Back to her old self

I ran into Mom’s current aide Sunday just as I was walking into the program area. I told her I had some clinical strength deodorant to try on Mom, and if it works well, I’ll buy a much bigger supply. “Oh, thank god you remembered it,” she said. I was sort of surprised by that remark. Does Mom really smell that bad? During my visits, I tend to be more offended by her breath than by her body odor. But they must have an issue with it these days, and they should know, given all the hygiene tasks they have to perform with the residents. Heck, with this disease, who knows? Maybe damage to the brain extends to a malfunction of the sweat glands. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Mom was at her lunch table, but she was finished eating. Her tray was gone, but she was rubbing some spilled juice across the tabletop with her fingers. I asked her if she’d like to take a walk and she said, “OK.” That may or may not have been an authentic response to my question. I turned her chair toward me so I could help her up. “I’m eating, I’m eating!” she said. So I turned her back toward the table. She reached toward another resident’s lunch tray. That would have ended in disaster, so I turned her chair toward me again, took her hands and pulled her into a standing position. I took her hand and we began to walk.

We walked toward the door to the courtyard and looked out the window at the sunny day. Mom was chattering on, mostly nonsense, but at this point she said something like, “I wouldn’t want to go there.” And this made me wonder – could she be trying to articulate that she doesn’t like being out in the world anymore? Because I really don’t know when it was she last went outside. And I get no indication that that bothers her. It seems sad, I know. She might enjoy a walk around the courtyard or sitting in the sun for a little while. But I don’t know if it’s worth trying to expose her to those experiences if the process of getting there would cause her stress.

We turned and went down another hallway and turned around when we encountered a closed door. Mom was cheerful – no frowns this time. She talked quite a bit and I reacted in the affirmative to whatever she said. I say she is back to her old self, but I did notice something new – her belly seemed big. She has gained and lost weight numerous times at the nursing home. So she might just be in a gaining phase. Perhaps she walks less. I actually patted her belly while we were walking, just to see how it felt. Sort of firm. She laughed. When we finally reached a stopping point and she sat down in a chair, she draped her arm over her stomach and rested it there. I could tell she was drowsy. I rubbed her legs and arms a little bit, and she didn’t mind. Her head would drop and she would close her eyes, and then she’d pop them open again. After several tries, I figured I was just a distraction and I wanted her to get her afternoon rest. I kissed her cheek and left her to her nap.

2 comments so far

  1. Gemma McLuckie on

    My dad’s smell changed after my mom died. My brother insisted Daddy showered every day, as he had all our lives. But I definitely sensed a difference — a musty smell. I later decided that he could turn on the water but had forgotten how to use shampoo and soap. That is one of the things that makes me the saddest. That he has lost the ability to dress neatly and comb his hair and wear his dentures.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Gemma. The changes in hygiene are upsetting, I agree. I wonder if the death of your mother was a shock to his system and the stress of it set him back in some of those personal care areas that he may have associated with his domestic life. I would hope the facility he lives in would help with some of these tasks. Though I know with assisted living arrangements, one cannot count on the staff to automatically do certain things.

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