Grumpy Mother’s Day

The aides were nice enough to have showered Mom before I arrived on Mother’s Day for the annual “tea.” It’s a little party in the dining room off of the lobby with punch, sandwiches and sweets. I have written before about how I feel about Mother’s Day. It is not a favorite of mine, but I have become immune to the ubiquitous marketing and am no longer bothered by it. I am also used to the day being bittersweet. And I am acutely aware that that is the case for many, many people who have either lost their moms, have moms with dementia or otherwise just don’t have much to celebrate on Mother’s Day. At any rate, Mom had been showered and was just being escorted from the changing room by an aide when I got to the program area. And Mom was still feeling the negativity of the experience. She looked good and her hair was fresh. But she had a persistent frown that never did go away.

I encouraged her to take a walk with me and we circled the program area, but I couldn’t convince her to come with me down the hall toward the lobby and the party. So I suggested she take a seat and I went to the dining room and got a plate with a slice of cheese, a mini chocolate eclair and a tiny piece of cheesecake. I brought the plate back to Mom in the program area and offered up the treats to her, which she gladly accepted. She had a little trouble transferring the food from the plate to her mouth, perhaps because we weren’t sitting at a table. I was holding the plate, which made things just a little more complicated than when she eats her meals off of the tray placed in front of her at a table.

I didn’t eat anything because it was mid-afternoon and we had early reservations at a restaurant with my mother-in-law, who was in town for the start of a two-week getaway – her first since her husband passed away in February. I admit it was nice to have that outing to look forward to since Mom was having a hard time letting go of her bad mood. I tried to walk around with her and distract her, and talked to her as sweetly as I could manage. In the past I have been able to stick it out until her mood shifts. But I wasn’t very successful this time. And I admit it kind of irritated me. Of course, Mom cannot help it. She doesn’t want to be in a bad mood either. Frankly I’m glad this disease often frees her of the lifelong anxiety and fretfulness she endured for so many years. But it wasn’t one of my most patient days. And of course I’m not proud of that.

The activities director came around to take pictures of visitors with their resident mothers. She tried to coax a smile out of Mom, to no avail. Then I tried with my own camera. I was unsuccessful, too.

Not only would Mom not smile; she also wouldn't look at me.

Not only would Mom not smile; she also wouldn’t look at me.

I lasted only about half an hour. I figured I was potentially an irritant rather than a pacifier on this particular day. I knew Mom wouldn’t be sad to see me go. And I just told myself that next time would be better. On my way out, I chatted with the receptionist, and I said Mom was in a bad mood. “Bonnie in a bad mood. Imagine that,” she said, joking. Mom does have a reputation for getting the grumps, especially when it comes to any type of hygiene or instructional activity. But she is also often easygoing. This receptionist is also on the activities staff, so she has known Mom for a long time and she likes to kid with me about Mom’s quirks. I think she’s of the mind that if we don’t laugh, we might never stop crying. Her husband died of dementia.

I just returned from a week away with Patrick and my mother-in-law, the second half of Patrick’s mom’s getaway after she spent a week with her sister not far from us in Ohio. It was a relaxing, peaceful week at our favorite spot in North Carolina. And it’s a reminder that not only do I have a loving mother-in-law, but I also have a very supportive stepmother; this Mother’s Day coincided with Dad and Pat’s 40th wedding anniversary, so she has been a positive force in my life since I was just a little kid. When I’m feeling gloomy about Mom, I remind myself of this good fortune.

I did get one call from the Alz center while I was out of town. A nurse called to inform me that Mom was going to be mildly sedated for an upcoming dental appointment. I was very supportive of the idea. She would just receive a pill about 15 minutes before the appointment. Staff hoped she’d relax enough to let the dentist not only get a good look at Mom’s mouth, but also perform a decent cleaning. I look forward to hearing a report about how it went. The nurse also said aides had requested that I bring in some extra strong deodorant because whatever the Alz center supplies is not effective enough to prevent Mom’s body odor between showers. Mom is going on four years in this place and I have never heard this complaint. But I’m happy to accommodate their request.

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4 comments so far

  1. sharon thomson on

    Emily, Thanks for being so honest. I’m glad you had the other fun things to help you enjoy the day too. Mother’s Day has been hard for me for a long time especially since i was not able to have children and now that my Mom has dementia. My Mom seems angry most of the time so I know what that’s like. Showering and all other forms of hygiene are also her least fav things. I’m very thankful my brother came to visit for Mother’s Day. That was what my Mom most wanted. It feels weird now to have celebrations with and for her since she doesn’t really seem to want to participate much in the actual celebrating. I guess my husband and brother and I just have to find other ways to enjoy the time together even if she doesn’t want to join in. I felt sort of guilty that we watched a dvd that she didn’t want to watch. But she never wants to watch anything or really do much or talk much. I guess just seeing my bro and talking to him a little was enough for her.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sharon. I’m sorry your mom is angry a lot. That would be hard – even after all this time, it gets me down when Mom isn’t cheerful. I’m frankly glad you all watched a DVD that you wanted to see. That reinforces what I like to say to other caregivers – WE matter, too. Our wants, needs, hopes, moods, happiness, etc. – we should not count ourselves as unworthy of all that we want for our loved ones with dementia. Take care – thanks for commenting!

  3. James Bennet on

    I understand that. Been through it myself. Theres a book called GOODNIGHT, ELSIE by ANTON APPERLEY that is about Alzheimers. It looks at Elsie’s thoughts and weird behavour and sort of explains why. Its fictional with factual medical and mental things. I understood my mothers weirdness after reading it, its on sites if you want to look.

  4. momsbrain on

    Hello, James. Thank you for commenting! And for the book recommendation. I am always happy to find a work of fiction that gets it right. I will check it out!


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