Holy cow did my day start off bad. And wow did it just come to a close with a phenomenal ending. A joyful, teary eyed, happy ending to the sappiest movie you've ever seen kind of an ending.
The question is: What happened?! Not even what happened, but yes, what happened? How did it all change so quickly? And why am I surprised? Why can't I catch on that the mood of Alzheimer's patients will change more often than any state's weather. (I grew up with the good ole line "If you don't like the weather in Michigan, just wait it will change." I was so disappointed years later to learn that at least a dozen other states made the same claim.)
I guess the lesson is, if you don't like just about anything, just wait and it will change. Some things will transform more quickly than others. The mood and behavior of my Mother being a prime example.
So, if I'm honestly trying to encourage people to give home care a shot, I have to be honest about good and bad days -- there I go again. Correction: good and bad moments.
Our bad moments typically happen in the morning and solely during the task of trying to get my Mom out of bed. She is NOT a morning person. Like Mother, like daughter, I'm not either, which probably makes the situation even more volatile.
Whenever we have to be somewhere -- or if I just don't want her sleeping til 2 pm -- I have to circle back in and try to wake her at least a dozen times. I start out very fun and creative.
"You get to see all your friends at the activity center today," I'll say cheerily. (that's the approach for Mondays and Wednesdays when we attempt to go to her daycare.)
Sometimes she'll perk up and ask what she'll get to wear, at which time I parade out a host of tempting outfits. Most days she burrows further into the covers and tells me she's sick. I leave the room for a few minutes, come back fresh and pretend to wake her up for the very first time with an all new approach.
"It's a gorgeous day..." or
"It's Sunday, we have to get up for church." (That one worked quite well for a while, but wore off. Now I resort to "God called and said please get out of bed," and even that doesn't work.)
She came from a big family, so I sometimes tell her if she doesn't get up one of her sister's is going to sneak off with her best dress. Sometimes I tell her that her Mom said to get up... and "she's on her way up here, you better be out of bed before she hits that door." (I don't even think my Grandma was ever an enforcer, but by the desperation of round 8 or 9, I'll try anything!)
My current all time favorite is to blow into the room holding a page of the newspaper and claim with urgency that there's a 75-percent off sale at Macy's. That at least gets the little 88-year-old 90-some-pound shopaholic to open one eye.
The problem happens when she either sees through the ruse, or legitimately can't see a good enough reason to get out of bed. That's when the trouble starts. She plays dead. I mean really dead. She sinks so far back into that teeny little frame I'm positive she's sunk into a permanent vegetative state and the next stop is the nursing home. The first couple times I was ready-to-call-an-ambulance terrified. Now that I can clearly see the odd Alzheimer's induced game of possum, I get frustrated and today, I admit, I got really angry.
She had on wet pants, the bed was getting wet and she was down right mean as I tried to care for her. When I gave morning pills to her she pulled a Hannibal Lecter and tried to bite my finger.
I rolled with the bad mood for almost two hours and finally gave her a strong "listen little lady, you're at least getting up to change those pants. You can go back to bed after that." She fought back with a punch and I am so ashamed to admit it, I lost it. I grabbed her under the arm to avoid getting hit and in one motion, hurled her up and to the side of the bed with such a fluid motion she landed propped on the side of the bed, her feet hitting the floor, putting her almost in a standing position. I was mortified at my action, but thrilled with the outcome. I had to keep the momentum at this point, so I immediately changed the tone.
"That's better! Good job! Look at you standing up. Okay, the bathroom is right this way!"
Somehow, it's one of those 'I can only credit a Guardian Angel' moments, she actually shuffled into the bathroom -- rigid, angry, growling and baring teeth the entire way.
Luckily for me, it's only about four steps into the bathroom and it turned out to be less than four minutes from the next miracle.
As she sat on the toilet, I quickly removed soiled garments, replacing them with nice dry clothes and viola! my Mother returned. As if waking from a trance she looked down at me as I squatted to pull the new pants up past her ankles.
"Well, look who's here! Good morning!" she bubbled. I let my Are you kidding me?! remain in my cartoon thought bubble. Instead, I mustered a laugh and said, "Well, good morning to you!"
She changed in a snap. I think she wanted to be nice an hour earlier, but she couldn't figure out how to gracefully end the standoff.
I don't want to ever loose my patience or resort to force again -- in fact, I'm going to seek out some professional techniques for getting my Mom up and moving on these tough days. The thing is, I know a more clinical approach will be more effective, but it will also likely lead to more growls. I'll need to be reminded not to take those teeny tiny moments so personally. She doesn't.
At least for the time being, they're super brief, always fleeting and my dear sweet Mom always awaits on the other side.
Just now as I tucked her in bed, she said she had the best day ever and that I should try her pillow, it was the most comfortable she's ever had. She just glowed with love. "And you are just an angel," she said grabbing my hand with complete admiration. "What would I do without you? You're my girl."
I fought temporarily with my thought bubble again for a moment -- sure, you're so sugar sweet now, but what about when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning? I'm not into holding grudges, but unlike my Mom who truly had no recollection of a single bad incident happening today, I don't quite have the ability to completely shake off the memory that easily. We were back sitting bedside just hours after the morning scuffle and evidently my subconscious already braced for the next encounter. Then I remembered tomorrow's Saturday. We don't have to be anywhere by a certain time. She can sleep in. I could cast off the worry of tomorrow after all and thoroughly enjoy this good moment. We laid together and I asked her to list the highlights of her day. The exact examples fell into the late night gibberish category, but she was positive it had been a great day. I agreed. At least it ended that way.