The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
Last Tuesday I stopped by to visit my mom. I did not go at lunch time, but when I arrived they were in the midst of making their own personal (biscuit dough) pizzas. I sat with my mom and joined in while they each waited for their pizza to be baked. Since there is no oven on their floor, the activities lady had to do each one on an electric grill. I helped a little bit passing out napkins and drinks and just trying to keep everyone entertained while they were waiting.
There is one gentleman currently on my mom's floor, Tim, who is actually an overflow from the rehab floor so his mind is much better than the other residents on the memory care floor. I chatted with him for a bit and he is quite a character My mom shared her pizza with me and it was good, but some of the residents complained and were being picky about things. I think it was one of those things where there was no making them happy, and I felt bad for Linda going through a lot of work to try to make them happy! I guess the residents cook or make things a few times a week. I found the whole thing reminiscent of my kids preschool days.
Once the baking was done, Linda got everyone involved in some trivia. I decided to stick around and visit with my mom. I have sat in on several of their trivia sessions before. She gives hints on famous couples or different topics and waits for the residents to piece the answers together. They actually do pretty well. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut when I know the answers, but some are hard and I don't have a clue! Some of the answers are people like Abbott and Costello or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, etc... My mom does pretty well as I've said before, but I realized on this visit that I think her favorite part is watching Linda "imitate" and do voice impersonations of the people she is describing. My mom says, "she's so cute" or "she's so funny". I even think, just knowing my mom, that sometimes she actually knows some of the answers but holds back on shouting them out because she likes watching Linda do her impersonations so much!! You can just see the "wheels" spinning in their heads, sometimes smoke coming out of their ears, and it's fun to see them finally make the connection!! I stayed with them for a couple of hours. There were only about eight residents participating.
Afterwards, I wheeled my mom back down to the sitting area just outside her room.
She tried to feed "Muffin" her mini Teddy Grahams snack. When I have to leave, sometimes I just tell her I have to go let out my dog, Lucky, because he isn't trained as well as her dog, Muffin. She thinks that's funny and important that I go and let him out. She also understands when I often have to leave to pick up my kids. I am thankful she usually does not give me much of a hard time when I have to go.
So, I turned on Ellen for her (which she loves) and was on my way.
On the afternoon of Halloween I received a call on my cell from her nursing community. My heart still sinks, but so far the calls have normally been something relatively minor or something they want to make me aware of. Thankfully, it was one of the nurses who said my mom was "fine" and having a "really good day". My mom had already passed out candy to several children who they had come through. Apparently, my mom told the nurses and CNAs that she thought it was "way cool" and they got a kick out of that. They had a busy day of activities planned, and the nurse talked to me for quite awhile about her own mother and how she is gradually declining in ways similar to my mom. She acknowledged how different it is when it is your own family member rather than being a nurse with a patient. She was temporarily working on my mom's floor for a couple of days, but normally works on the second floor. They noticed bruising on the bottom of my mom's legs and they think she must be bumping them on the foot rests of her wheelchair. They wanted to let me know they are going to try to come up with something so she would not be able to bump them as much!!!! These kind of calls I would take anytime!
Later that same Halloween night I was able to sneak out to dinner with my husband as all of my kids were at parties and the few trick or treaters we had were long gone. During dinner, my phone rang and it was my mom's nursing community again. This time I was definitely apprehensive because I had already spoken with the nurse earlier. It was the same nurse and she regretted having to tell me that my mom had fallen out of her wheelchair while it was parked near her bed. She was left there just before they were going to put her to bed, and we think she must have decided to try put herself to bed. In fact, my best guess is that because she was having such a good day, she must have been sitting there thinking, "what am I waiting for, I should go to bed"... and then fell. There was no visible injury, they checked her vitals, not sure if she hit her head, but no evidence of it. While on the phone, the nurse decided we should put in her "care plan" not to bring her to her room until she is ready to be put into bed in an effort to prevent this from happening again. Also, the staff will likely be in touch with me now that she has had a couple slips and falls out of her wheelchair to try to come up with a solution.
I am grateful they seem to be doing their best taking care of my mom, and also seem to want my opinion on her course of care. I certainly wish I could ended the day with the good news of that first phone call, but the reality caught up to us that night when she fell.
Meanwhile, the seasons here in Michigan are definitely changing. As I walked back to my car and saw these beautiful Fall trees, I realized how very cold my walk is going to be on my visits in the months ahead. Hope we can hold on to Fall at least a little longer!