After I left my mother yesterday, I spent a little time sitting in the little alcove opposite the main dining room and just watched people entering...and eating. And I got a little teary, realizing how much I miss the dining room.
I used to have lunch with her once a week and while I had lots of complaints about things, in comparison to the memory unit, it was lovely. I have only eaten in the memory unit a couple of times. There is no choice of food. It comes from the same dining room, but arrives luke warm. There is no pitcher of water on the table. You have to ask for water and the aides are usually busy, so I don't.
And then there are the other diners. There are only about 30 in the memory unit, so the dining room is quite small.
and you don't hear the hum of voices the way you do in the main dining room. The first table there, on the lower right, usually is filled with four women who are far along in their dementia. One of them keeps her head on the table until her food comes, another is gap-jawed and needs help with eating, the other two are just a lot more out of it than my mother.
When I have eaten there with my mother she spends most of the meal asking where we are what we are waiting for, and how she is going to find her way back to her room.
I compared that to the folks in the main dining room -- people like Cameron, who is younger than I am and wheelchair bound. She has her little clique of people around her and they always sit at the same table and have in-depth conversations about lots of things. I think Cameron told me she was in engineering...I could be wrong....but I often thought about how interesting it would have been to sit at Cameron's table. We often sat with Margaret, a lovely little white-haired woman with lots of physical problems, which you don't realize until she gets up to go back to her room and walks bent at sharp angle over her walker. But she is usually is cheery and I've always enjoyed talking with her, especially since she is a Davis native and we both remember the "old days."
There are lots of other familiar faces, many of whom stopped to say hello to my mother or to tell me how special my mother is. The long-time servers knew her and would chat briefly. There is nobody like that in the memory unit. They are all trying to figure out where they are and what they are doing and the aides are busy helping people who can't eat unassisted. So I look for reasons not to go to Atria until after lunch.
There was more than just missing the dining room that had me teary sitting in the little alcove. My mother often sat there, having coffee and cookies and looking out onto the patio that she loved so much.
We would sit there and chat. Actually chat about things. She was vague, of course, and increasingly so as her dementia progressed, but we could chat. People would stop by to say hello. The people who run Atria always stopped to say hello. Now I don't think they even remember her, since the memory unit is a separate facility that has little to do with the main facility.
When I arrived yesterday, she was sitting in the main room and Ellen deGeneres was on TV and my mother was sitting in a chair asleep. When I sat down next t her and said hello she didn't open her eyes but said "I hear ya..." I said that I had just arrived and she opened eyes and looked confused. I asked if she wanted to go to her apartment. "What will we do there?" she asked. I said we could visit. I got up to get someone to open the apartment door for us. My mother sat in her chair and kept signaling whether or not she should come with me. She finally did.
When we got into the room she wasn't sure where she was. We spent the time talking about how something was wrong and how she didn't know where she was (in other words, the same thing we always talk about)
Her roommate Marge walked in at some point, picked up a bra that was lying on the floor and walked out. I don't know if it was hers or my mother's. I decided it didn't matter. Marge has talked to me a few times -- she uses words, but I have never once understood what she was talking about. She seems a very unpleasant woman. The aides tell me that she and my mother are "great friends," which I have never seen and when she left, my mother said "I don't like her."
Finally someone came to get her for dinner. She asked me if she was dressed all right or if she needed to get dressed up, and wondered if she needed to bring her purse and how she was going to pay for dinner. When she learned that I was not going to stay for dinner, she was nervous because she wasn't sure she could find her way back to her room afterwards. When we got to the dining room, I saw there was a seat at the table where Loretta was sitting and I sat her there, but Loretta's dementia is progressing too and I don't know if the two of them talked with each other. They were both looking off into space when I left.