April 14, 2015–except for “chocolate”

I went to a care planning meeting this morning at QO.  It was raining, so I didn’t take the dogs.  She had a haircut appointment right after the meeting and dealing with them, the doggy pram, all the coming and going, and the rain would have been too much.

Mostly, I listened.  The four staff told me how she is less and less communicative.  She no longer sings.  She has occasional animated conversations with unseen people, providing all the voices.  The social worker had his monthly evaluation/conversation with her.  He said in the past, he’d ask her something and there would be a pause before she’d answer.  This time, the pauses trailed off into nothingness.  She’d forgotten the question, or didn’t have the energy or inclination to respond.

I told them about what I learned two weeks ago (last post), plus some other family information.  They were as shocked as I, and said it explained a lot of her behaviors.

It was a good meeting.

Afterwards I found her sitting by the nurses’ station.  She didn’t seem to recognize me.  She didn’t want her hair cut.  By my request, it was freshly washed, and I ran my fingers through it, telling her it was so long I was going to be able to braid it soon.  It’s not, and normally that would have gotten a rise out of her, but this time the only thing it seemed to do was calm her down enough for me to get her to the little beauty shop.

She said nothing the whole time.

I wheeled her out on the porch and showed her the little ceramic Easter basket of candy I had prepared for her last week.  I had to fold her hands around it.  I told her to take a piece and tell me what kind of candy it was.

“Chocolate.”  Her favorite.  Other than “I don’t want to get my hair cut,” it was the only thing she said the whole time I was there.

The next one was one of those puffy mints.  The last one (it was close to lunch time) was one of those large gumball types that explode with flavor.  This one was orange.  She ate them both, but did not respond to my encouraging her to tell me what flavor they were.

She didn’t move when I took the basket out of her hands.  The rain had stopped and it was warm, so I wheeled her around the grounds.  She did not react to anything I said.

Last year someone had found three abandoned kittens and brought them to the nursing home.  Now large, healthy, friendly outdoor cats, they love to jump in any available lap.  Without the dogs there, Mother was a prime candidate.  Her hands knew how to pet, but her face was expressionless.  I decided not to worry about slightly muddy footprints on her shirt.

I took her inside, told her I had to leave and would see her in a few days.  “Give me a kiss,” I said as usual.  She lifted her face, I bent down for her kiss, and kissed her on the forehead.

At least she remembered that little ritual.

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March 29, 2015–disturbing revelations

I wasn’t sure what the situation would be today.  Last night about 11:30 p.m. I got a call from the head nurse on duty.  She had been moaning and whimpering. They discovered that her blood/oxygen level was 84–very very dangerous.  They hooked her up to an oxygen concentrator and she responded well, so they felt she was going to be okay.

“She’s getting more and more frail,” said the nurse.

She was awake but not terribly alert when I wheeled her down the hall to her room, dogs happily riding in her lap.  “That’s fun,” she said, when I went around a corner.  So I did a couple of mild “wheelies” for her and she giggled.

She didn’t seem to be able to make conversation, so I told her again about my trip to CA, about Jameson the cat’s apparent allergies, and minutae of the last week. Then I sang to her for about ten minutes, but she remained quiet.

After a while she said, “I’m always getting picked on.”

“Who’s picking on you, Mother?”

“You are. It hurts.”

“Wait a minute. Do you know who I am?”

“Phyllis.”

“No, I’m Tina, your daughter. What did Phyllis do to you?”

She couldn’t remember.

“Are you afraid of Phyllis?”

“Sometimes.”

“Does anyone else pick on you?”

“Bob.” Bob was the youngest of her three step-siblings/first cousins, about four years older than she. I knew she never liked him but didn’t knew why.

“What did Bob do to you?”

“He tickled me. He pinched me.”

“Where did he hurt you?”

“All over my whole body.” All of a sudden I thought I understood.

“Did Bob take your clothes off?”

“Yes, he said he wanted to put my pajamas on me. I screamed and screamed.”

“Did you tell your mother?”

“Oh, she was so busy she didn’t have time to deal with anything more.” Tears welled up in her blind eyes and her nose got red.

What a secret to have kept her entire life. Her step brother abused her and she didn’t have a protector. Who knows what her step sister, nine years older, had to do with it.

I stood behind her and rubbed her shoulders. “Phyllis and Bob will never hurt you again. I promise.” I sang the chorus of “Bicycle Built for Two” several times, and at last she sang along

Relaxed, she focused on William. “He keeps licking my hand and it’s all wet,” she said.

William is good like that.

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March 10, 2015–lights on, nobody home

The last two times I’ve visited, she has not “been there” mentally.  Have you ever seen the elderly–mostly those with dentures or no teeth–“gumming?”  I saw her do that today, and there is nothing wrong with her teeth.  It’s a facial gesture that is new to me, as if her body wants to talk but her mind doesn’t quite get the connection.

The dogs jumped into her lap. After checking that neither her fingernails nor toe nails needed clipping, I wheeled the lot of them outside.  It was about 75 degrees, overcast, light breeze, threat of rain.  She was aware of the breeze and wanted a hat.  I explained that just because she felt wind on her ears didn’t mean she was cold.

“Oh.  I guess that’s right.”

She didn’t feel much like talking, so I wheeled them all around the property several times.  I sang songs.  She happily chimed in:  Oh! Susannah!, Bicycle Built for Two, Pop! Goes the Weasel, School Days, Take Me Out To the Ball Game, When the Roll is Called up Yonder.

I got her to give my name, but am fairly certain she hadn’t a clue who I am.

She is sinking deeper and deeper into her dementia.

Her hands still know how to make a dog sit happily in her lap.

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February 21, 2015–another scare

I got a call from QO yesterday at lunchtime.  She hadn’t wanted to eat and seemed suddenly unresponsive and unmoving.  The head nurse suggested a mini-stroke, and “what did I want to do about it?”

Geesh!

I asked her to put the phone to Mother’s ear and tried about three different times to talk with her with no success.  The nurse said she “wiped her mouth and scratched her nose,” which were “purposeful movements.”  So I suggested they get her clean and dry and put her down for a nap and I’d check back in a couple of hours.

I spent the time packing a few things, making sure the cat would be okay for a couple of days, gathered food and bedding for the dogs, and expected to be spending the night.

Called back.  She was fine, hungry, thirsty, talking with the staff.  Talked with them again in the evening, same thing, except she had wanted seconds at supper!

When I visited her today, she was tired but glad for the company, especially her faithful William.  I am “Phyllis” most of the time now, which is fine.  She really doesn’t know–or care–who is talking to her.  She just likes the attention.

photo

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February 19, 2014–poem

I found this on Facebook.  Don’t know the author, but love the expression.  The best of her IS gone.

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February 16, 2015–who’s your mama?

She’s been a bit more alert during our conversations the last couple of weeks.  No change in mental acuity, but she has tried hard to focus and follow.

Saturday, about half way through our visit, I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

“You’re Rube Parker’s daughter (Phyllis).”

“No, I’m your daughter, Tina.”

Pause.

“Why did you change mothers?”

Ba-da-boom!  Sometimes her one-liners are deliberate.  This one just popped out and cracked me up!

I have not liked the way the “beautician” at QO has been cutting her hair, and this last time was particularly bad.  I think I will wait until next month and ask her if I can come in to the little salon there and show her how I want it done.  I used to cut her hair when she lived with me, though I’m very slow.  I’m not sure she can sit long enough for me to do it anymore.

I’ve also put in a request for leg supports for her wheel chair.  I’m wondering if one reason she is sliding down so much is just so her feet will touch the floor.  I’m sorry it did not occur to me before how uncomfortable it must be to have ones feet just dangling all the time.

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February 1, 2015–new language?!

She’s been subdued the last couple weeks, ever since she got home from the hospital (which she doesn’t remember).  Both dogs jumped in her lap when I arrived.  As I wheeled her down the hall to her room she continued what she had been doing, saying in a steady, mostly even rhythm,

“Dup, dup, dup, dup, dup-dup-dup, dup, dup, dup.”

I asked her if she was singing to herself, but she didn’t seem to be aware she had been doing it.

I put her hearing aid in for her and made light conversation.

“Dup, dup, dup…”

Finally I said, “I guess I don’t understand ‘Dup.’  Are you trying to tell me something, or do you just like the sound?”

“I guess it’s my new language,” she laughed.

LIke the face scratching a year or more ago, and the weeks of singing the chorus of “Bicycle Built for Two,” and “When the Role is Called Up Yonder,” this seems to be her latest repetitive fixation.  At least she could joke about it.

I tried to jog her memory on various subjects.  Being Super Bowl Sunday, I asked if her school had had a football team.

“Yes.”  “Were they any good?”  “I don’t think so.”

That led to her remembering (with my memory jogs) that she had played trumpet in the band, and the band had played at football games.  Oh, and at commencement, and they gave concerts.  I told her I had played in the band in school, too, and enjoyed it.  She asked if I still played and I said no.  Did she still play?  That got a laugh.  No, not since she was in school.

Dup, dup-dup, dup, dup….

She likes it when I have her go through an exercise routine, so we did that.  By then it was time to get her to the dining room for supper.  I kissed her good-bye and told her I love her, and would see her soon.

As I was gathering the dogs and heading to the door, all of a sudden she became talkative.

“I always like to see you.  Come anytime, except when I’m sleeping.  I can’t talk to you when I’m sleeping…”

I punched in the code and closed the door behind me.

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