The View from My Wheelchair – Good on the Dementia Thing

I’ll be sixty-five years old this week and I’m in a small group with others my age who still have a living parent. Over the past two years, my sisters and I finally convinced my 86 -year-old mother it was time to leave the home she and my dad lived in since the early ’80s, the house where my dad passed away. Her stubborn ass never wanted to leave but we began noticing a slow decline in her mental state; aggressive over simple situations, confusion in conversation and at its worst, getting lost on a simple trip to a store she’d visited for decades, and not remembering how to get home. We had the last big yard sale, found a nice senior living apartment she found comfortable, and moved her there. It was difficult at first, she missed the comforts of the old house, yard work, and her neighbors, but eventually made friends and became part of her new senior community. She’s never been afraid to start a conversation and would be early for every meal, ready to reminisce about the town she’d been a part of since 1965. Then, when she didn’t show up at their daily get together for lunch, she was found passed out on the carpeted floor of her apartment with no idea how long she’d been lying there. I’ve known that one medical incident for a person of my mother’s age can initiate a downfall that many elders never recover from. It’s been true in Sharilee Ann Curry’s case. The closest hospital of record was over 30 miles away, they rushed her there for a series of tests to finally be diagnosed with serious blood clots in her legs. Serious enough for her to be hospitalized for a time until doctors considered it safe to transport her back home. Not to her apartment but to the only long-term healthcare facility for seniors that was available in my very small hometown. My wife and I visited the facility, we found it a bit stark with multiple patients in living quarters, separated by hospital curtains but my mom likes talking to people and she had plenty to talk to. The staff worked with regularity to fill the needs of the clients as they rang their assist alarms, everyone was smiling, on a first name basis and she was comfortable. That’s all I needed to know. The part about how the first medical emergency can exacerbate an elderly persons’ decline began playing out. The mental decline and confusion my mother had displayed, was diagnosed as early-onset dementia and grew worse so me and my siblings quickly realized, this may be her last home. Both sisters live in the area and considered, “at home” care but that idea was quickly rejected because of the medical care our mother now needs. It looks like Shari Curry’s last address is an (almost) overcrowded care facility where she shares a room with 4 others, all in the later stages of life and wrought with different medical dilemmas. However, my mother’s mental state is such that she’s happy and content, well-fed, and entertained, so it could have been worse. Within a matter of days, after Washington state announced the Covid19 virus outbreak at the nursing home there where 17 people had died, our state began regulating access to healthcare facilities and eliminated all visitors. My sisters had already been months into a regime of trading off twice daily visits and their immediate concern was that mom expects to see one of her daughters, twice a day. They didn’t know how that was going to affect her, how was she going to react to a total loss of visitation? A few days passed before I got a call from my older sister who informed me that they’d spoked on the phone and mother repeatedly thanked her for stopping by, yesterday. It had been weeks and she still repeats it. Good on the dementia thing. I recently received a video of mom my sister took as she spoke to her through an open window and screen at the care center, the only form of communication they’ve had for weeks. My mom recognizes there’s “bad sickness” going around and the center is doing “extra stuff” to keep everyone safe. My big sister had mother send me and my little sister a message while she recorded, that’s when I lost it. My mom was smiling, waving, and calling out our names and I couldn’t yell back. Through tears, I wanted to scream through the phone and tell her I loved her but this is all I get, for now, there’s nothing I can do about it and it really hurts. COVID-19 continues to rage through our state and is now barreling through senior living facilities. I commend the State for trying to halt the spread but it seems now to have been a futile attempt. Two weeks ago, 27 facilities had been affected statewide, then; 47, 57, 70, 85, and now 100 different senior health care living facilities have had serious COVID breakouts. I’m bracing for the worst as rumors swirl that my mother's facility now has confirmed cases. It’s just wait and see. It was time to move my mom so she could peacefully live through her final years. The fall, her decline, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has made me confront the fact I may never touch my mother again. At least I have that final video, the same smile that’s greeted me since first memories, the hands waving frantically, the same hands that held her hairbrush as she beat my butt after I took fifty cents out of my dad’s cash register at the Kwik-Way store he managed; the same hands I want to hold as she takes her last breath. Dementia has made it easy for my mom, I’m glad she doesn’t know what’s happening. I wish we could go back to the old house. Until next time, Wash your hands, wear a mask and stay home

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K.R. Curry, the Author

PO Box 464 Fort Collins CO 80522

2019 K.R.Curry, the Author

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