Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Family Ties

I confused my mother yesterday.  She had been looking at the pictures of her family on the wall and not so much reminiscing (since she doesn't have firm memories any more), but saying how lucky she had been to have such a good family, how much fun they had together, etc.

She looked at me and said, "didn't we?"  I said "Well, I wasn't there, so  don't know."

"You weren't there?  Why weren't you there?"

"I wasn't born yet!"

She was confused and she asked me how I got there.  I tried to talk around the subject but finally said "you had sex with my father."

She looked shocked.  "I had sex with your father???  How could I ever have sex with your father???"  

I finally realized she didn't know who I was.  I asked if she knew who I was and she said.  "Of course.  You're my sister."  

I told her that no, I was her daughter.  She thought about that for awhile and finally said "I'm going to have to think about that.  I don't understand a word of what you're saying."


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fantasy Land

I had a call from Atria yesterday that my mother was out of something. I could not understand what word the woman was saying, but decided it must have been her Depends, which it was.  I bought two packages and restocked the larder.

My mother was in good spirits and told me that she and a friend had taken a long walk that morning, all the way downtown, and that she was tired when she got back.  I did not point out that she could not get out of the building and didn't know where "downtown" is.

When I left, she was trying to decide what she was going to cook for dinner.

Fantasy Land

I had a call from Atria yesterday that my mother was out of something. I could not understand what word the woman was saying, but decided it must have been her Depends, which it was.  I bought two packages and restocked the larder.

My mother was in good spirits and told me that she and a friend had taken a long walk that morning, all the way downtown, and that she was tired when she got back.  I did not point out that she could not get out of the building and didn't know where "downtown" is.

When I left, she was trying to decide what she was going to cook for dinner.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


My mother and I spent an hour looking at each other yesterday, with occasional brief conversation about how beautiful her floral arrangements were and who is that strange man in the picture on her dresser (her husband), but really there was absolutely nothing to talk about.  She wants to know what I'm doing that's exciting and, in truth there is nothing on my calendar this week, so I had nothing to tell her.

I'm going to have to get better about making up exciting stories for her, though I did tell her that I have an upcoming radio interview about the summer season in Sacramento and her response to that was "Oh?  Aren't those flowers beautiful?"

I would have suggested that we go for a walk in the garden or something but (a) it was hot out and (b) she was barefoot, so I figured that could be a suggestion for a later, cooler date.

But actually, I am encouraged to see that the move to memory care seems to have been good for her.  With increased contact by the staff, she can't just lie in her bed all day any more and that seems to be a good thing.  She's not exactly a social butterfly, but I she does seem brighter these days.

Her laundry hamper is still missing.  They told me to label it (it's rather unique looking so I'm not sure why it needs to be labeled), but by the time I got back with a Sharpie, it had disappeared and I have not seen it since.  But I also didn't see any dirty laundry lying around.  

When I left her, I met with Jen, who is in charge of memory care (technically it's called "life guidance," which seems a strange euphemism).  She actually acknowledged having received my email (be still my heart) and she asked me if I had been given a copy of the assessment on my mother done by "the other side" before she moved in (no).  She gave me a copy which I read before seeing my mother.  I had a few question about it, so we met after my visit and I found her delightfully forthcoming.  She also gave me the web address for a SurveyMonkey questionnaire about my mother's background and her likes and dislikes.  Presumably this will help them set up some sort of a program for her.

But my big question was about laundry and she told me that the staff does the laundry, so I'm off the hook after 4 years.  I am not sad about that.

I let her know where I have put her supply of Depends and pee pads and mentioned the odd places where I'd found the used ones in her old apartment when we were cleaning up (the oven?).  Jen said she found them stuffed between the mattresses in her new place.

The other interesting thing was that in her old apartment she had necklaces that she laid out on her dresser and kept fiddling with them to make sure they were in a straight line.  When I decided to take her jewelry box home to prevent pilferage, I left a small box and a few things in it and I noticed that box is now opened and two more necklaces are now laid out on top of the dresser.  She doesn't wear them, she just arranges them.  I wish I knew what that was about.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Big Move

The best part of yesterday was when my mother, sitting in her chair, looking out the window of her new apartment, found a tree that was particularly beautiful.  I knew it was going to be OK.

We had  long day and I'm sure my mother is waking up this morning not having a clue where she is, but I hope at least she can find the bathroom.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I told Walt when I got home that it is getting more and more difficult to find something to talk with her about.  She asks endlessly what my plans are either for the rest of the day or for the rest of my life.  I try to find something that I'm doing that she can follow, but she seems to be having difficulty following even simple sentences and often just waves me off with "I can't understand a thing you're saying."  

I used to try to make her laugh and tried that today.  She was commenting on the brown age spots on her arm again and how they made her look old and that they were ugly and she wanted to just chop her arm off.  About then, her nose began to itch, as it seems to do constantly, and she took her napkin and rubbed her nose with it.  I told her that if she chopped her arm off she would not be able to scratch her nose when it itched.  That was entirely too complicated for her to follow.  A couple of months ago we would have had a nice giggle over that.

We did talk a little about politics.  She asked me how the world was doing and I said "terrible" and then gave her a very brief outline of what is going on (she has never heard of Donald Trump, though she read the newspaper every day).  She kept demanding to know what I was going to do to fix things.

But we had a nice lunch and I told Piyush, the server from Nepal, who is my favorite (she always called the women "mama" because she can't remember everyone's name) that she would be moving to memory care next week and she was very sad, because she would probably not see her again.  I was so happy to take a picture of the two of them.  I've printed off a copy and will get it to Piyush when I am at Atria tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mothers Day

It was just 11 a.m. when we finished and I decided that was too early to go to Atria, so we waited until 1 and then went to visit my mother . Each holiday that we share together, I wonder if it's going to be the last one.  Whether she is here next year or not, it really was the last video in this apartment.

Walt came with me this time and he got to see her when she is good, but making no sense in whatever she talks about.  She did spend a lot of time talking about the trees outside and that made her smile.

Since conversation was all but impossible, we didn't stay the full hour, but I did snap pictures of the furniture we want to donate because Habitat for Humanity is interested but wanted to see what we had to share.  I have to go back tomorrow anyway to pick up laundry, so I will visit more then.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Rose is a Rose

Today Ned and I took my mother to the McKinley Park rose garden in Sacramento.  Ned has been wanting to do this for months but had to wait for the roses to bloom...and then when they reached their peak, he was on the road, driving from Houston to Sacramento.  So the roses are slightly past peak, but still an amazing, dazzling display of color.

We almost didn't make it.  When I went to Atria she was asleep and didn't think she could stand up.  I became Ned or Jeri and jollied her to sitting, then gave her coffee, which woke her up a bit.  She got emotional when she asked "where's Mom?" and I had to tell her that her mother had been dead for 60 years.  She was sad that she didn't even know that.

But eventually I got her out into the car, not having a clue where she was or where she was going, but by the time we got to the park near Ned's house, she was a bit more with it.  Ned, bless him, met the car, got us out right across the street from the entrance to the park and then took the car and parked it, so we would not have to walk far.

Ned was such a good guy.  He had packed a lunch for us and thought of everything.  He bought white balloon bread, which he remembered my mother always made her sandwiches on when she made lunch for him as a kid.  He went and found olives because my mother had always said "it's not a party without olives."

He made a delicious fruit salad and he packed beverages -- wine for himself and his grandmother and water for me.

We were at a bench in the shade, just outside of the garden itself and my mother kept exclaiming over and over about how beautiful the flowers (and trees!) were.

I left the two of them sitting there and I went off to wander through the garden and take some photos.
Eventually, my mother was getting cold so they joined me in the garden and we wandered around looking at all the roses.  My mother especially seemed to like the huge bushes of white roses.  In fact, whenever we were talking about anything, she would interrupt to say "aren't those white roses beautiful?"

It was finally time to leave -- I needed to get the car home for Walt, who was going to San Francisco that night.  Ned went and got the car for us and parked it in "movie star parking" (directly opposite the entrance to the garden--Thank you, Gilbert) and we said our goodbyes.

Instead of getting on the freeway, knowing how much my mother loves trees and knowing that Sacramento is officially a "Tree City," I drove through town and, not surprisingly, she just loved looking at all the trees.

I dropped her off at Atria and while she didn't know where she was going, I knew she would be able to find her apartment (I won't be able to do that after she moves next week) and I came home to nap for a couple of hours, since I'd had so little sleep the night before.

While still vague and demented, she was so much better at the end of our adventure than she was when she woke up, that I felt good about the trip and am encouraged to think about the possibility of her having more social interaction with folks in the memory care unit, which can only be good for her.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


...we ran into Margaret, with whom I used to eat whenever I had lunch there (now her table is usually full).  She was happy to hear that my mother was going into the memory unit because she has noticed that she has declined a lot in the last few months.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dog Day Afternoon

Walt and I decided to go to Atria in the afternoon.  I thought I would bring Lizzie with us so she could distract my mother while Walt was in her bedroom measuring furniture.  As it turned out, no sneaking was necessary since she was sitting in the lobby across from the dining room, so I just took Lizzie down to visit her while Walt went off with his tape measure to the apartment.

My mother has always loved dogs and she was happy to see Lizzie, who was just so good, so gentle and so happy to have someone make a fuss over her.

I lost track of how many times my mother asked if Lizzie was our dog or not and how long we'd had her, but it was nice to have her distracted and to have something to talk about.

There are a lot of dogs who live at Atria and I've gotten to know many of them.  There is, for example, a Boston Bull terrier named,  think, Molly, who lives across the hall.  There is a sign on the door of that apartment letting people know that there is a dog inside and what the dog's name is.
Dogs always attract attention and having Lizzie in the lobby was a great magnet for lots of people who wanted to pet her.  One woman told us about her dog, who had lived at Atria for a few years and now lives with her daughter, but the woman keeps a fenced in yard for when the dog comes to visit.

What was strange about the day was that I swear almost every dog who lives in Atria came by while we were sitting there.

Elizabeth is my favorite.  She's a lovely Dalmatian and everybody loves her, including, apparently, Lizzie.

There was little Chita, a long-haired Chihuahua looking dog who was as energetic was Polly but didn't bark.

There was also the dog I have called a mini-Lizzie because she looks exactly like Lizzie if Lizzie had been bleached and shrunk.  The two dogs' tails wags furiously and they really wanted to play with each other.

My favorite King Charles spanial walked by and both dgs wagged at each other from across the hall, but the person on the other end of her leash didn't let her come over to sniff butts.

Walt finally joined us, having finished measuring everything.  My mother didn't recognize him and I'm not 100% sure she ever knew who he was.  She also looked confused when I talked about Ned and didn't have a clue who that was, and when I explained he was her grandson, she waved her hand and let me know she didn't know what I was talking about (Ned is meeting us at a rose garden in Sacramento tomorrow so we can take her to lunch there and let her enjoy being surrounded by roses).

She did, however, enjoy looking at the picture of Brianna carrying the foodball that I posted yesterday.  Usually when I show her pictures like that she says 'who is that?' but today she just talked about the photo as if she knew who I was talking about.  You just never know from minute to minute who she is going to remember and who she is not.

But the best part of the day was just watching my mother interact with Lizzie and Lizzie seeming to enjoy it.

I don't know if dogs can visit in memory care, but if they can, I think I need to bring Lizzie more regularly.  It's not only good for my mother, but for the people around her as well...and Lizzie's a great dog to do it because she's so calm and loving

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


There is one characteristic of my mother's that I hate and that is only getting worse as she gets older.  She is a very vain person.  She always has been.  She is from a family of 10, 7 girls, and to be honest, none of them would compete for Miss America.  But for a long time she was the only one who was "citified," who moved from the country to the city, and who, eventually, was taken under the wing of my grandmother whose friends were rich ladies who dressed well and knew how to set a proper table and all those things that go with a certain level of society.  We weren't in that level of society, but my grandmother spent her life trying to live up to it.

I don't remember ever waking up in the morning and seeing my mother without full makeup.  The first thing she did every day was to get up, go into the bathroom, and put her make up on.  She might be cooking breakfast in her bathrobe, but her makeup was on.  I don't think she learned that on the ranch where she grew up!

For most of her life, she went to the beauty parlor every week so there was rarely a hair out of place.  Surprisingly she didn't have professional manicures that I remember, but she was always doing her own nails.

Now, at 97, she doesn't have the same routine.  She can walk about with bed hair, looking like the Wicked Witch of the West and it doesn't bother her, but she is obsessed with her hands.

When I left Atria today, I realized I had spent one hour talking (or listening) about her hands.  She's mad at them, you see.  She hates how they look, hates the ropy look of her veins and especially the brown spots.  She picks at them and hits her hands and calls them stupid.

Showing her that my hands look similar to that doesn't help.

After she talks to and scolds her hands for looking so old, then she examines her arms and slaps at the brown spots on her arms.  Stupid, stupid, stupid! she tells her arms.  And then it is back to her hands again.  

She will change it up a bit to tell me how ugly her nails are.

My cousin gave her a manicure recently but it looks like she has filed the nails down so they are not the way they looked when she had the manicure.  They aren't chipped or cracked, she just doesn't like the way they look.

Then she goes back to examining her hands and how she hates them.  This is a conversation we have almost every time I visit her, but today it was a conversation that went on for literally an hour.
She finally told me that she just realized her shoes had holes in them and I knew it was time to go home before I went stark raving mad.

The one brief break from the hour-long diatribe about her ugly hands was when she asked me where the little girl was.  "What little girl?" I asked her and she said "You know.  The cute little girl who is always here."  Not sure where THAT came from!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Power of Attorney

There is a lot more "power" in that term than the title that we sometimes throw around would suggest.  I felt very powerful, signing away all my mother's personal rights in preparation for her admission to the memory care unit next month.

She's going to be very upset and I am having nightmares trying to figure out how to make it all go as smoothly as possible for her.  It reminds me of the weeks leading up to her move to Atria four years ago.

It was the longest conference I've had with Richard, the General Manager of Atria.  We have had our moments when I had to confront him about this or that thing, but this was a congenial half hour we spent together.  I kinda sorta liked him, though when he talked about hoping my mother's rent will be reduced once the tax rate goes from 30% to 15%, I figured that politics was not going to be a good topic for us to discuss.

So now all the decisions have to be made, and behind my mother's back.  She was not happy when I mentioned the move to her (I knew she would not be) and said she would "think about it" and "let me know."  By now she has forgotten.  But I wanted it to be said.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Principal's Office

Well, it wasn't really like going to the principal's office, especially since the two people I was meeting with were young enough to be my granddaughters.  But it was a serious meeting.  They have noticed, as have I, a decided step down in my mother's cognitive function.  They feel it is time for her to move to the memory care unit and I wholeheartedly agreed.

We talked about particulars and dates.  I asked about how this ordinarily works and they said they find it better if someone takes her out for the day while others move her stuff so that when she returns, she goes directly to the memory care unit and, God willing, her memory deficits will cause her to forget that she was ever anywhere else.

So I hope to do this while Jeri is here next month, because things are usually better when Jeri is along, though today she could not remember either Ned or Jeri, but that will pass when she sees them again

One of the HUGE advantages is that we can move her into an apartment that is as bare as possible and maybe she will stop worrying about "all this crap."  All the crap will be packed into boxes and stored until things settle down and I have chance to go through them.  I will also move most of her furniture into storage, since she's moving into a one-room studio that is small enough that I'm thinking of getting her a new, smaller bed (she now has a king size).

I took another tour of the memory unit, visiting the 3 apartments that are currently vacant.  I chose the largest (slightly larger) and brightest and will sign paperwork on Saturday.  I then told her what we were going to do, knowing that she would immediately forget.  I also knew that she would not (a) understand or (b) approve.  I was right, but I didn't dwell on it.  I just wanted it to be said once.

So all that done, I went to the apartment and found her sleeping in bed, as usual.  I had bought more "junk food" for her for when she doesn't want to go to the dining room (cookies, nuts, and chocolate). I convinced her that she would like to go out to a restaurant for lunch for a change.  And I actually got her up, dressed, and outside.  She was pleased to see the rose garden in front of the building.
Then we drove around looking at gardens in Davis.  It seems every other house in town is having gorgeous displays of my favorite wildflower - poppies!

We passed by my house (which she has never seen before--and why have I never invited her to come and visit?) so I could show her the irises growing in the front yard.  They came from bulbs I took out of her sister's garden after Marge's death oh so many years ago (at least 30, if not more).  She said that was "interesting."

Then we drove to Denny's in Woodland, 10 miles away for lunch (cheapest sit-down restaurant I can think of that is also nice).

She often does not go to lunch at Atria, frequently tells me she is sick to her stomach and can't think about food (as she did this morning), but at the restaurant she managed to finish a whole bowl of chicken noodle soup and both halves of a toasted cheese sandwich, which I consider somewhat of a ice cream for dessert!

It was a pleasant lunch, answering the same questions over and over again, but she seemed in good spirits and best of all she was out of Atria for a few hours.

Melissa and Brianna, the Atria staff concerned with her care, tell me that in memory care each resident is checked on every two hours.  Also, since her new mantra seems to be that she needs to be doing something to help someone (instead of "I know I should be doing something but i can't remember what"), they can probably find a job for her to do every so often so maybe she will feel like she has a bit more purpose than she has had in a very long time.  At least that's my pipe dream for the day and it makes me feel better.

On the way home, I stopped at the strawberry stand to buy some strawberries

She didn't recognize Atria when I drove up, mainly, I think, because I came in from a different direction than usual.  She seemed at a loss when I told her to get out of the car, handed her her keys and told her that if she couldn't remember where she lived to ask someone.  I felt like a neglectful daughter.

But it was a good day and the first step has been taken to move her to what I sincerely hope that after she settles in will be a better place for her now.  A long time friend of hers told me he called her last week and she had no idea who he was.  Very sad.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New complaint

She seems to have dropped the "I know I'm supposed to be doing something , but I can't remember what" and has replaced it with "I just need to find something to do to help people." While I know it's pointless, I tell her that there are lots of opportunities at Atria, but she will have to actually leave the apartment first. That's when she dials it back to the original complaint...but it gives me something to talk with her about. (If she continues this it's a good thing because it's not the sort of thing that is likely to cause her anxiety)

There was NO dirty laundry to pick up, and some of the Depends were gone from her underwear drawer, so I guess she is using them, though that doesn't keep her from leaving feces stains on the sheets.  I just cover them up.  I can't expect the housekeepers to change the bed every day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is this lunch?

I went to Atria for lunch.  Nothings works better than a lunch at the funny farm to cheer one up.  She woke up a little more clear-headed than last time, but wandered around wearing only her pajama tops for about half an hour, trying to straighten out a necklace n her dresser for literally 30 minutes, butt flapping in the breeze.  I finally got her dressed and then to the dining room.  If dementia has ever been something she could hide, it no longer is.  I don't know if the woman who eventually joined us, Betty (someone I had not met before), has dementia or not, but I suspect she does.  My mother asked many times if this were lunch and just lots of stuff like that.  I did a lot of explaining what we were doing today (flowers to the cemetery), who Paul was, etc.  Nothing new.  Just the new normal, with a bit more nudity involved this time.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Menu

I went to have lunch at Atria today.  My mother was better than she was the last time I saw her ... kind of "medium good," the kind of day where she had to check the name on the door of each apartment because she didn't remember where she lived, but she wasn't agonizing over what she was supposed to be doing.  

We have decided to give up on trying to get her help with bathing, but hoping to solve the Depends-resistance problem, I replaced all of her current lacy underwear in her drawers with Depends.  We'll see how that goes.

We went to the dining room for lunch and the menu actually looked pretty good.

So.  We had clam chowder to start and ordered the entrée.  The soup came fairly quickly, for Atria (which is understaffed and over worked) but it was more than 15 minutes before the entrée arrived.  I had to ask the waitress twice if we were ever going to get our meals, as people around us were being served.

It arrived without any tartar sauce or cocktail sauce to dip the seafood in.  Also, there was no butter and no honey for the cornbread and no apple slaw.

The servers are really good about avoiding eye contact, but I did eventually ask the server if we could get sauce and they was also slaw in arriving, but by the time they arrived, the shrimp was cold.  The clams -- I should have taken a photo -- were the size of hamster turds, flavorless, and hard as a rock.  AND, I noted, my mother had no shrimp at all.

I would have made an issue of that but from the size of the plate and the food on it, I decided she hadn't noticed and it probably would have been too much for her anyway.  But.  Sheesh.  This was ridiculous.  It is getting more and more that this is the kind of thing that happens.  But I keep telling myself that I don't live there and my mother doesn't notice any difference, so I don't want to make a fuss, was not like this when she moved in nearly 4 years ago.  I remember meals that were actually good, but I don't remember having one in a very long time.

We sat at a table with Margaret, with whom we eat frequently, and with Bea, who is always very quiet.  My mother always makes a fuss over the flowers that adorn every table.

She always notices how beautiful they are and always feels the petals of the flowers to see if they are real or artificial, though they are never artificial.

It's funny, but visits with her must wear me out emotionally because whenever I get home from Atria, I don't come in to my office but immediately fall asleep in my recliner.  Today it was for about an hour and a half.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The bed has become, I think, my mother's refuge.  It used to be that when I went to see her, she was asleep on the couch.  Now more often than not she is sleeping n her bed, with lots of pillows and a comfortable duvet.  Sometimes she's dressed for the day, sometimes not and it's difficult to tell if she slept in her clothes (as I often do), or if she was helped to dress and then went back to her bed.

Yesterday I was going to have lunch with her, but no parking place, so I went shopping first and it was after 12 before I got to her apartment.  She was in her bed, dressed.  I could not tell if she'd been up or not, but since her shoes were next to the bed, I assume she had been up and had assistance getting dressed before going back to bed.

I just ache for her.  It must be terrible to wake up in a strange place, with strange people, and no clue where you are.  I woke her up and she squinted at me, and said, weakly, "I think I recognize you."
I sat on the bed, hoping she'd come to life, but she turned on her side, pulled the duvet up over her and said several things, all mumbled softly and I have no idea what she was saying.  After about 30 minutes, I told her I thought I should leave and let her get some more sleep.  That got her moving.  A little.

She eventually sat up, but just sat there, not really acknowledging that I was there, though ultimately she decided she would get up.  I told her I'd wait in the living room.  She finally came out and said "what am I supposed to do?"  I told her there was nothing she had to do but that I was just going to sit and wait for her so we could visit.

She disappeared again for a long time and when I went to check on her, she was sitting on the bed again.

She finally came in and sat in her chair, but didn't know where she was.  She seemed surprised to hear she'd been there nearly 4 years.  She asked how often I sat in the chair she was sitting in.  She commented on the blooming plants outside, and asked what the blanket on her couch was.  She had no concept that I had not been around, and had no interest in hearing about the trip to Santa Barbara (though she asked what I'd been doing ... she just didn't want to know about it).  She said she just sat there and waited for people to come and see her.

I finally decided that we had nothing to say to each other and I left (ironically, exactly an hour, which is how long most of my visits last).  I brought her laundry home to wash, which surprised her that I would do that.

I left with tears on the surface, then came home to an email from the woman who runs Atria saying they were having problems getting her  to shower and to wear Depends and that she has been having accidents. She was thinking I could come by while they bathe her and maybe that would calm her down.  She also suggested I remove all of her underwear and replace them with Depends.

This is killing me.  I hate the thought of causing her discomfort by making her accept strangers bathing her. On one of her more lucid days, we talked about it and she was adamant that nobody was gong to bathe HER.

I agree with the need to get her to accept Depends because incontinence is becoming a problem.
I suggested to Brianna that we just ignore the bathing assistance right now until it becomes a noticeable problem and decided I won't take her clean underwear back to her when I've finished washing it and put Depends on her underwear drawer and see what happens.

As I said, this is killing me.  I watched her sister go through this and that killed me, watching that intelligent, funny woman shrink into someone who had to be bathed and screamed bloody murder the whole time because she hated it so much.

It's so hard to know what to do and I wish I could talk to my mother about it because she'd know the right thing to do!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


My cousin Denise, the cosmetologist, had called to let me know that she was going to come and have lunch with my mother and do her nails, so I didn't feel I had to go to Atria today.  But when I was on the way back from Kaiser, she called to let me know that my mother was almost out of toilet paper, which mystifies me because I bought her 6 rolls last week and this means she is going through a roll a day!

I asked Niecie how the visit had gone and for the first time she said that it was just sad. She's usually so upbeat and eager to let me know how my mother is just FINE for her. She got her singing to familiar tunes, but she zoned out after awhile and it was the same stuff I have with her when I visit  Also, apparently she answered the door wearing only her pajama bottoms.  Usually she's wearing only her pajama tops, but this time it was just the bottoms, which must have been quite a surprise for Niecie!

When I got home, there was a message from a friend of my mother's, who had stopped by to see her before Niecie arrived.  She found her in bed, with no top on, but she was pleased that my mother seemed to recognize her and they had a fairly good visit.  I suspect, however, that she won't be back.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thank God

It was the difference of nigh and day today.  She's back to trying to figure out what she should be doing that she's not doing (which she has done every day for nearly 4 years), but anxiety is gone and she didn't faint.  I feel MUCH better today!

Friday, March 17, 2017

bad, bad day

Visited my mother today.  She was very out of it, making no sense, saying she was in great pain, but couldn't localize and when I asked her again where it was she said that since I got there, the pain was gone.  She made pretty much no sense in the time I was there.  I felt uncomfortable leaving her, but I found a Catholic channel that was running the daily Mass and I figured that would be something familiar for her...and by then she had calmed down considerably from when I first got there.

She was lying in sheet stained with feces when I got there and I called for housekeeping to change the sheet for her.  As of the time I left (an hour later) they had not shown up and the woman at the front desk didn't seem at all concerned that my mother might sleep in feces tonight.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I wrote to Atria after I discovered feces on her sock and asked if there had been an accident (since I didn't see any other sign of one).  They said that yes, there had been "a couple" of accidents and asked how I felt about adding showering to her services.

I said yes, definitely, if she would go for it, and then asked about the memory unit and its cost.  They don't think she is quite "there" yet, but will get back to me on the cost.  I don't know what her insurance will cover if she moves there.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Best $40 ever

A year or so ago, I was at Michael's Craft Store and found a beautiful arrangement of artificial red carnations.  Michael's has great artificial flowers and I check the store periodically for flowers for my mother, who can't remember to take care of real flowers any more.  This one was gorgeous but would have been much too expensive except that it was about 50% off, or $40.  A chunk, but what the heck.
It has turned out to be the very best thing I ever bought her.  I can't think of a single time when she has not suddenly noticed the arrangement, as if for the first time, and said "aren't those roses beautiful?"
I have bought other artificial arrangements and live bouquets, but nothing since the carnations arrived has pleased her nearly as much as this bouquet.  It has, in the long run, saved me a lot of money because I know I don't have to spend money on flowers any more.  This arrangement is "new" every time she looks at it and her delight in seeing these beautiful "roses" is genuine each time.

(this isn't it, but it's similar--her arrangement
 is bigger, more spread out, and in a basket)

Today I decided to go for lunch, since it had been a busy weekend and I can't remember if I visited her over the weekend.  But I got there and it was parked solid.  Nothing in the Atria parking lot, nothing in either direction on the street and I was too lazy to park in the shopping center 2 blocks away.
["Too lazy" is only part of the back is giving me fits and I hope my doctor has some suggestions when I see her next week.]
I decided what the heck -- let's go out to eat again.
Well...fortunately as I was talking to her on the phone to try to get her to come to the car so we could go out, someone in the parking lot pulled out and I was able to park after all.  Trying to absorb that I couldn't find a parking place and would take her to lunch was entirely too complicated for her to comprehend.
She said "I don't understand a word you're saying, but I'll be here when you get here."
There is no way I could have guided her through the complex actions of putting on her jacket, getting her purse, and coming to the front of the facility, nor could I leave my car in the passenger zone.
It was clear from the get-go that this was a worse than usual memory day.  For example, she was reading a book written by her friend Father Joe O'Looney, a book she had typed when he wrote it.  I mentioned the book, which she couldn't find, because it was lying under the fresh cookies I had brought.  When she found the book, she thought she would read it because it looked interesting and "you typed it" made absolutely NO dent in her memory process.
She thumbed through the pages, and stuck at the back of the book was a card. She took the card out, opened it and read the birthday greetings from Peggy Kerr, a former Atria resident who had become my mother's friend.  I wasn't surprised that she didn't remember who that was, but she put the card back in the envelope, closed the book, put the card on top of the book put the book back on the table and then "saw" the card for the first time and opened it to read it again, again not knowing who Peggy was.
Over lunch, her worsening word-finding was blatant, as she could not remember the word for anything and just substituted any word that popped into her head for what she wanted to say, or in indicating my cup of coffee, waved her hand and said "that.....that...that whatever you have in your cup."
I've also noticed that people used to stop and talk with her in the dining room, but they don't seem to do that any more.  She mentioned the beautiful white hair on "that woman over there" with whom she used to eat every day, but who is now a stranger to her.
It was time to pick up her laundry and I just despaired of her ever learning how and where to put her dirty laundry.  The waste basket was stuffed full of underwear mixed with puddle pads, including a pair of socks, one of which seemed to be smeared with feces (though I could not find any other clothes smeared with feces).  The bag in which I carry her laundry home with me was also a mixture of pads and pants and the laundry hamper was almost empty.
No point in trying to explain it to her.  I tried that before and it was way beyond her ability to comprehend.
I didn't leave depressed, the way I usually do, just sad that she seems to have taken another step downward.  I sure wish I could have one more conversation with my mother, but I fear that is no longer possible.
But I sure am glad I gave her those carnations.  I bring joy to her life every time she looks at them, even though she has no clue where they came from.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Just too nice a day

The plan for the day was to go to Atria, maybe for lunch, and then get some errands done.  But on the drive over to Atria, the skies and the trees were so gorgeous that I knew I had to get my mother out of the damn place and go. see. nature.

Everywhere you looked there were gorgeous cloud formations and all the trees were starting to come into full blossom.  When I saw my mother lying, as she always does these days, on the couch, awake, but just staring off into space, I didn't ask her, I told her  that I was taking her out to lunch.  I figured we would go to Denny's in Woodland but I would take the long way to and from there, driving through areas of Davis where I knew we would see a lot of trees...and open areas where there would be good views of clouds.

She was confused, of course, but meekly followed me out to the car.  It was perfect.  She loved the clouds (which she sometimes called "flowers" when she couldn't remember the word for clouds) and even noticed the blossoms on the trees.  And you could not ask for a more glorious day.

We passed by almond orchards just coming into blossom, not quite full, but very pink, and stopped to watch a crop dusting plane which was flying over the orchards.

Then on out to Woodland, to Denny's, where we parked under a tree that she thought was so beautiful.


The choices on a menu always confuse her, so I give her a menu, but order for her, letting her make her own choices if the waitress asks her, but if the choices are still too confusing (don't ask "white/wheat/rye/biscuit/muffin?" -- entirely too complicated!), I just answer for her, since I usually know what she wants. 

She had a fried egg, hash browns, bacon and wheat toast. To my amazement, she ate it all, which she usually does not do  During the lunch she kept staring out the window marveling at all the cars that were driving past the restaurant and how they all looked new.

We got back in the car and drove back to Davis.  I drove around, downtown through the arch of trees on F Street that is always so beautiful, and the line of blossoming trees on Covell Blvd, which are so pretty at this time of year.

Of course she had no idea I was driving in big circles, and she enjoyed all the views and I think that by the time I returned her to Atria (which she recognized as somewhere she had been before), she was tired and ready to take a nap.

It was a lovely day and she only asked me twice what I was doing tonight and only once if I was going dancing.  I consider that a successful afternoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

old friends

After lunch, I went to Atria.  I had been there the day before, but my mother had been sleeping.  I sat there for an hour, reading, waiting to see if she would wake up, but she never did.  I had bought a bunch of junk food for her, since she hasn't had any food in her apartment in awhile, and I left her clean laundry on the bed.  I also wrote a note for her, that I left on her chair and then came home.

She was awake when I got there yesterday, but lying on the couch.  The note I left for her was still sitting on her chair, so she had not sat in that chair at all yesterday.  I somehow feel that she saw the note and thought someone had put it there and she was not supposed to remove it and just sat on the couch instead.

She got up and sat in her chair, reading my note several times, each time asking me if I had written it.  Then she'd put it down next to her and then see it again, as if for the first time, and read it again.  She is having difficulty recognizing words now and so she reads slowly and has to sound out many simple words.

The other thing she spent time doing is looking at a photo of her 90th birthday party.

This framed picture sits on the floor next to her chair and from time to time she pulls it out to look at it and ask what it is.  It is a picture of all the people who came to her 90th birthday party and any of them signed the border of the frame into which we were going to put the group photo.  She looks at the photo and doesn't recognize anybody.  Yesterday I found the book I made for her after the party and showed it to her, reminding her about what fun she had at the party and how many people came to celebrate with her.  She doesn't even recognize me in the photos and doesn't always recognize herself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Today I picked up her laundry (it always surprises her when I do that, though I've been doing it for nearly 4 years)...I found dead leaves in the bag that I put the laundry in, dead leaves and an empty box from Sees in the laundry hamper along with her dirty undies and dirty undies on top of garbage in the waste basked.

I sorted things out and said "I know this is hard for you to remember..." and told her about the mixup of containers.  She said "I know I should remember, but I don't have an idea what you are talking about."  So I took her in and showed her "this is for laundry, this is for garbage."  She was terribly confused and said she would try to remember but wasn't sure she could.

Show Biz

Saturday night we took my mother to the Davis Musical Theater Company's production of 42nd Street.  Every so often she complains that it has been so long since she has been to a show and I've been waiting for one that I thought she could follow.  42nd Street is a musical which is set in the 1930s and is mostly singing and dancing, so it seemed perfect for her.  I knew she would never remember she was going, so I went to Atria to have dinner with her (though she had already eaten when I got there, so I never got dinner) and she wouldn't be blindsided at the last minute, though I must have told her a dozen times what we were going to do.  At least she was kinda sorta ready when Walt came to pick us up.

In all honesty, I don't know if she knew where she was or what she was doing there.  She sat stoically through the whole thing and never so much as cracked a smile, never clapped once, even during the standing ovation at the end of the show.  It was both sweet and sad that I realized before the show that she was watching me looking at the program and turning to the same pages whenever I changed the page.  I don't think she actually read the program.

She never said a single word after the show about it.  I'm convinced that when she finds the program in her purse she won't have a clue how it got there.  So...cross that activity off the list of "things to do to enrich my mother's social life."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Loneliness of Dementia

 I went to Atria to drop off my mother's laundry, which I had washed.  I told Walt that I really should write an entry called "The Loneliness of Dementia," which would be entirely too depressing an entry but I've been thinking about it a lot lately.  She had people around her most of Christmas and that was very nice but now that things are back to normal again, it's mostly just me again, and Ned, bless him, stops by now and then too.

Her stepson, who used to have dinner once a week before she moved to Davis, started trying to come every couple of weeks and now he comes every month and a half or two months ("It's a long drive," he tells me, forgetting I used to make it in the other direction once or twice a week in the years before she moved here).

My cousin's daughter used to come 3 or 4 times a year to do her nails (she's a cosmetologist), but I think she was only up here once in 2016.  Her good friends from Hospice of Marin, with whom she worked for >20 years used to come up for lunch, but they don't come any more.

Face it:  she's no fun to visit any more (except maybe for Ned, who is determined that things will be FUN...and makes them that by the power of his personality!)  But she can't remember a lot of people she used to, and she can't remember anything for longer than a few seconds, plus, most of the time she is sleeping (today she told me she almost never naps any more!) and always wakes up feeling terrible.  She often says she has been sick to her stomach all night and has been throwing up and then has to clean up the floor (not true).  So it takes a long time to talk her out of not feeling terrible, but if you get her to her chair to sit, she eventually starts asking about the weather and "what have you been done that you haven't told me about and I should know" and then "what are you doing tonight?" and often "are you going dancing tonight?" and then back to the weather again.  Wash, rinse and repeat until I get tired of it (almost exactly an hour) and then say goodbye.  If I tell her I'll be back in two days, she gets upset because she needs to see me every day.  If I go early in the day and say I'll be back the next days she is upset that she will be all alone all afternoon.

I feel so sorry for her because I seem to be the sum total of her non-mealtime activity and it makes me angry with myself that I sometimes don't visit her every day because I just don't feel like it.

I usually come home feeling totally worn out, though I really haven't done anything but sit and  listen to her for an hour.  I almost always need a nap when I get home.

But I do understand why nobody comes to visit her any more.  It's definitely not fun, especially if you go every day and spend half of it hearing about how bad she feels.