And it gets worse

After my experience with my mom’s bullying and stepping on a lady’s foot on purpose, I thought that was the worst it could be. Ha! I was wrong.

Being forced to step out from behind the stained glass and to see clearly was not desirable. Can’t I stay behind the softly muted window and see things through a rose coloured pane of glass a little longer? A shocking episode seen through clear glass is not at all comfortable but there is nothing about Alzheimer’s that is comfortable.

My dad got a call from the day nurse at my mom’s care centre yesterday – twice. My normally gentle mannered mother was violent against an aide. Apparently, she was getting some help toileting and wanted to go for a walk before fully dressed. The aide said she wasn’t going anywhere until she pulled up her pants. When the aide bent over to help her pull up her pants, my mom took two handfuls of hair in her fists and pulled. The aide eventually got my mom to let go of her hair but as she stood up my mom slapped her hard across her face.

This is shocking! Horrifying! Embarrassing! Concerning!

Tomorrow we will find out more when we meet with the nurse to talk about it.

My instinct is to be apologetic, embarrassed and reassuring that this is NOT the woman we know and love.

But what if something was going on and she had every right to defend herself? How would we ever know? She can’t remember 10 minutes ago nor does she often speak in understandable sentences. She is at the mercy of these people hired to care for her. With that thought I think some lessons in martial arts might be necessary for my mom to protect herself. ; )

What is to be done? She just had her medicine adjusted 2 weeks ago and is so drugged that she sleeps through breakfast and lunch and is usually drugged and quiet when I come to visit in late afternoon. The violent woman reported about here is not the docile, drugged, quiet woman I see at the home when I visit her. Minus the foot crushing incident of course.

I am going to go and talk to the nurse with my dad but I have no illusion that I can stay behind the stained glass then.

My Mother the Bully

The stained glass has been spun in a new direction – one that I really didn’t think I’d ever be contemplating. My mom a bully? Could it be? Is it possible? As a mom who has been a scaredy cat most of her life to a woman enjoying bullying someone else? Well, you judge, if you will.

During my visit the other day, I was caught by surprise when my mom did something totally out of character. Supper is at 5pm at the home but everyone gathers and sits at the tables in their spots at 4pm.

I am visiting at the usual time 4 – 5ish and arrive to the ladies already sitting around the table silently. I pull up a big chair beside my mom and the lady right next to me, but at the end of the table, slowly scoots her chair away. She is a little lady who kind of sinks into her wheel chair and looks very, well, old. I am slightly amused as I watch her slowly move her place mat, silverware and angle her chair away. After visiting with my mom for a while, I see movement under the table and I see my mom slowly move her foot over to this little old lady’s foot and she presses down on it. The little lady turns her head (kind of like an owl, really) and looks at mom who is sitting there with a smirk on her face. Appalled, I say “Mom! What are you doing? Why did you do that?” and mom says “She likes it.” What was I supposed to say to that? I look at the other lady and she does have this slight impish look but I say to my mom “I don’t think she liked that. Look at her face. Does she look like she likes it when you stomp on her foot?” My mom, very smug, says “Yes, she does.” I feel like I am back at work and dealing with 3 and 4 year olds. “I’m just teasing her.” Yeah, well, teasing is not fun for the one being teased. My mom is not at all repentant and I send an apologetic look to this little old lady. I spend the next few minutes watching for mom’s foot to travel under the table again and this time I would intervene. Who knew she would be her own worst enemy and become someone she always despised – a bully? Shocking.

Maybe now the one day a few weeks back when mom was saying no one wanted to be her friends (again – flashback to preschool) is more understandable. If she’s stepping on people’s feet or goodness knows what else, of course they wouldn’t want to be her friend. How do I help my mother, the bully, who can’t remember what happened 15 minutes ago?

I want to plead with the little old lady, “Use your words! Tell her no in a strong voice. Tell her how it makes you feel! Tell her how you want to be treated.” But alas, she won’t remember 10 minutes from now anyways.

Where does this bullying behaviour come from? She’s been the victim of bullies growing up, hates hearing about them and yet she is doing the same sort of thing. I consider the little old lady – she definitely would seem like a vulnerable victim. Finally power over another person from my mom’s perspective? Something still resonates in her to right the situation and be a bully because she was always a victim? It seems that it would make her more empathetic and certainly not take on the bully role.

This is just all sickening to me. Another thing that I didn’t anticipate with my mom in her senior’s home.

Another piece of jagged glass by Tracy

I found another piece of jagged glass and when I pulled it out of my heart, tears fell instead of blood. I let myself give a yell of anguish as if giving voice to the pain in this way would lessen it somehow.

I was suddenly struck this past weekend as I was planning my garden and walking around my yard that my mom wouldn’t ever see it. She has loved flowers and gardening her entire life and took great pride in having a marvelous garden to enjoy. There is something in her blood that yearns for beautiful and productive gardens. I have that yearning, too.

The call of farm life I experienced during my school years, still echoes in my heart. I yearn to watch the young lambs run and jump so full of hope and potential. I want to feed the chickens and even scrape off their roosts. Feeding calves milk in big buckets or stopping turkeys from fighting. Waking up at 2 am to go check the ewes to see if any were lambing in the middle of a dark winter night. I didn’t enjoy waking up early to weed the garden before the sun shone too hot, but even that gave satisfaction in getting a job done and seeing progress. I loved, really loved, picking peas and beans from the garden rows and then sitting in the shade snapping beans and shelling peas along side my grandma. I have even found myself stopping on the road to take a look at a young foal in the field twice this spring.

I don’t know if my strong yearning for the farm life is because it represents a time when my mother was strong, hard working and happy. She seemed to know how to do so much on the farm and with the enormous garden she always had. Is that the reason gardening has been such an emotional experience this year?

Maybe instead of missing and longing for my mom’s input, approval and appreciation, I should soak in all the positive memories I have of her gardening and count those a blessing. Maybe remembering being a teen and hearing her call for me to get up to pull weeds at 7:00 am will remind me of the irritation I felt and bolster my heart against pure sadness!

Although my garden is still very young, and nothing like hers in years past, it might have been something we could talk about, sharing gardening tips and ideas and, most of all, enjoying each other.

“Have you seen the tulips at the house this year?” she would ask with excitement in her voice.

“No, are they beautiful? I’ll have to come by and see them.” I would answer.

I miss her.  I want to enjoy the tulips together.

Bad daughter by Tracy

Yesterday afternoon I was a bad daughter. Selfish. I dared to just peek through the stained glass to see if there was movement, making sure I wasn’t seen until I could analyze the situation. Her whereabouts, her agitation, her sadness, her mood. Stained glass isn’t known for its transparency – I’ll have to step around.

Breathing a sigh of relief when I noticed she was snoring softly in her comfy chair and not wanting to wake her to avoid an emotional visit, my husband and I crept in and sat down. I observed her for a few minutes while my husband quickly tuned into the sports channel that was on.

I paused a minute thinking, “Sports? She doesn’t like sports. Turn the channel!” Then I remembered that her beloved show “Murdoch” had her thinking there were murderers running around and people trying to poison her and we had to avoid that. Then the not-so-benign Weather Channel had her worrying anxiously about hurricanes, tornadoes and snow storms. Maybe the Sports Channel would be the best – but hockey was kind of rough, boxing definitely violent, skeet shooting has guns – let’s hope there is a lot of golf!! Golf is benign. I hope.

I decide to move around a bit and water her plants which were looking quite dry.

If she doesn’t wake with this movement, then we would bolt, I determined. Once that was done and my husband was wheeling around the room in her wheelchair (do boys ever stop playing?!) she still hadn’t ceased her soft snores.

I gave my husband “the look” (we had hoped for this scenario in the car and planned a quick escape) and we took off, feeling guilty for not waking her for a visit but feeling like we escaped a bullet. I consoled myself with many thoughts as we made our way out – she has a very hard time waking up and it takes a lot of time and effort; she needs her sleep; she looks so peaceful (no mumbling or agitated movements), the aides will wake her for supper soon and lastly – she won’t remember if we were there or not. Maybe she will know I was there because I left a magazine about the royal couple and new baby. Hopeful thought, but unlikely she’ll even realize it was a new magazine.

It is far more likely that she will be looking for her own baby later that night.

What a bad daughter I am.

I determine I’ll visit her the next day. Better start psyching myself up now. Why is it that my heart aches and tears are falling from my eyes?

I just had a baby!

Time for a lighter story!

While visiting my mom yesterday, my husband and I were telling her about the royal princess that was born to Will and Kate. I even showed her pictures of the new baby on my cell phone and we cooed and marveled over this perfect baby. We visited for a while longer and then I thought I would phone my sister, Jamie, so that she could talk to mom. They chatted for quite a while and then Jamie handed the phone to her young son, Lucas. The next thing mom says had my husband and I cracking up I nearly peed my pants!

We hear my mom say “I just had a baby but I’m doing pretty good. They should let me go home tomorrow.”

At this point, my husband and I are laughing so hard that he’s crying and I have to go water the daisies. When I come back she is now talking to Zac, another of my sister’s sons, and says “I had a baby! You have a brand new baby cousin!! I know it’s real because in the bathroom there’s a sign that says wash your hands before leaving the bathroom!” My husband and I are nearly rolling on the floor and she says “Tracy and John are laughing, but I have no idea what they think is so funny.”

Oh my! Drying my tears of laughter even now. These tears are better than the sad ones in a million ways. The sun is clearly shining through the stained glass and there are prisms of rainbows creating a happy place in our hearts. Thank you, Lord, for laughter!

Today she is cognizant. Unfortunately.

It sounds like a horrible thing to say – “Today she is cognizant. Unfortunately.” Isn’t being cognizant what we hope for every time we visit? That she would be present or “in her right mind.” That we would have meaningful conversations with her? That she would remember my name and the names of my family members? We could all laugh together and pretend she hasn’t been put  (cast off or institutionalized, jailed, abandoned) into a care centre where she will never “go home” from.

Maybe it is better when she doesn’t know what is going on or where she is and it doesn’t matter all that much because her brain in misfiring and she is happily in another place or time.

Today she knew exactly where she was and she was desperate to go home. She thought I was there to take her home and when I said we weren’t going anywhere she sobbed. It wasn’t a little cry where a corner of a kleenex would be enough. No, this was a pass the box over and get some more kind of sob. It was so very hard to see. I held her in my arms but she wanted to know why. Why couldn’t she go home? The other people in the home said they were going home and why won’t her own family take her home?

I tried to give excuses – the doctor, her cough, her foot pain, etc. But she wasn’t going to accept that.

So, with tears running down my face I told her that this was the best care for her, that she wasn’t doing well at her home to which she responded that she can take care of herself and make a salmon sandwich.

I didn’t tell her that she didn’t know where anything was in the kitchen or even where her bedroom was. I did tell her that when she was there that she asked several times a day to go home. She said but “my family is there.”

I said that we were visiting her every day at the care centre to which she responded it wasn’t the same. She wanted her home.

I said, “Remember when dad had his heart attack?” She did. I said the doctor was concerned about his health caring for you.

She wanted to know why they couldn’t hire someone to come in the home and care for her. I said we’d need at least 2 people plus dad to care for her at home over 24 hours.

I said that she left the house in the middle of the night and that we were afraid she would get hurt. That this care home was what we thought was best for her.

She sobbed some more. I told her that this was hurting us very much, too. That I wished it could be another way.

We’d sit in silence for a short while and then she would cry some more.

I asked if it was really so terribly bad here? She said no, but it wasn’t her home.

“Why did this have to happen to me? Why would God let this happen to me?” she asked. My words of “we live in a broken and hurting world and these things just happen” didn’t bring much peace to her anguished heart.

I think that Home is in the heart. It is wherever loved ones are. When she says she wants to go home, she doesn’t really know what that looks like but her heart is searching for loved ones remembered in her heart – not her mind, but in her heart. A deep, desperate desire to be at a place where she is with loved ones passed on and present. I can’t get her to this place, I can’t take her “home” where she is longing to be and it hurts like hell.

The only one to bring peace to her jumbled thoughts and longing heart is God and I don’t think she knows Him. And where is the peace and comfort I so desperately want? Where IS God?

Idea from Adam Sandler’s ’50 First Dates’ used to soothe dementia patients Originally posted on Global News

Very interesting

Global News

NEW YORK — For 94-year-old Louise Irving, who suffers from dementia, waking up every day to a video with a familiar face and a familiar voice seems to spark a flicker of recognition.

“Good morning, merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon?” Irving’s daughter, Tamara Rusoff-Hoen, sings in a video playing from a laptop wheeled to her mother’s nursing home bedside.

As the five-minute video plays, with stories of happy memories and get-togethers, Irving beams a bright smile before repeating the traditional family send-off.

“Kiss, kiss … I love you.”

READ MORE: Could this new test pave the way for detecting Alzheimer’s?

Such prerecorded messages from family members are part of an apparently unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale aimed at helping victims of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness that can often cause them agitation and…

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