Today was a new experience, another step down into that pit that will ultimately, if she lives long enough, get my mother moved to the memory unit.
When I arrived for lunch, I was surprised to see her newspaper had been picked up, the kitchen light was on, the curtains were opened. All signs that she was up.
But she wasn't. She was in bed, still in her night clothes. She was awake, but in bed.
I asked her what was wrong. She said "everything." (when was the last time she greeted me with a smile...?)
I asked her if she hurt, and no, she didn't hurt. I was specific. Did her back hurt? No. Did her leg hurt? Yes. Did her stomach hurt? No.
Then she asked "what are we going to do about all this stuff?"
I asked her what stuff was she talking about. She spread her hands out as if the answer was obvious. "All THIS," she said.
Turns out it was an anxiety day. She doesn't know where she is, where she is supposed to be going, what she was supposed to be doing. We have this conversation almost every day.
I told her yet again that she had lived here for three years, that this was her home, that she had nothing specific that she had to do, but she should get dressed so we could go to lunch.
She looked at me as if I were speaking Chinese. She asked again "but what are we going to DO about all this?"
Then she asked "isn't there someone else in the family I could talk to." I explained that all of the family were dead and she was stuck with me.
She kept looking around warily as if she expected something terrible to happen at any minute.
I tried again going through the "this is your home, you have nothing specific to do, just put on your pants and we can go to lunch." She tried to put on her shoes. I suggested she should put on pants before her shoes. She said again she didn't know what to do or where to go. I expressed my frustration saying I knew how scary this was for her, but that there was nothing I could do for her. That I'd tried to answer her questions, but she didn't understand.
Then she whirled on me and yelled JUST GET OUT OF HERE!!!!! I said I would leave and told her I would be back tomorrow and she yelled DON'T BOTHER COMING BACK!!!!
Now, I know that this sort of thing is common with dementia, the anger and turning on loved ones, but it hadn't happened to me yet and I was in tears when I left (slamming the door behind me). I stopped at the office and talked with Brianna, who is in charge of her physical health at Atria. I told her I wasn't upset with Atria, but I just had to vent.
I told her what had happened, and broke down crying. She was wonderfully understanding. I'm sure she gets this all the time. We talked for a long time and she gave me a report on how my mother was doing in general, on the dinners she had seen her eating with her friend Loretta, how she sometimes sees her wandering around the hall by herself, so I know that she's doing OK--and that they are keeping a careful eye on her. So I'm not really worried for her. We've been through these "anxiety days" before, but it's so frustrating to be unable to bring her any peace ... or, for that matter, pain relief.
I asked about whether they had been using the Lidocaine cream I got on Friday and had rushed through getting a prescription for, even though it is not a prescription med. My mother doesn't remember anybody putting cream on her back (but I never take her word for anything). Brianna told me one reason they haven't used it is that the medication I was given by the pharmacy is Lidocaine RECTAL cream! This is for rubbing on the skin of her back. I came home and wrote to her doctor, who has read the e-mail, but has not answered yet.
Though I felt better after talking with Brianna, I still had a little cry when I got into the car. Then I called Walt to report what had happened, and I sent a text message to Jeri and Ned. Jeri said she called her grandmother after my text, but there was no answer.
I went off to the supermarket and loaded up on comfort food, came home and just sat there feeling depressed.
I remember when my father had a nervous breakdown (or what was called a nervous breakdown in those days) after his job working on the train ended and he had to go to work in the main post office instead, getting mail ready to be shipped by airplane instead of train. He started seeing a psychiatrist, who got him on anti-depressants, Night after night I remember him sitting in total darkness in our living room, the only light the red from the tip of his cigarette.
I thought about him today as I sat in my chair. I wasn't at the depths, but was definitely affected by mother's anger at me for the first time in my life that I remember! It hurt first when she asked for someone else in the family to talk to, because obviously I was no help to her at all, and then throwing me out of the apartment and telling me not to come back.
Oh, I know that when I go tomorrow I'm sure she will be fine and I know that probably by the time I got to Brianna's office, she had already forgotten about it, but I'm still digesting it and it won't really clear until I see her again NOT angry with me.
Of course then I came home and turned on the news, and nothing about the endless dissections of last night's debate is designed to cheer me up.
Maybe I'll take up smoking and start sitting in the living room with the lights turned off