Licking my Wounds

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Day 2 of mom’s adventures in her new care home. Last night was such a good time with mom laying happily in bed, looking at the quilt with our baby photos on them and commenting on them over and over again. Clearly they brought her joy, love and peace.

Today, however, was another story. I felt like I ran from there as fast as I could but not without wounds that will likely turn into scars that only forgiveness and love can heal. Right now I am still nursing and licking my wounds. I have retreated into protection mode but messaging with my sisters, who know me and what we are all going through, has helped me. But it will take a little time before the wounds will heal and fade away.

What has caused such a retreat and images of wounds and scars?

My mother was not the same woman whom I spent time with last night. This woman was caustic, argumentative, paranoid and convinced men were coming to take the children including her baby, a doll. She didn’t seem to comprehend that I was her daughter and acted as if I was of no consequence to her. I found her in another man’s room trying to put his shirt on over her own. She tried to cover him with various items but he didn’t respond at all. When she wheeled towards his bathroom, I decided the charade was up and wheeled her out and directed her wheelchair down the hallway. She wanted to go into every room, even if the door was shut, and I patiently pointed out the pictures at each door to show whose room it was and reminded her she couldn’t go in there. It was like she heard me, but deliberately ignored me, and I would have to wheel her back or keep the door shut with my hand and she would be angry and argue with me.

Then, suddenly, she turns to me and says “shut up stupid bitch!” I whirled backward as if slapped and the tears came moments later. I tried to keep them in but she saw them but didn’t say anything and tried to wheel over my foot. My mother has called me a bitch one other time during my teenage years that stung like a slap as well. This felt worse. I guess because I had been spending all this time and experiencing much emotional angst for her well-being only to be treated with contempt.

In my brain I know that this is not how my “normal” mother would act and that it was the Alzheimer’s forever altering her brain. But my heart is not so willing to let go of the tight clench after every beat.

After talking to the nurse and aides, I decided to just go home. There is no helping her when she is in this state and I should have known that. Really – it is my own fault. I’ve seen signs of this behaviour before but I haven’t learned to retreat fast enough. My bruised heart reminds me that next time I will. She can’t learn to adapt her behaviour, but I can.

Such thoughts seem logical and reasonable, but my heart hasn’t allowed them to penetrate yet and tears continue to fall quickly down my cheeks.

Thank you, God, for sisters who know. Sisters who care for the same woman changing and fading before our eyes. Sisters who let me vent and share the agony even though it must hurt them, too. It is not only MY mother that has changed, but theirs, too. I wonder if their heart aches, too. I wonder if they try to protect their hearts from the pain of this maddening, incurable disease called Alzheimer’s?


Expelled at 77

John and I are in the depths of raising teenagers. We expect rebellion, arguments, tantrums and possible expulsion from school. Heaven forbid the last one! However, it is not our teens that we are dealing with on difficult issues. My mother, with her daily experience living with Alzheimer’s, has been more of a challenge than I expected. In fact, she was “kicked out,” “expelled,” or “given her walking papers” from her care home. My historically gentle, kind and undemanding mother (albeit with red hair and  occasional fiery temper) has become aggressive towards her care givers, other residents and sometimes family members, and her home was unable, unwilling, unequipped to deal with her and too impatient to figure out a solution.

My patient father was getting phone calls upon phone calls of incidents she was involved in and he was getting stressed. He was exhausted and having to “guard” her for 8 days has made me exhausted as well. The care home had no extra staff to be on stand by with her in the evenings so that fell to us, the family. Thankfully, we have some family in the city and each is able to do what they can. Interestingly, I have not seen any acts of aggression myself and she was very calm each evening I was there.

During the intake at her new home, the RN did a thorough assessment. When we spoke about her unusual behaviours she said that something as simple as an infection or illness can cause a change in behaviour. She did have 2 bladder infections in the past 6 months so that could be a strong possibility as a cause for atypical behaviours.

If you think that having a child expelled from something would be frustrating and embarrassing, try having your 77 year old mother expelled!! I almost felt like I was trying to sneak in to visit her as I was embarrassed by her. I felt terribly apologetic to her nurses and aides and felt like I was there to protect them from this wheel chair bound woman and her shocking displays of hitting, scratching, pushing or, my personal favourite – hair pulling.

Over the week I have come to think of it in a slightly different way. After 10 days with no negative reports, I was starting to wonder if her care home had jumped the gun. I started to remember whose side I was on and that the staff didn’t need my support, my mom did. “Honour your Father and your Mother.” Exodus 20:12a came to mind. I began to walk in with my head held high and a cheery greeting to the other residents sitting nearby. As I left her home, I actually felt sad that I would miss all the special characters there, but after spending several hours at her new home today, I am sure there will be many characters to get to know here, too.

After much preparation and worry over the transition to her new home, she seemed happy and easily settled. We rolled through the halls again and again (it’s always new to an Alzheimer’s patient!) until she was ready to settle for the night. I’m on first name basis with one resident already as she came into mom’s room 5 times tonight. lol  I am certain mom will repay her and many others with surprise visits. Can you blame her? Most of the rooms are very similar with only the bed facing alternate ways and a chair or two added in.

I have wanted to write this entry for 8 days now and it isn’t coming out as descriptive or theatrical as I had thought. I think it is the emotional and physical weariness that has sapped my energy and eliminated any wit or humour I usually have. I will have to tell the story of the lunch room fight another night.

If you visit an elderly person or pass by one in a store, say “Hello” and give them a cheery smile. They may or may not respond, but to many it is a drop of fresh water on a dry and lonely soul. I am certain that many of mom’s fellow residents at her first home thought that I was coming to visit them and they were ready with a smile or a greeting. I’m sure they didn’t remember me each time, but I was a friendly face who took time to speak with them. Don’t ask questions as they may be confused and embarrassed if they can’t answer them. You really have no idea how a friendly face  can be like a breeze under their soul, lifting them closer to God and closer to the person they once were. Isn’t that what we would all like to be? Closer to our best self whether that is today, in days gone by, in a hope for the future or when rejoicing in heaven with a healthy body, strong mind and joy-filled spirit!.

~ Tracy.


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