How Grandma Lost Her Tomorrows
When I arrived at Mom's residence this morning at 7:45 am, I didn't know whether she would be dressed and at breakfast or still in bed.
Usually on Sundays I arrive at 6:30 or 7 am, help her get up, and dress her for church. Then I shower while she is at breakfast and take her to church.
Today I stayed home until my husband left for a short business trip, so I was late to arrive at Ocean View Assisted Living.
I found her at breakfast, wearing the flowered pink jacket and matching slacks I had laid out for her to wear today. She looked great, so I concluded all was well. A kind and competent young caregiver, Heidi, had gotten her up and dressed her.
We were still late for church, however, because breakfast didn't arrive until 8:30 and at 9 am she insisted on walking back to her room instead of riding in the wheelchair. After a few steps she whimpered and said it was painful, she couldn't make it, but with encouragement she did do it.
We got through the usual routine with no unusual problems: church (which she partially slept through), an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins, a shopping trip to Sav-On (me shopping, her in the car with her ice cream), and a visit to my house.
She had hardly been at my house half an hour before she said it was time to go back to her residence--unusual for her. She hadn't even visited the bathroom yet. Usually she demands to use the bathroom about three times before I can get her back in the car to return to Ocean View.
After I got her settled in her chair for a nap back at her residence and was leaving at 2 pm, Bethlhem arrived for her 2-10 pm shift and pulled me aside to explain what had happened at 5 am.
"We checked her at 4:45 am and she was snoring, but when I happened to come by again at 5 am, she was sitting up on the edge of her bed pulling her nightgown off," began Bethlehem.
"So I said, 'Evelyn, what are you doing? It's too early to get up.'"
"'I'm getting dressed for church so I will be ready when Anne comes,' she told me.
"'Oh no, Anne won't like that,' I told her. 'You might fall down and get a broken bone, and Anne would not like that.' She seemed to think about that and to understand."
"So you were able to get her to go back to bed?" I asked.
"Yes, she went back to bed and to sleep," Bethlhem confirmed.
"Oh thank goodness," I said. "She has done that before--tried to get up at 3 am or 5 am. That's why she had a private caregiver at night for so long. But I thought she wasn't doing that any more. I haven't been much in touch with the night shift. And why are you working from 10 pm to 6 am and then starting another shift eight hours later?"
Bethlhem didn't totally explain why for two days in a row she worked graveyard shift and then started again at 2 pm--there must have been staffing problems. She is a lead caregiver in charge of 4-5 others, an immigrant from Ethiopia, kind, competent, caring, and beautiful in her early thirties.
Another unanswered question was why the Posey alarm hadn't gone off. It is supposed to make a loud noise when she sits up in bed or tries to leave the bed.
I concluded with Bethlhem that I shouldn't have told Mom, "Tomorrow we're going to church. Let's pick out an outfit and hang it out here."
Many times before these little announcements I have made to add a little excitement to her life have backfired and caused her to lose sleep or become agitated.
The worst case was Easter 2005, when the bedtime comment "Tomorrow is Easter!" caused her to have hallucinations and to believe the world was coming to an end. She was so agitated that we never made it to church.
Just two days ago we had made an appointment with another resident (not in the "Reminiscence Neighborhood" but on the floors for people with their wits about them), to take her to the P.E.O. meeting on Friday, her first visit to P.E.O. in over a year. But the poor lady called me in the morning and said she couldn't go to the meeting because she had not slept at all that night. Perhaps getting there and the social dynamics of the gathering worried her, or perhaps she has agoraphobia.
Anyway, Bethlhem and I concluded that Mom (a.k.a "Grandma") should no longer be informed about what events will take place in the morning.
From now on, it's just "Good night, sleep well. I love you."
No information about what will happen tomorrow.