Thursday, January 27, 2011

"The Tricking People"

It's been several weeks now since my family and I have decided that mother can no longer stay by herself. Each of us are taking turns spending the night with mother until a place can't be built for her at my house. Knowing who our mother is, it will not be an easy task to get her to agree to make the move when the time comes. Even though she spends most of her time complaining about living alone and wondering just whose house she's living in, we know that we have a Texas size predicament ahead of us.

Here lately, mother has gotten it into her head that the "tricking people" have come at night and moved her to another location and that my brother Jay is head ringer of this "organization." I can't help but smile when she's ranting and raving about these "tricksters" and assigning the blame to someone else other than yours truly.

I have come to her house this morning to give her meds and prepare food for the day. My husband and I had spent the night, last night, but had awakened at 4:45 am to run back home and dress for work. I must say, out of all the episodes I've encountered with mother since her dementia, last evening was something new.

Yesterday was Wednesday, which meant that mother had her hair appointment. I had come to her house to drive her down to Lindas for a wash and set. All the buzz about her coming to live with me when the addition is finished has made for some interesting conversation. One day she'll be feeling all warm and fuzzy about it and the next day, she will be threatening to do some bodily harm if we dare take her to that "S" hole up in Saluda; referring to my house.

I hurry into the salon ahead of mother to preface her arrival, and to warn Linda that she just may be filling her ear full of the news that she will be taking up residency soon at my house against her will.

Upon returning home, I remind mother that my husband and I will be back down right after church services. Later on, prior to our coming, I call and tell her to unlock the garage door and turn the lights on. "Where are you?" she says. "I'm at home and will be down there in just a few," I answer. "Well, I guess it's about time you're coming home now, so you got your fill of Hannah and Blythe's house, huh?" Hannah and Blythe are my children and for some reason, mother is thinking that I am at "their" house. I try to explain to her that I am at my house and she is at hers, but nothing doing. I can feel her anger through the phone lines, but assure her that I will be there soon and to open the door. We arrive as I promised and the doors are still locked. I call her once again and remind her to come out to the garage. As she opens the door, I see a stern look on her face. "I feel like kicking your butt for staying out so long" she says. "You should have called if you were going to be late." she went on. I suddenly understood her thinking. It was 1972 in her mind, and I had gotten in late from a date with Bobby, my husband, who just happened to be my boyfriend at the time.

She hurries to the couch where I see her old Bible laying. Mother sits there thumbing through the pages commenting on old newspaper clippings of various events which were important enough to save in her Bible. I drop a few words, but she will not answer. I can see she is still upset for me "staying out" so late. She comes across several old dingy cards from years gone by one is a mother's day card and I had been the sender. She begins to read in a louder voice, "Dear Mama, I remember when I was a little girl, and I would tell you that you were the best mama I ever had and you would say, 'I hope I am, and I hope I'm the only mother you'll ever have!" While reading these words that I had penned years and years ago, I can see a change come over her. She looks up at me for the first time tonight and says, "thank you Jeanner!" as if I had just given the card to her five minutes ago. I can feel the tension leaving mother as she begins to remember the tremendous love that we've shared as mother and daughter.

I think its safe to say that all of us have loved and been loved in our life. Whether it ended in good circumstances or not, we can still remember the feeling of being loved. Tonight, I believe that mother had forgotten how much she is loved. Not only does Dementia rob its victims of their memory, but it tricks them into thinking that no one loves them or cares for them.

Yes, there really is a "trickster" in mother's life, and its name is "Dementia."

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Reality of it All

It's been a long day and I'm feeling unusually tired, so I head to bed. My husband Bob continues to watch a football game and comes to bed several hours later. I am awakened around 3:00 am by our phone ringing. Thinking that it's not long after my going to bed, I assume that Bob is still up and will get it. I suddenly sit up in bed and look at the alarm clock, seeing that it's mid morning. Afraid that the phone call will be more than I can handle, I punch my husband and ask him to get the ringing phone.

"No, you're just dreaming" I can hear him telling the person on the other end. Now, I am familiar with this conversation, as I have had it many times with my mother. "Wait just a minute and I'll let you talk to Jean" he says. I quickly leap out of bed and go to the phone. "Mother, what are you doing?" I say. "Jean, I have been out running up and down the road, banging on doors, hooping and hollering and nobody would let me in, my nose is running and my feet are freezing, I just prayed and asked God to come and help me and all of a sudden, I found myself walking through my front door and He has given me this little phone to call you on" she rants. "Mother, you've just been dreaming" I assure her. "No, I've not, I'm putting the chair back under the door knob right now." Because I know mother's routine for bed each night. I am becoming more and more concerned that she has actually been outside. I order her to hang the phone up and go back to bed and she promises that she will. I try to tell myself that mother has actually been dreaming as she has hundreds of times before, but for some reason I am eerily worried at the possibility that she has really been outside.

I wake up early and head to mother's house a little earlier than usual. There are several things that I've decided that I'm going to investigate so that I can tell if she really had been out that night. All signs lead me to the conclusion that she was only dreaming. The week prior to this event, I had called mother on a certain evening and she had told me that she had just arrived at this Children's Home and had to lay the phone down for a minute to go talk to the nurse on duty. I kept waiting for her to return as I could hear her talking to someone, knowing very well that she was alone. As I began screaming over the phone for her to come pick the phone back up, she rushed back and told me to be quiet and not wake the children. Another night, my sister Sue, who lives out of town, had called to check on mother. She called me while I was at a granddaughter's basketball game, informing me that our mother was a Ski Lodge Director tonight, and refusing to go to bed until the snow skiers came in off of the mountain.

My day at work was going pretty slow with sleepy yawns and bouts of drowsiness from being awakened at 3:00 am and not being able to go back to sleep, when the phone rings. "Polk Association" I answer. "Jean, I can't find my pocketbook!" mother says. This phone call has occurred several times over the year as well. I quickly instruct her to several random hiding places I have found her pocketbook prior to this loss. She takes her portable phone with her and with each stop she makes, I hear the words, "no its' not here and I'm going to be ruined!" Knowing that mother only has a few bills in her pocketbook and with nothing else of great importance in my eyes, I am not concerned that she has lost much, but only "where" she had lost it, since I knew for a fact that she had not been anywhere since her hair appointment several days prior and had remembered her bringing it back in the house when we returned.

Several mornings earlier, Mother had met me at the door with pocketbook on her arm at the garage door, asking me if I had come to take her home. My big concern today, is that she had taken it with her when she went on her "supposed" night out banging on doors. I grab my purse and informed my boss of the calamity that was occurring and that I will probably return within an hour and if not, would see him the next day.

I enter mother's house and quickly search every known hiding place I can think of. No pocketbook in sight. I began to wonder if I should search the outside, just to be certain she hadn't taken it out the night before. After a complete look over the yard and edge of the woods, I come back in. I am bewildered at just where the pocketbook could be. Pleading for God to help me, I take one more look in mother's bedroom when I spy a black strap, sitting under the oversized garbage bag in a small trashbasket just under her vanity. I lunge at the strap and pull it out! "I found it!" my words rang out. "Praise the Lord" mother calls. I had never been so relieved to find anything as I was this old black pocketbook.

The week's events have taken a hard toll on mother and the family. My siblings and I have finally came to the realization that no matter how much our mother wishes to remain independent, a change must occur. There will be no more nights alone. After much prayer and thought, my siblings and I have come up with a solution that we feel is best for our mother. A room will be built on my house for mother with a passage door connecting the two. Accommodating her with bedroom, living space and a fenced backyard so she can bring her dog and best friend "Annie" with her.

I have always promised mother that we would let her remain at home for as long as possible. The reality of it all is that "possible" is no longer "possible."