Okay, stay with me on this one—In Part 1, I talked about becoming aware of imminent senior citizen-itis. I digressed into automatic beds and lessons learned. Now, let’s get back to my visit to Chicago this past week. (No cheating now—let’s see a show of hands of all those who remembered my last post in detail!):
By the time I arrived at Hotel Hospital (Highland Park Hospital, Highland Park, Il—no longer the 5 Star property of days gone by), the doctors re-read Mom’s xray and changed her diagnosis from pneumonia to bronchitis—a good thing if you’re into ranking disease severity. I brought Mom a copy of the article that appeared in the newspaper about my selling space travel and showed it to her. She loved the article and the accompanying photo of “yours truly.” I then showed it to Mary, Mom’s caregiver and true security blanket. When Mom asked what Mary was reading. I showed it to Mom, again. She was thrilled to see the article and photo, again. For a kid hiding in an adult’s body, this repeated adulation by one’s parent is a very good thing (I’m still working on learning Lesson #2 from the last post!). See, even dementia has its upside!
Unfortunately, there are some very un-pretty aspects of dementia and I was soon to witness one of them. My mom awakened from a very brief nap and said to nobody in particular, “What am I doing here? Why am I here?” I stood at Mom’s bedside and assured her that she had been brought to the hospital the day before, that she had bronchitis, and that the doctor thought she’d go home the next day. Mom was not in a buying mood, apparently, and didn’t buy what I was saying. In fact, she told me I was lying, that I had taken her to Kansas City and was keeping her in a hospital there. She literally begged me to let her go.
Even now, as I recount this to you, I feel a lump in my throat and my stomach tightening. “This is not my mother. This is not the woman who organized book clubs long before Oprah made them a “must do”; this is not the woman who traveled the world with my father, sketchbook in hand, capturing her memories in pen and ink. Who is this woman?”
Bypassing the nurses, I called the doctor’s office (remember, this “hotel” has fallen in the ratings and I decided “self-service” was the best choice). My sister, NanC, tutored me on how to avoid the maze of “To speak to a nurse sometime in the next decade, press 1″ routine and I was able to talk “Live” to a nurse, describe the situation, AND receive a call back from the doctor within 5 minutes (Thanks, Dr. Kanarek, I’m impressed!)! He told me that elderly patients with dementia don’t do well in hospitals and that I could take her home immediately (and why didn’t he release her when he realized she didn’t have pneumonia???).
We brought Mom home without much fuss (save a few dissociative moments and almost tipping her over as I tried to navigate her wheelchair over the threshold of her front door–oops!) and she calmed down. “I didn’t think I’d be back here,” she confessed. “I thought I was a goner! I’ll have to add an extra prayer tonight!” How bittersweet that comment is to me—the realization that one day, she, AND I, will leave our homes to never return. Yet, how sweet a moment it was to learn that my mom prays!