The Residence where Mom lives generously puts on special holiday dinners for the residents and their family members, i.e., Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, Easter, Christmas, etc. They take place the Saturday before the holiday from 11:30 -1:30pm. They do a beautiful job, and preparations are buzzing at least 3 days prior.
For Mom, however, these occasions are very stressful. She doesn’t realize, or understand why. They just are. Personally, I believe, there are several reasons why these parties might give her such stress. One could be the fact she never knows, or remembers, what holiday it is. Secondly, there are always a lot of people who attend, and third, they are always festive and loud. For all, or even a few of these reasons, it makes them too much for Mom to take in. Mostly though, it has her worrying what she will be doing for the “holiday.” Will she be with me or not. I am always with her, always, but she doesn’t have the capacity anymore to remember this. It simply becomes a terrible source of worry and confusion for her.
The days leading up to the Resident’s holiday dinner, I get dozens of phone calls from Mom saying, “I’m confused. There’s lots of activity going on here. What holiday is it? Am I coming to your house? Am I spending the night?” Each time I tell her calmly, “It’s [Thanksgiving], Mom. Brookdale always puts on a nice holiday dinner for residents and their families, but you are coming over to my house for lunch instead.” “Oh good,” she’ll always say. “Thank you, I’ll look forward to that.” Twenty minutes later, and another ten times throughout the day, the phone will ring with the same questions. I will, again, go through and answer each one the same as when she asked them before.
When I brought Mom to my house recently for this past Thanksgiving party her residence was having, as happy as she was to be going somewhere, she didn’t know what to do with herself once she got here. She initially wandered around anxiously, so I gently suggested she sit by the fire with the dogs and read the newspaper while I cooked us lunch. Being told what to do seems to give her direction and seems to settle her down.
Half way through my preparing lunch, she gets up and says, “I think I’ll go lay my head down.” Mom didn’t know what time it was or how long she had been sitting by the fire reading. I’ve learned to just go with it. I stopped fixing lunch and simply said, “That’s a wonderful idea! I’ll help you get settled in.”
When she rose from her nap, she had absolutely no concept of why she was at my home, or how long she’d been there. For quite some time now, I have noticed that everything prior to her sleeping is erased entirely. Now she even has trouble recognizing my home regardless of the notes I leave around the house that are signed by all the dogs and say, “You are at Vic’s. You are safe.”
Mom never did eat the lunch I prepared. She didn’t even know she skipped lunch, but asked for crackers and a little yogurt when she got up at 2:30 p.m. I could see she was restless and confused, so I commented what a wonderful day we’d had and suggested she get her things together and we’d go back to her place. Her beautiful face immediately relaxed. When she put on her jacket, got her cane and was ready to go, she commented she felt tired and asked if she had taken a nap yet. Knowing better than to challenge what she can’t remember, I simply said, “No you haven’t actually. You’ll be able to do that when we get you back home, and then it will be time for dinner.” I could again see her relax and settle down.
What Is True For Me: Mom doesn’t function well outside her familiar surroundings and routine. It’s been this way for quite some time now, regardless of her will to want to come over and visit the dogs and me. Her visits are less frequent and the duration is shorter. She sleeps a lot more now and needs gentle prodding to do something, like sit with the dogs and read, or get her things to go home. She’s very lost outside of what she knows at her little home. Her apartment has become her safe zone now.
When we arrived back at her residence, the Thanksgiving party was being broken down, chairs were being put into trucks, and tables were being folded up. She had no recollection what had gone on that day. I returned to my car and sat there letting another wave of grief wash over me. I was gearing up for another holiday season that will be very taxing physically and emotionally, yet bittersweet. I was also wondering if, for the first time, Mom would ever spend the night again with me in my home. It wasn’t lost on me as I watched the autumn leaves gently blow off the trees and onto the ground that I asked myself, “Are sleep-overs going away now too?” The drive home was quiet, and I wiped away a lot of tears. It’s hard to roll with the different seasons of this disease.
Whatever will happen Thanksgiving Day, I still have Mom, and I am thankful for at least that much for now.