A Day With My Mother

This past Wednesday (10.9.2013), I picked my mother up from the nursing home (aka the politically correct “skilled nursing facility”)… it’s where she lives and where she will be living, so it’s her home and there are nurses there, so I still call it a Nursing Home.  She lives there with her husband of about 38 years.  He had a stroke back in the early 90’s, his right arm is atrophied and his whole right side is limited, but he is able to walk… slowly and with a hobble and a walker, but he can walk.  His speech is not very good, but his mind is sharper than my mom’s, although, it’s not enough for him to be able to care for himself, so they both live together.   They are taken care of, they eat healthy now that they are there and they are given medication and medical care when necessary.   The move to this facility was prompted from Bob, my stepfather, contracting an infection the week before my daughter, Rachel, was married back in August of 2011.   That was a traumatic time for my mom and me…  I had to make a decision, which was very very difficult, to (after a month long hospital stay for Bob) look for a nursing facility for them to live in.  I had to clean up and move everything out of their apartment, and in September, both my mom and Bob were back together in their new home.   It took me about 2 months to clean out their apartment to get it ready for new tenants and also for me to deal with what it was I was doing and making this lifelong decision for them.  All of that may one day be another blog, it’s much too long and just too emotional for me to relive right now.  My mom is 83 and Bob is 71 (yes, I guess she was a cougar before the term existed).

I visit them both about once a week, sometimes more and sometimes less and have done that since my brothers had them move down here to Texas from New Jersey, mainly because they didn’t want the responsibility of taking care of them.    I pick them up and either take them out to dinner or bring them to my house for dinner, sometimes I’ll stop by and bring them a milkshake.    It’s hard because they are not very mobile but they like to get out.

So my mom has dementia or Alzheimer’s… I’m not sure exactly which, she was diagnosed from a neurologist back in NJ about 10 or more years ago with beginning Alzheimer’s.  She’s been on Aricept, a medication to help slow the progression of the disease, since she was diagnosed.  As of now, they refer to it as dementia in the nursing him… I’m not sure that the label really matters anymore. Whichever it is, her brain no longer functions as it should or as it used to.

She used to take care of herself and wear makeup, do her hair, wear clean matching clothes, but now, that’s not quite so important anymore… although occasionally she does wear lipstick.   Normally the lipstick is a typical lipstick color, but every so often she lines her lips with something else, I have no idea what, but the other day I picked her up and her lips were lined with baby blue and filled in with lipstick.  I didn’t know if it was paint, eye shadow, marker or what.    I decided not to say anything because she will sometimes get very upset with me if I point out that she did something out of the norm. I mentioned it to Bob… and he just said she put it on as lipstick because she was going out, so I left it at that.

She has, in the recent years, become very obsessed with the sky and mainly the clouds.  She always talks about them, she sees shapes, not just shapes… but normally animals in them, sometimes just clouds that communicate and she doesn’t really recognize the shapes.  The cloud animals will sometimes dance and they do talk to her… sometimes they laugh.   She was an artist, a portrait artist and sometimes did landscapes.   Now she sits in her wheelchair by a window and watches and “sketches” the clouds.     Her sketches are not recognizable anymore, they are more like scribbles.  But to her it’s just planning and thinking about how she will do it.  She wanted some color so she could put it in the skies…  she told me that she doesn’t create the clouds, she just creates her version of them.  She has trouble articulating words…  but she describes things in a sort of interesting and round about way now…

She needed some art supplies.  Years ago her art supplies were pastels, paints, pen & ink… now her art supplies are crayons and colored pencils.  I decided to take her out the other day, just me and her for a girl’s afternoon out, to go to the “Art Store”  (Walgreen’s) for her supplies and then we went to lunch.   I bought her the big box of crayons and colored pencils that didn’t need sharpening, but just in case she needed it, I also bought her a pencil sharpener.    While we were at Walgreen’s, they had a life size Grim Reaper Halloween decoration.  She stopped to talk to him about the Milky Way’s we just bought, I’m not really sure what she was saying, but she was amused…  Going out with her is always an experience!


After we bought her art supplies, we went for lunch at El Fenix, a Mexican restaurant here in Fort Worth.    My mom loves her cocktails, and I normally will take the waiter or waitress aside and quietly ask them to give her some wine…. but just a little bit of wine mixed with Sprite or some sort of soda.  She loves it, and thinks that it’s real wine.  She w
As we were sitting there having our lunch, she asked  me if I was seeing anyone.  I have been married to my husband, Tom, since 1981.  Right now he spends a lot of time anted a Margarita… so this time in front of her I asked the waiter for a Virgin Margarita for her…  she liked the name “virgin” and didn’t know the difference, she loved her cocktail.

Tom has been traveling for business for many years, and at the moment, for the past year or so he has been traveling to Thailand and he is gone 2-3 weeks at a time.   I am not sure if she asked that because I normally see her alone lately, or if she is regressing back to the earlier years.  I told her that I was married, and she was so happy for me that I am not alone.  She wanted to know when we got married. I told her, but she didn’t really understand how long ago 1981 was from 2013, but she did know that 32 years is a long time.  She was happy that I have been married for such a long time.   We started talking about something else, and then again, she asked me if I was seeing anyone.  She completely forgot the conversation a few minutes before.  This went on a few times.  I showed her a photo of Tom, and she looked at him and smiled and remembered him.  Then she asked if I’m dating him, I told her we were married, and her response was “good, I always felt bad for him because he needed to be with someone”.


OK, so now fast forward to Saturday, I took my  mom and Bob (her husband) out to dinner.   I noticed that her face had black all over it, she looked bruised, but it turns out that it was pencil smudges from her drawing.  Her clothes and everything was just dirty.  Years ago this never would be… she took care of herself and cared about what she looked like.  I talked to Bob and told him that he has to make sure she wears clean clothes and that she washes herself, I also need to talk to the staff at the nursing home about this.

When I picked them up, she wanted to know if I was going to introduce her to that person… I asked “what person”… she responded with “the person that you are with”… So I mentioned Tom again and  she said that she wants to meet him.  I went through the explanation again that we were married for 32 years now and then the shapes in the clouds distracted her, so we talked about that.  At dinner, she asked me how Tom was and when he was coming home… this was interesting because for the past two visits and only about a half hour prior to this she wasn’t quite remembering who he was, but now she was talking about him as she normally would and knowing who he is.   Most of the time I just go along with things and answer her questions, it’s easiest that way.    Photographs do jog her memory somewhat, but only while looking at the photos.

Here is a fun little video that I made up from her visit this past May (2013) on Mother’s Day.

~ Laura

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