Yardley English Lavender

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(google)

A bar of soap isn’t just a bar of soap.

For example, there’s Yardley English Lavender–Mom’s favorite.

Last week she said, “I meant to tell you to get me more soap.”

I went into her bathroom and saw three bars of soap–not whole, maybe two-thirds used–but nevertheless, Yardley English Lavender.

“Mom, you have soap,” I said from the bathroom.

“Really?”

“Yes, want to see?” I said.

“Okay,” she said, wheeling into the bathroom. She turned on the faucet and started to wash her face and hands.

“Smell it,” I said, handing her the bar. She sniffed it.

“Okay, thank goodness. Yes, that’s it.”

Her aide Christina* came in the room later and said, “I wanted to ask you to bring your mom more soap.”

“But she has three bars in the bathroom,” I said.

“Yes, but she tells me, ‘That’s not soap.’ She likes the big bars,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll bring some next time.”

Christina nodded and smiled.

Before I left, I said to Mom, “Remember, you have soap. There are three bars in the bathroom.”

“Okay,” she said.

I had a feeling this was not the end of the Soap Saga, so I went to CVS and bought three “real” bars of Yardley English Lavender.

Last night after work I stopped by to visit Mom.

I saw the night nurse Jared* on my way to her room and said, “I’m bringing her some soap.”

“Ah, the English soap,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, she loves it.”

It was 7:30, and Mom was already in bed.

“Do you want to watch some TV?” I asked.

“No, I’m sleepy,” she said.

“I’ll put your soap right her next to you, okay?” I placed the bars of soap on the rolling table next to her bed.

“Yes, that’ll be fine. You didn’t have to come today to bring it.”

“No, I wanted to. I didn’t want you to have to wait.”

“Thank you, dear.”

I kissed her on the forehead and said, “good night.”

“Good night, dear.”

I told Jared, “She was very sleepy, so I put the soap by her bed.”

He said, “You didn’t have to come all this way to just to bring her soap. I could have picked some up at Walgreens.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

Sometimes soap isn’t just soap.

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(google)

*Pseudonyms used for staff members at Actor’s Home.

 

 

 

Raymond Sleeps Around

wandering man

(photo: glasseyes view)

Raymond looked different than the last time I saw him: hair shaved close to the scalp, different glasses, belt cinched tighter around his waist. He looked paler somehow.

I saw Mom in the day room. She said, “It’s been a long time. Where have you been?”

“I wasn’t feeling well one weekend, and last weekend I had a lot to do,” I said.

“Oh. Let’s go to the room,” she said.

I wheeled her to her room.

I was nervous about seeing her on Saturday. Our last visit had been on Thanksgiving, and she was in good spirits. I wanted to hold onto that, thinking it might go away.

“I brought you coffee and cookies and Christmas presents,” I said.

“Oh, and to think we missed Christmas,” she said, frowning.

“We didn’t miss it. It’s next week. I’ll come by on Wednesday after work and bring you the chocolate chip cookies.”

“That would be great,” she said.

“Do you want to open your presents?”

“Not right now,” she said. “Let’s go for a walk.”

We took a spin around the floor, passing Raymond, as we usually do. He’s an avid walker of the halls.

“Hi,” he said to me.

“Hi, Raymond.”

After our spin, we returned to Mom’s room. I did some channel surfing and stopped on AMC. They were running a Christmas movie marathon; the original Miracle on 34th Street was on.

“I always liked this one,” I said.

“Me too. But I haven’t seen any Christmas movies.”

“What about Christmas in Connecticut? That was on last week.”

“Oh, yes, I saw that,” she said, smiling.

“I liked that one.”

“Me too.”

Raymond shuffled into Mom’s room.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi, Raymond.”

“He’s always coming into my room. I don’t want him in here,” Mom said.

“He doesn’t mean anything by it. I don’t think he knows where he’s going.”

“I don’t care. I don’t like it,” she said.

“Raymond, let’s go this way,” I said, leading him out of her room towards the nurses’ station.

Mom and I went for another spin.

We returned to her room and drank coffee together. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott was on.

“I never saw this one,” she said.

“Me neither, but I heard it was good.”

“You know what I really need?” she said.

“What?”

“A bra. The ones they gave me are too big and I hate them. I need a Lasserette.”

“A what?”

“Oh, let me think.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Raymond.

“Vassarette!” she says.  “Size 36B, with some padding.”

I never heard of Vassarette bras.

Raymond doesn’t say anything and heads straight to Hannah’s bed. Hannah is Mom’s roommate; she has the bed closer to the door.

“Vassarette? What color?” I said.

“Beige.”

“Okay, I’ll look for one.”

“Thank you,” she said.

Raymond lies down on his side, eyes closed, and hands tucked under his head in prayer position on Hannah’s bed.

“Mom,” I said, gesturing to Raymond.

“What is he doing? Get him out of here.”

I go out to the nurses’ station to speak to Deirdre, the second shift nurse on duty.

“Deirdre, you’ve got to see this,” I said.

“What?” she says, smiling.

“It’s Raymond.”

“Oh, no,” she said, looking at him on the bed.

She nudged him gently. “Raymond, you have to get up. This isn’t your room.”

“Huh?” he said, like a toddler being woken from a nap.

“Come on, let’s go.”

“Oh,” he said.

Deirdre led him out gently by one arm.

Mom and I went around the floor one more time. When we returned, guess who was lying on the bed?

I told Deirdre.

She said, smiling, “He’s like George Washington. He sleeps in everyone’s bed.”

*Pseudonyms have been used for staff and residents at the Actors Home.

The Help

hospital staff

Otis Historical Archives

“Do you know where Dorothy is?” she asked me. The Woman was a petite brunette, about 5’3”, tanned, gold jewelry bedecking her neck and wrists.

“I think she’s with one of the residents,” I said. Mom and I were taking our usual “spins” (Mom’s term) around the floor.

“My mom needs her medicine, and I need to find her,” she said.

“I’ll let you know if I see her. Did you speak with the doctor?” I said, pointing to the doctor who periodically does paperwork at the nurse’s station.

“No, forget him, he’s no help,” she said.

Lucy shuffled up to the Woman. “Do you know how to get to the downstairs elevator?” she said.

“I’m not one of the staff,” she said, seemingly mortified. Then she stomped off to her mother’s room.

Lucy is a resident at the Actors Home. She is rail-thin with salt and pepper kinky hair cinched into a tight pony tail. She asks everyone, repeatedly throughout the day, where the downstairs elevator is.

I tell her, “I don’t know where it is. I only take the upstairs elevator.”

I don’t believe there even is a downstairs one, and Lucy’s not allowed to take the elevator unless escorted by a nurse or an aide. The elevator can only be accessed with a key fob.

Dorothy appeared.

“Hi, Erica, good to see you. Hi, Katherine,” she said.

“Good to see you too. A woman was looking for you. She said her mom needs her medicine.”

The Woman came out of her mother’s room.

“There you are. I can never find any of you people. Mom needs her medicine,” she said.

“Okay, give me a minute,” Dorothy said and went to attend to another resident. It was 4 o’clock, and she had just started her shift.

The Woman said to me, “I can’t believe it, how rude and disrespectful she is,” and huffed off.

I heard The Woman in her mother’s room continuing, “They disrespect me. Nobody listens in this place—nurses, aides, all the same. How dare she speak to me like that!”

Her voice was rising in pitch and agitation. I can’t imagine it’s good for her mother to listen to her rantings, especially since she has dementia. I doubt she understands what her daughter is saying.

“She seems upset,” I said to Mom, and we continued our spin.

Dorothy returned to the nurse’s station. “What’s wrong with her?” I said.

“I don’t know. I think she needs the meds, not her mom.” We exchanged a smile.

Dorothy walked into the room, and The Woman said,” You say ‘okay’ and just walk away from me? I’m tired of being disrespected. Every time I come here, I get treated like this. It is unacceptable.”

I heard Dorothy trying to calm her down.

“Somebody’s upset,” my mom said.

“It seems so.”

By the way, the nursing home where my mother resides is one of the best, if not the best in the country. I have found the nurses and aides to be uniformly exceptional—caring, hard-working, and attentive to the residents.

So what was The Woman’s problem? She acted as if Dorothy was part of her personal “staff.” Perhaps she fancies herself a Kardashian or a person of great import who feels entitled to dump on “the help.” I would have liked to see Dorothy put her in her place, but I guess that wouldn’t be following protocol. What BS.

I have used pseudonyms for the staff and residents.

Days We Have to Remember

ER

ER (google images)

“Oh no, not her,” Mom said when Jessie was wheeled to the table for dinner.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

“I can’t stand her,” she said, twisting her face.

Miss D, who was assisting Jessie with her meal, said, “But she likes you, Kathy.”

Jessie smiled at me, then at Mom. We sat a square 4-person table. Jessie and I sat on opposite sides, and Mom to her left.

Jessie, Mom and Gisele have shared a table since Mom moved into the Actors Home in September, 2014. They always seemed to get along. I haven’t seen Gisele in a while—maybe she was moved to another ward or went to another home. Gisele said Mom was her best friend. Mom fawned over Gisele, frail and gentle, and told her, “You have to eat something,” one time at lunch when she was fussing with her food.

Gisele said to me, “Tell me what to do.”

I helped cut her food and spoon it into her mouth, but she spit it out. She did that with everything on her plate. She only ate the chocolate pudding, juice and milk.

She’d eat a few bites, spit them out, and again say, “Tell me what to do.”

Maybe Mom missed Gisele.

Jessie smiled at Mom.

“Oh, you pest! I hate your simpy smile, you simp,” Mom said.

“Mom, don’t look at her.”

“But she won’t stop looking at me.”

“You don’t have to look at her. Look at the wall, or at me.”

Mom made a face like a little kid at Jessie, still smiling at her.

“Mom, enough.”

“Why did you bring me here?” Mom said.

Miss D frowned.

Mom put down her utensils.

“Have you had enough to eat?”

“Yes, I want to go now.”

“But you didn’t eat your soup or your brownie.”

“I don’t like brownies,” she said.

“But I might want it. We’ll take your coffee too.”

“I want to watch TV in the room,” she said.

ER?”

“Yes,” and her face instantly brightened.

I had arrived late and it threw off our routine, which included watching an episode or two of ER on DVD. We were on season 2, disk 4.

I turned on the DVD and inserted the disk. She looked calmer already; it seemed to ground her.

“We’re on season 2, disk 4, Mom.”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling.

At the end of the episode, she said, “But what about the credits?”

“They showed the credits at the beginning of the program, Mom.”

“They did?”

Then I brought her the mini spiral notebook she keeps at her bedside table.

I pointed to the names, “MARK GREENE, NOAH WYLE.”

We said them in unison, “MARK GREENE, NOAH WYLE.”

“Noah Wyle plays John Carter,” I said.

“Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry, I’m anxious today. I forgot Rick’s birthday.”

Rick is my brother who lives upstate.

“His birthday is October 9, I always remember it. He’s so upset with me.”

“He’s not upset, Mom. He understands.”

“These are important days, days we have to remember. I always remembered.”

(Mom hasn’t remembered my birthday for the past 4-5 years.)

“I know, Mom, and he’s not mad at you.”

“How do you know?”

“I asked him; he’s fine.” (I never asked him.)

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Her face was still scrunched up with upset.

“We all make mistakes, Mom. It’s okay.”

 

Pseudonyms used for residents and staff at the Actors Home.

Where is Bear?

black bear

photo courtesy of Ridgewood Police Dept.

We heard on the news this morning that a baby black bear was on the prowl in Ridgewood–a neighboring town. He was tranquilized and captured today. I’m glad they didn’t hurt him.

Another group of animals were on the loose at my mom’s residence last week. When I spoke to her on Thursday, she said that all three of her stuffed animals had gone missing. I spoke to the night nurse Dottie who scoured her room to no avail. I called Friday morning and spoke to Nell, the morning nurse. Still no luck. Both Dottie and Nell assumed the animals went into the wash.

Nell said, “The aide said the cat was stinky.”

“Yes, it was,” I said.

I agree, Mouse was quite rank, but the others were perfectly hygienic.

The missing animals were: Mouse (a cat), Snoopy (Snoopy) and a teddy bear she calls “Bear.” Fortunately I had purchased 3 additional “Mouses” in case of such an occurrence. Mouse 1 went missing at her first nursing home, never to turn up again. Mouse 2 is the one currently at large. Friday was a busy day: Lorin’s mom was flying in for his dad’s memorial service on Saturday, and we had other errands to attend to. Still, I was determined to bring Mom a new Mouse so that she would not spend the weekend fretting and fussing.

Mouse

Mouse 1 (photo by E. Herd)

Enter Mouse 3.

When Mom  saw her, she said, “She’s so clean!”

Mom held her in her lap while we drank coffee and ate cookies.

Several minutes later, her aide Angela and Nell stood in the doorway holding “old” Mouse and Snoopy. Angela looked giddy.

I said, “Look mom, it’s Snoopy.”

Mom turned around in her wheelchair and smiled. I thanked Angela and Nell and handed Snoopy to Mom, placing Mouse 2 on her bed so as not to cause greater confusion.

“I missed him so much,” she said, looking at Snoopy. She kept Mouse 3 and Snoopy on her lap for the rest of our visit.

After a while she said, “I wonder where Bear is.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he needed a vacation.” Mom laughed.

Now that there was some semblance of order, it seemed fitting that we continue watching ER–we’re on episode 11 or 12 of season 2.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, two of her favorite characters are Dr. Mark Greene and Dr. John Carter. I asked Mom if she could remember the last name of the character named Mark.

She scrunched up her face, “Mark . . . ”

“It begins with the letter ‘G’.”

I pointed to my green shirt and said, “What color is this?”

No response.

Then I pointed to the leaves of her plant. “What color are these?”

She stared at me. I’m not sure if the question didn’t register, the word “color” or something else. I finally told her the name. Greene.

Then she blurted, “Noel Wyle.”

“Yes, Noah Wyle. That’s the actor who plays John Carter. Let’s write it down.”

I took the index card spiral notebook out of her drawer–the one she used to use for grocery lists, phone numbers, doctors’ appointments and other information. I wrote in block letters, ” JOHN CARTER = NOAH WYLE.” On the next line, I wrote, “MARK GREENE.”

We repeated the names together, “Noah Wyle, John Carter, Mark Greene.”

“I wonder where Bear went,” Mom said.

“I’m sure he’ll be back soon. We’ll keep looking for him.”

*Pseudonyms have been used for staff members at the nursing home.

Besame Mucho

tap dancer

photo: tapdance.org

(pseudonyms are used for the Actors Home residents and staff in this post)

On Saturday afternoons, Fran visits the Actors Home. She plays piano for the residents in the dining room of the Enhanced Unit. The Enhanced Unit is for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; it’s where my mom lives. Fran’s husband was a resident here until he passed away several years ago, but she keeps coming back to entertain. Raymond takes the floor and dances when Fran plays “Besame Mucho.”

Gertie says, “Sexy!”

After “Besame,” Raymond walks out of the dining room briefly and returns to strut his stuff for “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Tea for Two.” When Fran starts playing “Willkommen” from Cabaret he says to her, “Come on, let’s go.”

Mom was very animated during Fran’s concert. She told me that “two terrible things” had happened: (1) Mouse (her stuffed animal cat, also the name of her real cat years ago) had gone missing during the pouring rain and had a gash in her side, and (2) the pink pillow her sister gave her disappeared.

“I’ll look for Mouse,” I said, “and I might have your pillow at home; I’ll look for it.”

That seemed to calm her down a bit.

I went to her room and found Mouse and gave her to Mom. She said, “That’s not Mouse, that’s Fizzledeewig.”

“Okay, well what does Mouse look like?”

“She’s small and all gray.”

“Okay, we’ll find her.”

Raymond was dancing again. Mom laughed and said, “He never gives up, no matter if he’s down. He keeps me going.”

I was jotting something down in my notepad, and he said to me, “Is everything alright?” He looked concerned.

“Yes, I’m just writing a note,” I said.

“Okay,” he said and went back to dancing near the piano.

After the concert, Mom and I returned to her room. Raymond walked in and said, pointing to a chair, “May I sit here?”

“Sure.”

Mom wanted to go for another spin in her wheelchair, and I told him he could join us.

As we passed the nurse’s station where chairs are set up for the residents, he said, “Don’t go too far. Stay here.”

He seemed to want everyone in one central location, like a shepherd herding his flock, keeping them safe.

“Okay,” I said.

Another resident who shares a room with her husband was crying and reaching out her hand. Raymond gave her a knowing look.

“What’s wrong?” he said to her.

She continued crying and her husband held her hand; he smiled at me. I could tell Raymond wanted to console her.

Mom wanted to keep wheeling forward, so we did. One of the nurses directed Raymond toward a chair.

“He’s very sweet,” Mom said.

“Yes, he is.”

I said to James, one of the nurses, “Raymond’s quite a dancer. Was he a professional?”

“Yes, he was a tap dancer,” he said, smiling, “He danced with Fred Astaire.”

I would have liked to see him dance back in the day.

Gertie was being wheeled around by an aide and bawling inconsolably, saying, “Where is my daughter? Where is my daughter?”

Raymond looked puzzled and said, “I don’t understand why she’s so upset.”

He never seems to lose his cool, and he’s always on the move. He’s an entertainer, a comforter and a peacemaker. I’m happy to have met him, happy he is there to share his light with others, including me.

P.S. I found a small stuffed cat, all gray, at AC Moore. Hopefully Mom will recognize her as Mouse at our next visit. If not, that’s okay.

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.

scarecrow

photo by Erica Herd