Memory Care: Week 3
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
In the first two weeks of Mom living in memory care, The Other Girl and I have had vastly different experiences when visiting. Mom. I've been spending my days with a smiling, giggling, anxiety-minimal Mom. My sister, however, has been treated to a resistant, unhappy Mom with a pronounced degree of confusion.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Week 3: The Kids Are Not Alright
So today started with... me walking in right before lunch. I see residents already in chairs, waiting to be served. Curiously, Mom is hovering behind a seated resident. As I approach with a big smile and a "Good morning, beautiful!" I don't even register to her. She is bending down over the woman, aggressively trying to get a hold of her shoe. "Mom? Mom?" I query, but I am unable to attract her attention. I try again, attempting to take her hand. "No!" she says, and repeats strongly at each of my attempts to pull her focus to me.
The woman who's shoe is being molested looks confused, but not particularly alarmed at her footwear garnering so much attention. Perhaps she Imelda Marcos'd that shit in her younger years and finds nothing odd about someone combatively admiring her shoes.
However, the normally gentle Asian lady on the other side of Mom is clearly upset, yelling at Mom in Asian while shaking her finger in front of Mom's unseeing face. A sharp "Gloria!" from me registers enough that I am able to lead Mom out of the fray she's created, towards her room. She is still resisting all attempts to hold my hand, or be touched/reached in any way. Her blank eyes reflect the look that tells me reality is not what she's perceiving.
I'm shaken. So this is what The Other Girl's been dealing with.
I get her to her room. She is slowly returning to her dementia "normal", the derangement of a few minutes ago reluctantly releasing its grip. I check to make sure her compression socks are on correctly, and am shocked by her feet, swollen to twice their normal size. Seeing her become reachable, I tell her we should probably go to urgent care. She agrees.
Two care givers come in genuinely concerned. They inform me that Mom refused her medication the previous night and this morning, and that Mom smacked one of them earlier that morning when she was helping Mom put on her compression socks. The care giver and I share a joke about her ability to expertly dodge and weave, but inside I'm freaking out that a) she's exhibited aggressive behavior for the first time, and b) Wait... what? She refused to take her meds? Twice? And nobody thought to call me? WTF?
At urgent care I am relieved; Mom's swollen feet are not signs of an imminent heart attack or kidney failure, and can be treated with compression socks and getting her feet elevated above her heart. Elevating her feet has always been a struggle because she refuses to sit still, but I can redouble my efforts during the days, and again check that all care givers are getting a pillow under her feet when she goes to sleep.
As far as the compression socks? I went rounds with the care givers the week before regarding Mom's compression socks - some days she had 'em on, some days she didn't, some days they were put on incorrectly, bunched up and cutting off her circulation. The only new solution I can think of is to put a sign up in her room stressing, again, that she is to wear compression socks EVERY DAY, her currently enormous feet being directly related to the lax compression sock wearing of the previous week.
Also got a crush order for her medications; if she refuses to take her pills, they can now crush them and give 'em to her in coffee or pudding.
In the meantime, I was able to get Mom's morning Namenda pill in her, and her attitude perks up. When we come back to memory care, two of the care givers have me show them how I get Mom's compression socks on, and I'm grateful that they care enough to want to learn new strategies to succeed, even if it's only on a compression sock level - it tells me volumes about their dedication.
The rest of the day a pretty happy Mom and I dink around; we get a late lunch, go to a movie (Crazy Rich Asians - very fun and lively!), go to her new home and get her showered, eat dinner (blech), succeed in having her take all her medications, and swap amusing stories with Agnes, a fellow resident, who thinks Mom is her sister.
Agnes and I, with Mom attempting to gnaw some flavor out of a bland ham sandwich, spend a surreal half-hour telling tales about Mom's childhood; my recitals are real while Agnes' are not, but who cares? I laugh and applaud the yarns anyway.
I leave a content, pajama-clad Mom in the company of Agnes, happy that we've managed to have a great day. On my way out, I give the crush order papers to a med tech for copying and distro'ing the information to the rest of the staff.
I finish the day feeling like Super Woman! I've solved problems and turned the day around for Mom.
So today started with... a phone update from Karen, Mom's Tuesday/Thursday walking buddy. Karen had to give Mom her pills that morning because Mom had refused the staff, but other than that Mom was in a good mood and enjoyed walking with Karen and their friend Betty.
I hang up happy that Mom's happy, and still high from yesterday's "Save of the Day!" Medal (self-awarded). Obviously, getting her back on her meds, and spending time with her was all that was needed to get that crazy-train back on track.
HELLS BELLS! I AM A DEMENTIA GENIUS!
But once I see Mom I know all is no longer well. She's simply not happy, not engaged, no spark. Then the med tech comes in to tell me that Mom struck a care giver this morning - yeah, yeah, I say, I know. But, uh, what? This morning? Yes, Mom hit a care giver when they attempted to wake her. I pose vague questions to the med tech until it's clear that she has no knowledge of yesterday's scuffle over compression socks, and this is indeed a second incident of aggression. I can feel my self-congratulatory morning deflating into embarrassment at my arrogance; I thought I had beaten dementia, for a few hours at least. What a maroon.
The med tech informs me that they have to notify Mom's doctor and shows me the fax to Dr. Monica detailing the incident, and closing with "Please advise." I secretly hope Mom's doctor, a bit of a rascal herself, advises them to stop pissing my mom off, something I am currently too shocked and timid to say.
I bring up the crush order on Mom's meds. This shift's med tech knows nothing about it, I again supply the papers, and am again assured that the entire staff will be informed.
I spend the remainder of the day with Mom, sorting through her closet to return hung-up, freshly laundered clothes to the laundry room. "These are not my Mom's, and they're clearly marked with other people's names" I say to the staff person. "Oh, the residents sometimes move things to different rooms," she replies. "Yeah, but not usually perfectly hung up and freshly washed."
You ever see a later-stages dementia person work a hanger? It's hilarious, but rarely successful.
I do not believe a resident put those clothes there at all. A staff person, either not paying attention, or in such a hurry they didn't have time to check, hung the wrong clothes there. I am beginning to realize that while my personal experience of this staff is kind, caring, and respectful, behind the scenes it's sloppy job execution, with in-house processes either non-existent or not followed as they should be, so communication amongst the shifts is next to none. My frustration grows.
Mom never finds her smile that day, mostly plods behind me as I attempt to engage her in this and that to no avail. I don't want to think we've made a mistake in putting Mom in memory care, but maybe we have? Or maybe we've chosen the wrong memory care?
I finish the day defeated.
So today started with... me needing to get my thoughts and feelings sorted out; I begin composing this post in a soul-crushed frame of mind. Luckily, I have minor oral surgery scheduled in the afternoon which now seems way more fun than recounting this week's dementia fails. I call memory care to see how Mom's day is going, if she's committed murder since I last saw her, or grown snakes for hair and turned all who gaze upon her into stone. Nope? Okay then. I head off to needles and too many fingers in my food hole, relieved I'm not wrestling with my thoughts instead. Later in the evening the anesthesia wears off, so my physical pain cozies on up to my prior emotional exhaustion leaving me damn near comatose. Whee! Hang on a sec... I remember I've got oxycodone from my last oral surgery.
Okay, now I'm feeling good. Mom problems are a million miles away, and besides, I'm INVINCIBLE! Next time I see Dementia I'm gonna kick it in the nuts, then punch it in the face!
Wow! This stuff really does the trick. Maybe I'll join that opioid epidemic that all the kids are talking 'bout. I mean, how wrong can millions of Americans be? (Hmm... presidential election?)
I finish the day a short-term drug addict.
So today started with... a sore jaw, a depressed spirit, and a look of longing at the oxycodone bottle. But I abstain, and instead call the memory care people to see how Mom's doing. She still hasn't stabbed anybody in the eyeballs, so I feel a little relieved but can't... seem... to... get... going... Getting off the couch is an impossible feat - showering even more unattainable. I decide I'll make her a favorite dinner and take it to her, along with the plates, silverware, napkins, and milk glass she's familiar with. While this is an excellent thing to do, I also recognize that I'm buying myself time, avoiding going to see her, sneakily justifying time away from her. The thought of cooking gets me off the couch, but I feel emotionally crappier than I did before knowing avoidance is my prime motivation in this scheme, not my love of Mom or her love of turkey peanut butter stew.
I manage to dick around most of the day, and while I do show up with delicious soup and all the trimmings, I don't arrive until almost dinner time. Shame on me.
But Mom is happy to see me, and I'm happy there is no halo of snakes writhing around her head. I set out our familiar dinner table accouterment at the counter, and after a brief stint of Mom attempting to eat her napkin, she finally dips into the soup. It's a hit! Mom slurps the soup, licks the spoon, scrapes the bowl, enjoys herself immensely. I guarantee it's the most she's eaten of any meal here. After dinner, I get her pills in her, we wash up our dishes, shower, relax with some tv in her room, and finally tuck a sleepy, satisfied Mom into bed.
I finish the day hopeful that the aggression was an anomaly of missed medication, glad that at least one foot is substantially less swollen, and relieved The Other Girl will be her tomorrow.
I spend the day unburying myself from all the tasks that have been put off this week while The Other Girl and one of Mom's ridiculously tall grandsons hang with Mom. They
take her to The Happytime Murders movie, chosen by my sister because it has Muppets in it. Much like when The Other Girl took Mom to a "musical" which turned out to be a drag show, this "Muppet" movie turns out to be foul-mouthed puppets, having filthy fun not suitable for watching with your parent, dementia or otherwise (that kid really needs to start reading descriptions). But Mom being Mom just likes to be doing something with her family so she didn't mind in the least.
I wake up relishing a day with no memory care stress as The Other Girl has plans for her and Mom all day. Then I get this text in the early afternoon:
"I'm hot! I was talking to the med tech about Mom's prescription and she clearly started speaking to the RN in the middle of me talking. I paused, gave her a look, and then went on speaking. When she did it a second time I said "You're obviously not listening to me!" and threw the prescription papers in the trash. This place is so hit and miss... I really don't know what to do. Maybe I can go back to full-time caregiving. I can hardly stand this."
I finish the day with a pit in my stomach because I'm feeling the same way.
I've researched a park close to the airport where hopefully we can see planes land (Mom loves watching planes), and as it is a cloudless day, I decide to give it a shot. Cully Park is awesome! Huge walkways around lush soccer fields, with kids falling up and falling down all over the play areas, inducing Mom giggles, and a fairly good view of planes landing. Not as good as the Ikea parking lot, but a lot more grass to let Mr. Bones run about. We have a good day, and I breathe a sigh of relief because this week has depleted my problem solving skills. But as I take my leave of her right before dinner Mom says it to me for the first time since she moved:
"I want to go home."
I finish the week in tears.