Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Brief Scare

I hadn't been to Atria in about 4 days, so it was time to go pick up laundry.  I got to the apartment at 11:15 and my heart sank.  Was today the day?

My first clue, whenever I go to see her, that she has survived another night is seeing that her newspaper has been picked up out of the delivery box.  But it was still in the box.
Nervous, I knocked on the door and there was no answer.  I got out my key and let myself in.  I could see the bed unmade.  I peeked into the bedroom and she was lying there, eyes opened.  I couldn't tell if she was breathing or not.  "Are you awake?" I asked, and she said that yes, she had just awakened.

Whew.  She was alive.

But she was quite disoriented.  Said the last time she remembered seeing on her clock was 3 a.m. (and had been up and down all night before that) and so slept until after 11, which is actually 8 hours, so a good night of sleep, if slightly off what she expected.

We visited until she began to wake up.  She told me something she had never told me before, that she was always embarrassed that there were so many children in her family because their family (of 10) was so much bigger than anyone else's in town.  Of course by the time she was born, the oldest 3 or four were already grown and gone (and my mother had a nephew 6 months older than she was!), so there were really only 6 or 7 at home.

After she was finally fully awake, she got her hair brushed and we went off to lunch.

I picked a great day to go to lunch.  Since it was Memorial Day, they had a buffet, but not the buffet they have on Sundays.  This was actually better -- fewer choices, but better quality.  I had 3 slices of a tri tip roast which was rare, just the way I like it, a bit of potato salad, and half an ear of corn on the cob.

My mother wanted fruit salad and vegetable soup, but there was no vegetable soup, so she decided to have chicken.  I went and got it for her, since her back was bothering her, and there was no fruit salad either, but I did get her a couple of slices of watermelon.

The corn on the cob was really good.  I am always leery about that particular food item from a food warmer, but this was fresh, warm, crisp and sweet.  My mother had decided not to have any but when I raved about how good it was, she decided she wanted some.  I remembered this was the woman who, in her teens, once ate 12 ears of corn for dinner!  When she took her first bite, she closed her eyes in bliss.

After lunch, I picked up her laundry and was pleased to see there were clothes in it this time, and no sheets, and then headed on home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oh Sheet

I thought we had figured out a solution to the laundry problem.  Once I started bringing her laundry to her in a laundry basket, rather than just leaving it on her bed, she stopped taking her clothes to the front desk saying they weren't hers.  I was proud of myself for solving that problem.  Apparently not.

When I got home from the book club yesterday, Walt let me know there was a message on the answering machine for me.  It was a semi-ominous message saying she was calling about my mother, that everything was OK, but that I needed to talk with either the person leaving the message (I couldn't understand her name) or the nurse and that calling them the next day would be fine.

So I called in the morning and learned that my mother has ... twice ... brought sheets to the dining room to turn them over to someone.  They thought I should know.  


When I brought her laundry home to wash last week, I was pleased to see that it was a big bag.  She has given me nothing but underwear for a month, and as she wears the same 3 outfits in rotation every day, surely they must need washing.  But she refuses to give them to me because "they aren't dirty."  But this was a hefty bag of laundry and I figured she had finally given me her clothes to wash.

But when I came home, I discovered there was only underwear and her sheets and pillow cases.  What the heck...?  She pays Atria to do her bedding.  But I washed it and when I took everything back to her, she said that the housekeeper had not done her bed in two weeks (which I always don't believe since sometimes she thinks she has only been at Atria for a few months, so her concept of time is way off).  I could see that trying to reason with her was an exercise in futility, so I just left the laundry basket with the sheets and her underwear on her bed, as I always do.

However, before I left, she gave me back the basket, which means that she left the folded sheets on the bed.  Bad.

I figured out what probably happened was that the sheets were not in the basket, so she didn't know where they came from and thought she needed to take them somewhere and couldn't think of anywhere else to take them but...the dining room?  Twice?

So I sat her down and told her we had to talk.  I kind of laid it on thick to hopefully make an impression on her.  I told her that I felt like I'd been called to the principal's office.  I then told her what she had done and, of course, she has no memory of doing it.

But in the space of less than 5 minutes she had given me three or four different versions of what happened with the sheets, everything from she has no memory of ever seeing sheets, to finding them folded on her table and knowing that they belonged "somewhere" but she didn't know where (in none of versions did she remember taking  them to the dining room, for any reason).  She knows she herself has never changed her sheets, though two days before she had told me she had.

I tried to scare her and told her that I didn't want Atria to think her dementia was too bad for her to live in her apartment and that she would have to move, reminding her of when her mother, my sweet little old grandmother, had been kicked out of a rest home for behavior problems (though in her case it was for swearing like a sailor and knocking frail old people off their walkers!)

I tried to make a joke.  I had brought her some lovely sunflowers, which she loved and would interrupt me to talk about how beautiful they were.  I suggested that whenever she looked at the sunflowers, she should think of sheets.  Kind of silly, but I thought maybe that would work.  A few minutes later she looked at the sunflowers and said "I look at those flowers and I'm supposed to remember something, but I can't remember what."  I said "the sheets."  She said "what about the sheets?"

It's a lost cause, so if she gives me her sheets to wash again, I'll just put them in the linen closet when I bring them back.  I tried that with her clothes, but she finds them and doesn't recognize them.  Generic white sheets should be easier to "hide."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Normal Day

I had lunch with my mother yesterday.  As days go, it was more less normal, but occasionally I like to record how the day went, so I can track whether I see deterioration or not.

I got stuck trying to solve a thorny computer problem and suddenly it was nearly 11:30.  I usually leave here at 11:15 and we frequently go to lunch at 11:30 or a little after, so I called to let her know I might be a little late and not to go to lunch before I got there.  She sounded groggy and I asked if I woke her up.  Most of the time these days, I wake her up when I get there for lunch.  She swears she only naps occasionally, but I think she naps in the morning and again in the afternoon.

When I got to the apartment, her paper was still in the box where they put it in the morning.  That is the first thing I always check, to give me an idea of whether she might have died in the night or not.  But since I had just talked with her 15 minutes before, I figured chances were good that she was  still alive.

But when I knocked there was no answer, so I finally started to dig out my key when she opened the door.  Her hair was flying in all directions and she looked like this picture of Albert Einstein (without the moustache).  That was when she told me that she just woke up, that she had difficulty sleeping the night before and was shocked when she woke up to discover that it was nearly 11:30.

She is always disoriented when she first wakes up and today was even more so, since she had just awakened after several hours of sleep.

She finished brushing her hair and putting on makeup and brought me her lipstick to show me that it was pretty much gone.  I reminded her I had bought her two lipsticks a week ago, which, of course, she did not remember, and we went searching for them, but couldn't find them in the bathroom, where she keeps her makeup.

I finally found them on the dresser in her bedroom, so that crisis was averted.  She repeated, as she has every single day since she moved here two years ago, that she is going to have to start keeping a list so she can remember what she wanted to talk to me about (to date there has never been a list).

I told her that I had thrown out the loaf of bread that was in her freezer, since I bought it for her when she first moved in two years ago and I didn't think it would be any good now.  I wanted to be sure she didn't find it in the garbage and take it out again.

We had the usual "I'm old" discussion and the talk about how much she likes at Atria and, to my surprise, she mentioned that she had made a few friends here.  That's the first time she has said that.

She said her back was really bothering her and I asked if she had taken her pain pills.  She said she didn't even know if she had any.  I told her that she did and that they were in the drawer in the bathroom.  She got that look on her face, like a kid who thinks she's being cute when she's getting away with something and that says "I don't want to take pills and you can't make me" so I didn't press it, but I told her that if she was not going to take her pills, she would get no sympathy from me if her back hurt.  She didn't take the pills.

We went off to lunch and she headed for the table where Margaret and Robert sat, where we usually sit, but there had been two people there before us and so there were no clean place settings and we sat at the next table, but as we passed Robert, she greeted him (not by name, of course) and told me he was her friend.  She later indicated Margaret and told me she was a nice lady.  

As we sat down, she suddenly could not get her breath and for a minute I was ready to get someone to come and help, as she bent down toward the table and held her chest and tried to breathe.  But the incident was over in a couple of seconds and after that she was fine.

As she does every single day she perused the menu thoughtfully and then chose fruit salad and vegetable soup, but had to refer back to the menu several times to remember what she was going to have, though she has it every day.  And, as always, she took the broth from the soup and left the vegetables.

We were joined by a man who has probably had a stroke.  He is worse off than she is.  Very pleasant guy, but could not get his words out and would start talking and then forget what he was going to say.

We went back to the apartment and I did some flower arranging for her.  I had brought her a floral arrangement at Easter, pink and yellow carnations in a nice basket with a big bow on it.  Talk about getting a bang for your buck.  She has raved and raved over how beautiful the arrangement was, even as the flowers died off and she was left with only dried fern in the backet.  She always asks if I brought her the basket. She said she didn't understand why the flowers died, because she kept watering them.  I have suggested throwing the basket out, but she says she likes looking at it.

I had brought her fresh flowers the last time I was there to bring her pills and she put them in a vase but stuck the vase in a dark corner where she couldn't see the flowers, so I took those flowers and put them in the basket with the dried ferns and now she thinks that the basket is the one I brought her at Easter time, which is nice because she seems to spend her day looking at either the flowers or out the window at the trees.  She loves plants so much.  Ed brought her a lovely orchid plant at Christmas and though it has been totally dead for months, she has hung a plastic lei on it and it still stands there so she has "something pretty to look at."

She has mentioned that she "has to do something with her hair" and I offered to make an appointment with the hair dresser for her, but she wants to "think about it" first.  I didn't press her on it, but when I have free time I'll just make the appointment and take her.  That's the only way she will ever go.

I picked up her laundry to bring home to wash.  I pointed out that I have only done underwear for the past month and didn't her other clothes need washing?  She wears the same 3 outfits in rotation every day, despite having a full closet of clothes, but she insists they aren't dirty and when they are, she'll give them to me to wash.  Whatever.

As I said, it was a normal day, but I wanted to record how this day went.

ADDENDUM:  After reading this, Ned told me he had stopped by her apartment a couple of weekends ago to bring coffee and coffee cake and have breakfast with her.  He knocked on the door and she opened it with her Einstein hair...and no pants!