Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Wrong Answer!"

It's a Wednesday night church service and I have sat down to the back of the church in my usual seat. I see a friend of mine and fellow church member making her way back to me with a funny look on her face as if she has a story to tell. Her mother is a resident at the same nursing home as my mother, so any time I see that face, I know I'm in for an amusing story about mother. She begins by saying that mother was really confused yesterday when she was up visiting her mother. Apparently, mother had mistaken my friend for my older sister who has been in Heaven now for several years, and her husband for my sister's husband. She continued the story by saying that Mother had rolled into the room and read them the riot act, calling her husband some unwanted names that even I won't repeat. One other thing she mentioned that mother was doing was rolling up to the front door of the home saying she needed to go see her daddy and causing the door alarm to "beep". This can get a little bit annoying if someone continues to do it over and over again. Not wanting mother to be a bother to those working at the home, I was in a rush to drive up the next day to see if there was anything I could do to make mother stop "fixating" about Grandpa! Several months prior, mother had her daddy on her mind and tongue, continuously asking, "Have you seen daddy" and so on. I knew from experience, that mother can't remember anything you tell her within 5 minutes or less, but thinking that she may stop talking about it if I confided in her and told the truth, I pulled her to the side and told her ever so gently "Mother, your daddy passed many years ago." She made a few comments and seemed to be accepting. For the months to come, her inquiries of Grandpa were few, until now! Thinking that since it worked last time, it may work "this time!" I roll mother up the hall and into our favorite sitting room. She begins the usual, "Have you seen daddy lately? I wonder what he thinks about me stuck up here and not coming home!" She went on and on. I said "mother, do you know how old I am?" Her answer was pleasing to me, "twenty-five, I guess" she said. "No mother, I'm 59 years old, and your daddy died when I was 9 months old!" She looked up at me with an angry look and said, "Lord Jean, you don't mean he's dead?" Thinking I just might have done the wrong thing, she begins saying "well, who else is dead? I tell her, "Let's talk about some pleasant things mother!" She continues saying, "I can't believe he's dead!" A worker comes into the room to clock out and mother calls to them, saying "Jean says my daddy is dead!" Suddenly I feel like I have made a worse than huge, mistake. I try every trick I know to get mother's mind off of the "stupid words" I have delivered, but time after time she would go back to "I can't believe he's dead! It's been 3 weeks now since this incident. I have heard reports on every visit that "someone has told your mother that her daddy is dead! Not wanting to get nailed, I say "O my goodness!" I have tried to reverse my mistake on every visit by answering her questions with, "no he's not dead, I just talked to him this morning mother!" As I enter the nursing home today, a long time friend and relative who is a resident at the home as well, but is very about himself, sits in a rocker just outside the front door. I say hello, and he calls me over. "Your mother has about drove me crazy wanting to know where her daddy is, I believe somebody told her he was dead." he says. I give a look of surrender and say, "Yea, somebody told her that, not thinking she'd remember it." With a guilty conscience, I continue on inside. I see mother just ahead in her mode of transportation headed for the front door. I call to her and say "come sit with me for awhile mother." This stops her in her tracks as she rolls over towards the sitting area. It's not long before she begins the usual. "Have you saw daddy lately, I bet he wonders where I am?" I never thought I would be tickled to hear those words, but it was telling me that she had finally forgotten the horrible news I had given her weeks ago. She now thinks Grandpa is alive, at least for now! Excited of the question, I say, "Yes, I just talked to him this morning and he was headed for the field!" Mother looks at me as if I'm lying and says, "Why I don't know what he'd be doing in the field this time of the year!" I said, "I guess plowing!" She said "I wonder what he's planting?" As I sit with her, making it up as I go, I become an accessory to her demented world. Even though it's still hard for me to play this part, I will do and say anything to see that smile on my mother's childlike face when I say, "I called him this morning and he said to tell you he loves you!" God Bless my precious mother and all those who are trapped in their world of dementia.


  1. It's so hard to know what to say to them. Today I had to tell a friend in front of mom that going to his place wasn't going to happen as it will get her agitated. She wanted to know what she does when agitated and I told her, and she said, "Well, in other words I'm crazy." I told her no she was far from crazy just had memory and nerve problems. But she's not as far along as your mother. She still remembers everything before about 4 years ago, so she knows her parents are deceased. She sometimes forgets that my dad's brothers are all gone, but she takes the news well. I wish I had a magic I could click my fingers and this disease would be destroyed and gone forever!!

  2. As a care worker in England who deals with demntia cases on occasion, I agree there is no right way to approach, although we are advised to except where they are at in that particular moment in there life. An example we were given was that when asked what one of our clients would like for christmas she replied 'A dolly' Her daughter was horrified until a carer explained that in her mind she is only 6 years old. The daughter bought a dolly and her mother took it everywhere; it almost became her comfort blanket when she became confused. Like you have a few amusing stories on my blog

  3. I was aware of this "story" the day Allen talked to you. It is so heart-breaking to see Margie this way. I remember her the way she was in the 70's, so vibrant, so happy and out-going. She acts like she thinks she knows me, but just can't remember who I am. She once asked me if I thought she could cut across the pasture to Uncle Will's to get home! I said,"Yes, you probably can, but Margie it is quite a long way to that pasture." It seemed to satisfy her. God bless her.