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.

A Busy Mind

One thing I am quite surprised about is the number of thoughts my mother shares in a short time period. Sometimes she will sit quietly or she will eat quietly but then there are other times that she is clearly thinking constantly. Today was one of those jumbled thought-following-thought monologue that she often uses to communicate.

The thoughts go something like this: “These people are terrible here! They won’t help you and they won’t give you a ride even though you ask them. No one will be your friend. You ask them and they say “No, we won’t be your friend.” I went to visit Queenie today (passed on over 20 years ago) but I don’t know, They wanted me to go some place to buy some thing but I said ‘no, I can’t do that today.” They don’t feed you around here and when they do it might be poisoned. There’s murder going on around here! I don’t know who, but there is. They are terrible. Things have really changed around here (what – in the 1 month you’ve been here?) Ever since those little children drowned in the States the other day. (Who said ‘squirrel!!’) I said I had to go to work but no one would take me. I never get to choose what to eat.” I said, “It must be nice to have someone cook for you so you don’t have to cook at home!” “Not for me it isn’t!!” That little bit of dialogue about cooking was one of the few turn taking parts to the conversation. She just wants to talk and she seems to resent my questions or expressions of concern. A listening ear I will be. The negativity can be a bit overwhelming, though. I left feeling more than a little sad and discouraged. She isn’t able to hear my own concerns or understand my stories. That mothering role has been lost.

If I ever wondered if the window she sees through is a simple, cloudy pane of glass I now know it can sometimes be more like a tapestry of carefully shaped and vibrant colours of a stained glass work of art. I may not understand how the pieces fit together and maybe it doesn’t even matter if they do. They are the rich memories and experiences she has lived all the years of her life and they are hers to remember. How they come bubbling through the brain that can’t make connections, I can never predict. I guess I could consider that some of the adventure of visiting my mom.

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?

Reverberations on Glass

The shock waves are still reverberating across my mind and through my heart. If someone were to place their hand on me I imagine there would be shock waves radiating from me. Kind of like when you put your hand on a window while a train is passing nearby. You feel the movement of the glass as it vibrates but does not give way. This was another one of “those” visits with my mom.

My one sister was away with her family when the day came to bring my mom to her “new” home and so she hadn’t yet been to see her. Another sister and I arranged to accompany my sister and her husband. I had just gotten through my spiel on how easy it was to come and visit her as we opened the door into the unit.

I couldn’t see her at first, but I could hear her voice talking loudly. I went in a little further and was initially shocked, and later horrified, to find her in the far corner of the room, facing the corner, in a wheel chair and talking loudly to a tall plant. Once I shook off the initial shock, I hurried over to her and greeted her, turning her around to face everyone. We sat down on the nearby couches and attempted to have a visit with her. This was one of the times I would describe her as being “out of it.” She would stare at each one of us as if she wasn’t too sure who we were or maybe she was looking right through us and seeing someone else entirely. Either way it was freaky and disconcerting in the least.

Eventually we convinced her to take us to her room to show it off. She did not want to go down there as she thought we were there to take her home. We managed to persuade her and made it to her room. Once there, awkward conversation continued with her telling a range of nonsensical stories. She then needed to use the washroom and so I attempted to help her into the washroom and out of her wheel chair to use the facilities. She refused to get out of the wheelchair. I gave her suggestion upon suggestion and just became more and more frustrated with her lack of cooperation. I pushed the “red button” and waited to see what happened. A nurse responded fairly quickly and told us that they have been using the lift on mom to get her out of her chair and onto the toilet. Albeit another shock that she was this immobile already, I was reassured to see that the lift was very gentle and effective.

It’s been only 10 days and already she is dependent on a wheel chair, is talking to people who are not present in reality and must use a lift for bathroom duties. This was all very upsetting and the reverberations are being felt days later. How many reverberations can a stained glass window take until it cracks or shatters? How many reverberations will my heart withstand?

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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