Thursday, January 29, 2004

The light is going out in her eyes, literally.

During the past three weeks or so, there's been a noticeable decline in Mom. It actually began late last year when she began having more difficulty in getting around even with her cane. She was becoming less sure of herself, unsteady, nervous unless I was right there to help her every step of the way. Once, upon return from an afternoon at the hairdressers than grabbing a bite to eat with me, we had just gotten inside the Manor when down she fell. As it happened, it was like time slowed down and I tried to think how to stop it but I couldn't. She fell forward, her face hitting the floor at the corner, one bow of her glasses grinding into her face. After the aides helping her up, we saw a gash on her face, and her eyeglasses were bent badly.

The mother I've known all my life isn't there anymore. My Mom was full of life, opinions, and energy. She had a classic Irish temper, but also knew how to laugh and enjoy life. It makes me sad to already be talking about her in the past tense.

Now, despite a brief time where not only we, but Mom herself thought she was getting past the initial grieving period and coming out the other side, she is encountering another challenge. I'm not sure what it all entails, but it's there, and I don't think it's going away. It's like she's falling apart.

I took Mom to Dr. Haake last week. He's her neurologist. He confirmed that her dementia is progressing, along with a deterioration of her gait. Physical Therapists were brought in to the Manor where she lives to evaluate her. They called me saying her leg strength was actually quite good for her age, but that due to her lack of confidence, a walker was indicated. They will come by a few more times to help her learn how to use it, and observe and advise. After that, she's on her own.

Susan from the Manor called yesterday. Mom has once again been found wandering the halls in nothing but an undershirt, nothing on her bottom half, virtually naked. She's also walked that way into the hallway public restroom and had bouts of diarrhea all over the floor. After a brief interlude where Detrol helped her regain urinary continence, once again she's having accidents but even worse than before; not only when sleeping, but when she's awake. It's like, Susan comments, she's just given up and doesn't care.

The last few times Mom and I went out to eat, she began exhibiting more odd behavior. She was always unconventional in her behavior by some standards, but she usually reserved that for when she was at home. Now, she has begun to do some inappropriate things in public, i.e., taking her dentures out, setting them on the table in full view of anyone to see in restaurants, making loud comments about people near us, etc. I try to redirect her attention, or make a joke and we laugh, and that has worked so far. However, between these troubling examples, and some public incontinence, it's become clear that it will not be as easy – maybe even possible – for Mom to get out much longer. She will miss that very much…

So we are not to the point where we must begin actively seeking skilled care, because it's only a matter of time before the Manor cannot meet her needs. I called Eventide, and they transferred her from the inactive to active list for placement. It's difficult to estimate waiting times, they said, but it could vary from one month to one year.

In the meantime, we wait, we cope, and we grieve. We grieve for the Mother we knew, the Mother we know now, and her absence when it comes.