Wednesday, March 27, 2013

you gotta be...

My visit with Mom yesterday was horrendous.

I got a cup of coffee, then found a seat in a puddle of late afternoon sun, at a local cafe. I could not drive directly home from my visit with Mom; crying and driving are not compatible activities. The next song of background music, started as soon as I sat down: "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree. 

"You gotta be bad,
You gotta be bold,
You gotta be wiser,
You gotta be hard,
You gotta be tough,
You gotta be stronger,
You gotta be cool,
You gotta be calm,
You gotta stay together,
All I know, all I know,
Love will save the day."

Music does soothe the soul, it's like a comforting friend, this song was exactly what I needed to hear. I'm crying in my coffee.

I text-ed my friend Purple-Woman, "I hate that woman, I HATE THIS FKNG DISEASE." She would know exactly what I was ranting about.

My visit that morning, at the assisted living residence began with a conference with the director and head of nursing.  We talked about Mom's anger, aggression, and yelling. She is spitting out her food and medications, refusing to bathe, or to cooperate at all.  She is hitting and spitting and biting! (This is worse than any kindergarten teacher conference for my kids.) My Mom's continued loud and nasty expressions of her loathing and frustration at being "with all the old people".

The arthritis pain in her hips and knees may be expressing itself in her nastiness.  She is being treated for her pain, but maybe she needs something more. They will be talking with her primary care doctor. They will also be talking to her geriatric psychiatrist about adjusting her medications to help with the anger and frustration.

I talked with her nurse about Mom's "safe zone", that place where Mom is calm. It is her bed.  She is not calm when seated with her neighbors at meals. She is not calm when asked to sit with everyone else at activities. She adamantly refuses to sit in the rocker/glider chairs.  She is not calm (at all!) in the shower. Going into the shower, and now even going into the bathroom (because the shower is right over there), brings about huge fears and nasty reactions. Why?

Have I told you how thankful I am that Mom lives where she lives? They see this as a challenge, they honestly want to help Mom live a better life. Even when they are telling me about Mom's bad days and her horrible behavior, they will then tell me about the few rare days when she is cooperative, cheerful, and friendly. And they will smile and let me cry on their shoulders.

"She was once a really nice person" I found myself saying twice today. "I'm sorry."

Because Mom was being so vocally nasty today, I thought that I could talk to her and have a conversation. Duh! When will I ever learn. Periodically throughout the afternoon, I quietly tried to reprimand her, to tell her she was being nasty or rude, that her behavior was embarrassing, "shame on you", or that "we don't swear".  Each time she would roll her eyes or give me a "raspberry". When will I ever learn.

I was trying to look at magazines and catalogs with Mom. She rolls her eyes in disgust.  In one catalog is a t-shirt with this quote from Master Yoda:  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. Sounds about right to me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

dirty girl

When Mom was living at home and dementia had started to take hold, she would often go for days at a time without showering. This was very unusual behavior for my Mother, as she was always the first one into the shower every morning.

When Mom moved into her assisted living residence, her aides would prompt her every few days to take a shower. They would lay out her towel and clean clothes in the bathroom and see that she at least got wet.

Last summer, as Mom's mobility got worse and worse, I realized that the aides were providing much more hands-on help to Mom, in the shower.

Now the angry woman is back. She is yelling and screaming. She is lashing out at her aides. She won't get into the shower. She won't get into the big spa-type bathtub.  She won't let the hairdresser at the salon wash her hair. She has become mean and nasty to everyone.

Her aide called to tell me of this problem. I had seen Mom's stringy hair on more and more of my visits.
"I'm sorry she is being so nasty. Just please do the best you can."
"Don't you worry, we'll keep her clean."  the aide reassured me, she was not at all flustered, and was speaking of it as if it was a fun challenge. (Did I tell you I think Mom's aides are amazing?!)

At my visit yesterday, I took her aide aside and asked how the bathing battle was going.  She said that they are now giving Mom a mini-shower/ sponge bath while she is seated on the commode. And that Mom was accepting it.  Hurray for ingenious aides!

Mom's bathroom has a walk-in shower stall with grab bars, a fold down bench, and a detachable handheld shower-head. The toilet is high and also has grab bars. The sink is also a bit high and has knee space under it for a wheelchair.  The sink faucets are easy to use.  I have noticed that you can not stopper the sink, to prevent overflows. And that you cannot get really hot water from the sink, to prevent scalding. Maybe the next feature they should implement in their bathrooms is a totally tiled floor with a center drain. For people like my Mom, who would rather bathe outside the box.