Thursday, June 29, 2017


I knew that paranoia is often a component of dementia, but had  not seen it until today.
The day started with no sleep.  I absolutely could not get to sleep and only fell asleep for about half an hour or so around 7.  So I was not operating on all cylinders.

I had a dental appointment at 11.  I am one of those weird people who enjoy my appointments.  I like my dental hygienist, Christina, and I enjoy the brief moments to catch up with Cindy, who has been a friend since the 1980s, long before she had her own dental practice.

It was noon when I left the office and I did not want to get to Atria at lunch time, so I did a little shopping first (laying in goodies for Ashley, who moves in tonight to take care of the house and the dogs while we are in Santa Barbara.  This will be the first time they dog sit while their baby is becoming a toddler.  I hope it all works out, since we are not "baby proof" here.)

I got to Atria just as lunch was finished and my mother was sitting at a table laughing with her friend Loretta. The two women have been "friends" for most of the time that my mother has been at Atria.  They love to tease and put each other down.  They remind me of my mother and her friend Paula, in San Rafael.  I was so happy when my other found Loretta.

Of course, they don't have a clue who the other one is.  They don't know each other's name and are at about the same stage of dementia, Loretta perhaps a bit ahead of my mother because she moved into the memory unit a few months before my mother did.

But I enjoyed the "normalcy" of sitting with these two friends laughing with each other, and was glad to see my mother actually laughing with another resident.

When it was time for us to leave the table, I don't know where Loretta went, but my mother and I headed back to her apartment.  She is having what is probably another bout of sciatica and her leg is bothering her.  I was pleased  (and very surprised) to see that she had brought a cane with her to the dining room.

We walked to her room--which she cannot find yet (the big MILDRED on the front door helps!) and she sat down in her chair....and then it started.

It started the way it usually does, with her looking around and saying "something's wrong."  She then said what she often said, that she knows she should be doing something but can't remember what it is.  We even laughed about it, and I told her what I always tell her, that the nice thing about living at Atria is that if there is something she should be doing, the staff will remind her, that they are her memory.

An aid came in to check on her, on her regular rounds.  She and I talked about the leg pain and I explained that she had suffered from sciatica before but had not complained of pain in over a year.  She asked if it was OK with me if she faxes my mother's doctor to ask bout adding Tylenol to her meds.

I watched my mother's face while the aid and I talked.  I could see that she couldn't follow what we were saying and that it bothered her a lot.

After the aid left, she got this weird look on her face and said she just didn't understand what she's done wrong that offended everyone.  She says nobody in the family will talk to her.  When she walks into a room, everyone turns their back on her and whispers about her. and she doesn't know why.

She says nobody calls her to ask her to go out to lunch or dinner and when she calls someone to invite them to do something they just say "I am busy."  She can't figure out what she has done wrong.

Another aid came in.  She was just coming on her shift and was checking in on all of her clients.  A darling girl, with a big smile and rosy cheeks.  She and my mother talked and laughed together and after she left, my mother was gloomy again  "See?" she said, indicating the aid and how she hadn't wanted to talk with her.

Then she pointed at me and said... "I look at your face and I see these thoughts going through your head, how you want to leave and how you don't want to be with me."

Then she went on to say she didn't know what anybody in the family was doing any more and I said that I could tell her something, that Brianna was on a softball team that had just qualified to go to the championships in San Diego.   I thought that might interest her because Brianna is her great granddaughter (though she does note relate to that) and because she herself was a softball champ in high school.

She just looked at me and said "Now why in the world would you tell me that?" and had zero interest in what I was saying.

She had this disconsolate look on her face and just kept trying to figure out what she had done wrong and why nobody liked her any more.  I couldn't leave her like that so I just sat there and listened.  Sometime I tried being in her head and responding to what she was saying and telling her how sad I was that she was being treated so badly.  Other times I tried being in the present and reminding her that all that family (her siblings) were dead and couldn't shun her  ("Yeah, but there are others in the family..") and reminded her that everybody lived at least 100 miles away.  That didn't help.
(Yes, I know the pointlessness of trying to "help" but I hate seeing her so miserable.)

I stayed about 45 minutes trying various things until finally I got her to laugh and come back to normal again.  They I hurried up to leave before she sank back into depression again.  I told her I'd be in Santa Barbara and that I'd see her in a week and she told me to have a great time and seemed as happy as she ever is these days.  At least I didn't feel uncomfortable about leaving her in the depths of depression.

I came home and slept for about 2 hours.  I'm just going to have to put that in the back of my mind while we're away, and realize that she is in good hands and that the aids are taking good care of her...and she can have lunch with Loretta.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just want to thank you for your blog and your description of your mother's journey through dementia. I think you probably blog to communicate with family and friends, but I'm learning a lot. It's helpful because my retirement job (contradiction?) is as a caregiver to elderly women, all over ninety and some with dementia. Your mother's behavior feels very familiar to me. I'm afraid that many are living beyond their capacity for happiness.
Again, thanks for your blog.