I Could Use a Cigarette

“Is tonight a full moon?” That’s what I asked the nurse yesterday when I was visiting Mom.

She said, “Every day is a full moon here.”

Betty, one of the residents, asked me if I was smoking, and I said, “No, but I could use one right about now.”

“Do you smoke?” I asked her.

“No, never did,” she said.

The highlights of my visit with Mom are as follows:

Mom: You don’t care about me anymore.

Me: That’s not true.

Mom: Where have you been? (accusingly)

Me: I work full-time and can only come on weekends.

Last weekend I didn’t visit, which might have set her off.

Mom: You spend plenty of time with Lorin.

Me: Well, we live together, but we both work full-time, so we don’t see each other as much as you think.

P.S. Why do I have to defend myself? Am I not allowed to spend time with my husband?

Mom: I hate it here.

No response from me, I keep wheeling her around the floor, hoping she’ll shut up.

Mom: Why did I ever move here?

Me: I don’t know.

Mom: Am I going to die here?

No response from me.

Mom: Look at all those old fogies lined up.

She was referring to her fellow residents seated in a row in front of the nurse’s station. She does not consider herself to be one of them, it seems.

Mom: It’s stuffy in here, isn’t it?

Me: No, it’s not. The windows are open.

Mom: They never wash my hair. It’s a mess.

Me: I put you on the list for the hair salon. You’ll get it cut and colored.

I told her this over and over but she kept complaining about the awful state of her hair. They do, in fact, wash her hair twice a week.

I was tempted to leave more than once, but stayed on, after she apologized. We watched ER and drank coffee.

Another resident named John came into Mom’s room and said to me, “I have some business to discuss with you.”

“Can we go outside to discuss it?” I said.

“Okay,” he said as I led him out and told the nurse he had “business” to discuss.

“But I need to discuss it with you,” he said, as the nurse led him away.

Another resident was screaming at the top of her lungs in her room, “Where is my mommy?! I want my mommy!”

I have seen her in this state before, and she is inconsolable. It takes her about an hour to calm down.

I don’t know how the aides and nurses keep going when I observe the goings-on. They deserve to be paid more than our fabulously wealthy Wall Street bankers and CEOs. Where’s the equity?

* * *

I am trying hard not to take Mom’s words to heart, but when you have spent years helping someone out, and they are so hurtful, it can be difficult to take. It was as if she had returned to her pre-Alzheimer’s mean, manipulative self. It brought up a lot of old issues for me.

Today was a much better day. I baked banana bread, watched the Tony Bennett / Lady Gaga concert on PBS and took a hot bath. Lady Gaga is awesome, by the way, and Tony Bennett still looks great. I put our standing scarecrow outside on the top step, taping him with duct tape to the railing so he doesn’t blow away in the harsh wind. Trying to stay positive.


photo by Erica Herd

8 thoughts on “I Could Use a Cigarette

  1. Hi Erica,
    This post broke my heart. Having thought about it for days, here’s where I come down:

    1) Ask the professionals at the nursing home about ways to respond to abusive treatment (which has a history) from your mother. They will know what the options are, at the very least.

    2) Bring the question up with your Alzheimer’s support group – another source of experience and wisdom.

    3) It would be better to resolve this issue while your mother is alive rather than waiting for the relief of her death. One proposal: when she insults or abuses you verbally, say “You are speaking in a way that hurts me and I’m not going to accept that. One more word like that and I’m leaving.” And then if she continues, do actually leave. You may just go for a walk around the block, or you may cut your visit short. In any case, accepting abuse repeatedly cannot be good for you, and it probably doesn’t matter much to your mother. Maybe she can change, maybe she can’t – but YOU can change.

    Please consider…
    With love,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Lynn. I did tell her that she was being unfair and asked if she wanted me to leave. I plan to do just that if she behaves this way again. Unfortunately, it is not unfamiliar behavior– she was abusive before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s too. xo, Erica

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh gosh…Erica…Lyn is correct in her suggestions, but it doesn’t always make it “easier on you”…I have friends in my life that are working on my “filtering systems” (The way I “take on” too many negative things that people say and do to me. My Mom doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, but she has a “tongue that can cut through me like a daggar” and sometimes she doesn’t even realize what she’s said or done. I deal with her “baggage” with humor, but have spent many a time sitting across from a good therapist “unloading”…I’m in my late 50’s, have had plenty of therapy, and am highly educated in counseling…..doesn’t matter. Still hurts, Sweetie….I totally understand……

    Liked by 2 people

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