Friday, February 22, 2013
Blog 62: She Still Knows Who I Am and She Loves Me
My visits with my mom have been going so well at the group home. I’ve spent several days with her, and by doing this I have been able to see her day to day changes, mood, level of understanding, eating habits, etc. I have sort of changed my assessment of her condition from my first visit on Valentine’s Day.
Mom knows me, still. Everyday that I walk into her room she looks at me and says my name. I can tell that she really enjoys my company and I love that smile that comes across her face. I think I make her feel safe and at peace. She’s been so much more alert and in better spirits since the first day I saw her. I am so pleased about that. I feel that I am making a difference in her life by giving her happy moments, and that makes me feel happy.
My mom can’t walk anymore and spends most of her day sitting in her chair in her room. I tried to get her to do some arm exercises but she didn’t want to do any of it. The caregivers told me that Mom gets scared whenever they have to get her up. She doesn’t like to be moved. I witnessed her shouts when the hospice aide gave her a shower and the couple of times the caregivers took her out of the room to change her undergarments. She hates those things with a passion! But as soon as she’s done she calms down. Her mood is so sweet and there is no anger and agitation like she had in the past.
I remember some of the notes my mom wrote for me in the past year, and I was curious to see if she could write anything since I've discovered she can no longer spell words like she used to be able to just a few months ago. On this first note I asked her to spell her name. The top marking is the way she wrote her name. Then I asked her to spell my name and she wrote it over top of the first one. The second mark is supposed to be the address of our family home, which she can still recite.
The next day my mom said she wanted to write something. I guess she remembered writing the day before. I got out a notepad and she started making a bunch of 8's on the top. I asked her to write a 7 and she did a row of 7's. Wow, I was surprised to see that. Then I asked her to write her name and the squiggles underneath the 7's was how she wrote her name. She did better at it this time. I wondered, too, if she had her glasses on, would she be able to see how she's writing her name?
My mom is in the hospice program now and I have had an opportunity to see some of the people who work with her. I met the nurse, pastor, and nurse’s aide. I’m glad I have been able to meet these people and see how Mom interacts with them, and they with her. Aside from the two women who care for and live in the group home, they are the ones she sees the most, other than my sister and her kids.
A caregiver from another group home came by to visit. Mom was in that group home for only a couple of weeks in December, but they didn’t have a private room for her and her behaviors were upsetting her roommate, so she had to leave and come to this place, which had a room for her. She told me Mom was very agitated there but her new meds have helped considerably. I was thinking that my sister would have her neck for telling me this, even though I didn't inquire as to what meds she was given, because she doesn’t want anyone discussing my mom’s health, medicine, or any issues at all with anyone but herself. I will address that issue in an upcoming post.
I’ve spent some time visiting with Mom’s caregivers and they are wonderful women. Both of them seem to be so caring and patient and they said they love my mom. I am so relieved to have them take care of her.
Mom has two dolls that she holds and fidgets with. I have come to realize that she doesn’t think of them as real babies. I was relieved to discover that. She knows they are dolls but she likes having them in her lap. The girl doll she referred to as a boy last time, is now a girl. I did notice some odd behavior in that she tries to pull the lace off the girl’s dress and she twists and tugs at the leg or arm to try and ‘open’ it. She’ll try and try, then give up, saying she just can’t get it.
I wish Mom had her glasses. The ladies there said they’ve never seen them. I don’t know why my sister doesn’t have Mom wear them anymore. Mom can’t see what’s on the television and she sees shapes of things in another room and wonders what it is. I even held up two fingers and she couldn’t see them to count them. That’s another thing I can’t ask Renee about because she will get defensive and mad. So, I just don’t say anything or ask anything anymore.
There’s been several times that my mom seems to have the expression on her face like she doesn’t understand why she feels the way she does. It’s hard to explain, but there is something in her face that says WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? I don’t know how much she understands of what’s happening, but my guess is she doesn’t understand any of it. She never did before, either. She never admitted she has Alzheimer's and she denied it when it was brought up to her.
As I stated in my previous post, Mom can rarely put complete sentences together. She can’t formulate her thoughts and say what I think she wants to say. She forgets before the words come out. When I ask her something I can tell for a brief moment she understands. Then it’s gone. When she says something meaningful that I don’t want to forget, I jot it down. I hang on to those words like it’s the most wonderful or meaningful thing I’ve ever heard.
Here’s some of the things she’s said…
I feel so lost right now…I can’t do this anymore…This is a world isn’t it?...We are going to get a beautiful house before we are done…I have more fun with you…You are so beautiful…Lizzie, I am so proud of you…Lizzie, did you know they were going to take you?…I don’t think Lynda and Kathy will hurt.
Mom's appetite seems to have improved from a couple of months ago. Back then I was afraid we were losing her because she just would not eat anything. Thank God she is eating now. She's always liked an occasional Pepsi and potato chips as a snack and I promised her I would bring some the next day. When I did, she just lit up. She drank the Pepsi and said, “This taste is beautiful!”
When I was getting ready to leave the other day Mom said to me, “Just keep coming.” I told her I will always keep coming to see her. I reassured her every day that I left her that I will be back tomorrow and we will have fun! One day while I was sitting by her she said, “Lizzie will go home, and then I’ll say no Lizzie, and tell her I like her.” There is so much meaning in some of the things she says. I told mom I am not going anywhere. I am going to stay right here with her. I don’t know how I am going to handle my last visit before I head back to Arizona. That is going to make me break down for sure.
Mom asked me if I was afraid. I said no and she said, “Well, that’s good.” I asked mom if she is afraid and she said yes. I asked her what she is afraid of and she said she didn’t know. That is her usual response. Other times I’ve asked her if she is afraid and she would answer, no.
I don't want my mom to be afraid. That is the most saddest thing I can think of. I want her to feel safe and loved. I prayed with her a couple of times. It made me feel good and gave me some assurance that God is not going to forget about my mom.
I am always touching my mom, holding her hand, rubbing her arm or back, or kissing her cheek. She never was one to like someone coddling her but she doesn’t seem to mind now. I will tell her several times a day that I love her and she will respond that she loves me, too. I told mom you can’t ever stop saying it, and she said, “Never, never, never.”
Mom also touches me a great deal. She looks at my hands and runs her fingers over my fingers and palms. She inspects my rings and bracelet. She picks imaginary lint off my clothes. I say imaginary because she can’t see it without her glasses, but she must assume it’s there.
One day I was typing on my laptop, taking notes after Mom drifted off to sleep. I looked up at her and saw her sweet face, her eyes were open, looking at me with such an endearing look. I sensed concern but also saw love. I felt that she was trying to take me all in. Maybe she was thinking she is going to be gone soon. Maybe she was thinking she is going to forget me and she doesn’t want to let that happen. Maybe she was wondering at that moment, who are you?
It reminded me of the time my Grandma gave me that look. I was 23 years old, and she was dying of cancer. Grandma came to my house to help celebrate my daughter’s second birthday. She was weak and she layed on the sofa to rest. When I looked at her from the chair I was sitting in beside her, I noticed that her eyes were fixated on me. I didn’t know how long she was looking at me but I sensed that she was taking me all in, knowing she was dying and going to miss me. My Grandma was my mom's mom and she was a wonderful woman.
Mom enjoys talking to her grandchildren and great grandchildren on the phone. We keep the conversations short and I help mom with the phone, and I think it’s so important for her and for my kids to be able to share these moments with each other. When my mom tells them that she loves them, it makes them feel so good.
Every once in awhile Mom will shoot out a name from nowhere. She mentioned my ex-husband and said his name more than once on two different days. She said her great grandson’s name and choked up. All she said was his name. That’s all. She mentioned an ex-boyfriend of mine and said she hasn’t heard from him. Other names came up too...her granddaughter, her mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law.
I got out my laptop and showed her pictures and videos of the family. She smiled and seemed interested. I think it’s so important to do that in order to help keep Mom’s memory of her loved ones alive as long as possible. Mom was able to say some of their names and if she couldn’t say the name, I could tell she remembered who they were. She tried to pull the name from her memory but just couldn't do it.
When I showed her pictures of her when she was younger she kept saying, “That’s Lizzie.” She said that every time. I guess I must look like her when she was younger. She recognized a picture of my dad around the time when they met, and she said his name with enthusiasm. But she didn’t recognize older pictures of him.
I took more videos and pictures of mom and I know I will cherish these always. I will see my mom two or three more times before I have to leave to go back to Arizona. My next trip to town won’t come soon enough. I am already feeling sad about leaving her.