Today, however, I never witnessed Mom being comforted by the balm of sleep. I was with her two different times for a total of about six hours and for most of that time she was agitated, frustrated, irked, indignant, and irritated. She talked a lot, kind of like Mom always has; however, before her illnesses, Mom's long train of speech was grounded in a world she and rest of us lived in and her detailed recall of particular things that happened and of the histories and genealogies of people she knew in Orofino and Kellogg was, at times, almost supernatural.
Today, the long train of speech was back and it was all a jumble. Her conversation veered wildly. Much of it, early in my visit, was focused on her firm conviction that she had driven her car that morning and had misplaced her keys. Mom insisted I help her try to find her keys. I put my hands in the pockets of her trousers. She watched as I opened her clothes closet and went through garments, looking for her keys. She asked me to look for her keys in rooms that don't exist at Kindred, so I went over by the sink, acting like it was another room, and looked for the keys.
Mom demanded to go home today more adamantly than ever. I wasn't quite sure how to answer her repeated entreaties. For better or for worse, I decided that citing all the reasons that I know to be true about why she is at Kindred was futile. I couldn't believe that long explanations were fitting and I could tell nothing I said was going to be assuring, let alone reassuring. So I responded with short sentences, absorbing Mom's indignation, insults, and sarcasm. I uttered silent prayers for a change in subject.
2. Around lunch time -- I think it was after lunch, but I'm not sure -- everything starts to run together into a blur for me on days like this -- I wheeled Mom down to the lobby of Kindred. Several times she had wanted to go down to where she first arrived at "the Wellness Center" -- this is what Mom used to call Kindred all the time, but hadn't for a while. What she really wanted was to go out the front doors at Kindred, but we didn't wheel quite that far.
On the way, I asked an aid if Mom's wheelchair oxygen tank needed replacing, It wasn't quite empty, but the aid said, sure, let's replace it. While replacing it, she discovered that Mom hadn't been getting oxygen -- I can't remember what the problem was -- but someone had made an error.
This helped explain a lot, I thought. Mom's brain has been starving for oxygen and a lack of oxygen exacerbates the symptoms of vascular dementia. I noted a couple of things to myself: when Mom's in her room, always make sure she's hooked up to the compressor, not the wheelchair tank, and, if she is as incoherent and distressed as she was today, check to make sure everything's working right with her oxygen supply.
3. The best fifteen or so minutes of the day transpired when Zoe removed the polish on Mom's fingernails and repainted them. I wished this could have lasted for about an hour. The only other time today when Mom seemed similarly content was when I brushed her hair. I brushed it for quite a while, hoping she'd find it a pleasant sensation and that she'd feel cared for. Later, she wanted to put her wig on. She put it on backwards and I experienced, for the first time in my life, the act of putting a wig on another person. Christy said I did a pretty good job.
There were other less intense passages of time today, although they required my full attention and concentration as Mom talked about a wide variety of things randomly. We talked about street names in Orofino. Mom tried to remember what street Jody lived on and Jim Bessent. She told me about a car crash involving Charlie Adams on Canada Hill. She boasted to me about playing Canasta at college in Lewiston and proudly asserted they never drank any beer or wine, but smoked cigarettes. Later, she admitted that maybe, in Orofino, she had used a fake i.d. to drink when underage. She remembered playing pinochle in Grandma Woolum's kitchen and remembered how much Grandma Woolum loved playing cards and how skilled she was.
*****There are particular times during the day when the staff at Kindred are under the most stress.
Meal times are tough.
So is bed time as the staff works their way from room to room helping residents into their night wear and into bed -- and all that comes with it.
Mom's already difficult day drew to an end with a long wait. Around 7:15 or so, Mom started to tell me she was very tired and wanted to get into her pajamas and go to bed. She was in pain. Her arms and shoulders ached and she has had chronic pain in her hips and legs for years now. She sent me out into the hallway three times to find someone to help her get ready for bed, but I couldn't do much. Many of the residents in Mom's section are high need people and the aids were busy.
Shortly after 8:00, Mom and I started working on what we could do to get her ready for bed. I removed her compression socks ("Now don't lose them" [ha!]), wheeled her over to the sink where she began washing her face and we unbuttoned her shirt so I could wash her back. We took off her shirt and just as I was putting her pajama top on, the aid arrived, in remarkably good cheer considering all the work she'd been doing, and took over.
I hugged Mom and we kissed each other's cheeks.
I told Mom I loved her and she said she loved me, too, adding, "I wish you could stay."