Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Care conference: no change

It has been weeks since I last visited Mom. I can’t be sure, but it’s possibly the longest I have ever gone without a visit. And as I heard from several people today, I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. That is the past; now I should just look forward. I do feel guilty, but I also resent that guilt, if that makes sense. I am doing as well as I can do at this point in time as Mom’s caregiver. My job has changed significantly, reducing my daily flexibility. And I really believe I am entitled to weekends without Mom. My weekends are busy and exhausting, too, though, especially at this time of year (college football season).

So, I did visit Mom today. And I found her in a typical spot, lounging on a couch in the program area. A woman sitting on the same couch, by Mom’s feet, offered me her seat, but I preferred to pull up a chair near Mom’s head so I could look at her face. I greeted her and she said, “It’s pretty.” She wasn’t looking at me – she rarely turned her gaze toward me the entire time I sat there – so that was not a compliment. But I took it as a positive sign. She spoke a bit, laughed a lot, rested her head in her hand, sometimes closed her eyes as if she were ready for a nap. She did have a couple of clear words: “This is perfect.” And “Heeeyyy, Emily.” I rubbed her head, legs and arms, admired her clean hair and told her I have missed her and that I love her. That I had a birthday recently – that I turned 48 but I am still her baby. And how could that be??

She was sleepy but pleasant.

Bonnie Oct 2013

On my way to the lobby for the care conference, a longtime volunteer said hello. She said she hadn’t seen me in awhile. That was kind of a common refrain. I said I hadn’t visited in quite some time. Had sort of taken a break and had been busy. She is always smiling. And with a smile, she recalled how her husband, who had spent his final days at this same nursing home, was able to tell when she was having a hard time even though she always put on a positive face for her visits. He asked her how she was on one particular visit. “I’m hanging in there,” she told him. His response: “Just don’t let go.” “I’ve always remembered that,” she said.

In the care conference, I learned that Mom’s weight is stable, she eats 75 to 100 percent of her meals, she still enjoys cold cereal without milk for breakfast, she still walks around on a regular basis, she takes frequent naps on various couches and she enjoys being social but doesn’t initiate contact with others. She is quieter. And the aide who is working with her now said that Mom does fairly well with instruction on ADLs – activities of daily living, I believe. I asked if Mom screams at her and says “I hate you” during showers. And this aide said no. She said when she takes Mom to be toileted and changed, she tells Mom that they need to have a private talk. Mom goes along without complaint. I have seen Mom put the brakes on during her walk toward the bathroom, so this surprised me and relieved me. “Could it be a sign of decline?” I asked the other staffers. Maybe so. Another way in which decline ends up better for the patient and the caregivers. And a type of decline that is very subtle. Overall conclusion: no real change in Mom since the last conference three months ago.

The activities director seems to really enjoy Mom. She shows lots of affection toward the patients, and I just sense that she knows Mom has kindness and joy in her and tries to draw it out. She said Mom is not particularly engaged in activities, but she might be more inclined to join in than in the past. And she still likes to dance. She’s been having more good days lately, as if “the light is on in her window,” she said. At a recent breakfast, Mom was really digging in to her cereal. The activities director asked Mom if it was good. Mom responded, “It’s wonderful, Emily.” We mutually enjoyed the reminder that Mom can still speak full sentences from time to time. And I enjoyed knowing that my name is still in there somewhere, even though it’s not connected to my physical presence.

A face in the mirror

This morning, as I walked into the restroom at work, I saw what looked like Bonnie in a distant mirror. I was, of course, seeing myself. Really interesting. People have said I resemble her. I see my face as equal parts Mom and Dad most of the time. I just turned 48. Maybe now, at the age she was when I was in college, I can see the resemblance, because I don’t know that I fully appreciated her – and possibly didn’t really LOOK at her – until I was an adult. And only now, as a middle-aged adult, can I truly appreciate how exhausting life must have been for her as a single parent.