Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Used the "D" Word

I was going to take my mother to Kaiser to get her flu shot and a blood test her doctor had requested and I wanted an early start.  It was another of "those" days.  She apologized for feeling "confused" today (why is this day different from other days?)
First there was the now frustratingly familiar Search For the Kaiser Card.  She always goes to find it, can't find her purse, I tell her where her purse is, she searches her wallet, can't find the card, I tell her where it is in the purse itself.  She can't find it.  I take her purse and show her where it is.   She is relieved. 

Then we go to the car.  In the car she says "now I have to have my Kaiser card, right?" and the fruitless search begins again until I take the purse from her and show her where the card is again.

This time we had a side trip first, to a jeweler to get a new battery put in her watch.  She has been lost without the watch, though she doesn't really need it, but she's worn it all of her life, so I found a parking place near the jeweler and we went in.  We talked about the watch and the need to have it back by Friday (or I couldn't pick it up for a month).  All the while I'm talking with the clerk, my mother is looking in her purse for her Kaiser card. 

While we are there, I ask about her wedding ring.  She has been complaining about it for a year.  It's much too tight and she can neither get it off or turn it on her finger.  She can no longer bend her finger because the ring is cutting off the circulation.  I have been offering for a year to take her in to have it cut off and resized, but after I finally have her convinced, she decides she wants to wait awhile.

But we were there and the jeweler looked at the finger and said the ring needed to be cut off.  My mother said that was funny because she never even noticed that it was too tight.  She wanted to wait and have it done after I got back from Iowa, but it had taken me a year to get her there and we were going to have it done NOW.  Fortunately, she does respond to things like that positively.

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They promised me the ring could be resized and picked up on Friday too, but when they got it off, the dent in her finger was so deep the jeweler said there was no way he could size her finger and he wouldn't size a different finger.  She has to massage cream into her finger while I'm in Iowa and then go back in December to get the finger sized so they can enlarge the ring.

Next we went to Kaiser and she could not, of course, remember why.   When we got in the building she didn't have a clue where she was or why she was there.  But we got our flu shots and I took her to the lab for her blood test.   Before we left the testing room, I checked to make sure she had her Kaiser card, which she did.

ApplebeesSm.JPG (69741 bytes)We got in the car and head to Applebees for lunch.  I decided it would be nice to take her somewhere other than Atria and she used to eat at Applebees frequently with a friend of hers.  When we looked at the menu, it was immediately apparent to me that there was nothing there that would not be too much for her, so I ordered an appetizer platter for us to share that that was an excellent decision.  Good me.

When the waitress was ready to give us the check, my mother went for her credit card (which is in the same pouch as the Kaiser card) and could not find it.   It had disappeared.  We both looked through her wallet and purse three times and it was not there.  She thought maybe she could pay the bill with her Social Security Card.  I paid the bill.

I KNEW we had the card in the blood-letting room at Kaiser because I saw it.  We went out to the car to see if she had put it in the pocket of her jacket (no) or if it had fallen on the floor again (no).  I took the purse from her one more time and found a zippered pouch I had not checked before.  It's part of the design on the front or her purse and I've never seen anything there.  But there was the pouch with the two cards.

I cannot tell you how many times she was confused and how many times she kept telling me she hated being dependent on people because she had always prided herself on her independence.

That's when I used the "D" word.  I have always talked about her "memory problems" but have never actually said "dementia."   I told her she had dementia, like her mother (not Alzheimers like her sister) and talked about what the dementia does, that it's not treatable, and that it was time for her to accept that she has this condition and just let people who love her take care of her.   

I don't know why I was afraid to use the "D" word.  I know that she is divorced from her emotional reactions to things (like news of Peach's cancer), so why did I think she would be upset to hear me talk about her having dementia?   She didn't bat an eye.  But the word has been spoken and I can now feel comfortable saying "dementia" around her.  (Of course she won't remember!)

On the way home she said, as she always says when in the car, "If you let me out here I wouldn't have a clue where I was or who I should talk to or what I should do."  I tried to put myself inside her brain and try to figure out how scary it was for her to have no ability to recognize landmarks or to have a clue where she was at any time.  She can finally recognize the driveway to Atria, but we have to be turning into it before she recognizes it.  

But it did help me to try to feel what she must be feeling in her head.  I need to do that more often because when I do it helps me to be more patient with her.