Tag Archive | dementia care

Breaks My Heart Every Time

There’s a new resident at my mom’s care home. I’ll call her Jenny. The first couple of times I met her, she seemed so together – introduced herself, remembered on my next visit that I was Dorothy’s daughter and she’d met me before, asking my mom how it went at the doctor when we returned from an appointment – that I almost wondered why she needs to be in board and care. She walks with a walker, but (like my mom) seems to get around really well with it. I was happy that my mom would have someone at the house to chat with besides the caregivers, who are really kind and engaged but too busy to just sit and visit with her.

Then one time when I brought Mom home from an appointment, Jenny said to me “I know you! You live next door to Bert, don’t you?” I shook my head. No, sorry, you’re thinking of someone else. “But I know I’ve seen you there,” she insisted. “I know you!” I told her again, you’re thinking of someone else. I don’t know Bert. Mom spoke up then, saying, “This is my daughter. You’ve met her before.”

Jenny may get confused about who I am, but she always seems happy to see me when I come in. Whoever she thinks I am, I’m glad that person is someone she likes.

This afternoon when I brought Mom home from church, Jenny met us just inside the door. “Will you do me a favor?” she asked me. I was busy helping Mom, who had taken off her sunglasses and was asking for her regular glasses from her purse, so I didn’t respond. Jenny was saying something about someone she hadn’t seen in a long time. Maria, the head caregiver, held up a pill bottle and started talking to me about one of Mom’s medications that needs to be reordered.

Jenny was still talking to me, looking intently at me from a few yards away, but I hadn’t heard a word she’d said. She started to cry, loudly, like a small child. I looked helplessly from one caregiver to the other, hoping one of them would do something, but they were paying Jenny no mind. “I’m sorry to be a crybaby,” she was saying, sniffling. I felt horrible.

I kissed my mom goodbye, told Maria that I would request a refill of that medication, and headed for the door. Jenny was between me and the door. She stopped sniffling and looked at me with hopeful eyes. “Will you drive me to the party?” she asked me. “It’s not far from here, just over on Van Nuys.”

I put my hand on her shoulder and said, as gently as I could, “I’m so sorry that I can’t.”

Jenny began to cry again, almost wailing, “But I haven’t seen them for so long!” I patted her shoulder helplessly and then moved toward the door.

As the door was closing behind me, I was relieved to hear Maria saying “What’s the matter, Jenny?”

If my mom was crying like that, it would break my heart. But she’s my mom and maybe there would be something I could do to make it better. I never know how to respond when it’s another resident. And it breaks my heart just the same.

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Planning Ahead

After the incident at the doctor’s office last week, I decided that I need to be proactive and start looking for a living situation that will meet Mom’s needs in the long term — before we have an incident that forces the issue. I would like to get her into a community that specializes in dementia care. I toured one such community after work today.

I saw a lot of things I liked about it: the spacious dining room with high, sloping ceilings and plenty of room for walkers and wheelchairs to maneuver between the tables; the large TV lounge; the quiet, tree-lined street on which it sits; everything on one floor, so no elevator causing a traffic jam at meal times. The activities are more in line with her interests, including a weekly Scrabble game and Bible study, and they have an actual Activity Director. The residents, nearly all of whom have some degree of dementia, all seemed friendly and engaged. Though it was after dinner, lots of folks were up and about in the hallways. Lots of the rooms had sliding doors opening onto a central courtyard.

On the flip side, the rooms are significantly smaller than her current one. She’d have to get used to a twin bed (instead of full size) and could only keep about half of her furniture. And because it’s specialized care, it costs more: a minimum of $600/mo. more than she’s paying right now, which puts it at $300 (or so) more than her total monthly income. A shared room would cost the same as what she’s paying now, but the shared rooms aren’t noticeably larger than the private ones — so she’d be down to just a bed, a dresser and (if she’s lucky) one chair. While she’d enjoy the company of a roommate in a larger space, I can’t see her living like a college student in a dorm with no privacy whatsoever.

I have a good feeling about this place. Maybe by the time she needs to move, I’ll be able to figure out how to pay for it. I could get a roommate, so that the money I save on my rent can go toward Mom’s extra expenses. (Is it completely ludicrous to be contemplating getting a roommate myself so that my mom doesn’t have to have one? But at least MY roommate situation would include a private bedroom and bathroom.) Or maybe there’s something better out there. I’m going to keep looking.

Meanwhile, when I called her tonight, she seemed so “with it” that it made me doubt whether she really needs to be in memory care just yet. Hopefully we’ve got a little time, a nice comfortable plateau to settle in on before the next decline.