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Spokane, WA
This profile photo is my mom and me at the beach--she is 26 and I am about 18 months. LOVE the joy!! I am a mom of three and a teacher; being a teacher means I have to go back and cut the f-bombs. There were a few. Because Alzheimer's sucks badly. This blog, for nine years now--skipping a few while I was too cheap to buy my domain name-- helps me un-peel and process the endless layers of sad woven with weird and--impossibly--comedy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You're a handsome devil; what's your name?

     My mom's new "home" is about a one hour and 10 minute drive .. I was really hoping the place wouldn't be as bad as I pictured, but it was. Actually worse. The strongest smell of piss was in my mom's bedroom. But it's actually just a hospital room split I to three spaces. She had brought a few wooden craft projects from her creative time at the holding place, and they were in a paper plate on the top shelf of the industrial hospital-ish nightstand. Plastic Easter eggs with googly eyes. Are you kidding me? And a little painted bird house. She only had the patience and follow through to do one side-or maybe someone painted it for her. Who knows, I threw them all away to put her real belongings; things she's had for 10-40 years. In the two bottom drawers I put underwear and jeans, a few shirts and the rest of the clothes that would fit in the 26 inch wide closet I just hung up. But it seems as though she may not be using her cute jeans anymore,
what with the pull-on diaper...incontinence pad undies.

     I found her in the dining room/ cafeteria/multipurpose room being prodded by a capable, confident male nurse to eat her broccoli. (seriously, begging a diaper
clad person to eat their broccoli? Familiar and yet...) The first thing she said when she saw me was "How did I end up here?" so I of course explained (because even though I've read the guide books about dealing with people with Alzheimer's that tell me to just say generic things and agree and not argue~path of least resistance~ I don't like lying or being condescending) "Well you ran out of money, and the previous guardian mismanaged your bills and finances; then there was the APS involvement, which actually I may have had something...Oh I don t know, a van?"

     When Mike and the girls walked in her face lit up but she looked at Mike and said something like "Oh, are we going dancing?" at which point I turned to him and quoted one of my favorite, albeit less celebrated lines from John Cusack's Grosse Pointe Blank: (when his mom looks at him after talking to him for several minutes and says )"You're a handsome devil; what's your name?"
     My mom got up from her broccoli to go to the bathroom and I went with her, encouraged that she may retraining herself to use a toilet. But she had a soaked diaper on for panties which, after she was done wiping, just went right ahead and pulled back on. (STILL...the fact that she was able to sense that she needed to go means that last week's incontinence is perhaps brought on by freaking out over the abrupt change of environment and not the process of system shutdown that happens in late stage Alzheimers...) The smell was pungent; I looked to my right and noticed a clean diaper and thought, hmm, I should put one of these on here, but then I'm not really trained..Is that her size? I wondered..I thought of my daughter Sophia when she sometimes still wets her little jammies if she drinks too much before bed...her sleepy half-naked little body in the dark as she digs fresh panties out of her drawer to change. I didn't do anything for my mom because this was way different and there was no biological imperative to do so. I did help her wash her hands, but it's not like I felt magnanimous about it.
     After putting some of her things away and while she was walking around (which she does endlessly, at all hours..and her shuffle steps have become wider; seemingly more confident), she asked me: "Why did you put me here?" (Yea! She knows me still) Fair question, except I of course didn't. I actually found her the best place in a three-state
area to live last July but when we were ready to move her, she took a tour, and was lucid enough to tell me and my brother "I would rather slash my wrists than live here." It seemed like a pretty bold statement of preference. She wandered away. 

     My husband kept trying to coax her back to the family room (Mike was, by the way, in work mode, having seen his share of nursing homes as a firefighter/EMT. He took it all in stride; was professional, cordial, sweet, placating) to watch TV with her granddaughters , a kindly-though-gruff older man and his three-legged beagle, Scooter. (I am completely serious about the name "Scooter." I am not creative writing).
     I showed the social services liaison where I'd placed my mom's belongings including mismatched jewelry and a beautiful glass egg and framed pictures and scrapbook photo albums, should anyone like to go through them with her. 
     On the cork board assigned to her section of the  room, I push-pinned some photos of her looking beautiful in various outside locations-mostly Montana-including this cool waterfall place I took her when I worked in Yellowstone Park. She's sitting in
the waterfall, looking backwards and smiling and so young; I realized she was 42 in the photo. There were a few more photos with she and I, or Chris and I. All from the 1980's. 

     I showed whoever walked-or rolled by-which is incidentally how I figured out one of her roommates doesn't talk.
    "Look how young and pretty my mom is here." 
    "She still is young and pretty," one of her new friends said.
    "Yeah," I agreed, "She is."

     The dining room/ cafeteria/multipurpose room also serves as a makeshift chapel, and when I went to find my mom, she was sitting at one of the tables with her eyes closed in prayer. I started to walk toward her to say goodbye, but I didn't want to ruin her moment with God. Plus, she wouldn't know we were there, much less that we hadn't said goodbye. I think I at least helped her to feel a little more "at home."'

Monday, April 18, 2011

"She usually wears her hair long"

So today's the day my mom was moved to her new care facility~or rather, home. Since she became incontinent last week, the list of lock down "skilled nursing" places who'll take her got very small. Oh, and that take Medicaid? Small. Tried to Google her care center, but with taking care of people who can't function and relying on all the sweet public dollars Whitman County generates, there doesn't appear to be a dedicated IT person. No website. Reading reviews was mistake. But that's what families do. Google the diagnosis, treatments, physiology, cures (none in this case)...
In doing her laundry last night I wondered as I pulled out her pairs of underwear and big robe...do incontinent people get to put on underwear ? Will they try and retrain her to go little and big? (the social services liaison's answer today: That might come back once she gets used to us.)
When my kids were potty training they would regress if we were traveling, or they got sick . But then , they had lots of synapses firing; ready to re-learn or learn anew. Her synapses are done firing. What about a robe? Will she be wearing it again? Likely not if she's got people getting her dressed. This is some f-ed up line of pondering, for sure.
Last night the kids and I went for visiting hour on her last night at the local mental holding center. She had stuff in her teeth, recognized the children but scuffled around in small steps and five times got up from the industrial table (that serves as a craft and dinner table, as well as a hospitality table) and got up to check out those damn Easter egg cutouts. My daughters had been counting them ( then got scolded for hitting the wall because of the loud sound; never know what will activate the schizophrenics) Anyway, she just followed them with her finger. She also scuffled, which is apparently common among dementia patients. The scuffling was further complicated by what appeared to be a grownup diaper under her sweatsuit. She didn't know the girls' names, but here's the beauty: in the car I asked my daughters (I'd asked how the visit was for Alex already. His answer: 'Absolute Hell.') : "Well, what did you notice about grandma? Is she very different than the last time you saw her?"Yeah, she had a pony in her hair. She usually wears her hair long."

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973

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