Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes

Needless to say, I was nervous going to Atria today.  But I girded my loins and headed off for lunch.  Sadly, there was no parking anywhere within 3 blocks, so I decided I didn't have to have lunch; I would go later.

At 1;30, I tried again and managed to find a spot in the parking lot.  I had butterflies in my stomach, surprisingly, walking down the hall, after her explosion yesterday. I was pretty sure she'd be OK< but you never know with this damn disease. I saw her newspaper had been taken in, so figured she was up.  I let myself in.  She was out of bed and dressed, but down again, napping on the couch.  The big surprise was seeing a walker in her apartment. In the past she has resisted even having it inside.  I decided not to mention it.

Rather than waking her up, I had planned ahead and had brought my book and just settled in to read until she woke up.  

I guess I read for about 15 minutes when two aids knocked on the door.  Their shift was ending and they wanted to know if she wanted to go to lunch (I thought it odd they hadn't asked her before, but whatever)

They got her up and sitting in the walker before she actually saw me.  Her face lit up and she said she was thrilled to see me.  "I haven't seen you in such a long time," she exclaimed, a big smile on her face.

The four of us started for the dining room. and unhesitatingly, she pushed the walker without a comment.  The aids left us in the dining room and I was helping her with the menu.  She was still glowing at "finally" seeing me.  When she asked "how's Mom?" I realized she didn't have a clue who I was.  I asked her if she knew who I was and then she looked confused.  I finally told her who I was.  Then she kind of remembered.  I asked if she knew who she was and she said "Of course I do."  I asked what her name was and she didn't know.  When I told her it was Mildred she made a face and said that was a silly name.  About that time, I remembered I had a little digital tape recorder with me and I started it and put it on the table.  I've been meaning to tape a conversation for some time now.  This was the PERFECT day to do this.  She never noticed it was there.

When I turned away to look at the menu for her and then turned back, she had passed out again, her head resting on the table.  The server asked if I wanted him to call an aid and I told him no.  I got her awake again and, as usual, she awoke with a start and had to orient herself as to where she was.
The strange thing was that she wasn't upset or anxious, but it was as if most of her brain had been wiped almost clean.  She didn't remember anything. About anything.  It didn't bother her, like it usually does, but she asked a lot of questions and I kept filling her in on parts of her life.  Every so often she would marvel that the brain is so strange that it won't let you remember things.

She never remembers that she has great grandchildren, but today she didn't even remember grandchildren (and she always remembers them).  The names Tom, Ned and Jeri were familiar to her, but she couldn't picture them. I found pictures in my cell phone, but that didn't help.

All things considered, though, it was one of the most pleasant lunches I've had with her in a long time.

At one point I missed Peach and Kathy so much.  We were talking about her siblings and she asked me if she had any.  I told her she had six sisters and three brothers.  Then I started to name them.  Now, Marie is her second oldest sister and was married and out of the house long before my mother was born.  They never had much of a relationship and my mother told me on several occasions over the years that she really was always afraid of Marie. Even as a young woman, Marie was pretty large and I can imagine that she was scary to little kids, especially since she was an alcoholic and who knows what she was like when she came home drunk.

I started at the low end of the siblings and mentioned Marge and Barb, the two sisters she was closest to throughout her life, and Paul and Betsy...saying the names slowly to let her think about each one.  Then I mentioned Jim and Scotty and then Marie and Mel.  When I got to Marie's name, she waved and said "oh you can leave Marie out of the list."  She can't remember her own name but remembered that she never liked Marie!  I so much wanted to share that with Peach and Kathy who, along with my mother, would be the only ones who would have realized how funny that really was.

She had a bowl of soup and some ice cream and I got a really good recording of our conversation, which I stopped when we left the dining room.  When she got up, I told her to get her walker, which she did without complaint and pushed it all the way back to her apartment (I had to show her where her apartment was).  I think this "wiping the brain clean" erased her memory of how much she hated walkers and when the aids got her into hers, she just accepted it as the way things are now.  It will be interesting to see how things are tomorrow.

We sat and talked for awhile.  I mentioned something about my father and she said "I was married to him, wasn't I?"  When I told her that yes, she was she said "I really miss him."  Then I told her that no, she probably didn't miss him but missed her second husband, Fred.  She was a bit vague on Fred and couldn't picture him in her mind (which made me sad, because she loved him so much).

She asked me several times if she had done anything in her life and I enumerated things that she had done (she had no memory of my sister, except, when hearing that she died many years ago, she said "that must make you sad.") 

I told her about her career with the Bank of America, which she can't remember, and the years that she volunteered at Hospice of Marin and how much she was loved by people.  That seemed to make her happy.  Though she can't remember any of those things, she was glad to hear that she had accomplished things in her life and that people liked her.

We sat and talked for half an hour more and I had this notion, from watching her body language and listening to what she was saying, that some of her old self was coming back again, so I felt comfortable leaving her, but I promised that I would be back the next day.

As I was leaving, I realized that she had not ONCE mentioned any pain!!!  What's more, she wasn't moving as if she was in pain either.  Maybe the new medication is finally working.

Ned called and said he was going to visit her tomorrow and was bringing a little watermelon he thought we could share, so I will meet him there and we will have watermelon together...and I'll see what she's like then.  Every day is a new adventure, and who knows what her brain is going to be doing tomorrow.

But I sure had a good day with her today, and best of all, if she screams at me and throws me out again, I can come home and play our conversation on tape and remember when we had a good visit together.

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