Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blog 20: If Only For Moments

One of the hardest things I had to do with Mom was taking her out of the house for her doctor appointments.  She always wanted to go to her regular physician, sometimes for a needed prescription refill and other times for some help with how she was feeling, I guess.  We would get to the the doctor's office and she'd sit in the waiting room impatiently, wondering why I brought her there in the first place.  We went many times, and sometimes it was a good experience, but there were times I wanted to run far, far away.

One day we sat in the waiting room and we had a particularly long wait.  This irritated Mom to no end.  She kept saying, "What's taking so long!  I'm going back there and finding the doctor," as she would head towards the door to the examination rooms.  It didn't matter who was sitting nearby.  She was totally in her own world, not caring what she said or who was listening.  The front desk people could see the anguish on my face and finally when she wouldn't leave them alone either, they put her in an exam room to wait, so she wouldn't keep disturbing the other patients in the waiting room.

We got to the exam room, which by the way, Mom usually let me come back there with her.  The nurse told us the doctor was running behind but should be in to see Mom in a short while.  Mom was very impatient.  She kept opening the door and walking down the hallway to get the doctor.  I told her he would be in the room shortly, but she could not wait.  The nurse would come to the room or stop mom in the hallway and tell her to wait in the room for the doctor.  Mom would say, "How much longer?  I can't wait."  Then she would pace the room and complain very loudly.  If I said, "Mom, please keep your voice down, there's other patients in those rooms."  She would glare at me and mimic what I was saying.  She'd say she was getting out of there, this is ridiculous.  I was so embarrassed.  She kept saying things like, "Why am I here anyway?  Let's go and come back later."

I decided to walk out of the room in hopes that she would calm down, that maybe I was irritating her by just being there.  She kept going out to the hallway and yelling at me and complaining that this was taking too long and she's not waiting anymore.  I wondered why my mom was the only mom in the world who acted this way.  That's how I felt.  If the nurse wouldn't have kept telling me it would only be a few more minutes, I would have just taken Mom home.

Then I sort of lost it, as I hate to admit, I did from time to time, and I shut the door on Mom and held it shut.  She tried to open it, and began pounding on the door, saying "Let me out!"   This went on for about a minute, until I had to let go of the door knob because she was being too loud.  She was so mad at me.  I told her the door locked itself but I don't think she bought it.  The doctor finally came, not her doctor, but another one.  Mom told that doctor that I was sick.  She said, "She's the one who needs help here, not me!" She said I locked her in the room.   At that point I was starting to believe she was right.  I needed help alright, help in dealing with her.  The doctor just looked at me and then at her and then did her best to talk Mom out of her anxiety.  She succeeded and Mom got her medication refilled and we were on our way.

Walking out the door of the doctor's office, Mom immediately, and I mean immediately, went into a sweet, loving demeanor.  She was talking normally, being her nice self again.  This happened almost every time we went to the doctor, whether it was the eye doctor or her family doctor.

We had a similar experience once at the eye doctor clinic.  Mom was just incapable of waiting.  She would get very impatient and cause a scene, pacing the halls, searching for the doctor or nurse to scold after she got through telling me off.  I remember observing other elderly patients walking into the clinic, coming by themselves, laughing and carrying on normal conversations with the staff.  It wasn't fair.  Why did my mom have to get this disease at such a young age?  She was only 73 years old. She no longer cared about her hair or her appearance, like she used to.  Everything about her was falling apart.

Another time I had to take Mom to my doctor's office because I had symptoms of a bladder infection.  All I had to do was give a urine sample and it should have only taken a brief run in and run out visit.  Mom didn't want to come in so I let her sit in the car and I watched her from the waiting room.  I figured it'd be better because of our last experience at her doctor's office.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be a run in and run out visit.  Mom got out of the car and came inside and let me know of her displeasure.  She said that she wanted to go now, and it was taking too long.  She knew why I needed to go there.  I tried to get her to sit next to me and distract her with a funny comment or a magazine article (which she had no interest in).  She threatened to walk home and I had to stop her at the door.

Another woman and her mom, about our ages, were sitting across from us, quietly observing, but trying not to stare.  Mom told them she always comes to the doctor with me and I never go to the doctor and wait for her.   Really, I thought!  The younger woman said, "That is so nice that you came with your daughter.  I'm sure she loves you and appreciates what you do for her."  Mom said something like, she never does anything for me. Mom kept grunting and moaning and I went to the front desk lady and said, "How much longer?  My mom has Alzheimer's and it's hard for her to wait, and I don't know what to do."  Even the nurses and doctors in the back could hear Mom.  I saw them looking.

FINALLY, after I was about ready to leave, they called me back.  I told the front desk person to please let me know if Mom gets out of hand.  She said not to worry, she will keep watch on her.  I went to the exam room and I could hear Mom complain about me in the waiting room.  She kept saying I do nothing for her and she doesn't know why she is doing this for me.  She said I take advantage of her.  And she continually asked why this was taking so long?

It was so unfair of me to put Mom through this and to put the office staff through this, and for me to go through this.  The nurse practitioner came in and I told her I was so sorry about bringing my mom there.  She looked at me sympathetically and before I could say another word, I just lost it.  I cried and cried and could not stop.  I felt like I was a terrible caregiver and I was doing things all wrong, according to my mom.  I don't remember what the doctor said, I just remember she said something about caring for an elderly parent being very stressful and it may have caused my infection, as it can cause many other health problems for caregivers.  She gave me a prescription for the bladder infection, patted me on the back, and I walked out to the lobby to get Mom out of there.

Once again, just as soon as my hands opened the door to the outside air, Mom instantaneously transformed into a sweet Mom again.  She said, "Are you ok, Lizzie?"  I said I have an infection and I have to go get a prescription.  She said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I know how that feels.  I remember having that one time.  I hope you feel better soon.  I'm glad you got something for it."  Then she started making small talk about the weather and other things.  I just couldn't believe how she changed like that.  I knew this disease was evil, dreadful, and a stealer of my Mom, but I also realized it has it's moments of allowing a person to come back...if only for moments.  And that's what us caregivers live for.


  1. Hi there. I'm also one of 5 daughters and our mother has advanced vascular dementia. Last fall, she had a medical crisis and we were told she had only a week or so left to live. My sisters and I decided not to try to explain the situation to her as we weren't sure she'd be able to process the information without suffering extreme anxiety and stress. One day, I was sitting with her, looking off into the distance. She looked over at me and said, "Aw, honey, what's wrong???!!!" and stretched out her arms to hug me. I told her I was just feeling a little discouraged lately, and she gave me a motherly cuddle. In spite of all she's been through the last several years, she still wanted to take care of me the way only a mother can. I got the kind of mothering I've been longing for during these stressful years (caring for her, dealing with my own health crisis, losing my job, etc.) For a moment, she was MY caregiver, not the other way around.

    Mum recovered from the illness that was supposed to kill her. But daughters like us still deal with so much loss, don't we? What helps me is those moments that remind you she's still very much there - both good and bad, comforting you and driving your crazy, embarrassing you and making you proud to have such an amazing person as your parent.

    Thanks for sharing your story. We're all in this together.

  2. Hi! Thanks for your comment. It's always nice to hear other people's stories and it sounds like yours is very similar in that you have 4 sisters and a loving mom with vascular dementia. It's a tough road and we are not alone, though at times it feels that way.

  3. You are a strong woman for enduring these outings and trying to keep up with as much of a normal life as possible through all of this.

  4. Just found your blog today so I am reading your posts beginning to end. As we are going through this journey, I often wonder what parts are common for ALZ. Amazed to read of your Mom's quick turn from one emotion to the other. Mom does this EXACT same thing! Made me think for awhile that it was mental illness like schizophrenia...she can be beligerant, pushing me and cussing(NEVER said a curse word in my life!) and then suddenly the switch flips...if I ask her why she was pushing/hurting me, she says "That was not me...that was the other lady!"...Daddy could get it to short circuit by raising his voice at her...I am not so successful. We do not take her anywhere out as she usually wants to leave with a stranger...not a safe situation. She had a period of time when she would throw the door open on the car and try to get out of car...led to three interesting delimnas.(found a product called "Angel Guard" that works with seatbelt to restrain her) Now she only goes in a car with "childsafe lock" to Dr. They know we do not wait well and hurry to help us...ha!