In October, we placed my mom in a group home (Wadesboro Place) that we really liked. It had the right combination of clean, affordable, and the promise of a supervised environment which was definitely needed. The owner/director said they took trips to the library every week and had lots of activities. We were happy with it up until the last month or so. Since just before Christmas, the owner has been increasingly distracted and unpleasant.
That unpleasantness reached crisis point this last week. It went something like this:
*phone call at work.*
K: Hey, I just got off the phone with Debi (owner of Wadesboro). She said Mom keeps walking around with out a shirt on.
K: She said one of us needs to go out there.
Me: Why didn’t you just have her put Mom on the phone and talk to her? That should be all it takes to redirect her.
K: Um… I didn’t think of that. I’m at the dentist with [my son].
Me: *sigh* Okay. I’l call Debi.
D: Evie! I can’t get your mom to listen. She keeps coming out in her bra and every time I send her to put a shirt on she comes back with just her bra and sweater again. I am going to call the ambulance if you can’t come get her.
Me: Wait… call the ambulance? For what? She’s not naked. She’s wearing a sports bra.
D: I can’t have her walking around like that. I’ve got things to do and I can’t watch her all the time. You’ve got to do something with her or I’m calling the ambulance. I’ve got places to be and I can’t deal with her.
Me: She’s wearing a sports bra. It’s not exactly revealing. Did you give her a shirt and ask her to put it on?
D: Yes. Twice. But I don’t have time to keep telling her, and she keeps just putting on her bra and sweater. I’m calling the ambulance if you’re not coming out here.
Me: What do you expect the ambulance to do? She’s not naked or sick. Just put her on the phone and let me talk to her.
Me: Hey, Mom. You okay?
Mom: I… maybe?
Me: It sounds like you’re having a strange morning. Debi tells me you’re walking around in your bra. That’s not covered enough in the cold. You need a shirt on.
Mom: I have a shirt.
Me: Okay. That’s good. You’ve gotta keep that on, okay? I’m coming out tonight for bath night, and I’ll see you then. Okay?
Mom: Okay! I love you.
Me: Love you, too. Give Debi the phone please.
D: Are you coming to get her?
Me: No. I’m at work. She says she’s wearing a shirt now. Is she?
D: Yes, but I can’t have her disturbing everyone anymore. If you’re not coming I’ll have to call the ambulance.
Me: That makes no sense. She’s wearing a shirt. She’s not sick or hurt; she just got her wires crossed this morning. I can’t leave work and run out there every time she has a weird moment. I’ll be out there tonight for a bath and to check on her. She seems confused but fine.
*30 minutes later; phone call at work*
K: Hey, Evie, I just got off the phone with the sheriff. He said he can’t Baker Act mom. She’s calm, complacent, dressed, and not hurting herself or anyone.
Me: Well, duh. Of course he can’t. Wait, why were you talking to the sheriff?
K: Evidently Debi called him.
Me: What?!?! Over Mom in her sports bra??
K: Her sports bra? Debi said she was topless.
Me: Yeah. Shirtless, but in a sports bra. She physically can’t pull her bra off without help. Did you think she was naked?
K: That’s what I thought Debi said.
Me: Ah. NO. And by the time I talked to her she was wearing a shirt, too.
K: Then I don’t know what the problem is. She’s always walked around the house in her sports bra.
Me: I know! Debi has issues.
K: Well, if that’s all it is, then I’m not going out there either. I told Debi to call me if anything else went wrong. I’ll call you if anything happens.
Me: Sounds good. Thanks, bro.
D: (via text) The EMT’s just left. Until your mom can be placed in a nursing home, you will need to hire a sitter or have a family member take her. She can’t stay here otherwise.
K: (via text) I’m at the neurologist with Mom. Debi tried to Baker Act her, but the EMT’s and the sheriff wouldn’t take her. I don’t think she needs to go back there.
Me: WTF!!! On my way. And hell no she’s not going back there. Debi won’t take her back anyway.
By the end of Wednesday we’d had her seen in the neurologists office, by two social workers, and by a psychiatrist, as well as the initial sheriff and the EMT’s. The nurses, social workers, and doctors all said she was a-okay and Baker Acting wasn’t appropriate. She is not dangerous. Not self-harming. Not sick. She’s just suffering from dementia and often gets her wires crossed. Both social workers also suggested that her caregiver wasn’t a safe choice anymore, to which we heartily agreed.
So, now, she’s living with me. We’ve got her on a waiting list for a nursing home. We’re starting the application for Medicaid. We’ve got a case worker from Elder Affairs coming. She’ll be starting elder daycare soon. Until then, because I have the most amazing friends in the world, she’s safely spending her days with one of the sweetest girls I know. She’s eating well, sleeping deeply most of the night, and laughing at everything that strikes her fancy. She sits quietly for hours reading children’s books and stacking and unstacking Duplo Legos.
Mornings are a challenge. The first morning was a heartbreaking reminder of what this disease is doing to her brain and body. She was deeply asleep when I called her, and even though she got up and went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, her brain wasn’t yet functioning. I’ve seen “the jumps” before, but never quite as bad. They’re something between a petite mal seziure and tourettes. This time the toothbrush went flying, the soap rolled into the sink, she leaned forward and grunted, and she almost fell when I tried to get her to sit down. It took almost an hour for the jumpy arms and legs to calm down and her eyes to start to focus. The neurologist said it’s a common sign of braid decay progressing, and it breaks my heart.
This is not the adventure I would have asked for, but it’s the one I’ve got. And I’m growing. I’ve never been good with patience and compassion. It’s not how I’m hardwired, but I have a feeling this adventure is going to force me to try. As hard as it is, as much as I may have to miss out on until we find her a safe, loving, nursing environment, every bit of it will be worth it to know she’s secure and happy.