Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Day with Mom and Dad

It is Sunday morning; I am still at Merrill Gardens. Ineke, one of Mom's favorite caregivers, will arrive shortly to "relieve me" after my time spent with Mom and Dad all day Saturday and through the night. I wanted to see with my own eyes the needs of my parents as they look ahead to another move, this time to an assisted living facility in Seattle's north end. I worry about Mom because for the last two months plus she has had round the clock care in the apartment with one-on-one response to her every need. This intensity of service won't be available in assisted living and I'm trying to get an idea of how safely (or un-safely) she navigates her days. I tried to get her to do as much on her own as possible and only provided assistance when she asked for it (other than fetching water and snacks from the kitchen which I didn't insist she do for herself...) It was a worthwhile investment of my time if for no other reason than simply being with my parents, a privilege and a rarity at their ages.

I had brought several books with me to read knowing there would be lots of "quiet time". But, I filled those hours knitting furiously; made two tightly woven cotton scrubbing cloths ("rags") and a scarf. My right forearm is a bit sore today and my fingertips dried out from maneuvering the needles and yarn as I completed hundreds of stitches. I found that I could observe, listen, and talk while knitting and the repetitive activity kept my mind from wandering to places it ought not have gone.

We ate lunch downstairs and then Mom had a hair appointment at the salon around 12:30. She's always there for over an hour; Mary, the stylist, takes her time which is nice. Mary always serves Mom a granola bar and yesterday a special treat, some Japanese crackers wrapped in a dried seaweed. We both choked those (crackers) down, smiling nicely but hating the taste. Have I inherited this trait from my Mother? Mom looked great and she made it all the way to and from the salon on her own steam with the walker.

Shortly after the hair appointment, Ineke came by with her dog for a visit. A perfect lap dog, sweet and longing for affection, he sat in Mom's lap for fifteen minutes and delighted her. Pets are such wonderful companions for those who are lonely, isolated, and in need of connection. There are even services out there that regularly bring pets into nursing homes and even to private fee for service customers. I wonder if Boo would ever take to this sort of visiting; I can see putting him in his cat crate and toting him up to visit Mom every week or so.

The rest of the day was rather routine; assisting Mom in and out of the chair to the bathroom or the kitchen, administering medications, opening the mail, watching TV, talking when there was something that inspired us to do so, undressing and dressing. And then at 6 PM we were treated to the Lawrence Welk show which Dad favors but Mom watches grudgingly. Me too; it bites. I had to bust out the Heineken at that point and Dad and I sat with beers in hand and a bowl of cashews. The treats made the show tolerable. I had to laugh outloud; Dad couldn't figure out why but Mom sure did.

The night was easy although sleeping on the couch isn't that comfortable. Mom, all bundled in flannel P.J.s, fleece socks and a white lace hairnet, fell asleep in her chair around 10 PM and never stirred until 7:15 AM. I heard her dreaming at one point but for the most part, quiet indeed. I wonder if this is typical or atypical; the log notes from night time caregivers usually indicate a busier night. Was it my presence? Was it just a really good night? I suppose we'll never know.

What will I do with this information from my 24 hours of observation? I guess it may be helpful to the nurse who does the intake interview at the assisted living this week. Once we pass that hurdle, we will be making plans in earnest for the big move. Everyone dreads the process but we shall persevere. I have to trust that this is the right decision; it certainly seems so at this time.

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