Week Twenty-Four

Mammy playing and happy

Today I spoke to the Social Worker and to the manager at Broad Glade. The room is left available for Mum, until a decision can be made, though I sense that their decision is made already. The Social Worker will see me at the review tomorrow.

Monica went to see Mum today. She took with her a whole load of photos to share, but she didn’t stay long. Mum was hiding in the loo and wouldn’t come out, so Monica went in. Mammy didn’t acknowledge Monica, wouldn’t look at the photos, was cantankerous and insisted that the photos all belonged to her. Monica could understand her own mother becoming aggressive with dementia, because, she said, she had always been a horrible lady, but she didn’t expect my mum to go nasty. I suggested that because so many horrible things had happened, that Mum couldn’t control, that maybe all her hidden fear and anger was now expressing itself, free from inhibitions.

Monica also fears that visiting the angry Mum just makes her more distressed, confused and angry. It seems to do no one any good. When she’s relaxed and happy Mum gets so much out of the visits, even if they are immediately forgotten, but the moments must add to her general store of well-being.

It is Tuesday morning and I’m feeling strong and positive. Joshua is baby-sitting Conor and I’m off to ask some questions.
When I arrived at the review, they were still discussing someone else, so I swapped Mum’s clothes – dirty for clean, or vise versa. We nearly made a mistake though – the nurse took me to Mum’s room and opened the wardrobe. I noticed how empty it seemed and started to hang up her clean trousers and tops, when I realised that the clothes in the wardrobe belonged to a man. Eventually we found that Mum has been moved into a women’s ward, sleeping six, and I finally got the laundry sorted.

Mum was lovely and not particularly dopey. I thank God. She was giggling and chatting with herself – asking and answering her own questions, but aware of my presence. She asked me if I’m better now and interrogated me with her eyes when I said I was, as if to check that I wasn’t just pretending. I remember that expression.
“Are you sure you’re OK?.. I’m not out of the woods yet.” She added.
“No? But there’s light ahead and you’re getting better.” I offered.
Mum giggled again. “I’m bored. Can I come home with you? What are you here for?”
“I’ve come to see the doctor.” I was happy to say truthfully.
“Me too.” She added. “I haven’t seen you for so long; I thought you were never coming back.”
I had remembered the tweezers, aware that Mum’s beard was growing furiously. I began to pull the wires out one at a time, trying desperately to distract her from the sensation, but she seemed to feel the pain of the plucking more than ever. I didn’t do much before the nurse called me through.
“My turn”, I announced cheerfully, “See you in a moment.”

The review was a bit formidable. There was the dementia doctor and her shadow, the Social Worker and his shadow, the staff nurse and little me. They tried to reassure me that they were all working to find the best solutions for Mum. I trust that they are. They don’t think that Broad Glade is suitable for Mum any more, but they can’t say what is suitable, ‘at this early stage’.
I asked about the medication and put my case for giving Mum more of the Lorazepam. The doctor was quite adamant that Mum would stay on the Trazodone. She says that there isn’t much else on the market and that Trazodone is very effective. She added that Lorazepam should be used ‘as needed’ when Mum is particularly difficult or violent. She argued that because one can become tolerant of Lorazepam, it should be used sparingly if it is to remain effective.
The staff nurse said that Mum likes to be alone and seems quite content wandering about all day. She said that problems only occur when the staff need to get Mum to do something like wash, eat, get dressed, take her medicine, etc, only then does she become difficult and aggressive.
They then said that there is no way of knowing how Mum would progress with the disease – whether she would get more aggressive or more benign as time passed. They would be looking to place her somewhere where she would not have to be moved again as she deteriorates. I wanted to say that I am looking for a miracle, but tears came instead. It isn’t easy to believe in miracles when folk around are throwing negative, pessimistic circumstance and prognoses at you. It’s quite intimidating. They said they’d involve me in decisions… gave me a tissue, and showed me out.

Mum was still in good form. A man was sharing the two-seater settee with her, with his arm around her waist. I sat in the adjacent chair and tried to talk to her, but the man leaned forward, glared at me and said,
“Go away! I’m warning you, go away!”
“Don’t you start!” I said, feeling both amused and ruffled that he was spoiling my quality time.
Mum looked at him and smiled, chuntering to herself and then kissed him on the shoulder. I sat back and took out some paper to make notes. The man again leaned forward and growled,
“Go away! I mean it. She’s my wife!”
“And she’s my mother,” I retorted, heartbeat quickening. “So who does that make you?”
I laughed at the whole situation and at myself and settled back to look with love.
A nurse came in with a ball and a target. Mum and her new man-friend chose to play. Mum aimed sideways instead of in front and shook her head saying how she’s ‘no good at it’. The man then threw and scored, so Mum had another go with renewed vigour and concentration and scored too. When he had the ball, Mum thought it was still in her hand and was trying to throw nothing.
“I need something a bit heavier,” she complained, looking at her cupped, empty hand.
I noticed that Mum responds to all the conversations around, but doesn’t expect a response herself. So, when the nurse says to someone else, “I’m going to fetch you some tea. Are you warm enough Ivy?”
Mum replies, “That’ll be nice. I think I’m alright…Oh, there you are.”
She seemed to be enjoying this man’s attention and lunchtime was looming, so I made to leave. She asked if I will come back. Of course.

We are going away tomorrow, so I want to see Mum before I go. Conor wants me to phone first in case he can come too. We prayed on the way and found her brimming with tears of joy and hugs for Conor and I. We had the old ‘where have you been?’ and Conor had a smile from ear to ear as he led Nana to a comfy place to sit. Unfortunately, Conor kept opening his mouth and putting his foot straight in it, unwittingly, with concepts that were no longer part of Mum’s reality. I did not fare much better. She kept saying how bored she was, with nothing to do. I reminded her that hospitals can be boring, but you just have to wait until they give you the ‘all clear’.
She didn’t want to hear that she was in hospital.
“Nobody told me.” She complained.
We changed the subject and said, unwisely, how we were going away for the weekend.
“Can I come?” she asked.
“You have to wait for the doctors to finish your assessment, Mammy. They won’t let you leave the hospital until your test results are through.”
“They didn’t tell me. Why? There’s nothing wrong with me!”
It was like treading on eggshells and trying to avoid breakage, so I suggested some music. Conor led Mum to the music room and was a bit confused when Nana insisted that (my) Daddy was there. Fortunately there was no one else in the music room, so we closed the door. There was a Patsy Cline cassette there, so I suggested that. Mum agreed and we danced and sang ourselves silly.
“You look different?” she said after dancing and staring quizzically for some time.
“Do I? Just greyer around the edges, I expect.” I answered, but thinking ‘I feel different – dancing around like this is the best music I’ve ever heard, surrounded by insanity. I feel zany and high myself, but thankful too and sort of content.’
Mum was enjoying the dancing and she looked great. She was much less podgy and was standing up straight and dancing well.
“No, you’re different…It’s Daddy!”
Oh, that makes sense then?

When it was time to leave she was disappointed that she couldn’t come too. It felt like all the fun had been undone and forgotten and only the pain of separation remained for her. It was heart breaking.

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