I had not been to Atria in several days when I went there on Friday. No particular reason, but the "vacation" was nice, now that my mother can't tell if I was there yesterday or a month ago. She's always thrilled and surprised to see me and acts as if I haven't been there in months, but she is delighted that I have finally come.
The last few times I was there, there were clothes hanging over the back of her "guest chair." (She only has two chairs in her apartment, but then some folding chairs if there is more than one visitor). Each time it seemed there were more clothes, which she insisted she was going to hang up.
Friday, there were so many clothes hanging over the chair that I couldn't sit on it and I suggested she put the clothes on the bed, which was a suggestion that was too complicated for her and she stood there holding them trying to figure out where to put them.
I had also brought her a bag of Lindt chocolates. I have stopped bringing healthy snacks, like nuts, which she likes, because I think her roommate is taking them. The last two jars of peanuts I brought were gone in two days, as was the dish that I put some of them in. But Lindt is a treat, and not likely to hang around long enough for Marge to help herself.
With the red bag of Lindt on her end table and the clothes on her bed, we sat down, shared a few truffles, and began our visit.
Every so often she would glance to her right, see the bag, pick it up and ask where it came from. After I explained what it was and where it had come from, she would pick up the used truffle wrappers and ask what that "garbage" was. Then she would glance to her left, see the clothes and ask how those got there. I cannot remember how many times we discussed her clothes, everything from she didn't want them to be hung up because if the person they belonged to came, they would be angry to find them in her closet, to she'd never seen them before (photos I showed her to the contrary), to she planned to hang them up and was going to "take tomorrow off" so she could do that. I offered several times to hang them up for her, but she was adamant that this was something only she could do because she had to figure out which ones to throw away.
When I left, I took the now-empty Lindt bag and put the used wrappers in it, planning to take it home to throw away (her waste basket has disappeared) and she was suspicious that I was taking something she wanted to go through before I got rid of it.
On my way out, I talked with an aide and told her about my afternoon with the clean clothes and suggested that someone go in and hang them up while my mother was doing something else. I was pleased to note on Saturday that they were no longer on her bed, or on the chair.
I had not planned to go back on Saturday, but got a call around 9 a.m. saying she was very "disoriented and confused" (why is this day different from all others?) and they asked if I could come and help her settle down. I hadn't even finished my coffee yet, but I took it with me and headed off to Atria.
She was in the community room watching something on TV and as usual was so surprised to see me. Where have I been? and how had I gotten there? In honesty, I didn't think she was any more disoriented or confused than any of her other bad days and I have seen her worse. Perhaps it was that it was a Saturday staff and maybe they have never heard her ask to call her mother before (which she does often).
But I sat with her and talked with her and it's the same thing -- something is wrong and she can't figure out what it is, or there is something she is supposed to do but she can't remember what.
She finally said she was going to go outside and see if she could figure it out. I went with her and we walked the length of the garden and then into the little sitting room at the other end of the path. She is so tormented by not knowing what is wrong. This time I finally said that I was so frustrated trying to help her figure it out and said that she has told me that every day for the past 4-1/2 years. Her answer to that was "Well, why can't she tell you what is wrong?" I told her it was not someone else, but herself who could not tell me what was wrong, but she still referred to "she" when talking to me.
I brought out pictures of the kids to show her. She always likes looking at the "cute little girls" though she doesn't know who they are. It is always heartbreaking to me that this woman who was so excited when Laurel got pregnant with Brianna and who was so thrilled to be a great grandmother has zero connection with the girls and doesn't seem to relate to the term "great grandmother." She can barely relate to them as my grandchildren because she knows I'm not old enough to have grandchildren.
The pictures kept her preoccupied for a bit but she finally had to get up and go outside again. I followed her down the opposite way and we went into the community room, where they were doing cardio exercises. These are all done sitting and I started following the aide who was leading them. When my mother saw me doing them, she did them as well, though would not completely commit to any of them. If we raised our arms in the air, she only raised them half way, for example.
The exercises went on for the better part of 30 minutes and when they were over, the aide put on a Lawrence Welk tape. By now my mother didn't seem to be agitated any more and I was feeling very old after the old people's cardio and decided I did NOT need Lawrence Welk, so I left and she seemed OK with that -- lunch would be served in about 30 minutes anyway.
I heard from Ned that he had also gone to see her on Saturday, about an hour after I left and that she seemed fine, so that was a comfort and a relief.
Just another day at "the home."