Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Monday, August 24, 2015

That Helpless Feeling

It was another day I left Atria feeling like I wanted to cry.

I was bringing my mother's meds for next week to her.  I knew she would be running out of them today and didn't want her to skip a day.

I knocked on the door to her apartment and she called out, as she always does, "come in!" which is silly because she never leaves the door unlocked and always has to come and unlock it.

She answered the door with unkempt hair, as if I had awakened her, and the first thing she said was "I forgot to go to lunch" (It was about 2 p.m.)

I went to replace last week's pill container with the new one and discovered she hadn't taken her pills for almost the whole week. She tried to convince me she had taken them, but that's something she can't talk her way out of because the pills were all still there.

We sat down to talk and I reminded her, as I have every day for the past two weeks, that we are going to San Rafael tomorrow to have lunch with her friends.  She looked surprised, then got huffy and said "I never agreed to that!"  Then she said that she felt "terrible" and just didn't feel like going "but you go and have fun."  I reminded her that this was a lunch for her birthday and if she couldn't make it her friends would undoubtedly cancel it.

Based on her reaction today and how she was last time we met them for lunch, I've decided we just won't do that any more.  The first few times we went to these lunches were wonderful and such a tonic for her, but not really any more. She enjoys the lunch, once we get there and she realizes that she knows the women we are meeting, but the anguish of getting ready to go when she doesn't recognize the names of any of the people we are going to see, and the nervousness of leaving Atria, and the hour long questions on the drive down about who is going to be there and who decided we were going to meet and why were we going to meet, over and over again are exhausting for me, but worse for her because she really is afraid she is going to get lost, going to have to talk to people she doesn't know and isn't comfortable being away from her familiar surroundings.  She is also nervous when looking at a menu because it's impossible to decide what to eat and she usually whispers to me to choose for her. (Things are better on the ride home because I have a playlist of music from the 40s and 50s that I have downloaded from iTunes which has all of her favorites and she sings along with every song all the way home -- proving that even people who can't remember anything else can still recall song lyrics!)

I tried to identify why she wasn't feeling well and she doesn't know.  It's not pain, it's just...something.  I asked if she had breakfast that morning and she said no.  I pointed out that she hasn't had her pills all week and hasn't had anything to eat today and maybe that was the reason why she was feeling so bad.  But that requires too much cause-and-effect processing to sink in.

She once again explained her not taking her pills by reminding me that she has never been a "pill taker."  Whenever her back hurts and she moans about it and says her back is "killing her" and I ask her if she has taken a pain pill she says "No--I'm not a pill taker."  In truth I don't know how much, if any, relief Aleve (which her doctor suggested she take) would give her but we'll never know because she's not a pill taker, even if it might relieve her pain.

We left it with that I will either call her or come over every day, now, to remind her to take her pills and I will wait on the phone until she has taken them. We'll see how long that lasts.  (I will also remind her to go to lunch.)

But she sat there in her chair, looking like a limp dishrag, with dark circles under her eyes, staring out the window, sighing and telling me she was old.  When I mentioned she would be 97 in 2+ weeks, she seemed surprised that she was so old.  Then she'd tell me she doesn't know why she doesn't take her pills because she sees them every day.  That is always followed by the inevitable "stupid, stupid, stupid!" indictment she is fond of giving herself.  I tried to remind her that it's not because she is stupid but because her brain doesn't work right any more, but that, too, is more than she can process now.

I tried to get her to laugh and remembered a photo Laurel had posted of Lacie, which I was able to call up on my phone, and that did make her smile and ask who the cute little girl was.


It wasn't a "visit" today.  It was two people sitting in pretty much total silence for an hour until I decided it was time to leave.  She didn't even tell me how pretty the leaves on the trees outside are today.  That was definitely unusual.

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