Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Exciting Things

I took a piece of our big apple pie to my mother in the afternoon.  I was so pleased that I finally had something "exciting" to tell her about.  The first thing she asks me every time I come to visit is "so what have you been doing exciting that you haven't told me about?"

I told her about our trip, showed her the pictures from Apple Hill, tried to be entertaining (she kept asking me what country it was in) and told her I had brought her a piece of the apple pie we had bought.

When I finished and went back to the chair to sit down, she said "so what have you been doing exciting that you haven't told me about?"


She "found" the container with the pie in it several times while I was there and I'm 99% sure she will never eat it, but I feel good about including her in all the "excitement" anyway, even if she didn't have a clue what I was talking about.

I talked with one of the aids, with Jen, who runs the memory unit, and with her doctor and we have all decided it's time to put her on anti anxiety meds, so she will be starting low dose Prozac soon. 

Maybe she can finally forget that "something is wrong."

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Something's Wrong

They called at 9 a.m. (I hadn't even finished my coffee) and said that my mother was very agitated and they needed me to calm her down.  So I took my coffee with me, skipped breakfast and went to Atria.  (I was pleased to find that her clothes were no longer on her bed or on the chair)

She was agitated and confused, but not really worse than she has been on a bad day before.  I think they were concerned because she wanted to call her mother--she always wants to call her mother.  (Isn't it time her family all return and take her home to live with them--she misses them so much!)

The spiel is the same "something's wrong and I can't figure out what it is." or "I know I'm supposed to be doing something but I don't know what it is."  I've heard this every time for the 4-1/2 years she's been at Atria. 

We were in the community room and she decided to go outside to see if she could figure it out there.  We walked the distance of the garden and then into the little sitting room, where she told me over and over and over and over that she didn't know what was wrong, that people were not doing what they were supposed to do but if she tried to do "it" they'd tell her to leave "it" alone.  When I asked what "it' was she couldn't remember.  All she knew was the people weren't doing their job and that they wouldn't let her help.

I distracted her by showing her pictures in my phone.  It always brings me to tears because I can show her 3 pictures of Lacie -- her great granddaughter -- in a row and at each picture she will ask who that "cute girl" is and when I say "It's your great granddaughter," she has no reaction except to say she's never met her.  I remember how excited she was when Brianna was born, 9 years ago, and now she has no connection with either her or her sister.

Finally she went out to the garden again and we walked down to the community room and I asked if she wanted to go in and watch TV again.  Only when we went in, they were doing cardio exercises, so I started doing them too (they are all done sitting down) and, seeing me participating, my mother did too, though never fully committing herself (instead of raising her arm all the way up, just half way up, etc.

After half an hour of exercise, the aide turned on Lawrence Welk (and I felt very old!).  My mother seemed to have settled down and I had work to do at home, so I left and told her I would see her tomorrow (which I probably won't).  I left without incident and there have been no further calls, so hold the good thought!

Friday, November 3, 2017


I spent an hour and a half with her, having brought her a bag of Lindt chocolates (the red bag on the left).  Her laundry has been mounting on the guest chair and I suggested she move it to the bed (which was a command too complicated for her to understand, but she finally got it).

So the entire hour and a half she would turn to her right and ask what the red bag was or where the "garbage" (chocolate wrappers) had come from, so I would explain and then she'd look to her left and ask where all those clothes came from.  Her response to explanation was either that they didn't belong to her and she couldn't hang them up because the real owner would get angry with her or that "tomorrow" she was going to "take the day off" and deal with the clothes. 

At one point when I showed her a photo of herself WEARING one of the jackets she's never seen before she never even looked at the jacket because she was so upset at how SHE looked.  

I offered several time to hang the clothes up for her but she didn't want me to touch them because she had to sort through them and decide which ones she was going to throw away.

When I left Atria, I talked with one of the aides and suggested that they wait until she is at dinner and is not in her room and then hang the clothes up for her.  I suspect she has been telling them not to hang them up because she wants to do it herself.

When I left her room, I gathered up all the candy wrappers and put them in the now empty bag an she was upset that I hadn't asked her if she wanted to keep any of those stuff or not.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween for Old Folks

This is the decoration outside the door to the Memory Care Unit at Atria:

I found macabre humor in the idea of skeletons hanging on this particular wing of Atria, where everyone is--let's be honest--waiting to die.

I did take exception to the scarecrow sitting in the chair across from this display.

She's sitting in the chair where I sit while waiting for someone to come and let me into the locked unit.  Harumph.

There are a few skeletons and pumpkins hanging along the halls, but I suspect nobody knows what day it is and has no concept of Halloween.  I know my mother didn't, when I went to see her yesterday.

I hadn't seen her in almost a week but fortunately she didn't realize that.  I told her about my fall and how my back hurt too much to walk the long walk down to the Memory Care unit (the back is fine now, by the way) and she was solicitous, which interrupted any feelings she might have had about my not being there in such a long time.

The visit was back to the usual discussion of age, how old she is, she can't be that old, etc. She asked me what I had been doing with "Mom" lately.  She misses her mother so much and occasionally thinks she sees her, though it's not in a hallucination sort of way, but more when she is asleep.  Of all the relatives who have gone before her, her mother is the one she most wants to see again.  She never mentions her father.

She talked about how many activities there were to do at Atria and smugly and proudly let me know that she never participated in ANY of them.  That always makes me sad, knowing how many opportunities she missed since she moved to Atria.  She wouldn't even go to the theater to see a movie, she was so uncomfortable, afraid she would do something wrong--and this was when she had it all together mentally!

I remember how involved she was in so many things when she lived alone.  Her calendar had an activity for every day of the week, it seemed.  Lunches, fashion shows, meetings, volunteer work.  But she lived in the mobile home park for a long time -- maybe 20 years? -- and never participated in any of the many activities there and refused to get to know her neighbors, so maybe this isn't so much a dementia/Alzheimers thing as it is a personality thing.  Still it seems a shame that she never took advantage of anything she was paying big bucks to have available to her!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Good Day

Jeri called late this afternoon and at the conclusion of our conversation she said "you sound less stressed than usual."

I had not been to Atria in 4 days, so I decided to take my mother out to lunch. When I got to her apartment, she was dressed, but asleep on top of the covers of her bed.  I was in no hurry and we had no deadlines, so I just sat and read until she woke up.  She woke up more awake than anybody I've ever seen 10 seconds after they wake up!  When I suggested lunch, she said she was so tired and I asked if she preferred not to go, but she got into it and started to get excited about going out to lunch.  I gave her a choice of Chinese food or Denny's, and she chose Denny's.

On the way to Atria, I had passed one of my favorite trees, which has only half changed color so far, but I really thought it was cool looking.

So though Denny's was in the opposite direction, I drove around Davis so I could pass by this tree and she loved it.  I put on my 40s playlist and she sang every word to every song all the way to the restaurant.

At Denny's they are having new holiday meals, and so I decided to have cranberry-orange pancakes and she said she would too.  They came with eggs, hash browns and bacon.  My mother looked at the plate and I could see that she was overwhelmed by the amount of food.  I kept assuring her that she didn't have to eat it all.

By the end of the meal, she had eaten more than I had and was considering ordering a strawberry shake, but we decided not to get one.

On the way to Woodland, we had passed a place that is in the process of putting together their pumpkin patch.  Right now it's just a big empty field, but the pumpkin and the dinosaur attacking it were kind of interesting, so I got off the freeway and drove around so that we could see it closer and I could take a photo.

When we got back to Atria I took advantage of the front desk's offer to have someone come from the memory unit to take her back to her apartment so I didn't have to walk all the way to the back of the building.  I was very happy to turn her over to them, so I could get to the store to buy dinner fixings.

The whole day, including my afternoon nap, was just so pleasant that I'm not surprised I didn't sound stressed to Jeri.

Friday, October 20, 2017


I met Alice this week.

Alice is the UCD student who is partnered with my mother, to be her "buddy" and establish a relationship with her.  She will visit her every Wednesday, she tells me (a day of the week I don't have to feel guilty about staying home!)

She's a lovely girl, in her second year at the University.  I can't remember what she said is her major, but picked up on her brother, who is looking at UC Santa Barbara (where Jeri graduated) and Cal Poly (where Tom graduated).  I recommended both schools highly, Santa Barbara over Cal Poly because he thinks he might like to major in theater.

We tried to talk to include my mother who was lost, of course.  Turns out Alice is a theater fan and we both like the same shows, which really left my mother in the dust while we talked about shows and songs and her other brother who is doing theater in San Diego.

I guess Alice sat with us for about 45 minutes until time for her to leave.  I was so pleased to have her there because she got my mother talking animatedly, and when she left, the two of us had little to say to each other again.  

We were sitting at the end of the hall, the opposite end from where she lives and I made some comment about her apartment being at the other end of the hall.  I had to tell that to her about three times and she finally shook her head and said "Well, I'm going to have to think about that because I can't understand a word you're saying."

I think Alice will be good for her.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Here we go again

But at 10 this morning, I had a call from Atria letting me know my mother had been unresponsive when they tried to wake her up and they were sending her to the emergency room.  While the initial reaction is to wonder "is this the time?" in my heart of hearts I knew how it was going to happen, and I was not wrong

When I got to the ER, she was still unconscious and they were trying to wake her, to no avail.  Her eye lids were blinking very quickly, but her eyes never opened.  Everybody tried to wake her up, but unsuccessfully.

They cut her out of her shirt because she wasn't able to help them get her undressed.  They put on diapers, but first took a urine sample so they could test for a UTI.  She slept through it all.
The nurses left and I saw her eyes flicker, like they had been, but also to open a tiny bit, so I got up and talked to her and she started to come alive.  I asked if she knew who I was and she slowly nodded.

About then Ebonee came in to take blood.  She had about the very best dreadlocks that I've seen.  I'm sorry I didn't take a picture from the front because it was truly beautiful.

She had lots of blood to collect and fortunately she had a great sense of humor, so she got my mother chatting and laughing.  She was now coming back to whatever her normal is, which was a relief.
Then we played the hurry up and wait game, waiting for time for her to be taken for EKG, CT-scan, and chest x-ray.  
I think it is not an exaggeration to say I had to explain to her 100 times where we were and why we were there, after which she always said she didn't want to be in the hospital and why hadn't I told them to just leave her alone.  And then she would ask again where we were and why we were there.

They finally took her off for her various scans and after she returned we waited again ("where are we and why are we here?  I can't understand a thing you say...")

Finally the x-ray guy came back with the report that all was fine, so we waited for the doctor to give her the all-clear.  And waited and waited and waited.  He finally came and told me what I knew he would--they can find no sign of anything.  She has no UTI, her blood sugar was fine, there was no sign of stroke, lungs are clear, etc., etc., etc.  He mentioned her going home by ambulance, but I told him I would drive her.

So we waited and waited and waited for the nurse to disconnect her from all the machines.  She does not wait patiently and asked me many times what we were waiting for. I finally had to go and get someone, because they were waiting for the ambulance.  They got her dressed, and gave me a gown to replace the shirt they had to cut off, and while I went to get the car, they got her into a wheelchair and outside.

Naturally there was no parking to be had at Atria, so I parked illegally and told the girl at the desk that I was taking her to memory care and asked if I could borrow a wheelchair, since I didn't want to walk her through the building in a hospital gown.  
A woman we know in town whose mother just moved into Atria was happy to see me and started chatting, but I had my mother who kept trying to get out of the car, and the wheelchair that was not arriving and I was probably kind of rude to her and her mother.

Finally a new desk person called again for a wheelchair and then two of them came.  We got her into one and someone pushed her while I followed along behind as the beast of burden, carrying a bag with her stuff (mostly her sheets), pillow, doctor's orders, my cane and my purse.  
We got her to her apartment, which she has never seen before and didn't know where she is.  Most of the aides came to see her and I realized that though this was her fourth trip to the hospital, she had never had one of her spells in the memory unit so they were much more worried about her than I was (though one of these days she's going to surprise me and die during one of these "normal tests" trips to the ER)

I was going to leave her when they took her to the dining room to get some food, since she had not eaten anything yet, but she was terrified, said she had never been there before and didn't know anybody.  I tried to explain to her that someone would help her get back to her apartment, but she didn't know she had an apartment.

About then there was a blackout.  All electricity went out and an alarm started to ring and the aides were looking worried.  Automatic doors slammed shut.  Just what my mother needed!  It didn't last more than 5 minutes, but when it was over, all the aides were off somewhere discussing it, and nobody was around for me to ask to take my mother back to her apartment. She started crying and asked what she should do if the two of us got separated.

I finally found someone to take her back to her apartment and I got the heck out of there ASAP.  My patience had about reached its breaking point.  I told Walt she was worse than a toddler and I just had to get out of there.

And I do feel guilty about that.  But at least I left her in good hands.  I feel guilty that I forgot to kiss her goodbye and that guilt will probably bite me in the butt and she'll die tonight and I'll have to live with my last act being to ignore her when she felt alone, lost and frightened.

I am a bad person.