Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Who are those kids?"

 For an update on my mother, I went to put cream on her arms this morning and she had no clue why I was doing it, or any memory of ever having been itchy.   She also -- and this is the saddest part of her dementia, for me -- didn't recognize Brianna and Lacie.  I showed her a video and she asked "what kids are those?"  I expressed surprise that she didn't know and said "they're your great grandchildren."  She got very defensive and said "Well I don't know them.  I've only seen them a couple of times" and then when I got the video started, she looked at them and said "now who are those kids?"

After waiting so long for grandchildren and feeling like I can't really be an obnoxious grandma to people around me whose grandchildren are now in high school by bragging about how adorable my grandchildren are, it makes me very sad that I can't even share joy at the girls with their great grandmother.

Dementia is a terrible disease.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Day at Kaiser

I may or may not get to Logos in this entry -- it was a pretty boring day.  But it started with a day at Kaiser.  Actually the "day at Kaiser" really started the previous morning.
I had gone to have lunch with her and she complained that she had what looked like bug bites on her left arm.  She said it itched badly and she kept hitting her arm and saying "stupid! stupid! stupid!" because she didn't know how to make it feel better. I thought some critter must have it her in bed and figured it would be OK the next day because they had changed her sheets that day.
That night someone from Atria called me to say she was in a lot of discomfort and should go to Urgent Care NOW. I explained that we would have to take her to Kaiser ER in Sacramento and asked if they thought it could wait until she could see her own doctor this morning. The LVN said that she really needed to be seen that night.

I called the Kaiser advice nurse and she said she would set up a telephone consult with an ER doctor for 6:50. I got there at 6:25 and he had already called. My mother didn't know why he was calling, and said I would be there shortly. She told me he would call back. 45 minutes later, he still had not called, so I called the advice nurse again.  He said that the doctor made no notes about calling back, and the Advice guy talked to Momma to get her permission for him to read me the doctor's notes. Apparently she told the doctor she had no problems except she was a little dizzy.  Never mentioned her itching. (arrrggghhhhh!)

The upshot, after I talked with the advice person for awhile is that he made an appointment with her doctor for this morning.

Well, I missed the time and had to call my mother and hope she would figure out how to meet me outside. Thank God she did. We had less than 15 minutes to get to Kaiser (thank God, we made it!) She got in the car and, with all the anticipation of a kid going to Disneyland, she said "well, where are we going and what are we doing there?" I told her that she had a doctor appointment. She asked what for. I said for the bumps and itching. She said "I don't have any itching" and said she didn't want to see any doctor. I checked her arms and you could barely see what was so violent yesterday. I nearly cried. But then she decided that she DID feel a bit itchy. I checked her more closely and where the raised, flesh-colored patches weren't there, what replaced them were red patches that she finally admitted were itchy.

But she still didn't want to go to the doctor. ("You know I hate doctors.") However, thank God she has the retention of a sieve. It probably took 13 minutes to get to Kaiser and as many times in 13 minutes that you can say "where are we going and why are we going there?" is how many times she said it. It's like taking a little kid somewhere.

We finally got into the office, though she still didn't remember why she was there, but when she took off her shirt, I could see that she has several places where she has red sections and she admitted that her back was very itchy, so I'm glad that we went.

Because she lives in a facility, the doctor decided to give her a scabies treatment (which involves lathering her all over with cream, leaving it on for 8 hours, then showering it off and starting benadryl cream), though she didn't think there was any sign of scables. We went to the lab to get blood work and to the pharmacy to pick up $30 worth of meds and then home. :"Where are we going and what are we going to do next?" she asked as we got in the car.

Interspersed with where are we going were profound apologies for putting me out and letting me know that she is so stupid she should be able to do this herself and she feels SO BAD that I have to do it for her.
She was still complaining about itching, asking what it was and how she got it, and slapping her arms to say "stupid, stupid, stupid."  I pointed out to her that Walt's mother had whole body itching for years and managed to put up with it.  She had to have lotion applied all over her body a few times daily.  That actually kind of shut her up for a bit.

I got her home and lathered up with scabies cream and I added benadryl too since she was so itchy and the pharmacist said that would be OK. I told her I'd be back at 8 after she took her shower (she was supposed to wash the cream off after several hours) and would put benadryl on again. She forgot to take her shower, I called to remind her and gave her 15 minutes to do it, since she said she was getting in the shower  "right then" but while I was on the way to Atria, she called Walt to tell him she was just getting into the shower. I arrived while she was in the shower and when she got out she asked "now why was I supposed to take a shower?" I told her why and then said I would put cream on her. She asked what the cream was for. I told her it was for her bumps. She said she didn't have any and had forgotten that she was ever itchy.

I have to put benadryl on her 2x/day for the next 5 days. I may go crazy by then.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Lost Art of Conversation

Today I had lunch with my mother.  I was going to do it yesterday, but she was asleep when I got to her apartment, so I left a note saying I would be there today.

I feel ... I dunno ... selfish, maybe? ... that I was so depressed by the time we spent together today.  She has lost the art of conversation.   I was pleased that I hadn't seen her in several days because I had lots to talk with her about ... there were my two hearing appointments, my crab lunch, lunch with Grainne and the others, reviewing Brigadoon, and working yesterday.  I tried to draw each incident out to make it sound interesting, and to fill more time and when I finished, she looked at me and said, without having made a comment on anything I'd said so far, "so what else have you been doing that's interesting?"

The thing about my mother that I noticed many years ago is that she can't let empty space stand.  Driving her to Santa Barbara, she would talk the whole way, finding little things to talk about if there was empty space.  That's 8 hours of talking.  So she hasn't lost the need to fill empty spaces by saying something, but she doesn't have anything to say any more.  She probably asked me two dozen times (at least) what exciting thing I had planned for the rest of the afternoon.

At lunch, she looked the menu over carefully and then decided on the same lunch she has every day -- vegetable soup and fruit salad.   Before the waitress arrived, she had to check the menu again so she could remember what she was going to order.  And then when the waitress came to take her order, she looked at the menu again because she couldn't remember what she had decided on.

This is all normal and I'm used to it by now because it pretty much is how we have lunch every time we get together.  But I wish I could talk to her again, and I can't.  I can, and she will respond, but there is no "communication" going on.  I notice that almost nobody comes to visit her any more.  Ed hasn't been there in a month and he used to visit her several tiems a week when she lived in Marin County -- but he's discovered what a long trip it was that I made for years.  All the family claim to love her a lot, but only one cousin visits regularly.  Her friends came once, months ago.  So if there is to be any socialization, since she won't leave her apartment to talk with anybody, it's all on me. And while I love her dearly, dear God I wish we could just once have a conversation again.  About anything.

Exciting things are coming up, though, because Jeri will be here to visit her in two weeks and Peach will be here the week after that.   She's good at faking it when new people are around, so it will be fun for me too because I won't have to carry the conversation.

Friday, August 1, 2014


I started my day with lunch with my mother.  She was very disoriented today.  She said she had slept until 11 and so she was really confused and didn't know where she was or what she was supposed to be doing.  I found her in the dining room at 11:15 and she didn't know if she should order breakfast or lunch, couldn't find the breakfast items on the menu and then after ordering said she should go back to bed so she could wake up, thinking she had already eaten.  Loretta, one of the other women living there, who is about as confused as my mother sat with us.   They are good friends (though neither knows the other's name), and always have a good time teasing each other, so by the time the meal was over (lunch for me, breakfast for her), she was a bit more "with it."  Loretta apologized to the quiet woman who sat with us for the fact that the three of us were "nuts," she said, and the woman smiled for the first time and said not to apologize, that she had enjoyed listening to us.