Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Week

Last year, I was fortunate enough off to have several days off the week of Thanksgiving. This year, I am unfortunately working every day this week. However, I do have a mini break from Wednesday night until Thursday night...that is to say, I'm working swing shift (getting off at 10 P.M.) on Wednesday, and I don't have to be back at work until the graveyard shift begins on Thanksgiving (around 9:45 P.M.) So, while I will be working, I'll at least get to have dinner at my sister's place. This is good because my mother is visiting for the week.

As I mentioned yesterday, I hosted Mom here at my apartment last year. It went fairly well, overall, but dealing with Mom (or with any relative who has dementia, I suppose) is quite stressful. Still, we had a nice turkey dinner at my sister's, and I got her back to the airport safely on Saturday morning. Last year was also the last time she flew anywhere by herself. I was there to meet her plane, and we had someone meeting her in Albuquerque as well, but over the course of this year we've decided that it was no longer a good idea for her to travel alone, even on a relatively short flight such as that. Having a passenger on board a flight with dementia is an issue I have dealt with before in the course of my job (he had gotten confused, didn't know where his son was, and was wandering the aisle trying to get off the airplane) and I agreed with my sisters that it was no longer safe for Mom to travel by herself. My sister flew to Albuquerque yesterday to pick her up.

I was working last night when they got in, but I arranged to pick Mom up and take her to lunch today. Seeing Mom was kind of painful because she looks so NORMAL and well put together. Mom has always been a sharp dresser and she has so far kept this ability even in the midst of her illness, and she looked really good today. Seeing her at first glance, you'd never suspect there is a thing wrong with her, and it's painful for me to know that her mind isn't there like it used to be. She has real issues with making decisions, and can often repeat herself multiple times over the course of a meal or conversation. For a long time, I think she was covering (quite effectively) the fact that she was having any problems with her memory...but now, it becomes pretty evident after talking to her for a couple of minutes.

We did have a very good lunch, though. I took her to the club/spa I recently joined, and we were both very impressed with the lunch buffet. I thought the salad bar was especially good...instead of having to toss your own salad, you pick out the ingredients you want, and a chef chops them up, mixes them together, and adds your dressing of choice. They had a wide array of vegetables along with chicken, different types of cheese, and some cold cuts to choose from. Anyhow, it was the best salad I've ever had. Mom really enjoyed her lunch also, and I was glad to get a chance to spend time with her (as well as give my sister a break so she could go get some shopping and errands done.) We had a very good server...Mom forgot a sweater she had with her, and I didn't notice it myself, but the server followed us down the stairs and got it back to us before we left.

After I dropped Mom off back at my sister's, I had to run home and get ready for work. I'm sorry I won't get to spend more time with Mom this week. However, I'll make the most of what time I do have with her. I hope everyone reading this blog, whether you're working or have the day off, single or married, has a great Thanksgiving and can spend the day with one or many people they care about. Remember, as Sully likes to remind everyone, THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST!


Thimbelle said...

I know *exactly* how hard this is. My Mom might be at about the same point in the progression of her dementia. My Mom can dress herself, toilet herself, clean herself, and feed herself. She cannot, however, make a simple bologna sandwich - even if you put all the "elements" on the counter in front of her. She giggles at in appropriate times, and cries easily. She often does not understand TV shows, but (especially with comedys, which have a laugh track as a cue) will pretend to follow the storyline. The "public persona" is typically quite well put together, and quite often they can "fake" their way through most social situations. It is only when you watch closely that the facade will begin to crumble.

I have the most trouble with grasping that the person we see is NOT my "real" mother. My "real" mother is largely gone; we catch fleeting glimpses here and there. Ironically, my Mom has no Alzheimer's symptoms; hers are all stroke-related. So her memories are quite intact; they are, however, often sprinkled with fanciful bits and pieces that come straight from her imagination.

As a full-time caregiver, I am glad to see that you and your sister are taking such good care of your Mom. So many people don't realize that dementia patients still have feelings and an interest in what is going on in the world; they are not zombies that should be shut up in windowless rooms.

Chuck said...

Thimbelle - Thanks for your comment. I agree, missing the person you knew and grew up with is the hardest aspect of this disease.