Yesterday, in the midst of work’s Monday chaos and trying to put some form of semblance to a thoughtful birthday celebration for my wife, two things happened: I received a call from a neighbor of my mom’s that the house had been broken into & I received a call from my wife that I had to hurry to the foster home because my aunt was over the top angry, demented and afraid of the care giver I referenced the other day.
It has been regrettable that with life in general and with the focus overwhelmingly on my aunt’s home and care, my mom’s house has taken a back seat. The estate sales took place through the Summer. The hired hand mowed the lawn, but I rarely visited to continue the end of sale cleanup (all the stuff that never sold and just the mounds of bagged garbage out back). Also, I did not maintain what had always been beautiful flower beds, to include watering and weeding.
I arrived and entered my mom’s house expecting any of several possibilities: a burglar had come and gone; a crime in progress; a transient seeking shelter and/or a mess. The back window was found open and the screen cut.
The house was cleared. Some expensive lamps that had not sold were gone. There was a bit of ransacking, but no signs of camping out or vandalism. The house is fairly empty and requires the final purging…probably two days of steady work. The house held an eery feeling for me on several levels. As I gazed into each room, I did not feel my mom’s and dad’s presence inside.
Outside, the yard, my mom’s prior commitments have been left to languish. Despite her hoarding mess, her yard was her semblance of normality, of beauty. I have been terribly lazy in caring for or causing to be maintained her (and my dad’s) flower beds.
Several analogies could be drawn here about beauty amongst the weeds, or beauty surviving amongst the depleted landscape or remnants of old glory days. Suffice to say that despite my neglect (the extensive beds do need to be cleaned up before Fall sets in) the roses and fuchsias looked beautiful.
As I stood in the yard thanking the neighbors for their diligence, my phone rang with an urgent voice on the other end. My wife, was in the middle of a stressful scene at my aunt’s care facility. My aunt was very agitated and making no sense. There was a tension in my aunt and she seemed afraid. I headed that way.
I won’t go on through the entire event at the foster home. I was calm. I was direct and the message was clear for the staff. Changes are to be made this week. In the meantime, there is also a lesson here that may or may not be of value. In the midst of my aunt’s memories of sleeping in a hole at night and being chased by others at night, or hiding atop a U-Haul van all night to avoid a mean woman…on and on….there was evident two things: she was upset and I suspect that a real life event, say rude, impatient conduct by a care giver, can be part of a greater demented story line. Her agitation was real. Her gratitude at our arrival was real as she conveyed a long twisted story of dangers and darkness. It might be wise to not out and out dismiss your loved one’s protestations as demented gibberish if you suspect, as I had, that one impatient individual was setting the tone for my aunt.
It was revealing that when I talked to the individual providing the care she immediately expressed frustrations in dealing with my aunt. Why? Because my aunt incessantly asked when was she going home. That need to go home to her safe haven and her stuff is my aunt’s driving force. Obviously it is just as intense for the care giver as for me. The care giver was not prepared to handle the obsessive-compulsive nature of my aunt nor have the patience to deal with a person lapsing into dementia. The care giver’s own life is in turmoil. Those life’s stressors, as for many of us, can cause influence upon how we relate to others in our life, in a professional capacity or personal level.
In the end, we left my aunt thankful for our arrival. We also left her uncertain whether she should have opened her mouth. An odd pairing: a demented storyline probably built around a kernel of truth. The storyline held while at the same time she was paranoid or fearful for us to depart. We left her in good, loving hands. But, it does teach one to listen to the emotions of the story teller for clues of a possibly more serious issue related to elder care.