The Loveliness of Home and The Sadness of Memory Care and Old Age


I’m back from 10 days of transforming myself into mother, daughter, sister, and BFF for my mother.  It was a busy working trip for me but well worth it to see the smile on her face.

I returned home yesterday, and wondered where the real me had gone.  I suppose I have a special affliction (you could call it a gift), where, when I’m with my mother, my empathy takes over.  I give up my introversion and desire for solitude so that I can bring a bit of joy into people’s hearts.

Mom’s living in an assisted/memory care home, and most of the people there are suffering from either brain damage of some sort or physical disabilities where they’re in wheelchairs or using walkers.  The other day everyone was sitting around watching Lawrence Welk, their faces expressionless and unengaged, and I went in front of the TV and started dancing.  That gave everyone a giggle, and it made me feel good for giving people at least a momentary smile.

The facility tries hard to make life stimulating.  There is a small outdoor courtyard, and they have regular group walks through the hallways,  The other day they were making flower bouquets.

Still, no matter how much you try to engage someone who hasn’t the ability to communicate, many, like my mother, just won’t respond unless they’re given special love and attention.  There are too many residents and too few staff for everyone to get that special attention.

When I arrived, my mother had no toilet paper or soap.  My brother, I suppose being a man, apparently never noticed.  My mother was using disposable hand towels to wipe herself and tossing them into the toilet.  It surprised me that it didn’t clog the toilet.  I bought her some clothes, toilet paper, soap, flowers, and a new walker that she likes a lot better than the cheap walkers they have in their supply.  I’m not sure why she doesn’t like the cheap walkers.  Maybe the wheels don’t roll freely.

We took lots of outings — I gave her a manicure and pedicure, and we got our hair cuts, went out for hamburgers, and milk shakes, and drove one of those motorized carts around the grocery store.  Mom really enjoyed the outings.

Will this be me one day?  Locked in a building with a bunch of people whose quality of life is reduced to watching Lawrence Welk and staring at people slobbering all over their meals at mealtime?  I suppose it’s my responsibility to give it some thought before I get to that point, and try to find a place where I can grow old and die happily.

On the day before I left, Mom, who is speechless most of the time, told me “Don’t go.”

“Why?”  I asked her, stooping down in front of her so she could see my lips and taking her hands.

“Because I’ll miss you.”  She broke my heart when she said that.  The dharma part of myself reminds me that there are some things in this world that can’t be changed, and that the only thing I can do is change myself to accept the flow of life and then be at peace with knowing that it’s okay if I can’t fix every single thing by myself.

The really good news is that my travelling obligations are over for the foreseeable future, so I can settle back into my own life and home and restore my well being.

Of course my poor writing muse has gone away on vacation too.  Hopefully she’ll be back when she notices I’m back to meditating, exercising, and doing my yoga again.  I won’t put pressure on myself or her.  I’ll just enjoy life for a while and let her come back in her own time.

I stopped at a Denver pot dispensary and bought a pre-rolled joint, and a container of wonderful cinnamon candies.  I took the joint apart and vaped it, little by little, every night until it was gone.  And the cinnamon candies along with the marijuana capsules I had brought from Massachusetts were enough to help take the edge off of some of the tough moments of my time there.   Unfortunately, sleep was next to impossible in a strange place with a strange bed and cold air conditioner air blowing.  By the time I left I was taking 3 sleeping pills.  Now that I’m back home, I can get back down to taking just the one pill I’m supposed to be taking.

Omg, where am I?  I’M HOME!!  Who is that sleeping at my feet?  IT’S MY DARLING POOCH!!  We had such an amazing love-in last night.  He had missed me so much he whined for a long time, and I whined right back at him.  It seems like I’ve been gone for months and months, and the 6-inch stack of mail sitting on my desk only enhances that feeling.

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The Loveliness of Home and The Sadness of Memory Care and Old Age

28 thoughts on “The Loveliness of Home and The Sadness of Memory Care and Old Age

    1. When my husband was dying and I was his only caretaker (by his request) he was pretty cranky, but one day he said he wanted to thank me for the good care I was giving him. “How sweet,” I thought. Then he added, “Because I guess you know I wouldn’t do it for you!” Oh. Well. He was on morphine, and couldn’t help himself, I guess, and I actually knew he was a poor caregiver as I’d just had a hysterectomy earlier in the year and he’d tried (a bit) but failed abysmally. But still. I, like you, hope there is someone left who cares for me if I ever reach this stage.

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      1. I told Hubby about a week ago that we’ll make an agreement that when one of us dies, the other can remarry. I would like to remarry if he dies first, but I think I’d like to find a woman to marry. I think I can have a lot more of a nurturing relationship with a woman (I’m long past being able to have sex, so it would be platonic). Men are terrible caregivers. My hubby read his Sports Illustrated while I was miscarrying at home. It was probably the loneliest experience of my life.

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        1. When I went down to have my hysterectomy, they told my husband he could come with me to be with me until the operation began, but he couldn’t because he’d just ordered a prime rib from the hospital restaurant. Ha. This was a very cushy new hospital. My insurance covered his staying with me and all his meals. He loved my stay in the hospital!!!

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            1. Yes. I wasn’t too tasty at the moment. Then, I was still coming out of anaesthesia when they told me I could pump my own painkiller, so I went through 12 hours after surgery with no painkiller. I was in so much pain that finally I called the nurse for something and she said, “Oh, dear, you manage your own pain. Just pump this bulb!” What a martyr I had been, for no reason at all. I thought the painkiller just wasn’t handling all the pain. In reality I had no painkiller at all.

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              1. Don’t you love it when the staff chooses right after surgery to tell you everything? These people do maybe 5 surgeries every day and yet they still don’t understand that a patient still under the effects of anesthesia isn’t going to remember what you told them. You may as well not bother. Surgeons come and give me all sorts of details about my condition, and then they can’t understand why I keep asking the same questions, doh. Even your fancy-shmansy hospital didn’t get it. You’d think they’d at least have you on close monitor instead of letting you go so long without asking you about your pain 😦

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  1. Welcome back! I’m sure your mother misses you very much and enjoyed every minute you spent with her. You are the kind of daughter every mother should have. Your right…you never know just how you will spend your last days, and the older we get…the more it weighs on our minds, especially if you are having a lot of health issues. Support and love is such an important thing! You can only do so much, but keeping them comfortable and giving them the knowledge that they matter and are loved is certainly a blessing to them.

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  2. Dhammic Writer says:

    Wow, sounds like you were a wonderful light at the home and for your mum. A dog’s welcome home after an extended absence can’t be beaten.

    Welcome back! 🙂

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  3. What a beautiful post that captures the torture of watching your Mother in a Care Home. I hope you are feeling more relaxed and enjoying the fulness of being Home. Thank you for your follow! xx

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  4. My 11-years-older sister is in managed care in Minnesota. I’m in Mexico. When I see her, once a year, I alternate between guilt over not seeing her more often and a realization that it really wouldn’t make much difference. The last time I was there, she never opened her eyes or talked–except for when I left and leaned down and asked if she wanted to come to the movies with us. “No, you go!” she said–surprising us all as she’d given no indication she was listening to us. My niece, who sees her every other day or so, said the last time she was there, when she kissed her mother on the cheek, she said, “down!” as though a dog were licking her face. I am wondering if my sister’s life is a bit like fading in and out of a dream, and she is pulling us all into her dreams–like I do when I fall asleep listening to a recorded book. When I wake up the next morning, I wonder if I’ve incorporated the book into my dreams. I guess we really can’t know what someone with Alzheimer’s is experiencing, but this dream state is such an improvement over the year when she just constantly cried, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what.

    i’ve been enjoying reading a number of your posts this morning, going backwards through them. They probably didn’t record as views since they are all linked together. At any rate. I’m enjoying your blog.

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    1. I’m sorry but sometimes you have to smile with these stories. I giggled when I read the “down” part of your story.

      When my mother walks the halls, she insists on slapping the room numbers on every door she passes (a little OCD behavior). I offered to slap them for her (thereby making the slap softer and not bothering the residents), and she accepted my offer. But when I missed one, she turned around and had an angry temper tantrum at me. I tried to question why she does that, and she got angry at me for not understanding. It’s perfectly reasonable in her mind.

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      1. At one point when my sister was crying all the time, seeing things, didn’t know who we were, didn’t understand that TV wasn’t reality , suddenly looked up at me , totally cognizant, and said ‘I’m turning into Grandma, aren’t I?” It was so eerie, because she had always railed against our Grandma for feeling sorry for herself and told her more people would come to visit if she wouldn’t always just be feeling sorry for herself. I was uncanny. For one instant, my sister had regained her memory, intelligence and old personality. Then she faded away again. This insured me that somewhere in the mire of their brains, they are still there

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        1. I know the feeling. My mother seems to embrace all of the major dysfunctional characteristics of our family, yet there are quiet, intimate moment with her where I see the old Mom, who had been more of a victim of the dysfunction rather than a major player.

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