I ventured out to see my sweet aunt. Recent reports did not sound encouraging. They were accurate. My aunt was upset she had not seen me in awhile. She had no recollection of my surgery. I didn’t correct her. She was on edge and her eyes, her face were flat.
I let it play out to see the lay of the mental landscape. A mix evolved of the present and total loss of memory regarding deaths. I didn’t correct her. I didn’t probe. Most troubling for her was she was angry she was tied down and house bound as her husband, Felix, anxiously looked for her everywhere. Every car pulling up, she is certain is Felix. And it isn’t. “Can you imagine how I feel each time I see it isn’t him? I am worried sick. If I lose him, I don’t know what I will do.” As you suspect, Felix died some 50 years ago. The strong, rock like man of her life died was when I was a young teen. I didn’t correct her. Nor did I remind her that her sister Viola, who had been cooking in the kitchen this morning has been gone 20+ years. These are not care givers whom she misnames (a common occurrence).
To off set this morose conversation, I decided to call family members so she could talk to them. First, I called asshole from a few days ago. No answer. My aunt left a message on his answering machine. Next she called a nephew and his wife in Washington and had a very smiley, loving conversation.
From there we tried a niece in Wisconsin. No answer. No answering machine. Called back later…line busy. No computer/no email. Get with it already, please!
I connected her with her remaining sister to the South. She reminded my aunt that I had had surgery. The look of disappointment in my aunt’s face over having forgotten was clearly visible. She was frustrated at having forgotten. It was not as bad as if I had reminded her her husband, Felix, or sister, Viola, were long departed. I brushed it off and she continued to have a nice conversation (well she mostly listened, unable to get a word in) with her sister.
Off the phone and back to reality. No, not really. It is a sad mix of ‘in the present’ and the frequent insertion ‘where’s Felix?’.
In addition, she had had an near fall in the bathroom earlier. She was thankful the young woman tending to her caught her and was strong enough to muscle her back into the wheel chair. My aunt’s upper body strength is decreasing.
Also, the physical therapist had been out today. Today and Wednesday, he had found my aunt distracted by ‘where’s Felix?’ and out and out hallucinations re snakes in the swamp off the kitchen. Today, he advised the care staff to strongly consider not just dementia but the UTI possibility also. We need to move on this Monday. She is not running a temp at this point.
There was no ‘when am I going home?’ today. There was a small joke of sorts…’it is a shame. There’s my house sitting all empty. Well, not empty,…..fullllllllll of stuff, you know.’ A chuckle followed the comment. A recognition of her hoarding home.
Then the zinger of the visit: ‘You know, right before lunch today, I was sitting out there by the table. It suddenly hit me that I was about to die. I could feel it as I sat there.’ “Oh, were you not feeling well?” “What were you feeling?” I asked. ‘No. I just knew. I could feel it.’ Not a time to stand and depart, we danced around this sobering comment and assured her we were near and dear. We talked about tomorrow’s visit and made another fruitless visit to call the niece in Wisconsin. Line still busy. We wheeled her out to the dining room table as the room was filled with the smell of something tasty. My stomach wasn’t up to considering a meal. My mind was a touch out of shape too, having been away from this mental exercise. I kissed her soft grey hair and said I loved her, meaning it more than ever before.
Speaking of hoarding. The Team, at my mom’s house, amazingly filled another drop box and requested another one for tomorrow morning. These 20 yard boxes are adding up. Today, the yard debris, garage debris, half a rotten shed and smelly shelving from the basement and garage topped off the box. The drop box company, ever ready, on any day, will deliver another box tomorrow morning.