Friday, August 3, 2018

One Week In A Care Home

I've blogged little this year. Time got away from me. Mainly because I was stuck in the mire of what else was happening in my life. I wasn't sure how to write about it or if I wanted to say anything at all. But what I've experienced this year and even last year, what's been creeping up slowly - was the return of dementia, Alzheimers, whatever you want to call it, into my life. Recently I decided that it's as much a part of my life as my writing is. It's time to fess up. After having lost my dad to this horrid disease I now face it with my mother in law.  Whether there was something that could have been done, less sugar, less stress or whether it was just a shitload of bad luck, it's crappy and there's nothing to be done to fix it, only manage it. Besides, Mum's not gone. We're figuring this thing out as we go along. And, there's still a whole lot of fun and laughter to be found. Crap happens and then we laugh. So let me share and tell you how the year began.

Ma D or Mum (my mother-in-law) moved into a care home shortly after the start of the year. This wasn't something she wanted to do or even believed she needed. In her mind she cooked for herself, cleaned her house and toodled around town in her little car. In reality, I had cooked the majority of her meals for over a year, chauffeured her to the majority of her appointments and with the rest of the family basically managed her life.  The car, well it sat in the garage with the keys tucked safely away. I'm not proud of the fact that we had to trick her into moving but it was the only way to keep her safe. When coffee was left on the burner for hours, when doors were left open in the midst of January on the prairie and with doors unlocked, and a friendly smile, she'd let anyone in - stranger or neighbour - it was time. So we began the arduous journey; wading through the options, readying her and her things for where she needed to go.

Mum fought through the early days of that first move in. It was tough for all of us but we'd found her the best place we could. Her own little suite where she could shut the door and call it her own, where staff checked on her and the meals are great. Except, problems came one after the other like a tsunami. Confusion at being moved doubled - a temporary occurrence thank goodness but one that had to be dealt with. So, week one I moved in for a few days to lend her the support it was clear she so desperately needed.

Day 1 in a Care Home
After a day of convincing her that this is her new home, after facing more failure than success - watching the 2018 Olympics seem to make everything right. But, night brings other troubles. Staff check on their latest resident throughout the night and each time she pops up on cue. On my end, the couch I sleep on is too short, even for me. It is too slippery too. The pillows shoot out from under my head and launch across the room. I just get them back in place when a sound has Mum sitting up in confusion. Settled once again and then it's the sheets that the staff so kindly lend me - they slip every time I move. So when Mum sits bolt upright in bed with a question as to where she is, the sheet slips off the couch as I sit up to answer every time, all half dozen times that she awakes through the night. I hunt down those pillows and remake that makeshift bed again - and again and... Morning takes a long time coming and finds me pre-breakfast sitting in a chair in the hallway wondering at six a.m. if the day that has only begun would ever end or if Mum will ever accept this place as home. It's the latter that has me worried. But Mum cheers up right after breakfast is served. Now, it is only the night that I dread. On the upside, the meals are great here and later in the day, for the first time ever, I actually enjoy pineapple on my pizza.

Day 2 in a Care Home
Mum's been the financial head of the household that once included the family farm, and she won't be fooled. So, when light is flooding under her door at midnight, she's concerned about what this might cost her. The issue comes up every hour on the hour through the night. I finally convince her that it is the hall light and the fact that the woman across the corridor has her light on and the door open. But, she's yet to believe that she's not going to be charged for the excessive use of power. And the next day, my short escape home for supper is interrupted as the care home calls - Mum is insisting on leaving and they fear they don't have the manpower to stop her.

I would laugh if it weren't so tragic. Mum used to be tall and strong. Now she is slightly shorter than me and when I take her hands in mine, she can't pull free. But she still gives the illusion of strength and her determination is legendary. So the night begins early as I head back to the home only to find Mum settled in her room with one of those fabulous staff members having taken charge and convincing her, for now, that this is home.

We go to bed early for I know the worst will come in the early hours of the morning starting from midnight on and there'll be no sleep after that. I'm sad as I tuck in those slippery sheets on that slick sofa thinking what has happened, how Mum's life has changed. But there's no choice, we need her safe.

Day 3 and 4 in a Care Home
The staff can make or break a place. Here, with welcoming smiles they've made Mum feel precariously comfortable. And, they make sure we're all watered, fed and happy, yes, even me who is planning an exit strategy soon. Meantime, I've stuffed a notepad and a pen in my overnight bag, just in case I have an idea or two for a story. Instead Mum believes it's time to go home and won't be convinced otherwise. I strike gold with the piano in the lounge and we both give it a go. It's the best therapy ever. Mum is a fabulous piano player - she can wing pretty near any piece with a combination of reading the music and playing by ear.

Fast forward a few months and we're celebrating Mother's Day. Except mum doesn't feel much like celebrating. We're playing bingo and she wants nothing to do with it. She shoves the bingo card at me
repeatedly and gets crankier each time she does it. I'm guessing she fears she may have forgotten how to play and doesn't want to embarrass herself. So I take charge of the card and gamely play. However, I miss one key fact - it's blackout bingo. So when I call bingo and they bring over the prize, the laughs on me when we realize that there is no win. On the upside, my embarrassment was worth Mum's smile.

And the journey goes on...


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1 comment:

Kevin Read said...

Yep, that's a tough one. We went through it with Ruth's mother for the last three years of her life, and now her father has been diagnosed, although he's still doing okay. Not a good way to end a good life. We can definitely relate to the frustration.