Dementia complicates even the simplest shopping trip

sunglassesEach week Mom and I will run errands together which is usually just a trip to the grocery store. My Mom is able to put together a list and she enjoys these trips.

The preparation for the trip takes longer now — and it wasn’t a quick task previously. Before the new medication, my Mom would be a frenetic whirlwind of activity and she needed small reminders about the task as she searched for a pencil, paper, got off-task and started looking for something unrelated, got redirected and then searched for her purse, lost the grocery list … and we repeated this cycle a few times until we were ready to walk out the door. Now, she just moves slower and forgets what she was doing and a gentle reminder gets her back on task.

Today was a sunny, hot day and as we emerged from the building to walk to my car, my Mom staggered as if she were struck and shielded her eyes. She tried to stand still with her eyes closed but was teetering so I gently put my hand on her back to steady her. “It’s too bright out here!” she exclaimed. I offered her my sunglasses, but she declined and slowly opened her eyes to adjust to the bright light. She agreed that we should stop and buy sunglasses today.

I’ve shared how difficult it has been to execute any purchase. When we arrive at the store, I am surprised how quickly she found a pair of sunglasses. They were a great color for her and would do a good job of shielding her eyes. After we purchased them, my Mom dropped them in her purse. We stopped by the food court before we left the building and as we walked outside, I suggested my Mom put on her new sunglasses. She opened her purse and was surprised to find them there — but immediately put them on.

I told her the color was perfect on her and I thought she would be pleased to check them out when we got to the car. She looks at herself in the mirror and comments that while they look nice, she’s surprised to see such big glasses on her face — “I hardly recognize myself, ” she comments.

It was great to have such a successful trip. I’ve shared a picture of my Mom in her new sunglasses. Thrilled. 

Dementia: Episodes of Unbecoming Behavior

snakebiteWithin days of the Assisted Living facility calling me in to work through how we might better help my Mom, she was involved in an incident where another resident ended up on the floor. We received few details, but I have witnessed, and the staff has reported that my Mom is getting more combative. She has periods where she is verbally abusive and physically threatening. She’s now about 5’7″ and 110 pounds, but is able to command a larger presence and scares other residents.

My general rule has been to tell my Mom once what is happening and what has been reported to me. The discussion is always difficult and she is always frustrated to hear that I have been told something about her when she was not present.  I totally understand that emotion.

However, even when she was present, she doesn’t remember. My Mom will argue each item and demands written documentation. When it is provided, she rips it up. From that point forward, I work to implement the changes and redirect conversations or frame them with information that my Mom will accept.

Within the past year, I have met several residents who will share how my Mom was one of the first residents that welcomed them into the community. However the dementia has changed her and now, she’s the woman everyone avoids.

The head nurse calls to let me know the doctor is going to meet with her and look into some new medications. The Ativan (by itself) can’t help anymore.

Just when I think I have absorbed the changes in my Mom, something new emerges. Rattled.  

The Table is Smaller, But my Heart is Bigger

thanksgivingThis is our first Thanksgiving without my Dad. Both parents have traditionally joined us for Thanksgiving. Last year my Mom was having difficultly with the change of scenery. I gave her my scrapbook to look through which helped keep her busy and brought calm to her disposition.

When we were discussing the pick-up time for today and writing it on my Mom’s calendar, she says “Your Father and I were really looking forward to coming to your house for Thanksgiving this year.” My heart skipped a beat.

The past few years have been quite a journey for our family. I’m thankful for all that my parents have taught me in my childhood and as an adult. While I will miss the presence of my Dad at the table, the personal changes I’ve undergone will be with me for a lifetime and have improved my life tremendously. Blessed.