Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Not from Funny the World

This is one I chose not to write in Funny the World because I suspect people are tired of hearing me talk about my mother, but yesterday was our 50th anniversary and there was a small party here.  Jeri and Phil flew out from Boston for it.

Despite it being on her calendar and my talking to her about it every day for the past two weeks, she did not remember, of course. But I didn't expect her to.  When Ned and Phil picked her up and brought her to the house, she was surprised to find out there was a party going on and said she was angry that she never knew anything about it.

She must have asked me the name of our dog Polly a dozen times or more, plus asking if it was our dog or not.  My friend Char wrote, "I admire your patience with your mother. I think I might have ripped my hair out and gone screaming from the room after the hundredth time she asked you about Polly..."  Sometimes it's nice to have someone else notice.

She would turn to me periodically through the afternoon and point to one of the grandkids and say "who is that little girl?" and then ask whose daughter she was and whether she had a sister.  I lost count of how many times she did that.

She lost her way going from the kitchen to her seat at the table after picking up her piece of cake.  It's a distance of, generously, 5 steps, but she started wandering around trying to figure out where to sit.

At the end of the day, she was very tired so I really understand why it was difficult for her to remember where she was or where she was going  But we went over and over and over where I was going to sleep and where she was going to sleep.  She didn't understand that this was my house and I was going to sleep here.  She didn't remember ever being here before.  She said she didn't know where her house was and wondered what city we were in.

Then there was the frenzy about her purse.  She always has to bring a purse, though it is as useful to her as Queen Elizabeth's.  But she was completely lost without her purse and wondered where it was  She was reassured each time I told her I had it (out of the hands of the grandkids and teeth of their dog) and I would get it for her before she left.  I sent Jeri and Phil to take her home so they could walk her back to her apartment, because I wasn't convinced she could find her way.

It was a lovely day and I'm thrilled to have been able to snap the above photo of her, since most of the time she was looking totally lost, but this was definitely not a good day for her, dementia-wise.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Need more birthdays

We went back to San Rafael for lunch again today and I decided we are desperately in need of more birthdays! This time we were to be celebrating the two women who have June birthdays.

The last time we were scheduled to go to San Rafael for lunch, my mother told me she was feeling dizzy and didn't want to leave Atria.  Since she has been more adamant about not leaving Atria and nervous when we are out (the last time was Mothers Day) that I wasn't sure if she was really dizzy or if she just didn't want to go.,

I prepared her for this lunch again, putting it on her calendar and talking about it everyday I was there to visit with her (each time, of course, she hadn't remembered it and got the "you say it's on my calendar but I don't have to look at my calendar if I don't want to..." look on her face.

This morning I called her to remind her I would be picking her up in an hour and she didn't ask why..just said she would be ready.  And, unlike last time, when I got there, she was ready and knew we were going "somewhere" but couldn't remember where.

Whatever.  It was better than last time.

The drive down was the same, explaining over and over again where we were going and who was going to be there, interspersed with comments about how beautiful the trees were and what a shame it was that the grass is all dead looking.  Same ol' same ol'.

We were eating at Arriverderci again.

It's really a lovely Italian restaurant in San Rafael and so far everything I've had there has been wonderful.

We encountered almost no traffic, so we arrived early but I knew we had a reservation and that, the weather being perfect, we were sitting on the patio.

As the waiter was walking us to the table to wait for the others, I ordered my mother a vodka and tonic (she actually had 2 over the course of the lunch, which maybe helped!)

As I watched her joke and laugh and reminisce with her friends, the ones she wasn't sure she would remember when she saw them, I realized that this kind of mental stimulation is so good for her.  Really, she gets zero mental stimulation...and refuses to consider anything.  She won't join in any activities, she can't remember how to get upstairs where the puzzles now are, I've given up her actually making friends at Atria--the memory is just too bad for that, though she finally has people she recognizes and enjoys at mealtimes.  It takes coercing to get her to leave Atria for anything.  And even if you can get her to leave, her back pain (which she won't take a pain pill for) makes it difficult for her to move much.

She says she reads the paper, which she has done cover to cover her whole life, but if there is any tragedy or triumph in the world, or a win by the Giants or 49ers, she doesn't remember reading it.  I sure don't now how to stimulate a brain that refuses to be stimulated.

Still, this was as "with it" as I have seen her since February, when we last went to one of these lunches.  Next one is scheduled for September, this time to celebrate my mother's birthday.

Getting back in the car, I plugged in my 40s playlist again, since it had been such a success last time.  And this woman, who sometimes doesn't remember she has great grandchildren and never remembers their name, sang every word to every bloody song for the hour and a half drive home.  Music does amazing things to brain function.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Better Day

As unpleasant and frustrating as Atria was yesterday, it was a 180 degree change today.  I dragged my feet getting there, dreading a repeat of the day before, but knew I had to get there because she needed her next set of pills.  But we actually had a good visit, this time mostly concentrating on her family, how much she misses her sister Marge (Peach's mother) and how lately she's been dreaming about her mother having very real conversations with her, and waking up convinced that she was still somewhere in the room.  She seems happy to be having those dreams, and just sad to wake up.  I hope that some day she'll just decide to take her mother's hand and go off with her to find Marge and the rest of her siblings.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When will I see you again?

I came away from Atria today, after four hours with my mother, with such an incredible admiration (as well as sympathy) for caregivers who take care of loved ones on a 24/7 basis.  My mother has good days and bad days and I always arrive hoping this will be one of her good days.

It was one of her less good days, when she seemed just very tired and unable to concentrate on anything.  I've started trying to bring her news of all the "exciting" things I've been doing since I last saw her (2 days ago), since that's usually the first thing she asks me.  "Exciting" in my life is relative, but I did tell her how surprised I was yesterday when I could not remember the name of one of my friends' children (whom I have known all of her life) but could remember the name of my godmother's boss, whom I never met or even saw a picture of but remember his being talked about a few times...and remember, she died when I was 10!)

Her comment when I finished:  "Well, life goes on, I guess."  This is one of her go-to phrases when she hasn't followed or understood what you said, but thinks that a response from her is necessary.  It also effectively ends that discussion and usually precedes "I'm old, Bev."

She probably asked me 20 times what I was doing for the rest of the day (taking her to the hairdresser and when the hairdresser was finished, taking her back home again and then going to Sacramento to review My Fair Lady).  Each time I told her that she had a different response -- do I have to write a "report" about it?  How did I happen to get tickets for that show? Have I seen that show before?  Will I get paid to write about it?  Is Walt going with me?  Where will my review be printed? When I finish answering her questions she then says "so what are you doing for the rest of the afternoon?" and we start all over again.

A new wrinkle, though, is that she thinks never sees enough of me.  I haven't been there in a long time (2 days) and she misses me and when will I come back again (tomorrow).  

About the 20th time she said "I'm old, Bev--do you think I'll live to hunnert?" I decided it was time to go.  I could either walk calmly out to the car, or stay behind and start screaming.  If I were her 24/7 caregiver, I would not have that luxury and that, I admit, makes me a tad guilty, but not really, because I know that she has the best possible arrangement right now and, whether she realizes it or not, I'm there almost all the time.

But maybe next time will be one of her better days, and I really enjoy them.  Wouldn't it be loverly...?