Cranky Pants, updated
During mom’s 5 days at our house, she had a few very cranky moments. I am learning, with Lots of coaching from my daughter, the nurse with the mostly geriatric practice, how to navigate these waters. While getting better, I am far from perfect.
The first moment was over the cranberries. As described in a prior entry, she had a very hard time following the recipe. At one point, as I walked back toward the kitchen, I was greeted with a very terse, “THIS (while pointing at the sugar syrup I had started for her) HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE RECIPE WE’RE USING!!!” I zipped over to her side and said, “Let me show you, mom. It’s ok.” She repeated her objection. I ran my finger down the page of Joy of Cooking, found the recipe we were using and said, “Here it is. Isn’t this the one we’re using?” She backed right off, apologized, and said she’d lost her place on the page.
Her next outburst came when we were getting ready to leave for Thanksgiving dinner. She was wrapping some wine glasses we were taking in dishtowels to protect them for the drive over. She asked me for a paper bag to place them in. I turned to her while pointing to a reusable shopping bag and said, “Mom there’s room for them in there. She said, “Oh, OK.” and went back to wrapping up the glasses. The next thing I knew, she was on me with an attitude that dripped ‘hey dumb fuck’, “WHERE’S A PAPER BAG, YOU KNOW, A PAPER BAG? TO PLACE THE GLASSES IN? I, while biting my cheek less I say something regretful, again pointed at the reusable bag and said, “Mom, there’s room in there.” “Oh, OK.” She said.
On Thanksgiving, mom was opening every cabinet, drawer and door at my daughter’s house. My daughter asked her grandma, “Grandma, can I help you find something?” Mom replied, “I Am LOOKING For the Room I’m Staying In!” (testy, but not a flatout yell). My daughter said, “Grandma, your room is at mom’s house. This is my house.” Mom paused and then said brightly, “Oh, that’s right!! I got a little turned around.”
The final incident, which I didn’t handle perfectly, but made a nice recovery, was over getting to the ferry terminal. She came out of her room carrying the ferry schedule, and said “I want to talk about getting to the ferry.” I assured her we’d been over it (at least 6 times), and had a good plan. She wanted to leave in order to get there 45 minutes ahead of departure. I said there was no need to leave so early (this is where I failed). After a bit of back and forth, I said, “How about if we leave at 7:45?” (Nice recovery!) This was enought time to get there 30 minutes before departure. She calmed down a bit and said, “Fine.” I excused myself, saying I needed to go ask my husband something, and sat downstairs, in our food supply closet, in the dark, with the door closed for 15 minutes. I would have sat there longer, except my husband started looking for me.
Misc notes, updated below:
Q: When should I go back to the Island, Saturday or Sunday?
A: Either day works for me, Mom. You choose.
6 Times before actually choosing
Q: When will we hear from the furnace people? (and variants)
A: Early in the week. (and variants)
At one point when telling her what she was after was in the garage, she replied, “I’m not sure I know how to get to the garage anymore.” We’ve lived her for almost 16 years, and mom has been here hundreds of times.
She instructed me to move five art pieces, that are in her bedroom, three times. It doesn’t matter why I have them where they are, they must be moved.
‘The trees in the ravine that surrounds our property should be thinned. They’re growing poorly and can’t possibly have a good enough foothold in the soil to be stable, or absorb proper nutrients.’ The native trees in question just came through a fierce storm with gusts to 70 knots. They’re showing some damage here and there. On top of everything, my mom is now a tree expert!
Last night mom told me she has to assess if she wants to stay on the Island. This is a 1000% turnaround from her previous stance, which she has held since my father’s death. I better get that furnace fixed in case she remembers what she said.
Bending the Bar:
Yesterday I noticed that the towel rail in the guest bathroom looked slightly askew. When in the bathroom again, I jiggled the left end of the railing. It was slightly loose. I asked my husband to look at the towel rail with me. It didn’t take us long to realize the rail itself was bent. This is a very sturdy, high end (Pottery Barn) towel rail, screwed into the wall’s studs.
When showing mom the bathroom on Tuesday, I showed her the actual grab bar, also screwed into the wall’s studs, right outside of the shower door, and said, “This is a grab bar. It will support your weight should you want assistance getting in and out of the shower. This is the towel rail. It’s won’t support you should you grab it, so make sure to use the grab bar (while patting the grab bar).” Mom is about 5’3″ and a ‘sturdy woman.’ While we can’t come up with one absolute scenario as to how the towel rail was flexed into it present shape, we know mom made it happen, she didn’t tell us about her damn near fall (nor did we hear it), and yet it had to be profound enough in order for her to make that 1 inch rail, attached to brackets, screwed into wall studs, bend. I know if I’d had a near miss like that, some part of me would be sore as hell. She showed no symptoms of such stress. My guess is that it happened Saturday.
While mom was here she was fixated on sweets. She asked about a bag of Lindor chocolates we’d bought to take to Thanksgiving dinner, about 5 times, wanting to know what they were for. Then at the end of dinner, my daughter found her grandmother taking handfuls of the the chocolates and putting them into her purse! She offered her Grandmother a Ziplock to house her booty! While at our place, I found mom half a dozen times, standing in front of the open fridge, eating the leftover pecan pie with her fingers from the pie plate. I never said a word to her about it. Mom will barely (this is a long term thing) eat anything at each meal, but is always hot for desert each night.
I reflected on mom’s sweet tooth history. As a child. we only had deserts on holidays, birthdays, or special occasions. I raised my children more or less the same way. Clearly, mom did not have a sweet tooth when she was younger.
My nurse daughter explained to me this afternoon that Sweet and Salt are the final taste receptors the tongue retains. Regular food starts tasting like nothing, and so elders, particularly those with dementia, don’t want to eat, unless things are highly salted, or until desert comes around. One fall out of this is hypertension. Elders may start salting their food in excess… Mom has high blood pressure. My daughter suggested I let mom cook a meal for me in order to see how she’s seasoning things. She also suggested that when mom is with us, I cook proteins with sweet glazes or fruit sauces in order to optimize her ‘good’ calorie intake. As I’ve witnessed three times in the last three years, maintaining a cushion of weight at this point in one’s life could be a good thing.