Say “Yesss!”

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Sage Advice Edition

Way back in October (at least it seems like a long time ago to me) when my mother was in the ER following her mild heart attack and fall in her home, she was under the care of a couple of jovial male nurses. 

Since she doesn’t hear well at all, she tended to smile and agree with whatever they asked of her—and also with the doctors, radiology technicians and whomever else happened to pose a question, even though she didn’t understand them. 

One of her nurses told her, jokingly, “Around here, you better be careful what you say yes to.  You never know where you might end up!”

Very sound advice.

This afternoon I stopped by The Hotel to check on my mother and sat chatting with her for about a half hour. 

She asked me again how old she was. 

I said, “How old do you think you are?”

She thought for a bit and then said “300?”

I asked her if she knew of anybody that lived to be that old. 

She said no, she didn’t. 

She thought some more, smiled, and said “3,000?”

So I told her once again that she was currently 92 and would be 93 in September.

“Okay, 93.  I’ll have to remember that 3.” 

(Which is where, I’m guessing, she keeps getting that 300 figure.)

Then I kept thinking about the episode of “Absolutely Fabulous” where Gran is taking a magazine quiz:

 “Margaret Thatcher was prime minister for A) 900 years, B) 3,000 years, C) 11 years. … Well, that’s a trick question. … It was a very long time.”     


After we got her age sorted out (for the moment) she told me about this morning when one of her aides came into the room and asked her (she thought) if she wanted to go to breakfast. 

She said she did, so she got her walker and they both went into the dining room. 

The aide showed her to a chair at a table with about six other people, some of them men (which should have been the tip-off because my mother eats at the same table with the same three other women for every meal.)

After a while it dawned on my mother that this wasn’t breakfast, it was some kind of religious service! 

Instead of bacon and eggs, she was getting hymns and a sermon.

At that point in her story I got up and got out the calendar of events for The Hotel.  She keeps it in the drawer of one of her antique dry sinks and never looks at it because she doesn’t know one day from the other any more.

I looked for Sunday, May 6, and sure enough, I found that at 9:30 the Baptists hosted a Bible study. 

My mother had forgotten she’d already had breakfast and unwittingly bumbled into the study group because she misheard what the aide had asked her. 

She didn’t know how to get out of it, so she just sat there until they were done.

“I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying,” she told me, “but the men were very nice looking.”

Before they were through, it sounds like they offered her Communion.  She took the little glass and drank it.  “It tasted like wine,” she said, “pretty good, too.” 

Only thing is, Baptists use grape juice, not wine in their Communion services.

So, that nurse’s word to the wise still holds true. 

Be careful what you agree to—instead of eating bacon and eggs for breakfast with your friends, you could end up drinking grape juice shots with the Baptists.


My Mother, the Competitor

Quick note from the Eldercare Underground: Trash talking edition

I stopped by The Hotel for a brief visit today to drop off some laundry for my mother and also a twelve-pack of the Boost energy drink her doctor has her taking twice a day. 

When I gave the RN at the nurses’ desk the Boost, the aide seated next to her pointed to the dining room and said, “Your mother is in there having a cup of coffee.” 

It was about 3:30—too early for dinner, so she was in there of her own volition. 

I blurted out, “That’s a shock!” and we all laughed.

It turns out the manager had her and some other ladies play some kind of game and my mother won a pretty glass photo frame.  I asked her what she had to do to win, but all she could come up with was that she had to say a number when she was asked to by Sandra, the manager. 

I think probably everyone won a prize at some point in the game.  Kind of like how little kids get “Participant” trophies. 

Everybody wins!  Yay!

We took it back to her room and then she proceeded to run down her competition.

“There were four other ladies, and I think they’re all really dumb.  They didn’t know their asses from third base.”

Then she said, “Who used to say that?” 

I replied, “Dad did.” 

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

Then she said that the women didn’t know what they were doing most of the time. 

Her next observation made me chuckle to myself since she’s most likely several years older than that “Gang of Four”:

“I hope if I get to be that old, I’m not in koo-koo land like they are.”

At least she knows where her ass is. 


ASS, MEET.....




Nepenthe and George

Nepenthe:  (Greek: Νηπενθές) is a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a “drug of forgetfulness” mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt.

Figuratively, it means “that which chases away sorrow,” or grief and mourning.   So, literally, it means ‘not-sorrow’ or ‘anti-sorrow’. In the Odyssey, Nepenthes pharmakon (i.e. an anti-sorrow drug) is a magical potion given to Helen by the Egyptian queen Polidamma. It quells all sorrows with forgetfulness.

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven“:

“Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

My mother has been living at The Hotel (basically assisted living with nicer furniture) since just before Christmas.  She’s adjusted pretty well, given the fact that she’s not a social butterfly.

More like a reclusive caterpillar who’d like to cling to her favorite chair like it was her personal cocoon.

I visit her every couple of days to pick up her laundry and attempt a chat.  Her memory has been coming and going like the Spanish language Tejano music station signal I try to get on my car radio.

Some days it comes in strong, other days it gets mixed up with a hard rock station.  Makes for some interesting song segues.

So it is with my mother’s memory.  People and places get jumbled up in her mind and some get forgotten altogether in the neural pathways of her aging brain.

Last week she was somewhat agitated and confused when I came to see her.  She asked me if I had a boyfriend.  I’ve been married to the same man for almost 36 years now but even with prompting on my part, she drew a blank.

Didn’t seem to bother her though.  To use her favorite catch-phrase:  “Whatever.”

At that same visit I found her almost obsessively pouring over some baby pictures my nephew had sent her of his new baby girl.  I’d looked at them the last few visits, but she must have asked me about five times during this visit if I’d seen them.

So I got to thinking that maybe she might enjoy looking at some photos of the house she and my Dad lived in together in Laguna Beach for over 25 years.  (No, they weren’t rich.  They bought the house for a whopping $22,000 in 1967 when Laguna was still an artist colony, soon to be a hippie enclave.)

The photos were in some of those horrid magnetic photo albums popular about twenty years ago.  You know, the kind where the cover was all poufy and padded and hand-done in material with lace around the edges?

I’d methodically gone through each one and carefully stripped the photos out before they became permanently affixed to the pages like fossils trapped in amber.

I bought a small, modern photo album with transparent pockets to slide the photos in and brought it and a stack of the Laguna Beach photos over to The Hotel earlier this week when I went to visit my mother.

I handed her the stack of photos and after she looked at each one I slid it into a pocket in the album.

Now, when I was concocting this little experiment, I’d had some twinges of misgivings about the whole thing.

What if seeing the photos of her lush flowery garden, with her and Dad smiling as they sat there together, brings back the sadness she must have felt when he died?

(A year later she sold that house to move to Texas, a place she does not like.)

At first, she wasn’t sure whose house and garden she was looking at, but bit by bit, some of it came back to her.  She recognized my father, but didn’t really comment on him.  In one of the photos of them together, she thought I was her, although we don’t especially resemble each other.  (At least, I tell myself that.)

So I left the album with her and after a couple of days I returned for another visit.

The housekeeping gal wanted to clean her room, so we went out to the spacious living room in the front of The Hotel and parked ourselves on a couch and a comfy wing-chair.  I had suggested we take the album along so we could look through it again.

There was one photo of George, my parents’ cat, who lived to be something like 17 or 18, although his exact age was never known.  My folks had gotten him at the Bluebell Cattery in Laguna Canyon Road, a cat boarding place that was run by a little old white-haired lady who always wore a gray cardigan covered in cat hair.

She looked like a cat herself.  Guess it takes one to know one.

George had been left there by his previous owners who’d gone off on a trip to Europe and never came back to get him.  His former name had been “Sundance,” so maybe that gives you a clue about the mind-set of the people who callously left him.

But The Cat Lady kept him and my parents adopted him and changed his moniker to “George.”  It seemed to suit him.

My father was particularly devoted to George, but my mother was almost as attached.  One time, after my parents had given a small dinner for friends, George went missing.  There were coyote sightings in the hills above their house and my mother was frantic.

About eighteen hours after George disappeared, my mother decided she better put the dishes from the dinner away in the low credenza in the living room.  When she opened the cupboard door, there was George, lying on some napkins, blinking in the light as if to say “What?”

He’d gone in there when she took out the dishes and she’d accidentally closed the door on him.  So he just took a nap until he was eventually discovered.

When my Dad died, George was her constant companion.  She would sleep with my Dad’s bathrobe on the bed and George would sleep on top of it.  I know that cat missed my Dad as much as she did.

During the next six months, George started to lose a lot of weight and the vets couldn’t find a reason why.  Finally he became so weak that my nephew had to take George in to be euthanized.

Personally, I think George died of a broken heart.

When my mother saw the photo of George, in his cat collar and I.D. tag (which was still in my mother’s jewelry box when we packed her things), I thought there would be a rush of recognition and sad feelings.  I cringed, waiting.

But, nothing.  “Oh, a pussycat,” was all she said.

I asked her if she remembered George at all, the cat she and Dad had for so long, but again she drew a blank.

She just went on turning the pages.  She did remark that the neighbor just down from them was drunk most of the time.  That she can recall!

Maybe it’s just as well.  You can’t be sad about something you don’t remember.

Dementia, for her, is not unlike Nepenthe:  “That which chases away sorrow.”


No Problemo

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Humiliation Edition

After a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes at Zumba this morning where I got down with the Kumbia Kings and their song “Boom Boom,” I went over to The Hotel to check on Mommy Dearest.

It was only about 12:30, so I figured she was still in the dining room finishing her lunch, which turned out to be cheese enchiladas, refried beans and tortillas.

Sounds good to me.

I set about seeing if her laundry basket was overflowing like it was recently, even though at that visit it’d only been a day and a half since I’d been there to see her.

Both times some things obviously didn’t need washing, and I suspect they just might have fallen off their hangers in the closet and then got stuffed into the basket.

My suspicions were ultimately confirmed when, after checking one of the antique dry sinks she uses to stash her cookies and crackers, I found a missing pajama top and a bra all wadded up and lying on her goodie hoard.

My husband read that you don’t have to worry that you have dementia until you find your missing pair of shoes in the refrigerator.

Do bras and pajama tops in the dry sink count?

Her laundry was a manageable pair of pants and a sweater that I could take home and bring back later this week, so I turned on her television and watched Turner Classic Movies.  It was the 1936 movie “Rembrandt,” starring Charles Laughton and a youngish Elsa Lanchester.

They were a married couple at that time, although they never had any children.  Various rumors circulated about the reason why they remained childless.  Laughton’s friend, Maureen O’Hara, offered some thoughts of her own on this, prompting Lanchester to say:

“She looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, or anywhere else.”


But I digress.

After a bit, Sandra, the Hotel manager, popped into the room to help set up the nebulizer my mother has been using since she developed a mild case of pneumonia a week ago.  She has to sit there and breathe in the vapors from the machine a couple times a day.  Rhonda, the Hotel day RN, came in also to get things rolling.

Sandra had the door open and was looking down the hall toward the dining room.  She saw my mother coming and called out to her cheerfully, “You have a visitor!”

My first instinct was to say “Don’t raise her expectations!  It’s only me!  She’ll be disappointed!”

When she came through the doorway with her walker and got past Sandra so she could see who was sitting there, she stopped and said in a pleasant voice, “That’s my daughter.”

Then she looked pointedly at me and said,

“What’s your problem?”

Both Sandra and Rhonda let out surprised yelps, followed by nervous laughter.

Sandra put her arm around my mother and chided her with “Now, that’s not the way to greet your daughter!  You should say “Hi, honey, I’m glad to see you!”

I tried to laugh along with them, but I just felt embarrassment and a degree of humiliation.

These were not new feelings.

I stayed and watched the rest of the movie while she used her breathing machine.  Every once in awhile I cast a sidelong glance at her.

How does someone come by a personality like that?

You can’t blame it on dementia because she was this way long before the bra and pajama top wound up in the dry sink.

After I left with her laundry in tow, I got into my car and cranked up the volume on my Kumbia Kings CD.

Boom boom.


One of These Days, Alice…Pow!..to the Moon

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Split personalities

There’s a saying here in Texas that if you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it’ll change.  You could say the same thing about my mother’s personality.

Today was one of those days where both weather and mother collided. 

I had to accompany my mother to a doctor’s appointment this afternoon because she’d had a rattling chest cough the last few days.  (She’d also fallen—yet again—in The Hotel’s dining room and hit the back of her head on either a chair or a table on her way down.  No major damage from that, but it didn’t help matters any.)

When I left home the temperature was approaching 80 degrees and I’d had to put the AC on in my car.  By the time I left The Hotel to come home about three hours later, the temp. had dropped to 45.  There was a cold wind blowing in from the north, causing me to turn the heater on.

Ah, Texas.  Whiplash weather.

Also whiplashing was my mother’s personality today.

We saw the physician’s assistant at her medical clinic, who determined my mother had, at the very least, a case of bronchitis.  She prescribed an antibiotic and also Mucinex to get rid of all the “gunk,” as she put it, in my mother’s lungs that was causing the awful sounding cough.

But to be on the safe side, since the weekend was coming up, she wanted my mother to go over to the hospital and have a chest x-ray to be sure that there wasn’t any pneumonia starting.  If there was, she would put her on a stronger antibiotic.  She didn’t want to start out with the big guns just yet because she said that antibiotic can be hard on the kidneys and she wanted to keep it in reserve, if at all possible.

Fortunately, we were being squired around by The Hotel’s van driver and I’d had the presence of mind to have my mother ride in a wheelchair instead of her Candy Apple Red Ferrari (her walker.) 

It certainly made schlepping her around a lot easier.

So, over to the hospital we went and checked into the radiology lab.  After a brief wait, we were ushered into the x-ray room and told to go into the dressing room, strip to the waist (her, not me) and put on one of their fashion-forward gowns that tie in the back.

All of this was to be accomplished with her still in the wheelchair.  My mother complained about my cold hands while I was trying to get her pullover sweater off and even more when I was undoing her bra in the back. 

But we did it, and then wheeled out to the room where I had to hold her up in a standing position so the technician could take two views of her lungs with the x-ray machine. 

I got to wear ten pounds of lead apron.  Not a good look, but it serves its purpose.

Then it was back into the dressing room where I reversed the process and heard more about my cold hands.

The technician said the films were good and he didn’t need to retake them so, after wandering for a bit in the labyrinthine hallways of the hospital, we made our way out to the reception area where an auxiliary made the phone call to The Hotel to let our driver know we were done and needed to be picked up.

If I’ve learned anything in dealing with my mother through her various health crises, it’s that when everything is over and she’s on her way home, she tends to make me the brunt of her barely submerged anger.

We were sitting there looking out the big windows that face the parking lot.  She thought the hospital shuttle was our van and pointed it out to me a couple of times.  Each time I had to correct her and tell her that, no, it wasn’t our van.  I could tell she didn’t want to hear that.

When our guy did show up, he had to park back behind the shuttle.  By that time we’d had the sudden temperature drop and the wind was blowing pretty hard.  I didn’t see any reason to charge out the door until our driver had put the ramp down for my mother’s wheelchair.

She, however, was rarin’ to go.

If the weather can go from 80 to 40 in 30 minutes, my mother can go from pleasant to nasty in a nanosecond.

In a voice just loud enough that I knew the hospital auxiliary at her desk could overhear, my mother said

“One of these days I’m going to knock the crap right out of you.”

When we got back to The Hotel, I made sure the manager knew what meds. had been prescribed and that the chest x-ray results would be faxed to them tomorrow.

Then I picked up my mother’s laundry and got her settled in her chair with a bottle of water since the physician’s assistant said she needed to drink more fluids to get the “gunk” out.

As I went out the door, my mother blew me a kiss.

There was a twinge in my neck that I swear felt just like whiplash.


Disappearing Beds and the Mexican Mafia

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  High School Confidential

I went over to see my mother at The Hotel today to check up on her back pain and to see if they’d managed to get her out of bed and moving. 

As I mentioned before, she’s been kind of playing the staff this last weekend so they would allow her to take her meals in her room and not have to make “the long march” down to the dining hall.

When I opened the door to her room, I found her slouched way down in one of her chairs, dozing; much like you’d expect to find a sullen teenager. 

Not a good position for a back pain sufferer.

She said she’d had one good night of sleep the other night but last night her back was hurting, so I told her I would check with Sandra and see what she said.

My mother asked “Is she ‘the blonde’?”

I said “If you mean, Sandra, the manager—yes.”

“I don’t like her,” my mother countered.

“You don’t like her because she makes you work.”

As I started out the door my mother, in retaliation, pulled out the big guns:

“Pull your shirt down in back.”

I hesitated for a mere nanosecond and then kept going out the door.  

It ain’t gonna work this time, old woman.

Sandra was in the dining room setting up the tables for the residents’ Valentine’s party.  We chatted about my mother’s health and how switching out her antique ironwork bedstead for a lower bed frame this last weekend should help keep her from having any more episodes of falling.

Sandra has such a great attitude and is able to laugh off some of the disconcerting things that occur, mainly with the residents who suffer from varying stages of dementia.

It seems that my mother didn’t remember us changing out her bed, even though she was sitting in a chair in the room the whole time.  So she went around telling all the ladies in her little circle that someone had come into her room and stolen her bed.

Well.  The news traveled like wildfire and Sandra had to do some damage control to quash that rumor.  Even after she’d explained things to my mother, she’d caught her repeating her story to another gal pal.

But Sandra said that wasn’t the worst rumor to be passed around. 

Last year Guaranty Bank was taken over by Compass Bank and someone spread the news that the bank was going under.  (Shades of the Depression.) 

Then the word got out that it was really the Mexican Mafia that had taken over.

A gaggle of panicked women gathered in Sandra’s office and she actually had to have someone come out from the bank to assuage their fears, it got that bad.

And there was the story that one lady spread about another in which the lady in question was supposedly stealing things from everyone’s room.  This of course was false, but the rumor persisted.  The rumor monger said that the woman had been told if she didn’t stop stealing she was going to “go to jail for the rest of her life.”

The woman was 96, so I don’t think she was facing a long stint in the slammer.

The kicker was, the “burglar” had a stroke and was in rehab in another building for several months.  When she came back it just confirmed to all that she’d been arrested and had been incarcerated for her wrongdoings.

On my way out I ran into Dee, the daughter of one of my mother’s tablemates.  Dee was once our insurance agent, so we’ve known each other for some time.

Dee and I laughed about how The Hotel was just like high school (or even junior high school) with its cliques and catty stories. 

Not long ago she was on her way to sign her mother out for a beauty appointment and walked past the group of women who hang out in the cozy wingchairs by the nurses’ station.

Her mother calls them “the knotheads,” even though she’s been known to sit there with them herself.

As Dee was signing the “furlough” sheet, she could hear the “knotheads” whispering amongst themselves about “who did she think she was, checking her out just before lunch was being served?”

Then one of them said “Oh, it’s her daughter.” 

And someone else said “Yeah, she’s the one who always wears those low cut tops.” 

(Note:  Dee happens to occasionally wear v-necks, but not anything near what I would consider daring or racy.)

We laughed about how I need to pull my shirt down in back and she needs to stop looking like a floozy.

Then I told her about my mother and the disappearing bed. 

Dee said she’d heard the story from her mother, too. 

And her mother even went one better.  She said,

“Do you know that someone stole Iris’ bed? 

And she was in the room the whole time!”

Peyton Place has nothing on this bunch.


Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Nutrition Nazi Edition

Went over to see my mother at the Hotel today after my Zumba class.

I figure if I can withstand 45 minutes of strenuous (but fun) dance routines to songs like Shakira’s “Rabiosa” and Arash’s “Boro Boro,” I can withstand 45 minutes of visiting with my mother.  Fun not necessarily included.

Plus, the sound systems for Zumba and my mother’s TV share about the same decibel range for creating nerve deafness, give or take the loss of a few inner ear hair cells.

When I got there, she had just finished having her lunch in the dining room. 

The Retirement Center (aka the Hotel, as I call it) has chef prepared meals that are nutritionally balanced.  The noon meal is typically the largest one of the day, with the evening meal being lighter due to the elderly clientele’s general preference for that kind of thing.

When my mother and I go out anywhere for lunch, she always complains about the size of the portions of the meals, to which I always tell her she doesn’t have to eat it all if she doesn’t want to.  Everybody has different appetite levels and not everyone eats like a sparrow like she does.

Being the Virgo that she is (laser-like in her observations of others), she has taken to commenting to me about the eating habits of her tablemates in the Hotel’s dining room.  She observed that several of them usually left most of their vegetables untouched on their plates. 

The other day she said that none of her friends had eaten their carrots, even though she’d told them “You’ll eat your carrots and like it!” 

(Some of you may remember this is similar to what she’d told my brother at a family dinner years ago, right after he’d told her he couldn’t eat a particular Mexican dish because he was allergic to cilantro.  Pay no attention to that man swelling up with anaphylactic shock over there.)

So today she launched into a critique of the lunch; its size being too big, its general fat content being too much, and the fact that the pumpkin pie they served for dessert had a huge mound of whipped topping on it that was just too much for words, so on and so forth ad infinitum.

I started to say that she didn’t have to eat all the dishes of the main course if she wasn’t that hungry and that she could always scrape off some of the offending topping if she so desired, but I was quickly cut off when she casually remarked:

“But, I ate it.”

Ah.  I see. 

And I’m sure she liked it, too.


Toeing the Line

Quick Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Grooming Edition

When my mother was still at the nursing/rehab facility the week before Christmas, they had a big party for all the residents. 

I wasn’t aware of the festivities because my brother (“What’s-his-name,” as my mother now calls him) was down from Colorado to see her and I hadn’t been by the home for a few days, mainly to let him get the full brunt of her focus for a change. 

I’m not dumb.

I was surprised to find, a day or so later, that my mother’s fingernails had been professionally done.  They were all filed and painted a pretty, deep red and the ring fingernail of each hand sported a decorative design. 

She said they had taken her to the beauty salon room the day of the party and did her nails, hair and even makeup for the Christmas big wing-ding. 

I’d noticed that her fingernails had been getting kind of long and ragged looking, so I was glad that she’d had that attention.  But it was her toenails that had caused me the most concern.

I hadn’t really had occasion to see her feet sans socks for quite some time and I have to say that when I did see them in the nursing home recently, I was pretty taken aback.  It was quite apparent that she hadn’t cut her toenails since maybe Kate Gosselin went on her pretend camping trip with Sarah Palin.

My mother was about to be transferred to her new digs at the “Hotel,” so when we saw her physician prior to the move I asked if someone would cut her toenails for her.  Please. 

Apparently, and probably with good reason, nobody wants to do that, so the job is referred out to a podiatrist. 

(Now, I was a dental hygienist for over 20 years and I have to say I’d rather muck about in people’s dirty mouths than fiddle around with their feet. )

Brief digression: 

When I was in college before getting accepted into the dental hygiene program, I attended some classes with pre-RN nursing students, many of whom already had been LVNs and had experience in the medical field.  When they found out a group of us were applying to the hygiene program, they told us they would rather “wipe a poopy bottom” than have to clean someone’s teeth.  To each her own, I guess.

Anyway, the doctor told us that there were two podiatrists in town:  one who made “house calls” to the nursing homes and one who didn’t.  Naturally, I asked for the one who would come to the Hotel and do the deed.

But several days after her move, the nurse at the Hotel called and said my mother had an appointment Jan. 5th with the one who didn’t make house calls.  Whatever.

So yesterday when I was walking from the parking lot into the Hotel, a man carrying a medical bag passed me on his way out.  It immediately struck me that this must be the “house call guy.” 

I have never personally encountered a doctor actually carrying a “little black bag.”  I always thought that was just on TV, like in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

When I opened the door to my mother’s room I found her sitting in one of the lovely chairs we’d brought from her house, leaning over and picking up something off of the carpet.

It was toenail clippings.

She was surrounded with them.  It reminded me of when we used to get our old pony’s hooves trimmed by the local farrier.

I helped her pick up the detritus and was grateful that the doctor had saved us (by us, I mean me) the trouble of another doctor’s visit and all that entails.

I’m just glad she didn’t get this look for her Christmas party:


Her Bowl Runneth Over

Update from the Eldercare Underground:  Moving Edition

As you’ll recall, dear readers, my mother had been in the nursing/rehab facility since the end of October after she suffered a fall at home; one which was precipitated by a mild heart attack.

She successfully went through a vigorous program of physical and occupational therapy during that time.  (As an example of the sense of humor all the wonderful people at the nursing home share, the therapist told my mother on her first day that “No, occupational therapy doesn’t mean we’re going to give you a job.”)

She later let me in on her joke by saying that if the patient “got” the joke, then she knew that they were with it enough mentally to be able to follow instruction on dressing, using the bathroom themselves, etc.

Of course, my mother smiles and laughs even when she doesn’t have a clue what the person is saying to her, so if she truly “got” it or not is anybody’s guess. 

But she did pass Toileting 101, so maybe she really did.

Things were going along swimmingly until “the roommate” arrived.  Poor Annie.  She never had a chance with my mother.  Even lying motionless in her bed and staring at the wall were considered suspect on my mother’s part. 

What was she plotting over there?  *sigh*

So.  After listening to the litany of complaints, I took action and got the okay for my mother to transfer to the Retirement Center that’s run by the same family that owns the other three facilities in town.  I have taken to calling the RC the “Hotel,” because all it seems to be lacking is a casino and a cocktail lounge. 

All the staff at the nursing home either had worked there at one time or knew of it.  They all spoke in reverent terms about the size of the walk-in closet space in each of the residents’ rooms. 

Maybe my mother could convert hers into a mini-cocktail lounge. 

If she added slot machines, I bet she’d be really popular.

Today was the big move, and after tearful goodbyes and thank yous all around with the dedicated staff at the nursing home, we took the short drive over to the Hotel.  My daughter came along for moral support and took my mother for a tour of the place while I finished putting some of her things away.

My mother holds back on the complaints when my daughter is there, but when she left my mother started to grouse some about minor things.  I figure she was somewhat overwhelmed by the whole change of venue, so I’ll give her a pass on that.  For now.

Before I left I wanted to be sure she could use the bathroom on her own, especially since she now wears those “pull up” incontinence briefs.  So I went into the bathroom with her and observed. 

Everything went fine until she flushed the toilet—which promptly started to rapidly overflow onto the floor of the bathroom.

As fast as I could, I reached down and turned off the water valve at the base of the toilet.  The floor was covered in water already but it hadn’t spread out onto the carpet of the living area.

I hurried down to the front desk and told the nurse what happened and after about fifteen minutes a very personable maintenance man named David came to the room to ascertain what had caused the overflow. 

He said he’d worked as a manager of a hotel/restaurant in the 80’s and the main cause of toilet blockages in those days was pagers—of all things.  David said they would fall out of people’s pockets as they used the toilet.  Nowadays, he said that cell phones are often the culprits.

On the floor of the bathroom he found a hearing aid battery which must have come out with the overflow.  Too tiny to cause the blockage, but who knows what else could have been down there.  A pacemaker, perhaps?  A set of dentures?  Some Depends that the resident tried to flush?

David was really grateful that I’d had my mother use the toilet before I left.  He said that one lady resident had gotten up in the early morning to use the toilet and then had gone back to bed—with the toilet overflowing.

The nurse’s aide came to check on the resident later (after about an hour and a half of overflowing water) and discovered the entire carpet was under more than an inch of water.

David laughed and said that this is the way he gets to meet new residents.  I told him I was glad that we’re on a first name basis so early, in case we need him in the future.

You never know.  Maybe my mother might need help sometime with the slots.


Two’s a Crowd

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Paranoia Edition

Well, the shit has hit the proverbial fan.

Last Friday I accompanied my mother to a doctor’s appointment.  She had to see a neurologist as part of the follow-up to her hospital stay.

Basically, it was a CYA visit.  (Also known as “Cover Your Ass.”)

This is where the primary care doctor has to refer the patient to a few specialists to make sure that every possible reason for hospitalization would be looked into, thus releasing her doctor from any blame further on down the line for not doing “enough” for her 92 year-old patient. 

Having been in the medical/dental field myself, I can fully understand the reasoning behind this.

It’s spelled l-a-w-y-e-r-s.

Anyway, we were gone only about an hour, or an hour and a half.  Upon our return, we found my mother’s room at the nursing facility transformed.

She now had—-a roommate.

Complete with new, tacky (in my mother’s eyes) room decor that encroached on her own spartan living space, since the alcove that holds the two matching closet/dresser wall units is mostly on my mother’s side of the room.

She had been using her side plus the other (up to now) unused side for displaying the cards that family and friends had sent her.  She’d been resistant to photos or other tchotchkes from home and only reluctantly allowed my daughter to bring her some new photos of the great-grandkids and also a lucite display case with some butterflies encased inside.

Didn’t want anything else.

However, Annie’s family, the new roommate, had decked out her side of the unit with all kinds of photos and gewgaws, to the horror of my mother.  They’d even moved (how dare they?) my mother’s cards to the top of the unit and onto her own side now. 

Personally, I thought it was nice of them to take the time to display them the way they had been and not just pile them in a heap.  But that’s me.

Anyway, I knew this new situation did not bode well and I left soon after.

In the meantime, I came down with a whopper of a cold and didn’t make it back to the nursing home until Wednesday of the following week.  My daughter had been there on Sunday and reported that my mother was all fussed up about Annie, who, God bless her, pretty much just lies there in her bed and says “Wha?…”

When I finally recovered enough to go see my mother yesterday, she was not a happy camper. 

She’s built this whole scenario in her mind about Annie being the one who moved her stuff, even though Annie probably couldn’t move two feet from her bed on her own.

She also has concocted possible future scenarios about what Annie “might” do—like come over to her side during the night and yell at her. 

Or peek around the curtain and tell her to turn out her light or the TV.


So, I’ve started the ball rolling to get my mother transferred to the assisted living center next door, where she can have a private room (with shared bath).  The nursing/rehab center where she is now only has semi-private rooms—which to me is an oxymoron because either a room is private or it’s not.  Come on, people!

My mother’s doctor has to agree to this move, so I personally went to her office and spoke with her nurse and told her that my mother is ambulatory now (remember the candy apple red walker?) and doesn’t need skilled nursing, just assistance with the basics like bathing and medication management.

So…we’ll see what transpires.

Stay tuned….