Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

‘Here I go’

Mom might be going through a new phase, and it’s sort of a tough one for me. She seems inclined to get away from me when I visit. Now, I will say that two of the last several visits occurred during or after busy events that were probably overstimulating. And Patrick has been with me for three recent visits, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s different. And two of us are undoubtedly more stimulating than just one of us.

I missed the Christmas party this year at the Alz center because I had a meeting at work, and it ran long, of course. By the time I got to the center, the Elvis impersonator was just closing up his act for the day. Mom was sitting next to a resident’s family member, still in the circle that had been set up to enjoy the performance. Patrick met me there, and he, Mom and I escaped to a quieter corner of the big program area. Mom sat in a chair and we pulled up chairs next to her. I talked to her about the party and how I was sorry I had missed it. I wondered if anyone had gotten Mom some snacks. As we all sat there, Mom said, “Here I go,” and she stood up and walked over to a couch. There, she immediately stretched out and closed her eyes. I wasn’t surprised that she was pooped after a two-hour-long party. The only sensible thing we could do was leave and let her get some sleep.

Mom wasted no time getting to this spot so she could lie down and rest.

Mom wasted no time getting to this spot so she could lie down and rest.

Patrick and I visited on Christmas day, in the afternoon. Mom appeared to be conversing with someone on a distant couch when we arrived, and then she stood and started walking around. She had on a pretty red shirt, and Patrick and I admired how festive she looked. We walked around with her, letting her lead the way. We ended up at a different couch. Patrick sat in a nearby chair and I pulled up a chair so I could face Mom. She sat up for awhile, and then reclined. I rubbed her arms and legs a little bit. An aide came over and said she had been changed recently, which explained how clean her shirt was after lunch. I asked if she had protested. He chuckled. “I hate you. I’ll kill you.” These are the things she says when she is being changed. His reply: “I love you, Bonnie.” After a few exchanges, he says, “I love you,” and she says, “OK.” He went on his way, and then a resident came over and observed, “She likes to sleep there,” pointing to Mom. “And she can really sleep.” Yep, that’s my mom.

After a short while, Mom sat upright and started to chatter. And then she said, “I’ve gotta go,” and stood up and walked away. She was restless, or wanted to get away from us. Or both. Or maybe neither. As I signed out at the front desk, I told the receptionist, “Mom doesn’t seem to like me anymore.” And she said, “She doesn’t really like anyone. But she’s happy.” And I thought that was an interesting observation. Mom does pursue social interaction sometimes, so I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like people. But the interaction goes most smoothly if it is on her terms.

Her behavior could be something more than just stimulation when a visitor arrives. The morning after Christmas, an occupational therapist called asking for permission to help Mom with her evening meal. She seems to be stable in the morning and at lunch, eating as she typically does, but by evening, she sometimes doesn’t sit for her meal or she is not as able to get the food into her mouth. The therapist said she wanted to help the aides and nurses by seeing if the tricks she has learned will work with Mom. My immediate inclination is to want to get involved, to see if maybe I should help at dinnertime. But given Mom’s possible aversion to my company, that could be exactly the wrong thing to do. We have a care conference in early January, where I’ll try to sort out what might be best.

Picture show

Awhile back, I got a call that Mom had an unexplained black eye. She didn’t seem to be bothered by it, the nurse said, but it was bad enough that the staff planned to write an incident report. We all assumed Mom probably bumped her head against something. No one had seen any indication that Mom had been hit. She would be sure to yell if that happened. I went to see her the day after the call and she did have a real shiner, with bruising all around the right side of her head. She is prone to bruising, but a black eye is always a sad thing to see. However, in this photo, it’s clear she was feeling fine during my brief visit. I think it’s so funny that she hoists her legs over arm chairs.

Mom must be telling me a story that she thinks is funny.

Mom must be telling me a story that she thinks is funny.

My camera says I took that picture on Nov. 1. When Patrick and I visited her for the Alz center’s Thanksgiving dinner for families on Nov. 15, she still had very slight hints of a bruise on her head. Poor thing, that must have been quite a bump. The dinner this year went pretty well. I think Mom was quite distracted by the big crowd and the noise. She sat between Patrick and me. After we had all eaten for awhile, Patrick started to feed Mom some of his sweet potatoes to see if she liked them. They were not a food that she enjoyed before she got sick. She did accept bites of the yams and other things. I quietly fretted that feeding Mom might make her dependent on that before she actually needs it. As if he could read my mind, Patrick said some people might worry about feeding her like that when it’s not required, but he did it because this dinner was a special occasion. And she has no memory, so I don’t think she will remember being fed.

I took a series of photos of Patrick and Mom sitting together after she had had some pumpkin pie – a favorite of hers when she developed a big sweet tooth in her later years.

Patrick held Mom's hand and chatted with her.

Patrick held Mom’s hand and chatted with her.

I love the way Mom is looking at him here - like she was responding to his kindness. I'm sure he was probably teasing her.

I love the way Mom is looking at him here – like she was responding to his kindness. I’m sure he was probably teasing her.

This is a silly self-portrait attempt, but it's the best shot of Mom's smile. She was getting tired by this time.

This is a silly self-portrait attempt, but it’s the best shot of Mom’s smile. She was getting tired by this time.

I visited her this past Sunday during lunch, and I watched her eat just to see how that is going. She gets two bibs now – one around her neck and one in her lap – because she is a very messy eater. But she cleaned her plate. She was having chopped steak, broccoli and diced potatoes. A very Bonnie meal. She scooped everything up with her hands, occasionally licking her fingers. She discovered her cake about halfway through and ate that before finishing the rest of her food. I cleaned her hands, which she didn’t like very much.

I had arrived shortly before lunch, and Mom was sitting drowsily on a couch with Mr. R standing nearby. She reclined and closed her eyes, and I rubbed her back. I knew she should probably eat, but I was afraid to wake her up and encourage her to go to a table because I thought she’d protest. I don’t really care so much if she gets mad at me. (She later said to me, ‘I don’t like you.’ And I said, ‘I don’t believe you.’ She soon seemed to forget that I was annoying her.) I didn’t want to disrupt her good mood. I thought I would just sneak away, but I mentioned to her aide that she was taking a rest, and her aide said, “Oh, no. She has to eat.” She marched right over to Mom and nudged her awake. “Your daughter is here. Let’s get some lunch.” And she pulled Mom’s legs around so her feet hit the floor, sat her up, stood her up and sent her on her way to a table, with me taking the lead from there. I felt like such a loser. But despite her lack of memory, I do think Mom is conditioned to respond favorably to such encouragement from people who spend 8 hours with her per day. Still, I was ashamed I created some extra work for her aide. Mom has been in this same state for at least two years. I need to just suck it up and help take care of her when I can and trust that she’ll quickly get over any anger it generates.