Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I can't remember (which seems oddly appropriate!) when I have ever been this mentally exhausted.  And we are at the start of this thing.   I cannot tell you how many times I answered the same questions from my mother over the last two days.  I know that you reach a point with your aging parents where you just do it, but Lord, does it wear you down.

When I called Customer Service and was trying to get a replacement credit card for my mother (who insists it disappeared from her dining room table and that she never took it out of the house) and the person on the telephone asked for the last 4 numbers of her SS number, my mother first handed me her Safeway card, then her Costco card, then her AAA card -- all had numbers, right?  Surely one of those would work. 

If this had happened at the beginning of my two days with her, I probably would have laughed about it--because, really, it's pretty funny. But happening at the end of the two days, it was the straw that broke the camel's back and I just had to get out of there.

Must. practice. patience.

I had lunch with my friend Ruth yesterday, and then drove down to my mother's to "hang out" with her and Jeri for the afternoon.  We had a good time, did lots of talking and visiting.  Jeri and I went out to the store for my mother and enjoyed the alone time to talk about what was a very, very bad memory day.   

We had pizza leftover from the night before for dinner and Jeri chuckled noting that my mother heated the pizza on a tray in the oven, then transferred it to a serving plate, brought the plate to the table and put a piece on our plates, then took the serving plate back to the kitchen.  Why just mess up 2 plates when 3 would make so much more sense?

We were in the middle of eating our pizza when the lights went out.   She couldn't remember where her flashlight was, but we found a couple of candles and got those set up, expecting that the power would come back on again soon.  We took pictures by candlelight.

JeriCandle.jpg (32474 bytes)

We left the dining room table and settled into the living room.   Jeri had an hour and a half to kill before I had to drive her to the bus.  For a time my mother told Jeri about things she remembered from her years living on the ranch, when she was a toddler up until mid-way through grammar school.  Jeri went into the other room, and in pitch black played the piano, making up a tune as she went along that I thought surely was from the score of the musical she had written last year.  I was very impressed when she told me she had "just made it up."

The lights were still out when I left to take Jeri to downtown San Rafael.  Driving along the streets, and the freeway, I could see how extensive the outage was.  Coming back from downtown, the whole swath of neighborhoods ahead of me was totally black.  I later found out 20,000 residents were affected.

When I got back to the house, my mother's stepson's daughter was there.  She lives close by and since she was unable to reach my mother by phone (the electrical power to the phone was also out!) she came by and brought her a lantern with an LED light, which was brighter (and definitely safer!) than the candles we were using (this morning I found the flashlights--it helps if you have light to see when you are looking!).   The lights came back on about 10 minutes after Denise left, but my mother was exhausted and was in bed by 9:30.

I won't try to explain how today went.  We had two things to do:   She had a doctor's appointment at 12 and we were going to stop at the bank to get replacement debit and credit cards for the cards she has lost.  I can't begin to describe how complicated those two tasks became.

And, as I predicted, when the doctor asked her how she was feeling, she said everything wasn't very bad, but that I had panicked.  I explained to the doctor exactly how it had been presented to me ("everything hurts.  I feel terrible.  I think I need to see the doctor") and also talked about her dizzy spells, which the doctor was able to recreate rather dramatically in the office, so she knew it wasn't just my "panicking" that brought my mother to the office!

A sample of how the day went all day long is our conversation going to the lab to get blood work done.

What am I getting?
Blood tests.
Am I getting an x-ray?
No.  Blood tests.
Why am I here again?
To get blood work.
Are they going to give me a shot?
No.  Just blood work.
etc. for about 10 minutes

The bank experience was even worse.  Much, much worse.  When that ordeal was over, I was ready to return to Davis ASAP and as soon as we had the new credit card ordered, I did just that.

I know she's 93.  I know she can't help having zero memory some times.  I love her and I really do try to be patient and understanding, but some days it just kind of overwhelms me and I have to put some space between us for a bit.

I am really looking forward to getting her moved to a facility where I know that there will be someone around all the time to make sure she's OK which the rest of us, no matter how diligent we are, can't possibly do.  But she told Jeri that she didn't think she would move until the end of the year.  I hope her stepson and I can convince her that sooner is better!  Her doctor was VERY supportive and even gave rave reviews to one particular Catholic assisted living facility, with which my mother was already familiar, and suggests we check out next time I'm in town.  Fingers crossed.

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