Monday, October 24, 2011

Sometimes I wish Mom was closer…

When we decided to move Mom out of our home and into an Alzheimer’s facility, location was a question.  Mom had lived with me for a year but I live a little less than an hour away from everyone else in our family.  Although Mom wouldn’t know where she was actually living, by placing her near the rest of our family, I had hoped that there would be more opportunity for visits.

Mom does have visitors – in addition to my regular visits, my sister stops by at least three times a week on her way home from work and there are others that stop now and then too. 
Truth is, though, when dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there comes a time when you begin to feel that visits don’t mean much.  If you’re lucky, your loved one will recognize you when you arrive.  Eventually they will lose your name (Mom lost mine long ago), then they will lose the relationship (daughter, son, etc.) and finally they might lose any reaction to a visit at all.

Early on they are happy to see you and might remember for awhile that you visited even if they can’t remember your name.  As time goes by, you’ll enjoy a great visit only to find that 10 minutes after you left, they’ve forgotten you were there.  That’s when you begin to feel like your visits don’t mean anything.
I can honestly say I haven’t had that with Mom.  Yes, she forgets I was there 10 minutes after I leave but she always recognizes me when I arrive.  No, she doesn’t know my name and quite often doesn’t remember I am her daughter but she knows my face and that I’m there specifically to see her.  Some day that reaction will be lost but even then, I know my visit will mean something.

There is a gentleman at the home, Ralph, that I have watched progress deeper into Alzheimer’s.  Although he is known for cussing and yelling – something my daddy never did – he reminds me of Daddy.  Seeing him brings back the memory of Daddy at the nursing home sitting in his geri-chair. 
At times, Ralph will give me a smile and sometimes respond briefly to my questions.  At other times, he is yelling and agitated and it bothers everyone but the reality is that he is in pain.  They are constantly adjusting his medication to try and manage his pain.  When it’s working, he’s peaceful and naps.  When it’s not, you can hear him all over.  I hate to see him feeling that way so if he is agitated when I am there, I go over and rub his back and look into his eyes.  I think he recognizes my look of concern and he settles into the feeling of the backrub.

Ralph never knew me before I started visiting the home and he never had the chance to know me.  When I’m there, though, he seems to know I care so even though we have no history and no future, that feeling makes me glad I took the time with him.
That’s why I sometimes wish Mom was closer.  I would happily visit every day because I want her to know I care.
I helped Mom put this puzzle together the other day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It’s best to bounce when you fall…

It’s not unusual to hear from family members that their loved one fell at the nursing home.  I’ve heard it many times and unfortunately, blame is always directed at the home and the staff.  I’m here to give you a different view of the situation.

I have a daughter who has had epilepsy all her life and for about 17 years, she has had not only absence, or petit mal seizures, but also tonic clonic, or grand mal seizures.  She doesn’t have a warning so she is unable to get in a safe spot or position before it happens.  I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been in the same room and have watched as she fell, unable to move fast enough to catch her.  She has suffered far too many bumps, bruises, black eyes and more from those falls.  I felt so badly each time, that I was unable to respond in time to cushion her fall.  That said, I thank God for watching over her because she’s had her share of seizures right at the top of the steps!
While Mom was living with me, I also watched as she stepped back from the window, lost her balance and fell.  I was in the next room and could not get to her quickly enough to catch her.  Luckily, there was a soft footstool and although it didn’t cause the fall, it was close enough that she sat on it rather than falling all the way to the floor.  It stopped the fall but the momentum sat her back into a cast iron quilt stand covered with quilts.  She hit that hard enough to bend the cast iron! 

There was surprise on Mom’s face as she fell but once the movement stopped, she looked up at me with a sheepish grin and then laughed!  I helped her up and kept an eye on her but no bruises showed up, nor did she complain of pain.  Whew!
Last weekend I received a call from a nurse at Mom’s home.  Mom had been in her room looking out the window – by now you know this is her favorite pastime – and as she backed up from the window, she forgot the bed was there and fell.  Tina walked in to check on her and there was Mom, sitting on the floor with her back against her bed and she looked at Tina with a grin and said, “Oh good, honey!  Can you help me up?  I’m stuck!”

The normal procedure for a fall is to keep the resident still until a thorough check is completed.  The nurse was called for Mom and the check found no broken bones or even bruises.  After getting Mom up, her only complaint was that her legs hurt a little – but that is a typical complaint on a daily basis.
Not all falls have happy endings or make for comical stories.  I’ve seen many over the years and a few at Mom’s home.  The falls typically happen when the resident decides to do something that they have forgotten they can no longer do.  They also typically happen when an aide is not standing right next to them.

My point here is that even when I was the 24x7 sole caregiver of my daughter and later, my mom, I was not able to prevent falls.  Why would I hold the caregivers at Mom’s home to a higher standard than I was able to achieve?