Thursday, 17 March 2016

Back to see mum after more than a week away

When I went up to the nursing home today to see mum she was very happy to see me. It had been over a week since my last visit. She struggled to get out of her orange recliner, despite the protests of her lower back, and we hugged. I immediately checked her fridge to see if there were any biscuits left there from earlier, but there were not. I will have to buy her some more.

I sat down near the window and picked up the iPad to dial up my brother, who didn't answer. Soon afterward a staff member came in to check the lanyards for the electronic call buttons residents wear around their necks, because she wanted to replace them. She said that the lanyards get dirty over time. We changed mum's lanyard but later on I found another call button in a drawer next to her bed. I took it to the same staffer, who I found wheeling the tea trolley in the dining room, and she came back to the room to ascertain which button was working for mum's receiver.

My brother called us back on the iPad and spoke with mum and I for about 15 minutes then I asked mum if she wanted to go for a walk, and she agreed to do so. I had earlier noticed that the wheeled walker in mum's room was not the normal one mum uses, and that has her name on. So I took the walker down to the nurse's station and told them about it. We found a glasses case in the walker she had with a man's name written in biro in it, so based on that information we were escorted down to the ground floor by a staffer who then talked with another staffer. They worked out that mum's walker was currently being used by another woman, who happened to be in the downstairs dining room. We recovered the correct walker in quick time.

We then went outside to the park. It had been raining earlier but now the sun was shining. We went up the footpath and as we were walking along mum said that if the young man selling flowers was still there today she'd like to buy some more. I was surprised she remembered this detail, but it was true. Once before we had bought a bunch of long-stemmed red roses from a youth selling flowers out of buckets of water at a table set beside the footpath on the main road near the nursing home. I had thrown away the dead flowers before the recent road trip to New England.

Initially we went to the first bench but it was a bit damp so we went our way to the second bench, which is always in full sun, and sat down there instead. I made a short video of mum talking. She was in high spirits. She always likes to get out of the building into the weather. We saw some dogs in the park on the far side, and there was a big, adult magpie on the fence near us that was looking around at things. Mum said that they are lovely animals.


RodH said...

Its a tough old time of life, eh. Very similar with my old mum, now 94, who lived here with us for over 20 years before falls and a subdural haematoma saw her have to move to a nursing home just around the corner.

The hard thing at the moment is "hearing voices. We see her very few days, but each time it is the same conversation about a woman who she "hears" has 'stolen her name" from conversations she "hears" in the corridor" when she "half takes out her hearing aids" (she can barely hear inside her room even with the hearing aids unless your are looking directly at her, let alone with them half removed) .

When the "name stealing" conversation finishes it is the "iPad scandal" (someone , she claims , is diverting all her messages to an iPad stolen by one of the other occupants. She can tell because the "phone" (it is really a nurse call buzzer) rings, and then she "hears" more conversations from the hall about such things. Mum had an iPad of her own for a while, but it became a source of huge stress to her unfortunately when things went downhill a bit. She pointed out one of the "corridor" conversations to me the other day when she had her hearing aids in: "See, they are talking about ipads". They weren't. It was a Channel 7 newsreader giving his version of the politics of the day! Another similar conversation interpreted by her in the same fashion turned out to be Mr Darcy arguing on the TV with Elizabeth Bennett!

Another neighbour is stealing her TV signal whenever she tries to get analogue TV (long unavailable here - her digital stations all work fine) to work. She knows, because the TV in the next room is working and she can see where the wires (TV aerial) go into the adjoining wall.

Sigh! Loneliness, technology and mind and body failures can add up to a difficult time, I'm afraid. The sensory deprivation that often accompanies old age has minds working overtime, putting two and two together to keep life bearable, but often making 5 or 99 or -70 instead of four.

The very best of luck to you and your mum. Glad to say, mine was smiling today!



Matthew da Silva said...

I'm sorry to say it but it sounds like your mum is having paranoid delusions. I know because as part of my own disease I have had them. They can be very upsetting, so I feel for your mum. All the best to you and her.

RodH said...

Thanks, Matt. Yes. Very much so. Often compounded, too, in her case by things like urinary tract infections, and particular forms of medication (have to watch 'em like hawks to make sure a visiting locum doesn't prescribe some things she is particularly affected by!).
Oliver Sacks produced some great writing on such matters, particularly auditory hallucinations and the like. If you haven't read 'em , worth a look .

It is interesting how the mood of others changes her state of mind. "Arguing the point" (which I've done all my life with her in a very friendly way) no longer works at all. Quite the reverse. Gentleness, wise nods and moving to different topics is the order of the day. She used to get a little cross when anyone strayed from the course of an argument. These days, not so.

Memories ebb and flow, with events and people of 70 or 80 years ago getting conflated with yesterday at times. On other occasions "yesterday" doesn't exist at all.A year ago she was one of five living siblings, all between 90 and 99. Today, only her youngest sister is still alive, but with far more developed dementia.

For mum, some things get magnified, others disappear. She can be a very different person on different days. I'm older myself than her own father and mother were when they died in their early 60s. I often wonder what her own experience of their final years was like.