Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

My Photo
Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Visit My Website

Memory Lane Webring

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Joan in a sling
Not a great picture, I grant you. But, yes, that is a sling around Mother's arm. I've actually been up to visit three times since my last posting. There has been a lot going on, and I haven't had the emotional energy to post. I find that writing this is both quite therapeutic and quite difficult--I guess all therapy is difficult, no matter what form it takes.
Writing about visits is a re-living of sorts and visits are a complete mixture of emotions. As I found back when Mother first entered The Birches, I find that I want never to leave and never to return all at the same time. A part of me wants to stay and never leave her side. The other part of me wants to play ostrich and pretend that this isn't happening, which is much easier if I just go about my daily life and don't visit.
But the pull to stay away vanished instantly when David called the week before Christmas to say that Mother had broken her arm and had pneumonia. I was up there within 24 hours. We still don't know what happened. The aides and nurses on staff don't think she fell, since her mobility is now impaired enough that she couldn't get herself up if that happened, and no one found her down.
What they did notice was a bruise on her upper right arm. It began, they said, as a straight line across her arm and didn't look like much. When the bruise got larger, they did an x-ray in-house. Not liking what they saw, they took her down the road to the hospital, where they confirmed a fracture. While waiting at the hospital, the nurses there noticed her wheezing and decided to do a chest x-ray. That's when they discovered she had pneumonia.
They decided to try just a sling rather than a cast for the fracture and sent her home with pain meds and antibiotics. So, when I saw her the next day, she wasn't very engaged. But she wasn't in bed either. I found her sitting up in the dining room with Narissa and Gloria.
Gloria was distracted by the blazer she was wearing. One of the extra buttons that come with most jackets was sewn on the inside down near the hem. For someone whose brain isn't connecting properly, this can do a number on you. She saw the button there on the inside and determined that her jacket wasn't on properly. But, of course, if she turned it around to try to make that button connect with a buttonhole somewhere, that wasn't working out either. Gloria wasn't able to focus on anything else and after a bit one of the aides took her to her room to get things sorted out.
If Mother had wanted to engage conversation, she would have had a hard time getting a word in edgewise. Narissa still has a lot on the ball and when I sat down, she wanted to talk. And talk she did. She told me a lot about her life, asked questions, and waxed wistful about the circumstances of life that landed her at The Birches. Like I remember from a similar conversation with Frances and Russell, the basic sentiment was that if you had to be somewhere, The Birches was as good as any; but the pain of not being at home and whatever knowledge she had of the road ahead was evident. She said what a nice lady Mother was. Mother stared into her cranberry juice. I said my goodbyes when it was time for supper.
I was, of course, up for Christmas Day with the immediate family and then again the day afterward when the extended family also came for a visit. It's time to head up again.
The pneumonia seems to have cleared up. Thankfully they caught it early. She has always been prone to that and I remember her having walking pneumonia several times when I was growing up. The bone-breaking, however, is new. She never broke a bone in her life until she was well into her sixties and broke her pinky finger on a spiral staircase. While I'm glad to know she didn't fall, if she fractured her arm just by walking into furniture or something (which seems to be the consensus...especially given the straight-line bruise), bigger issues loom. It seems we now must add osteoperosis into the mix. The doctor has confirmed.
And so life goes on...break by break. It strikes me that Alzheimer's is kind of like having your brain in a sling. It's still there, but you can't really use it and it seems to only get in the way.

Labels: , ,