Thursday, 21 August 2008

times are hard

Mum had some visitors today.

D just rang me to tell me that she and my Uncle spent a pleasant afternoon with Mum, taking her out to lunch at the place where we will be hosting her 80th Birthday party later this year. D said that Mum appeared well. They had asked her if she was settled and happy and she had assured them that she was, and had extolled the staff and facilities.

D said, however, that Mum was noticeably quieter than on previous encounters, and that it had been difficult to engage her in conversation. Also, Mum had seemed a good deal more confused than at their last meeting. 

For instance, Mum had announced that they were now forced to sleep two to a bed at the Home, and that the lady sharing her bed last night had rolled over and fallen to the floor.

When I heard this, I wondered whether this was Mum time-travelling back to her Depression-era childhood (Mum was born in 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts). 

D told me that she had questioned a staff member at the home and discovered that the doubling-up idea had originated with Mum's neighbour, who cannot find her way back to her bedroom in the evening and had wandered into Mum's room and exclaimed "do we have to sleep two-to-a-bed now?" The rolling out of bed incident had had happened to another resident ('screaming lady') a few weeks ago.

D told me that when she questioned Mum's version of events, Mum had become uncharacteristically angry and insisted that it had happened exactly as she had described.


Sorata said...

Hmm... Greg, I want to ask you a question in regards to this post and the comment that D had made. I thought of this before but back then I was afraid whether that's too sensitive to ask.

My question is, in a situation like your mom, is it the best to try to correct them with what the actual event was or it's better to just let them think things really happened that way?

I'm sure it's circumstantial, but I want to hear your take on it.

Of course, there are situations where you absolutely want to correct them, but there are trivial items like you've mentioned in this entry.

Greg said...

Hmm... that's a very good question. I think it's all about the way you respond to Mum. I would simply and gently reassure her that things didn't happen that way. What probably happened was that D challenged Mum's story with a sarcastic or disbelieving tone, which incensed Mum.

I've noticed before that the other residents sometimes make bizarre claims and they nod at you to reassure you that it's true, with their eyes wide with sincerity, but what they're telling you is nonsense. One lady told me that she and Mum had been friends for many many years and started telling me stories of their adventures together - she had only known Mum for a matter of weeks at this point. Mum sat there politely, clearly unsure because she couldn't remember well enough to dispute this woman. I didn't challenge that one.

I think this story about sleeping together has probably made the rounds in the household, passed on with sincere wide-eyed nodding. Yes, you're right that it's relatively trivial, but I'd rather Mum tell herself that she is somewhere where they don't have to sleep 2-to-a-bed, so I'd quietly but firmly tell her that she has her own room and doesn't have to share her bed. I think she'd accept it presented in that way.

LSL said...

Hey, I've been meaning to comment that I hope you're doing ok. My sister is in nursing school and worked at a home for seniors. She said that nursing protocol is to very nicely point out the story's inaccuracies in a general way vs. going along with things. Kind of what you're saying. Anyway, hope you're hanging in there. I'm always glad when you post.

Greg said...

Oh, thank you, that's good feedback indeed.

Yes, it was my feeling that if I left it unchallenged she might start to believe herself to be in a bad position and become distressed.

However, I also appreciate where Sorata is coming from - in the past I think there have been occasions where my fears or exhaustion have led me to be overly strict with Mum.

Now that she's settled, though, a gentle nudge to correct her story is all that's needed.

Hey, there's a bit of synchronicity: I see you were visiting Boston the very week I mentioned that Mum was born there!

Thank you for sticking with me all this time.

Sorata said...

Thank you for the answer, Greg!

I guess what initiated my question was a concerning for your Mom and others with the same situation. I am sure it is hard enough for them already that their memory is not as good as before, I wouldn't want them to be challenged constantly... it just seem so harsh.

If the incident is a harmful "memory" or one that can cause future problems, for sure it should be remindered and corrected; but in my opinion, if they were nice "memories", even if they weren't true, I can't see them as being that bad. But once again, I can't imagine what you are going through, so it's merely an outsider seeing from far far away. It must not be easy, as the love one, to have to see those "false memories". Reading how you responded to those situation was exactly what I imagined what I would've done.

You are doing such an amazing job though, I couldn't say it enough.


Y | O | Y said...

I go through the same thing here with my mom. Several stories get jumbled together. I don't correct her, though, since it doesn't register even if it is said in a nice way. Ten seconds later she's back to the same story so I save myself the effort and frustration. I probably would have told her something like, "Well I know you have your own room so I'll have to check with the staff and make sure that doesn't happen again."

Greg said...

Yes, you're right, too. I do make a rod for my back sometimes correcting Mum. Oftentimes there's no point as it'll only upset her or annoy me if I try and make her understand. I catch myself needlessly following something up that's trivial. This one I wanted to try and steer back to the truth, though, just in case it became a refrain and got her into thinking she was in a bad place. How insecure must I be at other times to correct her continually over something trivial, though! I am a pathetic sod, sometimes

Greg said...

I appreciate your advice Y|O|Y. Although we are of an age, I still look to you as "the sensible grown up one"