A friend sent me some new Maxine cards, some of which she'd never seen.
Some of those I’ve never seen, either. My mother got me hooked on them. She turns 93 in May. Last year, at her birthday party, she forgot her grandson’s name three times. I was sitting next to her, and she asked, in three different ways, “Who’s that handsome young man at the head of the table?”
In February of this year, she was again at a family birthday party (for that same grandson). She forgot his mother, WHO IS HER CAREGIVER, and had brought her to the party. So sad. She used to love to read, but is now nearly blind. She has Alzheimer’s.
When we were all in Mississippi at her competency hearing, she was asked how many daughters she had. She said “four” (the number of CHILDREN she has.) The judge then asked her to name them. Without hesitating, she came out with “Lou, Bonnie, Louise and Sandy.” Other than giving Lou, twice, she named them in the order of whom she saw most frequently.
We put her in a top assisted living facility. I took her around like I was introducing a new horse into a strange pasture and wanted to be sure it knew that it was home, how to get to food, water, salt and shelter. A worried nurse’s aide was trying to help her, but had no idea how to do it, so I just sort of took over. I’d link arms, ask her what she wanted to do and WAIT. If she came up with something doable, we then did it at once. If she was stuck, I suggested things - go outside for a walk, go to her room to rest, go to the cafeteria for a snack, locate something to read (books and newspapers were NOT in the same place…) where to get help, how to get back to her room.
If she messed up, instead of reacting, I’d wait until she asked something. “Is this my room?” she popped out with once, having turned left instead of right, but getting on the proper side of the hall and the right number of doors down from the corner. I did NOT want that to be a “lose” instead of a “win”, as she was only one misstep off.
“What do you think?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Are you in a safe place?”
“If you mess up, will anything bad happen to you?” (She’d been meeting and greeting for over an hour at that point, and NOBODY was anything other than kind and helpful, whether they were resident or staff.)
“No. Should I open the door?” I nodded, and she did, peeking in. The secretary, who had a wide window area on the far side of the office instead of a solid wall, so was well aware of what I’d been up to, smiled helpfully at her, but said nothing.
“That’s not my room, is it?”
“Nope. Do you see anything anywhere that you recognize?”
Turning in a 360° circle, she saw the entryway with the doors outside, the huge table with a beautiful huge bouquet of colorful flowers on it, the hall she lived on visible on the far side, including her door, with a sign “Emily Reed” on it, sticking out. She got very excited and said, “I see my room!” Two visitors and the secretary CLAPPED for her!
Bonnie, the middle sister, who had showed up after going back to the motel to take her dog for a walk, caught up with us after a successful walk around the outside of the facility. Mom had walked until she did’t want to any more, turned in the proper direction, and was back by the doors. There was a large circle you pushed to open them from the outside.
Bonnie, tired after three seconds of mom not figuring it out, rushed over and did it for her. Great. And afterward, when neither of us were around, who was going to do that? I tried to get Bon to let mom think things out for herself. Instead, she said, “Promise me you’ll never forget who I am.”
I was sick inside. That was one promise mom would NOT be able to keep, no matter what else might happen.
Lou lives in Minnesota, Bonnie in Raleigh, NC, so eventually, mom needed more care than she was getting down there in Mississippi, with her three daughters at least a thousand mile away, one way.
Lou placed her in a brand new facility only three miles from her home in Rochester, Minnesota. (Originally, mom didn’t want to be where it was cold, but she was by then past the point where she could take herself outside and be counted on to get herself back inside safely.)
So, Maxine is a happy/sad memory for me. Thanks for sending them! I really laughed.