God Is Greater Than Dementia, Part 8 – A Dead Lady
By Bobbi Junior
In this series of posts, Bobbi Junior brings her unique perspective to bear on the subjects of dementia, and Christian caregiving. Bobbi demonstrates that God is greater than dementia or any other crisis we may face. She shares how being a caregiver is a tiring, challenging and demanding task, and caregiver burnout is a constant threat.
A Dead Lady
Journal entry – November 8
Mom’s been living at Whyte Hall Assisted Living for a week now. Because she’s not at risk for wandering away, she’s in a regular small apartment, rather than on the secure dementia unit. Still, sometimes I wonder if this is a good thing or not. Today was not a good day. Housekeeping had come for the first time and cleaned ad tidied very nicely, but maybe having the cleaning staff come into her apartment had confused her. Her usual stuff was on the kitchen table, but as we sat there trying to visit, she kept moving it around. She couldn’t seem to settle on how to organize it. Papers, pens, ointment, information sheets, some batteries, packaging from little things she’d purchased, paper clips, used envelopes – just a variety of odds and ends, but she seemed obsessed with finding the right location for each.
Then she began to talk about a dead lady in a room she’d been taken into.
“What do you mean, a dead lady?” I asked.
“I’m sure she was dead. She was sitting like this, with her head back and her mouth hanging open.” Mom demonstrated.
“Are you sure she wasn’t sleeping?”
“Oh no. She was dead. I don’t know why they took me in there. They wanted me to take care of her. It’s disturbing having to do that. I don’t like it.”
“I’m sure you don’t. I wouldn’t want to take care of a dead lady.”
Mom nodded and moved things around on her table some more.
With Dementia, Who Knows
It was nearing supper time, so I helped her get her shoes on, and a light sweater, both very difficult to manage today. I waited for her to start the usual routine with her key, fretting about having to wear it on her wrist, but this time she didn’t even bother locking the door. Given that her apartment was at the very end of the hall, I figured, why not? I was secretly relieved. Lord, I prayed, keep Mom’s stuff safe!
Casting that care on him, we walked the long hallway to the elevator. Would Mom want to push the call button herself, or was today too difficult for that? If figured asking would be wisest.
“Shall I push the button?”
“I don’t even know how to do that,” Mom said, her voice shaky. “I’ll never figure this out.”
With someone else, I would have encouraged them that things would get better, but with dementia, who knew? So I pushed the necessary buttons, explaining what I was doing, trying to pretend it was just part of our conversation. “Ah, here’s the down button,” and, “We push ‘M’ for Main, right?”
When we got downstairs we found a couch in the lounge and sat down to visit. Mom seemed calm now, but vulnerable and fragile. More people came down and began taking their seats for dinner.
One of the ladies who sits at Mom’s table came by. I saw this as a gentle way to take my leave. “Here’s your table-mate, Mom. I see it’s time for you to eat now.” I stood up and smiled. “Have a nice dinner. I’ll call you soon.” She still looked confused, but not as bad. On that note I made my exit.
Interacting With Other Residents
A few days later I was out running errands, and dropped in at Whyte Hall for a quick hello.
Mom was sitting in the common area by the fireplace again. I was glad she was getting herself out of her apartment. I joined her on the couch. “Hi Mom. How are you today?”
“There are a lot of people in this place,” she said, as though we were in the middle of a conversation.
“There are a lot of people,” I agreed.
We chatted about the staff and the residents, and I realized that Mom must be interacting with the other residents. She told me about one lady who is very grumpy, and another with an English accent who used to be a nurse. Mom had been born in England. Maybe hearing the British accent was encouraging for her, because she seemed very respectful of the English woman
Then the conversation to a morbid turn as Mom began to speak of the dead lady again.
“She sits in the brown chair.”
“Your brown chair?” I asked.
“Yes. She has on a sweater. Her head is back like this.” Mom demonstrated where she was sitting, leaning her head against the back of the couch, eyes closed, mouth gaping. “She has wires and tubes on her. It’s very disturbing having this woman in my room. I shouldn’t have to live with someone who is dead, or at least dying.”
I could tell that this was very real to Mom and she was visibly upset by it. I had no idea what to do or say, so I was grateful when I saw it was lunch time.
We got up and I walked her to the dining room and helped her get seated at her table. I leaned over to hug her good bye, and suddenly she gripped my shoulder with a surprising strength. Angrily she whispered, “Where are you going? Why aren’t you staying? You’re making me look like a fool.”
I hugged her quickly, said I’d see her soon, and left.
I saw one of the health care aides as I was going out, and told her about the dead lady Mom believes is in her room. The aide told me that sometimes a urinary tract infection can cause hallucinations, and all sorts of other strange symptoms in elderly people. She urged me to take Mom to a doctor soon. I agreed that would be a good plan, but as I left I knew there was no way I’d accomplish it. Mom hadn’t trusted doctors for years. She didn’t have a family physician, and the idea of trying to convince her to see one left me at a loss.
Lord, I prayed as I drove home. I’m giving this to you. If I can’t leave Mom at her dinner table comfortably, how would I get her to a doctor? If I’m to take action, you’ll have to show me the how and the when. Or maybe she doesn’t have an infection. Maybe it’s just the stress of moving. I place Mom in your hands, Lord. I look forward to watching your plan unfold.
Read Part 1 here.
Bobbi’s program, “Not Me Lord” airs on HopeStreamRadio.
If you have enjoyed reading this post and wish to send us a comment or share a prayer request, please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know.
Elderly Lady – Melodi2
Elevator Buttons – Philip Mason
HopeStreamRadio has been a huge blessing to me. Since I moved away from an area that had a lot of good Christian radio I have been looking for a station that I could listen to and be encouraged by. HSR has filled that void and it has also been exciting to be a part of the team that contributes to HSR.Mike from MS