let two weeks slip by before I could get to see her again. After my conference I took another out-of-town trip, to see friends in Chicago, and had some deadlines at work that prevented me from getting to the Alz center during the week. I arrived Sunday about half an hour before lunch. Mom was walking around in the program area. I went up to her and said “hi” enthusiastically and hugged her. She seemed to enjoy the greeting. I walked beside her and she took my hand. We walked toward the lobby. I noticed that as she spoke, she sometimes got hung up on a syllable: My-my-my or be-be-be at the beginning of a word. There is a chance she was tired, or maybe even just fooling around, but I took it as a potential change in her speaking ability – something I will watch for the next time I visit. She still chattered on in her typical way, telling stories and using her hands a lot, sometimes making motions as if she were fingering imaginary thread. It’s a weird little thing I’ve seen her do several times – I think of it as a hallucination, but that might be overstating what is really going on.

We sat in two chairs in the lobby and continued to chat. I told Mom I hadn’t seen her in awhile because I had been out of town. I tried to give her a thorough examination, checking her skin and touching her hair, looking for any bruises or bumps. She looked good. Her hair was clean. Her breath smelled pretty bad. I do worry about her teeth – I don’t know whether she is agreeable to having them brushed. She did have some food on her clothes, I assume from breakfast or a snack. Her black velour pants had flecks of crumbs in the lap area, and her blue shirt had a blob of some unrecognizable brown substance on the front. She was wearing a red fleece jacket, as well, reminding me that I need to swap out her summer clothes and replace them with her cold-weather wardrobe.

I saw the cart of trays heading to the program area, and I encouraged Mom to get up and walk with me so she could have lunch. I sat her at a table with a male resident and his wife, who sometimes comes to support group. Her husband is in his mid-60s and very advanced. Several of his brothers had Alzheimer’s, too. It is a sad story, and I think his wife has a lot of emotions percolating just under the surface. I cut Mom’s chicken and poured her milk, and put her bib on her. She used her fork properly for much of the meal. I chatted with the wife, who was feeding her husband. He just transitioned to pureed food a few weeks ago when he began having problems swallowing. Seeing that makes me wonder how Mom’s eating will change over time. For now, she’s doing great. She ate almost every bite of her chicken, mashed potatoes and carrots. She slurped at her ice cream cup. And then she ate her apple pie with her fingers. When it was clear that she was done, I took her tray away. That may have been a mistake. Mom reached for another woman’s plate then, and I told her it wasn’t hers. I moved the plate as far away as I could. But I could see Mom’s mood changing. She does not like to be corrected and apparently she doesn’t like to be told no, either. I asked her to get up with me and walk me to the lobby. She resisted but eventually got up.

We held hands and were walking toward the lobby when two aides came up to us from behind. “Can we take Bonnie with us? She’s wet,” one said. I hadn’t realized it, and I looked at Mom’s butt, and there was a big pee stain on her pants. “I didn’t realize,” I said. They knew I didn’t know. “Do you want to take a shower?” an aide said to Mom. “I don’t think so,” Mom said, in a brief moment of near lucidity. The two aides encouraged Mom to change directions and go with them, and I walked away. I could hear Mom protesting and imagined she was trying to put the brakes on any movement toward the shower room. I recalled that when we had first taken a walk, Mom was saying “peep-peep” from time to time. I wonder if she was saying she had to pee. Mom has been in disposable underwear for years now, really. But that was my first experience with her wetting herself through to her clothes. It made me a little bit sad.

4 comments so far

  1. Megan on

    I worry about teeth too. We spend so much time at the dentist. Her mouth is so filled with gunk that they advised coming at least 4x per year for prevention. Mom can’t brush well anymore, and only one or two staff outstanding staff members will make time for it during their rigorous morning rounds. I help her brush and floss as much as possible, and she always feels grateful and relieved to get all the stuck stuff out. That’s one battle I’ve chosen to let go of with the staff, since I don’t see it changing.

    I’m curious, since I’ve only “known” your blog for about a year: how long has your mom lived in the Alz’s center?

    Take care.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Megan. Mom has been at this nursing home for just over two years. Before that, she was in assisted living for 22 months. She did pretty well there, making friends with a few women who spent most of their days sitting in the lobby chatting. She transitioned to a nursing home setting because she was advancing and her money ran out, so she had to go on Medicaid – which in her case covered only skilled care, not assisted living. The timing worked out pretty well. We tried her in a “regular” nursing home for two weeks, but her behavior was bad and they kicked her out. Thankfully, a bed opened at the Alz center the very next day and she took to it right away, with almost zero behavior problems from day one.

  3. jennifer jayhawk on

    Hi Emily, Thank you for the kind comments on my blog. I was a Fine Arts major so anytime I can be creative is a fun outlet for me.

    It is definitely stunning to see the changes that can happen in a short time. I was shocked to see that my Mom was struggling to get up from a seated position. Her confusion had also progressed significantly since the last time I saw her. It’s hard to see and very sad. I can’t imagine the emotion of the patients and families where your Mom lives. That would be tough.

    Take care,

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Jennifer-The atmosphere at Mom’s nursing home is often pretty cheerful. The staff tries to keep everyone busy, and that helps. It is also divided so that people who require more skilled care are actually in a different wing, which I don’t visit very often. The mood is more subdued there. There is no denying there is lots of sadness with this disease, but having Mom live in this center reduces some of the feelings of isolation that I might otherwise feel, I think. I’m sorry you’re feeling sad about your mom. Witnessing the decline just stinks, no doubt about it.

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