We were asked to move my Mother to a second nursing home because she became too difficult. She has dementia. She cannot remember that we’ve been taking care of her 24/7 for the last three years. She cannot remember that my Dad’s been gone for 30 years.
No one’s going to tell her what to do or keep her against her will. They tried calming her with a mild sedative, then a stronger one. The stronger one effected her paradoxically; it enraged her. They eliminated the drug to no avail. She made for the exits. They put an alarm band around her ankle. But she kept trying to make a run for it.
So the powers-that-were politely asked us to find her a new home.
I wanted to say: She’s a ninety-six year old woman in a wheelchair with the strength of a kitten. Was she too much of a challenge?
I could have argued but I realized the truth: they were not willing to handle her.
She’s articulate, clever, intelligent, sarcastic. She also has almost no short-term memory and is often confused. She can get belligerent. But I thought nursing homes were where one went to get care when one became disabled, particularly when one was cognitively disabled.
Apparently not so, unless one is cognitively disabled in a compliant sort of way.
In the span of six days at her new place, she has tried to take the elevator down, pulled the fire alarm, and threatened to press charges against the staff. She doesn’t cooperate even when it’s to her benefit, hanging on to the table’s edge when they’re trying to pull her chair out from where she’s wedged herself. Never give in. She’d make a wonderful protester.
To be fair, when we pushed the elevator button to go home, there was a bag taped to the wall next to it. Yes, they have installed the fire alarm right next to the elevator button. In a dementia unit.
My 96 year-old Mom: kicked out of one home, making the second home create new procedures.
When we get there, she gradually calms down, she jokes, she brags of her badass-ness. We re-orient her, we reassure her. We talk about her grandchildren. We explain that she cannot take care of herself at home right now and so she needs to be there. We take her out to the gazebo. We manage to persuade her to submit to another overnight, we promise to be back next day.
And try to be nice to the staff; they’re just doing their jobs. We’ll be back tomorrow.
This must be repeated every day. Her kids are her only link to stability. She cannot remember new people so everyone else is a stranger. Sometimes our reassurance and persuasion go down fairly well, sometimes it takes hours, and sometimes she still isn’t buying it. She’s going home.
She will never not want to go home. She is nursing home-resistant. I hope the new place is ready for permanent non-compliance because she is not going to assimilate.
I am trying to plant an idea in her mind. Although it may seem cruel, I’m trying to suggest that when you are almost 100 years old, it’s no shame to lean on others. It’s no shame, and maybe even necessary, to accept some help. She could be so much more content.
So far it’s not working.
I am so sorry about your mama, but I could not help but laugh. That is my dream, to live long enough to really drive people up the wall. Some of my favorite patients have been the totally incorrigible ones. Hard on the family for sure, but the very nature of dementia makes us want to escape, to wander, and to solve riddles. Ideally we give them the room to do just that, to wander safely and to puzzle out the mystery. Be kind to yourself, you’ve done well by her.
Her pre-dementia self would be horrified at what we’ve had to do for her. Her plan was to stay perfectly healthy then to drop dead and she refused to plan for or acknowledge any other eventuality. We took care of her round-the-clock for 2 1/2 years before the home(s) without her realizing it. Haha
She is a pip. She will never lose her sarcasm or her refusal to submit. It’s the hard germ at the center. She’s SO funny.
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Difficult times. I’m glad you are able to handle them with an ounce of humor and an ocean of love. J.
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You give me too much credit. There are a few of us kids and we share the burden. Thanks. It is a learning time for sure.
God bless those long years, even with pitfalls. Heck, when you live to that ripe age, I say you have earned to act and be as you see fit.
The staff should be so fortunate that there are people who actually make their jobs interesting.
(strength of a kitten. 😉
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That’s what I think too–she’s earned the right to have her way and be humored. But alas, the patience isn’t long enough even where it’s their raison d’etre.