My Blog

October 13, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Deepening Dementia

It’s the coming and going, off-again on-again nature of memory that makes accepting dementia so difficult. At least it is for those of us on the outside. For Mom, it is frightening when she can’t find her room. Remembering whether she has eaten or not doesn’t seem to matter, but not knowing where she is scares her terribly.

Yesterday was a bad day. I took her in to breakfast and back to her room but somehow, my talk of the trailer had confused her. I left to take the dogs home and feed myself and catch up on e-mails. Within the hour, the Facility had called to say she was wandering around the halls looking for me. They took her back to her room.

When I arrived, I made the serious mistake of telling her she was going to have to handle things on her own while I was in Galveston this weekend. No, I’m not partying on the beach while she languishes in the Nursing Home. I’m attending a conference and doing a presentation on Bernardo de Gálvez’s wife for the Ladies Auxiliary of the SAR. And the redoubtable Juanita may, perhaps, see to Mom’s getting to the dining room.

Mom immediately asked if she could go with me to Galveston. I’m not certain why I have this overwhelming urge to do as I’m told. Years of training have me jumping to fulfill her every whim. Ever the obedient daughter, I immediately began thinking of ways to take her with me. It is one thing to take her to a two-hour dinner party or out for a simple supper. But a four-hour trip to Galveston was something else.

Besides, I would be hauling her in and out of conference rooms to presentations she can’t hear, trying to introduce her to my friends who, of course, will politely say she is doing SO well for 98, and then leaving her parked in yet another strange room while I attend meetings. It would have left her exhausted, me worn out, and both of us nuttier than fruitcakes. Fortunately, I called Sister who straightened me right out. No, Mom was not going to Galveston.

One of the benefits of dealing with people who have dementia is that errors in judgement—like telling her about Galveston—are easily remedied. Wait five minutes or even a few hours, and she’s forgotten. And if she still has vague recollections that I was supposed to take her somewhere, it only resulted in wandering in the halls. Fellow residents and staff hustled her back to her room and turned the TV on for her. Hopefully, they will do the same this weekend.

Still, Mom wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, so I took her with me to sign up for Meals on Wheels. They will deliver, or we can pick up, meals two times a week when she moves out to the trailer. She somehow decided all the forms she was laboriously signing meant she was getting her own new house. I suppose she is, in a way. It’s new to her, this time around.

To really wear her out, I took her shopping to the COME center and to Goodwill for some new clothes. Well, newish. Plenty to choose from and she did the choosing, picking bright colors and flower patterns. Who knows whether the clothes will fit but it doesn’t matter if they don’t. It gave her an outing. And she’s forgotten about Galveston. I think.

Everyone says that moving a dementia patient can cause trauma and upset their feelings of permanence. At least in this case, moving her back to the trailer should not be too traumatic. She may be “going there to die” but it won’t be to a strange place among strangers. And Al will know where to find her which still seems to be a major concern for her.

I am hoping there will be some glimmer of memory about the many times she and Al stayed at the trailer. It is, after all, her home. We installed it for her. Her pictures of Al are on the refrigerator. Her books are in the book case. Her clothes and bags and shoes and jackets are in the closet. Her sewing things are on the shelves. Even her big silver tray is on the dining room table. Will she remember any of it? All I can do is hope.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!

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