Monday, December 15, 2003

Not going gentle

In my posting of Nov. 28, I wrote about my mother wandering away from the assisted living facility (ALF) and being detained by the police. Unfortunately, Mom continued to try to wander off. The last time, the nurse reported, she stood in the middle of the street and resisted efforts to bring her back. She was moved into the skilled nursing building, where the doors are secure, a few days ago.

Mom has never accepted that she needs any assistance -- she just wants to go back home, sure she can take care of herself. "I could get a job slinging hash or something," she said, on several occasions, though what the connection is between that and going home is clear only in her mind. Does she think she was put there because she was broke? "Debtor's prison?"

Anyway, she complained of being put in "with those old people" in the ALF, though her own age was certainly not below the median. She complained that they mostly all had something wrong with them and needed wheelchairs or walkers or something. Clearly, she did not fit in with them, her thinking went.

Now she is in the Alzheimer's ward, with the vacant-eyed, slack-jawed, shuffling and sad people. The director said this is the only opening they have in the secure area right now, but hopefully an opening will come up soon in the regular skilled care area. I plan to hold him to it. Mom isn't so far gone that she is unaffected by her environment. She is angry at being placed there. It has to seem horrible and depressing for her there. There's no recreation room, no living room, just a room with a hospital bed. There's not even a TV for her to watch -- I'm going to buy her a portable tomorrow.

I have to admit I've felt a little angry with her for being so uncooperative with the staff at the ALF and for not listening to me, either. (She's been angry at me for being placed there. I "told tales on her to the doctors.") They treated her very kindly at the ALF, and most of the other patients tried to bring her into the social circle. Most seemed pretty cheerful living there, despite their infirmities. But Mom just wasn't having any of it. Her wandering off was due to her mental confusion coupled with her own hard-headedness. Mom has always been determined to do exactly what she wants to do. It worked to her detraction in this case.

I'm afraid this move might send her downhill mentally and emotionally. At the same time, I recognize she had to be moved. The Florida newspapers are full of stories about people wandering away from nursing homes (or their own homes) and being found dead. Mom could have easily been mugged when she took off -- a frail-looking, skinny little-old lady walking down the street with her pocketbook clutched in her hands.

I wish Mom could find it in herself to reach out to the people around her. She has passed up so many chances -- in the ALF was just the most recent. There are people in this Alzheimer's ward with whom she could socialize, who aren't any farther gone than she is. She could even reach out to help or comfort another person, and in so doing, maybe entertain an angel unawares.

Be praying for her and for all the people in nursing homes.

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