In my last post, I looked back on a challenging but ultimately rewarding year. Today I’m looking ahead, contemplating the challenges that lie ahead for Mom and for me, and quite frankly — I’m overwhelmed.
It’s been five weeks since Mom left skilled nursing. Her physical strength is gradually returning — she’s now able to make it down to the dining room with her walker, without having to stop and sit down on the way — but I fear that she’s declining mentally. She seems to get confused now by even routine tasks and forgets some important things, like wearing her incontinence pads every day. The Care Director let me know that she’s wearing the same clothes day after day unless someone tells her to change them, and it’s likely she’s been sleeping in her clothes as well. When I brought her home the day after Christmas, I laid out a clean outfit on her chair which included a new pair of pants she’d received as a gift, suggesting that she try them on to be sure they fit. When I called the next day, she told me she was wearing them and they fit nicely. We talked several times over the last two days about going to church today (for the first time since she’s been home), but when I arrived this morning I found she’d completely forgotten — and she was still wearing the same clothes I’d laid out for her three days ago. The blouse had several spills on it, so I had to convince her to change it for church. Then she was too tired and wanted to lie down again, even though it was time to leave.
This is another thing that concerns me: She gets up for meals, but otherwise she seems to be spending the whole day in bed. When I ask about it, she says that she just has “no motivation” to get up. She doesn’t even turn on the TV or her little portable CD player for company. She just lies there in the silence, doing nothing, intermittently dozing. Since my dad passed away six years ago, I’ve never known her to like silence; she nearly always had the TV on. Now she doesn’t seem to bother unless I come over and turn it on, which makes the $60/mo. we’re spending for cable a little ridiculous.
And speaking of wasting money, she won’t wear her new upper denture that cost her over $1,000. I knew it would be an uphill battle to get used to it, but she refuses to even try. I can’t even get her to keep her partials in her mouth for more than ten minutes at a time. She says they irritate her gums and is constantly fussing with them, rattling them around in her mouth or taking them out and holding them in her hand. Tomorrow I’m going to call the dentist and make an appointment to see if there’s anything he can do to make the false teeth more comfortable. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to cringe every time she just pops them out of her mouth in public.
I never thought my mom, who used to be so well dressed and take pride in her appearance, would be that person — that crazy old lady who wears dirty clothes and forgets to put her false teeth back in. It makes me sad and embarrassed for her, but I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t be there every night to make sure she changes into her pajamas and lay out clean clothes for the morning. Her community offers a full care package that includes help with dressing/undressing, incontinence care, etc. — but it would take every last dollar of her monthly income to pay for it.
Mom has always loved crossword puzzles and word games like Scrabble. Doing the newspaper crossword has been her daily ritual for as long as I can remember. But lately she’s letting the newspapers pile up, crosswords untouched. When I visited today I suggested that we do a crossword together, but she couldn’t seem to keep her mind on it and had trouble with even some easy, obvious clues. She loves to read, too, but she hasn’t so much as opened any of the many books she received for Christmas — not even the two I bought her by her favorite author, Jan Karon. She didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm when she opened them on Christmas morning either. I wonder if she’s having more trouble with, well, “brain stuff” than she wants to admit? And I wonder what, if anything, I can do to help.
Looking ahead, I can see that the road before us doesn’t get any easier. In fact, it’s going to get a whole lot harder. I hope I’m up to it. I’m exhausted already.