October, 2014: As we drove to Kalamazoo to see Jim's mother, we were talking about her situation in the "memory care" unit where she now resides. Jim said that sometimes life seems like "an inability to take care of yourself to an inability to take care of yourself." I found that puzzling for a minute and then realized that he meant that small children cannot be responsible for their self-care nor can a very elderly person who has dementia.
We found Mom dressed and eating breakfast alone in the large central area. This was good except that it was two hours past breakfast time and she couldn't hear anything. Her hearing aide was not hidden in her purse or under her pillow this time. It was in her ear but it needed new batteries. Once that was taken care of, we could converse a bit.
We went back to her room and she crawled back into bed where she said she felt the best. Again, I thought about the cycle of life. An infant eats and sleeps; Mom's life seems also to be one of eating and sleeping. Not much else seems to interest her very much- old photos, magazines, books, word searches, visiting--all of which used to give her pleasure.
I wondered what we could do to bring more joy into her life. But maybe eating and sleeping is enough when you are almost 95 years old.
An update a few weeks later:
During one visit we were able to get Mom out in a wheel chair and take a leisurely walk around the buildings. The colors were beautiful and she was very observant of her surroundings. She couldn't hear anything and her hearing aid was nowhere to be found.
During still another visit, I brought along music to play--some old favorites and then a hymn book. She again couldn't hear much, but seemed to enjoy choosing songs for me to play. One resident began singing "Amazing Grace" very loudly. I wasn't playing "Amazing Grace" at the time, but I gave up and played it for her!
And then there was last week's visit. I went alone and found Mom sleeping at 10 am, still in her night gown. I told her who I was and that I brought her some more fall clothes. She told me to turn off the light and go away. She covered her face with her sheet. I went back a few hours later after I had a wonderful organ lesson from a friend who plays at a downtown Kalamazoo church. Mom was dressed, but sleeping. Once more she told me to go away and turned her back towards me. Did she not know me? I don't think she did. She has always welcomed me and said my name. I was very sad.
Is this also a part of the cycle of life in which small children cover their faces and think you don't see them?
A week later: Jim visited by himself today. I just couldn't bring myself to go along after last week's sad visit. His mom was sleeping but she woke right up, greeted him by name and was happy to chat. They went for another walk outside and she thought that was a treat. She even gave him a letter she had written to us earlier in order to save a stamp!
One never knows what kind of reception there will be. I'm very glad she was better today.
January 29, 2015
Mom passed away on January 27. She had fallen a little over two weeks earlier--right after our Saturday afternoon visit. When we left, she said she was tired so we made sure she was "safely" in her bed again. She got up on her own, fell, and broke a vertebrae in her neck. Since then, she was on morphine for her pain. She resisted the collar to stabilize her neck; her condition deteriorated greatly.
My last memory of her will be our visit before her fall when she decided to get out of bed to eat the chocolate truffles I had brought her. She giggled several times during our visit as we talked about previous times in her life. It was a good visit--a bit surreal as generations and eras were confused but a cheerful time. She thanked us for coming as she usually did.
Jim saw her twice since then. She recognized him but could no longer converse. It is such a relief to have her physical and mental suffering over. She is at peace and we are too.