Today I visited my mom once again. Truthfully, I hadn’t been to see her in a week. I had this dry cough / sore throat going on and it seemed like a reasonable excuse at the time. Up to very recently, I have worried about her endlessly and beat myself up about going to visit her or not. However, this past week I am ashamed to admit that I barely thought of her since Tuesday and I really didn’t worry about her. I felt little guilt this week as well. I hope this will continue but at the same time I feel guilty about her being in the home all alone.

I went today and she was very sad and well, drugged. Staring into space, fading out, didn’t try to have a real conversation. She just really seemed depressed.

She said “I don’t want to be myself.”

“Why?” I ask as I sit on the edge of her bed and take her hand.

“Because I am so lonely. I am by myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me or how to fix it.”

“I don’t know either mom,” I reply hopelessly. How can you tell someone it is not going to get better, only worse?

I tried to get her comfortable in her bed and encouraged her to rest. It was mid afternoon and rest time. Really, it was a selfish purpose. I wanted to see her at peace, sleeping, so I wouldn’t see the pain and sadness in her eyes. And so I could leave. After all, we had several errands to run and time was quickly passing. Really, Tracy! Is a half hour or an hour too much to ask to give her company? This summer I vow to try to visit her every day, to hold her hand, to show her pictures, to talk to her and sit quietly beside her. Maybe I will bring some peas to have her help me shell. Or some beans to snap. Something comforting that she used to do. Maybe she could grow a tomato plant in her window and eat it’s fruit.

I don’t know if my visits will bring her any joy or an end to her sorrow or if the visit helps her for the day as she likely forgets minutes after I’ve left.

But I wish this guilt would turn into something else. Something more positive. Something less selfish. Something I could eliminate and replace. What that is – I don’t know. All I know is the stained glass is quite grey today.


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?

Jail Birds

“Quick! Let’s go!” my mom says moments after I arrive. Oh no, I thought. She wants to go home. How will I dissuade her this time?

“Mom, we’re not going anywhere. I am here to visit with you.”

The care worker attempts to get my mom settled back in her chair. “See, Evelyn, your daughter is here to see you.”

“I’m the daughter!!” she says indignantly. We share a chuckle over her head as we settle her into another chair.

“Yes, you are a daughter, but I am your daughter.” I remind her.

Clearly agitated, she gets back up and out of her chair and begins to walk around. I coax her back to her chair so we can visit. She begins to talk non-stop punctuated by agitated movements. This continues for quite some time.

The conversation (or monologue, I should say) goes something like this:

“Are there babies under that, uh, um, bbddtubbb ______ on the bed? The dog – on the fridge, uh, has to go for walk – where uh, ggubdd – man with the  uhhhhh – gbder – Let’s go! We gotta get out of here or they – the uh uhm  nnurge will be mad. Cream in the car babies are crying.”

I break in and ask “who will be mad?”

“The van is behind the hospital. Go get it. I hope you don’t go to jail, too. They’re not g4gjrjeiw be happy.”

Me: “Why will they be mad, mom?”

“I took the cart, I stole it. We gotta go.” She gets up again. Again I ask her where she’s going and that we weren’t going to leave. This is her home.

After watching her move about the room, moving things and replacing them, I suggest we go down to the dining room.

“Oh no! We can’t go down there! Those people will put me in jail.”

I reassure her that no-one is going to put her in jail, that it is supper time and I will walk down with her. After much laboured walking and her typical holding onto the walker too far ahead of herself and nearly falling several times, we almost make it down the hall. Just when I see her spot at the table and think we are nearly home free and surprise, surprise, no-one has put her in jail, she says:

“Do they need these boards?” pointing to the floor boards. “We could pull them up and go underneath the dining room before they put us in jail!”

Oh, please. If only I could.


Flap, flap, flap

The Care Home my mom is living in is very quiet and peaceful for the most part. While sitting in my mom’s room, you really don’t hear much at all. You may occasionally hear voices or the clunk clunk of walkers, but you don’t hear the typical hospital sounds such as the incessant beeping of monitors, clatter of meal trays, nurses, doctors and aides talking as they walk down the hall.

But there is definitely one sound you do hear. Flap, flap, flap of soft soled slippers treading up and down the hall. One thing that Alzheimer’s patients do is shuffle their feet. They rarely take large steps, firm and steady. Their steps are more tentative and quaky. You can’t get away from the shuffle of the slippers. My mom’s next door neighbour, Nick, is a constant walker. He is searching for someone or some place he cannot find, a memory of a different time or a loved one he has lost. He seems destined to wander indefinitely because one thing that Alzheimer’s patient’s have in common is they don’t remember when wanted. Memories may pop up surprisingly vivid, but lost again the next minute. I often wonder – how is it they remember to search for something they can’t find? Is there an ingrained knowledge or knowing that compels them to keep looking or to keep asking the same thing over and over? Is there an importance or a fear attached to the need to find the person or thing? It can’t be importance, because then they would remember their loved ones. Perhaps fear is more compelling than love? I wonder.

Alas, I am off topic and my lighter dialogue went deeper than intended.

Back to the flop, flop, flop of slippers. In the quiet stillness I hear Nick walking around, and being the curious sort I am, I went to sit outside my mom’s room in the “sun room” to watch where he was going. He began walking down the hallway towards his room, went inside and did several laps of his room. Then he came out, hand on the handrail and walked to the next doorway where he stopped and turned to face the wall. Then he continued walking in the same spot for at least 4 minutes. So weird and just a little freaky. Then he turns back, walks into his room again. I quickly got up and went back into my mom’s room as I continued to hear the flap, flap, flap of his slippers circling his room.

Mom was thirsty so I said I would go and get her a drink. I wasn’t really sure if I was supposed to help myself to a glass of juice for her and no aide or nurse was around to ask so I went ahead and poured herself a glass of apple juice. But I felt a little guilty and turned to see several pairs of eyes watching me warily. (I now know I can turn a head – at least in a senior’s home lol.) I smiled and said hello to each of them and then beat it back to mom’s room. As I am nervously making my way down the hall, I pass a doorway and see a woman standing there just watching me approach and walk past. I say “Hello” but she doesn’t even respond. Her head swivels as I go by and her eyes are kind of vacant. A shiver goes down my back. Then I hear flap, flap, flap. It’s only Nick I tell myself. But the flap, flap, flaps pick up pace and my heart beat begins to match it. I can’t look behind me – I’m frozen in my forward motion. The apple juice sloshed over my hand as I jolt a little and pick up my pace even more. The flop, flop, flop has begun moving even faster. I reach the end of the hall before I turn left to my mom’s room. I have to know – do I have to lock the door once I get there? I’m starting to breathe heavier, whether it’s the fast pace for this unfit body or the fear of finding any number of horrors behind me, I don’t know. I begin to turn the corner and cast a quick look over my left shoulder and there was Nick. At the far end of the hall. He is walking intently, his slippers flap, flap, flapping quickly as he makes no progress at all. Sigh. I should have known, but there’s sometimes something a little creepy about this place filled with old souls all lost and searching and unhappy, locked in this world they don’t understand and don’t feel safe in.

Breathing more easily I enter my mom’s room and hand her the glass of juice. She takes a sip and quickly spits it back in her glass. “It’s poisoned!” she says with distrust. Inwardly I sigh. I just solved the mystery of the flapping slippers – now poisoned juice? There is seldom a dull moment when visiting my mom.