I rarely wake up in the morning dreading the day, but two days ago I did. Because my mother had her quarterly doctor appointment that afternoon. And it was not just a matter of the logistics of carving out a huge timeslot from my busy work day. It was also a matter of the emotional and mental fortitude I would need in order to survive the excursion.
When dealing with a mother suffering from dementia, I never know what I will be encountering. A happy gal ready for an outing? Or an angst-filled woman repeatedly obsessing over the small details? Or a bit of both?
Which emotional roller coaster will I be riding today? The kiddie coaster with the brightly colored balloons painted on the side of the cars? Or the Thunderbolt coaster with the terrifying twists and turns threatening to launch me from my seat?
As it turns out, I was gifted a ticket for a “two-fer”, and took a ride on both coasters. My mother was in good spirits. But she excelled in the repetitive obsession portion of the day. Her visit with the doctor was pleasant and the medical report was positive. But the trip required a Herculean effort to manage her transport.
I was able to meet with Head Nurse “Kay” at my mother’s assisted living facility before I went to my mother’s room to pick her up. I like to do that on a regular basis so we can compare notes. Plus it is handy information to share with the doctor. While my mother is doing well with her daily routine…going to the dining room for her three squares a day, participating in the weekly exercise class and going to play bingo a few times a week…Kay’s report was not good regarding my mother’s ability to retain information short-term.
Both Kay and I have noticed a rapid decline in the past few months in my mother’s short-term memory. Kay cited examples in regards to my mother receiving her medications. A nurse will give my mother her meds, then before the nurse is even out of my mother’s room, my mother will say, “But you didn’t give me my medicines.” Or, the nurse will administer the meds, walk out the door, then my mother calls up to the nurses station saying she had not gotten her medicines yet. It seems my mother’s retention has now been reduced to nano-seconds.
At the end of our meeting, Kay’s parting comments tugged at my heart. She said, “When we tell your mother that we just gave her the medications, she always apologizes. She says how kind everyone is to her and how sorry she is to be such a bother because she does not remember. It is so sad to see the frustration in her eyes. That’s what hurts the most.”
Kay is so right in her assessment. And this is from a gal who has chosen a profession which deals with these issues on a daily basis. Not long ago Kay told me that she gains a great amount of satisfaction from her work because she knows she is helping people. She believes showing respect and kindness to those who need her assistance is one of the requirements of her job. Kay is a rare breed and one I am so very fortunate to know.
Kay did reassure me that as my mother continues her mental decline, she will be well taken care of at her facility. Kay said my mother is a sweetheart who brings a bit of sunshine into the lives of the staff and other residents, with her bright smile and warm greetings. And any failings she has with her mental abilities will not be an issue going forward. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear this news.
And even though I woke up that morning dreading the day, I survived and was reassured that my mother was doing as well as could be expected and most importantly, she would continue to be taken care of.
And at the end of the day, I received fantastic news on both a personal and professional level. So, I was able to lay my head on my pillow that night with a lighter heart. I knew no matter what the future holds for both my mother and I, we were going to be just fine.
And if it means I have to take a ride on an emotional roller coaster or two now and again…no worries. I will just hang on tight and rock on.