Sunday, April 29, 2007

Look Ma: No Teeth

I slept peacefully after deciding to move Mom out of skilled nursing.
Getting up at 7:15 after only three hours of sleep, I was looking forward to a second great day of the LA Times/UCLA Bookfair.
It took determination to steer the car toward UCLA and take a full day for myself, not going to check on Mom first.
Her circumstances were so miserable at Country Villa Mar Vista that for six days morning, evening, in fact all day long, I had been agonizing over how she was doing, what to do, whether to drive over there.
Today was different, knowing that tomorrow I will move her. I had a great day listening to authors such as Walter Mosely and Jane Smiley.
Mom’s day, however, was not as good.
Arriving at Country Villa at 5:40 pm, I found her eating dinner at a table with Henry, a kind elderly Asian man; Phyllis Berg, a beautiful blue-eyed, clear-minded public health nurse from Minnesota, 81 yrs. old and on a pureed diet; and Nicole, a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted aging little person.
“Hi, Mom, how are you?” I began but realized immediately that her false teeth weren’t in. “Where are your teeth?”
She mumbled an answer as I searched her lap and her crumpled napkin. Yesterday I had watched her take her upper plate out at lunch and wrap it in a napkin, so I was worried that she might have lost them.
Then I walked back to her room to see whether the teeth had been left in the soaking cup since last night.
Sure enough, there they were, sitting in the cup of pale blue Efferdent water, underneath the large sign in purple marker pen posted by a nurse: “Put teeth in resident’s mouth before meals.”
Breakfast, lunch, dinner without her upper plate or lower partial plate, just the eight front teeth still rooted in her lower jaw.
A message from God: you made the right decision in taking her out of here. Thank you.
And a convenient way to explain to Country Villa why I am moving Mom out just a week after moving her in.
I took the charge nurse into her bathroom and showed him the teeth in the cup.
“I’m going to move my mother back to her assisted living residence,” I told him, taking the teeth out to return to the dining room.
I put the teeth into Mom’s mouth, despite her objections, and soon a tiny African woman named Tutu came trembling up to me to apologize. Mom was one of the 12-13 residents she was in charge of for the 3-11 pm shift.
“It’s not your fault,” I said. “You have too many residents to take care of, and of course the CNA taking her to breakfast and lunch should have put her teeth in. Yes, there was a sign on the bathroom mirror, but I don’t blame you.”
“I usually work the night shift,” she explained.
“Oh, and she is a new resident. You aren’t familiar with her care.”
I took Mom back to her room, toileted her, put her nightgown on, and left her in her chair to watch a DVD of The Sound of Music on her laptop computer. Never mind that I had put the same one on the night before.
I went home to have a peaceful dinner with John and his friend Ed Miller, visiting from McLean, Virginia.
In the morning, somehow, I would find a way to move Mom and all her furniture and belongings back to Sunrise.

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