Last week was Groundhog Day, which always falls on the day before my mother’s birthday. Dealing with Dementia feels a lot like you have stepped into the movie,”Groundhog Day”, which is a funny movie about a guy who repeats the same day over and over again. Sometimes I try new lines in the old conversations with my mom just to mix things up a little. But most of the time I repeat the old lines, because I know familiarity brings comfort to her. I wanted to give you a glimpse into a day of what dealing with Dementia looks like. This was my visit with my mom today, and some of what we talked about are among the top 3 conversations that we have on a regular basis. The words in parentheses were things that I thought out in my head, and were not actually said. Although, believe me,I would like to say them at times!
Conversation # 1.
Mom: “When am I going to get out of here?”
Me: “Well, mom, you know we need to wait until your legs get stronger so that you can walk on your own.”
Mom: “Well, I was doing physical therapy and now they don’t give me that anymore, do you know why?”
Me: “Well, they seem to think that if you would practice walking with the walker more often to meal times, that this could greatly improve your walking. So why don’t you give that a try more?” “Physical therapy is $100 a week (on top of the $8,000 a month that it costs for you to live here) and they don’t seem to think that it does anything positive to get you closer to being able to walk again.”
Mom: “Did you tell them to cancel that?” Because that was none of your business, and I want you to tell them to start it again because I want to walk again someday.”(I am strongly tempted here to tell her that, actually, IT IS MY BUSINESS BECAUSE I AM YOUR LEGAL GUARDIAN and YOUR DAUGHTER, WHO HAS LOVINGLY CARED FOR YOU FOR MOST OF YOUR ADULT LIFE)
Me: “OK, mom, I will talk with them, OK? (therapeutic fibbing here, which is a dementia term that means you tell them what they want to hear, so you can “meet them where they are at”)
Mom: “Aren’t those flowers just gorgeous over there?”
Me: “Yes, they are! I gave them to you last week for your birthday!”
Mom: “Oh, that’s right, it was my birthday, wasn’t it? Those flowers are beautiful, and your brother gave me the most beautiful outfit that he said he picked out himself!” (yes, I know you have told me and shown it to me 5 times already!) I think that he is making up for his father’s behavior.”
Me: “Well, maybe, but I think that it’s just because that he loves you a lot.”
Conversation # 3
Mom: “Did you know that your father left me? Can you believe that?”
Me:. “Yes, mom, he left about 5 years ago now.”
Mom: “No….it hasn’t been that long, it’s only been about 2 years”
Me: “No, mom, actually it has been about 5 years or so since dad left. Do you know why he left?”
Mom: “If you say it is because of my drinking, then I am going to bop you one.” (well, then I guess you can bop me one then) (I am silent here, and just stare at her) Because, you know I remember the day that I decided to stop, and it was one day I was doing the dishes (interesting, I haven’t heard this one before), and I thought to myself, “I just don’t need to do that anymore, so I just won’t do it. It wasn’t because I went to AA (because you never actually did?) or Hazleton or anything, I just knew I didn’t need it anymore.” (UH HUH….and pigs can fly now?)
With this tired conversation, I usually switch the subject, because typically my kids around, and it’s just not “kid friendly conversation” you know what I mean?
Conversation # 4
Me: “So I have been thinking I want to surprise Eric and get a dog this spring.” (I tell her all about a breed I talked to a pet shop worker about and how much the kids want one)
Mom: “Oh, that would be so fun for the kids! We had Benny (our awesome St. Bernard) before you were born! And we loved having dogs with young kids!
(Here, we have a great conversation about the past with our old dog Benny, who was the best dog in the world.)
Mom (5 minutes later): “So, when are you going to get a dog?” (SIGH) (I pretty much repeat the whole last 5 minutes) (my experience with working with young kids comes in handy with this disease!)
Me: “Well, mom, I need to get going…I have a therapist appointment (where we mostly talk about you over and over and over again)
Mom: “Oh…does that help you?” Tell your therapist that your dad left your mom and she would like to know what she can do about it.”
Me: “Well, She (me) TRIED to get you to go to Mass with me today, down your hall in the chapel, and you wouldn’t go…so she (me) is working on it!” (this is where I think, “God, you sure want me to persevere don’t you?….oh, and develop my patience!” I’m workin’ on it!)
Mom: “Oh…I know, I just didn’t want to, I just don’t feel good! But, thanks so much for coming…and next time bring the kids. You know, most grand parents don’t enjoy their young grand children as much as I do.”
Me: “I know, mom, you adore them, and they adore you, and so do I (I kiss her and give her a hug) “Good bye, love you, I will see you in a few days!” (Which will be on Sunday)