Good morning, y’all. I am absolutely tuckered out. I’ve remembered so much stuff in the last twenty four hours that a total frontal lobotomy would result in a call of no foul. Wasn’t it Tom Waits who said, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy?” Well, enough of that kind of thinking.
When we left our story, it is January 1, 2015, I am in Asheville in Mom’s condo on the second day of my Odyssey. I have awoken from a fitful night’s sleep on a bed that would have been used during the Inquistion to finish off the survivors of the rack and iron maiden. I have three texts from Charlotte wanting to know if I have Mom’s keys, and in particular the “garbage key”. I do not understand the focus on the garbage key, even though Mom’s situation at the condo is sort of unique.
Mom lives in a gated community overlooking the golf course. It is very, very scenic, and the community dumpster sits just outside of the gates of the community. I guess the community didn’t want garbage trucks rumbling through in the early AM breaking their solitude. The community decided to be a little self sufficient in the interest of peace and quiet, and so they came up with the “outside the walls” dumpster solution. The dumpster did require a specific key to gain entry, and this is what Charlotte is focused on for some reason.
Charlotte had brought up the garbage key the day before when we had our terse discussion of where I was shortly after my arrival. I presumed Charlotte was at the hospital, but when I called her, my question, “Where are you?” was met with, “I’m at home, where are you?”. There followed a brief discussion with me explaining my expectation that Charlotte would be where our dying Mother was. Turns out, Charlotte apparently thinks I’m coming to Asheville to see Charlotte. It was never mentioned previously that I was supposed to show up at “Hoarders R Us”.
I just do my best, “to be the adult in the room”, and ease out of the conversation as easily as possible. During this conversation she mentions Moms keys and the garbage key about three times. She whines on about how fragile she, Charlotte, is, and recounts how mean Mom has been, even when Charlotte has been trying to help her with her medicines. There is a level of self serving B.S. I can abide, and Charlotte has already pushed past her 2015 quota.
I head on over to the hospital where I find Mom sitting up in bed talking to some elderly lady I don’t know. Mom has a blanket on her bed that is in a very distinctive fuschia color which I know must have come in from the outside. I take a seat out of the way and Mom continues listening to her friend who has identified herself as Ann Wallace. Ann probes Mom as to when Mom is going to be released, if she needs a ride back home, does Ann need to call some friends to setup home health care and so on. Mom’s best response through all of this was a weak, “I don’t know when I’ll get to go home”.
Next, Ann goes into a soliloquy that chills me to this day. She starts telling Mom about some friend that had gone to an assisted living facility and was beaten up, nearly beaten to death. If that story is not bad enough, Ann tells of another friend who was raped in a nursing home. Ann assured Mom that Mom needed none of that, “assisted living business”. Ann was sure Mom could get by fine at home with just a little help from her friends.
Well, during the rape story I had had enough. I truly didn’t know where Mom was going to wind up. I was sure that I didn’t want some crazy old crone convincing Mom that Assisted Living wasn’t the best thing for her, when it truly might be. I started asking Ann pointed questions about her credentials to make recommendations to Mom in the hopes of making her uncomfortable enough to leave. If not leave, at least shut up.
Mom’s doctor came in and crazy Ann bid us an adieu. The doctor asked Mom some questions and Mom contributed to the interview as well as she could. The doctor explained that they had to use a catheter to get a urine specimen from Mom and the results were the worst bladder infection they had ever seen. The doctor related that everyone was very surprised that Mom’s vitals had bounced back as well as they had. Mom smiled at everyone and told everyone thank you for all of the wonderful care she was receiving. The doctor offered promise of release in a couple of days and headed off on her rounds.
I spent the next few hours talking, or trying to talk to Mom. About every third sentence from Mom was about the blanket that Edna had brought her, and how pretty the blanket was. It was pretty clear to me that “Elvis had left the building”, so’s to speak. The question was whether Elvis was ever coming back. Mom had some specific short term memories; she remembered Maggie bringing her to the hospital, she remembered Charlotte trying to “dose her” with blackberry root extract, she remembered Obama was president. She didn’t know what day it was or year, 2014, or 2015, and mostly importantly, didn’t know where she was.
Mom was convinced she was on the psyche ward of Memorial Mission. When I asked her to break it down for me, she explained that she knew she was in a new part of the building and that Memorial Mission had had to add on to their facilities in the past to handle their share of the mental health issues in Buncombe county. Since her room was nice and new, and had such a wonderful view of Mt. Pisgah, Mom surmised she was on the psyche ward. I asked Mom if she knew if there was an event that led to her being placed on the psyche ward. She kind of blanked and started focusing on the blanket again.
Lunch came and I took the opportunity to go to the cafeteria and call Mulva and Jackson. It is funny when two very different people who are confronted with the same set of problems will respond in exactly the same way. After explaining Mom’s complete loss of capacity and the fact that I thought it really was time to do something different with Mom, particularly something that didn’t involve Charlotte and/or Edna, Jackson and Mulva both responded, “I don’t care where you put her as long as it’s not here”.
In truth, that’s my response too. There are situations where the elders can move in and live out their days with family, but that has never been an option with Mom. My brain was absolutely spinning over the possible outcomes of Mom’s situation. It certainly took my thoughts off of my problems. I have to get about neck deep in elder care in the 30 hours available, before I’m due back in Blairsville. I go back upstairs to Mom’s room and watch Mom fall in and out of consciousness. I take the time to start texting and emailing people who might know something about what I needed to do.
The doctor comes in to check on Mom about 4PM and is very laudatory in her praise as to how well Mom is doing. She gives Mom the promise that, with continued improvement, Mom will be able to go back home in a couple of days. I follow the doctor out into the hall and ask for a word. Did I mention earlier that the doctor looked like she had just come from cheerleader practice? Anyway, I relate the fact that Mom is as confused as she can be. Mom is not the same as before going in. I am given a stock group of answers as to why Mom should be allowed to go back home.
At this point, I relate to the doctor that Mom knows all of the answers to all of the psyche questions. Mom practices them everyday. “Do you live on your own, do you do your own housework, do you cook for yourself, how do you stay busy, yaddita yaddita”. The doctor looks perplexed, and then sees the relieving doctor coming on shift. She asks me to repeat what I’ve just said to both of them. The new doctor starts to affirm the first diagnosis when I am forced to swoop in for the clincher.
“Did you ask her where she is, I mean specifically where she is, because she tells me she’s been committed to the psyche ward”, I ask.
They tell me to wait where I am for a few minutes and they head into Mom’s room. They’re gone for about ten minutes before they come back and confirm the diagnosis of severe dementia. They add the diagnosis to Mom’s chart and we agree we will follow Mom’s mental issues more closely before we decide to let her get back behind the wheel of a car.
I go back in and visit with Mom until supper time and then I head out. I tell Mom I’ll see her tomorrow and head off into the Asheville night in search of supper on New Years Day. As it turns out, Asheville closes on New Years Day. Do make a note of that for future reference.