Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tough moment with a tough old gal at Mom's nursing home

I had a rough visit at mom's nursing home a couple of days ago.   Walking down the hall, a relatively new resident reached out to me and asked for my help.  She had lived at Mom's assisted living facility and I remember meeting her there; Irene was her name.  She was relatively lucid then so I took her hand and asked what she needed.  She began to cry and said she had to get home.  "Oh no.!" I thought to my self..." here we go...how do I get out of this?"  All I wanted to do was run away but that would be cruel.   She gave me a whole run down - her kids put here there;  her daughter in law is lieing and manipulative, rented out her home to her grandson; she could walk at home but they force her to stay in the wheelchair now.  She asked me to make calls for her, first her son in Vancouver, BC then her minister.   When I tried to move away from her she grabbed me again, "Won't you be my friend!?  Please don't leave me alone here. I don't know anyone!!."  More crying but I noticed no tears even though she dramatically dabbed at her eyes. 

I knelt down beside her to ask about her life - where she lived, what she did and who her kids where.   I was surprised at the change since I'd seen her last in February.  Her legs were now so swollen they were four times their normal size, her eyes were dull and didn't seem to follow me well.  In February she didn't look or act her 97 years -  perhaps 75 - but she sure looked it now.   I felt so bad for her.  I'm sure her fears and emotions were absolutely real.  Dementia is so damned cruel to leave her like this, in this child-like state, feeling abandoned, afraid and isolated.    Even though she's not my relative it made me feel bad that I felt even more guilt that my Mom lives there. I used to think that my mom's situation would be easier if she were more forgetful but at least she can understand that she has visitors, family who love her and friends who stay in touch.  And, she has made new friends and enjoys joking with the aides and staff.   Irene, can't do that. She forgets who they are; she remembers her kids as young people not the aging adults who manage her affairs. She can't understand the physical conditions that make her legs and feet swell.  I feel even more concern for my mother and fear that she'll reach the same state as Irene.  That will be so difficult to watch her suffer or if she didn't recognize me any more... OUCH!   I must keep in mind that, though it will be hard on me it's worse for her.