The two days on the Island with mom where illuminating and, frankly, alarming. My daughter, the RN, who is a health services director for an assisted living community, says, “A patient’s base line functioning can be observed in the absence of their compensatory skills.” A cogent statement for a 26 year old to make. Mom’s compensatory skills are failing and what she has left of them are compromised in the face of the stress caused by the driver’s license battle.
Of the myriad of things I’d hoped to accomplish while on the island, mom’s lack of memory made success fleeting. She:
* Decided she didn’t need software to allow me to logon to her computer because, “I have almost no trouble with it.” Oh really? Why do I feel like I could earn half a living if it were anyone but my mum calling me for support re her computer?
* Didn’t remember arriving home to a dry well in November due to plumbing failure (hard freeze) and so couldn’t help me understand where the problem was in the barn. I’ve e-mailed a neighbor who was there to help her with this at the time.
* Completely forgot that her on demand water heater had crapped out for two days before heading to the mainland, to the extent she had to call the plumber, and so was uninterested in helping me learn how the thing works so I can help her via phone next time it won’t light.
* Was completely uninterested in installing smoke detectors in the house. She actually said she’s never had any trouble with smoke in the house! Hello!! Until November, the damper only opened 15% and the place was full of smoke ALL THE TIME. I will contact the Island fire department and make this happen in early May.
We did spend a lot of time working on her office. I kept handing her small stacks of paper to go through. This is not her favorite task (not anyone’s favorite task), while I did things like take stacks of magazines out of bags and boxes and add them to the ever growing plastic tote of elderly magazines (which she doesn’t seem to see), vacuum up rat shit, assess paper (5 year old medical itineraries of my father’s etc), find 10 year old tax return documents (now in storage under my house), consolidate half an isles worth of office supplies and recycle printed duplicate e-mails. During this cleaning fest, I started making a pile of ‘useful empty boxes’. Mom got all uppity as I was getting all, frankly, frustrated about the amount of emtpy cardboard in the room. We’re taking 35-40 boxes of varying size in a 110 square foot room. She quipped, “Put those here! They’re VERY useful!!!” I countered with, “Do useful cardboard boxes ever hit a saturation point?” She said, “NO. Please, allow me this indulgence. I’m always mailing things out.” It’s statements like these that confirm for you your parent really, truly has demetia, and it sucks.
She asked me if she’d always lived in the same place since moving to the Island (yes, for 35 years). She asked me if we’d moved to her home on the Island directly from the town we’d left in CA some 35 years ago (yes). On the 11th, she asked me if I graduated high school on the Island or in CA (Island). These are longer term memory issues, which we see creeping in more and more, joining the short term memory problems. And just when I console myself with the fact she seems to be able to care for herself (cooking, hygene, etc) she placed the glass Chemex drip coffee maker over an open flame on the stove. She took it off quickly, but how often does this happen, and when is it going to break? My only consolation is it tempered and will crumble rather than shatter. I am left wondering what else is going on that I don’t see.