Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Morning After

I thought I had solved everything. I had gone to Mom's residence, calmed her down, and tucked her back into bed. Feeling somewhat saintly, I had returned home at 2:30 am and gone to bed, sleeping in to get a total of six hours.
I had promised her, "I'll be back at 2 pm."
But at 2 pm, I thought 3 pm would be good enough. At 3 pm, the phone rang.
"Anne, should I take the doll to your house? You want to keep her there, don't you?"
"Hi, Mom. You mean Anne of Green Gables? She can stay at your place. I thought I'd take her back to Colorado next summer."
"Oh, okay--"
"How are you doing today?"
"Fine, I'm fine, but when are you coming?"
"I'll come in about half an hour. I'll be there soon," I promised. I didn't ask to talk with her caregiver, Jona. Everything sounded normal.
But then I didn't arrive until 4 pm.
Jona began by explaining, "She's agitated today."
I heard the whole story, starting with Connie's report to Jona about the rest of the night.
Mom had only slept for twenty minutes before waking at 2:40 am and again insisting on getting out of bed: "I'm going to the meeting. I have to get dressed."
Somehow Connie had kept Mom in bed and gotten her back to sleep. Mom had slept off and on for 2-3 hrs., waking and asking for orange juice, getting a change of her Depend.
Jona had arrived at 6 am, and Connie had gone home to sleep.
"She was awake and agitated," Jona reported. "She was trying to get out of bed, so I sat on the end of the bed. She was saying, 'I'm going to the meeting! Get me dressed,' and she was trying to push the bedrail out with her knee. 'I'll kick you,' she kept saying and she was crying. "Go ahead, kick me,' I said, and she did."
"Oh dear! I'm so sorry. This is the first time you've seen her this way, isn't it?"
"Yes," admitted Jona.
"It's usually at night when she gets agitated," I noted.
"She wanted to call you. She kept saying, 'Call Anne! Call Anne! I have to go to the meeting. she knows this.
"Thanks for not calling," I said. "And I thought everything was okay when I went home and went to sleep. Oh well."
"Yes. She kept saying, 'You don't help me--you're not doing anything. Give me my earrings! Take my gown off--I don't want this on for a meeting.' And when she was hitting the rail with her knee, I said, 'You're on coumadin! Don't hurt yourself."
"Oh no--you're right. She's on coumadin again. We have to watch out for that now."
"Actually it was a loud noise that woke her up at 6. While I had the door open to come in, a door slammed and Julie started yelling, 'Help me! Somebody help me! I'm dying and nobody cares!"
"Oh, yes, Julie does that," I reflected.
Julie lives down the hall, sarcastic and demanding, another one of the interesting characters in the Reminiscence Neighborhood. The sane residents are on the first two floors; those with various kinds of dementia are on the secure floor, known as Rem.
"She yells every day early in the morning."
"Early in the morning? I didn't know that."
"But your mom finally went back to sleep and slept until 8 am. And then she was okay. I dressed her and took her to breakfast. She ate a good breakfast; at 9 am she was back in the room, sitting in her recliner, but she still wanted to get out, 'to go with Anne to a meeting.' So I asked her, 'What is this meeting?' and she said, 'With Anne. Anne is going to take me to a meeting.' I took her out for a walk, but then she didn't want to go to lunch. She said she was going to have lunch at your house."
"Oh dear--I told her I would be back at 2 pm and I would take her to my house. I guess that's the meeting she was talking about. So she stayed agitated most of the day?"
"Yes, she kept wanting to call you. I wouldn't let her. Then she went to sleep, and Jim called."
"Oh, good. Did she wake up enough to talk to him? Were her words slurred?"
"No, she talked fine. She went back to sleep but then she wanted to call you. She said, 'Let me have my doll. Anne wants to take it back to her place.' I finally called you for her."
"I should have come at 2," I realized. "Sorry, Jona, that you had to cope with this for so long." And I turned to my mother: "Mom, we're leaving now. Do you still want to come to my house for cinnamon raisin toast?"
"Yes! I haven't been to your house for a year," she charged, not opening her eyes. She had been sitting in her recliner half-asleep during this conversation.
"It's been a long time. You came to my house after WomenChurch, at the end of August, remember? We went to Claremont and then we went to my house. Okay, Jona, thank you so much. You can go home now. I'll take her to my house."
But Jona insisted on helping me get Mom to the toilet before she left. After that event I wheeled Mom down the hall to one elevator, then to the other elevator for the parking garage, and managed to get her into the front seat of my minivan, folding the wheelchair and lifting it into the back.
I stopped at Bob's Market to buy cinnamon raisin bread, milk, bananas, and a few of her other favorite foods. At my house I helped her into the wheelchair and easily pushed her up the new ramp built in July, into the house.
We feasted on toast and milk. I made her two pieces and cut off the crust for myself because she's not allowed to eat dry, scratchy foods. Her swallowing isn't that good, probably because of the Lewy Body disease, which affects her muscles with some Parkinson's-type symptoms.
But she wanted more toast. I gave her two more pieces, then half a grapefruit cut up.
"Can I have another piece?" she asked.
"No!" I said. "You've had four pieces, and it's dinner time. This is just a snack. You need to go back to Ocean View and have that tuna salad they are serving. You need the protein."
"You won't let me have it because you're selfish."
"Give me a break! You really want one more piece, don't you? Alright, one more piece."
Back in the car, she had another demand: "What about that other food I saw? Those long slender things. I want one of them."
"What long slender things?" I asked, thinking, "Carrots. She saw the carrots on the counter and wants one."
"You know--those long slender things."
"Well, maybe Sunday. We'll go to church on Sunday, and then we'll come here for lunch." I didn't explain that uncooked carrots are forbidden--she's allowed soft and chewy foods, nothing hard or chokable.

After driving back to Ocean View, I take her to her room, get the tuna salad, and take it back to her room. Dinner in the dining room has ended--it's now 6:15 pm. Mom begins to eat the tuna fish with gusto. Connie has arrived to do another 12 hours of care.
"How are you, Connie? Did you get some sleep? Jona told me Mom was awake again at 2:40 am."
"Yes," Connie says, laughing, showing me her sheet of notes from the night. She laughs about everything, somehow. Each caregiver keeps a detailed list of notes about my mother's food, meds, bms, activities--even things like "8 pm Watched Insomnia. By Robin Williams."
"Okay, well, I hope you have a quiet night tonight. I hope she sleeps well."
"Yes," says Connie, bustling around to get things ready for Mom's evening shower.
"If you have any problems--" I add, pausing.
I almost say, "--don't call me." Somehow I'm really tired; I feel like going home, lying down, and waking up whenever.
But then I manage to say, "Just call me." Cheerfully. Smiling.
"Yes, right," Connie says, wrinkling her brow to show her determination, concern. Probably about as fake as my smile.
I slip out of the room, closing the door behind me, walking past the crowd of residents watching the evening movie, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Another conversation with a resident is beyond my energy level. I know each familiar face, each flavor of dementia.
I have to escape, but first I have to pass through another crowd gathered to play a word memory game.
"Heavens to ________" the caregiver begins.
"Betsy!" answers Verma.
"Congratulations! You knew it," I say, smiling at her while heading for the elevator.
I punch in the door code and escape, praying that Connie will not call, that I will get a good night's sleep.


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