At the time I first made my notes for this entry, Flo was living in assisted living. Unfortunately, a month later, she had moved to memory care. More about that visit later.
I spent a long weekend with an old friend, visiting her mom, who lives in an assisted living center in the Chicago burbs. Not such a big deal, until you understand that nearly all the residents suffer from some level of dementia. Most also have co-morbid illnesses or conditions. Nearly all the residents we encountered was warm and welcoming…each and every time we met them for the first time.
My friend’s mom—let’s call her Flo—is, without her hearing aids, stone deaf. With them, she hears only marginally better. Not only is Flo unable to hear us talk, she cannot hear herself. Needless to say, her personal decibel level is far greater than that to which the other folks are accustomed, and it sends them into hiding in short order.
Flo has no idea that she has dementia. Her caretaker and beloved husband of 64 years succumbed to COPD and other conditions several months ago, necessitating her move to assisted living, where she will have the proper care and supervision. My friend and her sibling, both of whom live out of state, were really unaware of how ill their parents were, as they covered it up well. Their loss has been overwhelming.
Sometimes Flo remembers that her husband—we’ll call him Eb—is gone, sometimes she thinks everyone is Eb. Or her deceased brother or uncle. Some things Flo doesn’t forget: she loves her daughter. She proudly introduces her to everyone, “This is my wonderful daughter, Eb, who does everything for me.” She never forgets to remark about her hair…or mine. “You’d be so much prettier if you’d ‘do something’ with your hair.” “Aren’t you ever going to cut your hair?” Deja vu. Do all Jewish mothers say this stuff?
Flo wants to go places: to renew her driver’s license, go to the bank, go shopping, go home to her own home, go to mahjong. It’s not that she doesn’t like her present living arrangements; it’s just that in her mind, she shouldn’t be here with all the “crazies.”
The facility, itself, is very upscale, clean and pleasant. Sierra sold me on it. As we walked through the front door the very first time, the beautiful, friendly Sierra greeted us. Rescued by the manager last year, this loving pup has become a fixture and a friend to all. The staff at the home is outstanding. The caregivers genuinely enjoy working with the elderly, and the ratio of caregiver to patient excellent. The food in the dining room is surprisingly tasty. Flo, who never admits to being hungry, has gained weight since her arrival. Because we were out-of-town-guests, our meals were free, a nice perk.
There is no question that dementia is a mean, stealthy thief, taking bits and pieces of the mind, sometimes slowly, sometimes in one big, fat grab. We constantly must remind ourselves, when we become impatient, that Flo has no control over this thief, and that we, too, may someday be a victim of that scurrilous beast.