Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's the dementia or not

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 91 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

I am so confounded by old age and dementia, these days. For months mom was depressed, despondent, lonely and sad. All she wanted was a Winter down south where there wouldn't be snow and ice. Where she could walk her dog without it getting frost-bitten feet. Since last fall as the leaves were falling, she's pined for an invite from my sister, Liz as well as my brother Jim. There are reasons she didn't get invited back, the biggest one is that it is problematic getting her and her dog there and home again.

I kept bolstering her spirits all winter by reminding her that she is a warm-weather person and she would be happy once again, in the Spring. We talked about the concerts in the park across the street from her apartment. About the families gathering to watch their kids playing sports on the athletic fields behind her complex, walking her dog around town and car watching. She would lighten up for a while and then go back to the same conversation. She got to the point where she didn't even like her apartment, anymore.

Finally, it is warmer and she's made a few decisions. Unfortunately, what she wants turns out not to be in her best interest. And there is more going on in her life besides her winter woes. 
This week mom is bubbling with enthusiasm. She'd heard that Dennis and Vicki may be moving into the farmhouse and maybe she would be able to stay with them. She embraced that idea, immediately, but soon came up with her own alternative. She thought is would be better for her to keep her apartment, now that those concerts in the park are just around the corner. The best of both worlds.

Sounded great to me, until I got another side of the story. The real problem is she is becoming less able to care for herself. The apartment situation was perfect for a while. Now, with no one to watch over her, she is forgetting to take pills and isn't eating right. She gave a way her pots and pans. Dennis and Vicki check on her daily, sometimes twice a day. They've talked to her about these problems and explained that her living alone in an apartment may no longer be viable. Mom is getting to the point where she needs additional care.

This was a rather serious conversation they had with her on Friday afternoon. But, when I talked to mom on Friday evening she was very excited about (her plan) to go back and forth between her place and the farm, with no mention of the conversation she had with Dennis and Vicki a few hours before.

It is coming down to mom needing structured care, like a nursing home. But she is "with it" enough to fight it. Problem is she is coming up with alternatives that are no longer workable. I've heard the arguments. It is a very sad time, not just for her, but for my siblings that have been dealing with her care. 

It is becoming difficult to know what is real and what is dementia talk, in our conversations. Oh, I can tell when she talks about our family life as being probably the best ever in the world, and I know better, I let her go on. But things she says about what is happening in her day-to day life -- I just don't know.

We did have plenty of laughs talking about things like the time the bat got into the house and was flying from bedroom to bedroom with dad chasing it in his underwear. Or when the Sears truck delivered a tub, toilet and sink, that mom bought because she was sick of having the only house around without an indoor bathroom. I will get back to sharing those conversations here. I needed to get this other stuff out.

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