My mom is currently residing at a geriatric psychiatric unit. She is wearing diapers. She is pleading with everyone to get out, and she is running for every open door. What led to her “commitment” (it’s a temporary deal until her meds are properly adjusted) at the psych ward was a series of disturbing events that even I wasn’t prepared for. I continue learning that it can always get worse.
Mom had only been at the home for a little over a week, but during that time she was banging on doors, becoming aggressive with the other residents, breaking her picture frames, and she even tried to make her great escape. Despite being demented, she was clever enough to walk out the secured door with a family who was on their way out after visiting a family member. This little Ecuadorian broad made it out into the lobby before she was apprehended and returned to the confines of her memory care unit. Dammit. I went to her. I went before work and after work. I tried to calm her down. I tried to reason with (yes, I know). I hoped my visits would put her at ease—just knowing that I was there, that I was coming by, that I was near—I hoped would give her some comfort. My efforts did absolutely nothing. She stuck her hand down her diaper. She tried to wash out her butt with water, next she sat on the toilet and showed me her poop. And in a moment of lucidity, she said: “You did this to me. You put me here. Why did you put me here?”
The woman got to me. I thought I was detached enough… in fact, I was scared that I was too detached. I didn’t cry when we placed her. I went home and watered the dirt in my garden. I rarely weep for my mom. When she pleads with me for something, I won’t budge. I won’t cave. I just do the job that has to be done and try to get on with the everyday bullshit of life… you know, the one where I get up, go to work, and pretend to be normal.
And so it goes…
The nurse and owner of the home had wanted to send her to the psych unit in hopes stabilizing her mood… specifically her anxiety and aggression. I knew it had to be done if she was ever going to adjust and settle into her new home. I hated the idea of it. Still, I want her to be as content as she can be… even if it means forgetting about me, my dad, and the life we had—for better or worse—together.
“I am crazy, I am crazy… I wanna drink. I am crazy, I am crazy…” The skinny old lady sitting down singing I am crazy over and over and over and over again had a giant needle inserted into her arm while clear fluid dripped down a tube and into her vein. She wore brown socks.
Susan had no hair, but a generous amount of chin hair. She was a’ight. Wearing bright pink PJ’s and with her blinged out shades on, Susan wheeled herself over to my mom and told her that she loved her. “I love you. I love you.” My mom hugged her. “God bless you. Is that the door?”
When I arrived earlier, I found my mom walking around with a hospital sheet covering her shoulders. She knew who I was. “Mihijta, I am going home with you. OK. Let’s go.” The nurses wanted me to stay to talk to the doctor. Mom isn’t exactly the most coherent person on the planet these days. She mixes up English and Spanish with random words that make no sense. For the most part, I can understand some of her nonsensical language, but other times, I nod my head in agreement—“atiyunoue thedrfiop ewpombnc da’peuld aseftghing?”
I’ve never been inside a looney bin. Seeing my mom there, laughing at nothing. Waving at some invisible being and insisting we hold the door open for this friend of hers was just plain weird. The doctor had a heck of a time with her. When we walked out of the tiny room where he evaluated her, I asked him if he thought she was demented. I don’t know why… sometimes, I don’t know what’s normal anymore. He said she is severely demented. Late stage.
His diagnosis made me feel better. Gave me some strange comfort because it means I did the right thing in placing her at the home and consenting to her going into the bin. I think you just reach a point where you lose your internal compass, like you just don’t know what’s up and down, north or south. You think certain behaviors aren’t that bad. You think, “well, she’s not that far along.” You think, “oh, she’s always been like this.”
She’ll be inside the bin for about a week. I hope we can get her stabilized. I hope she can participate more fully in this final chapter of her life.
My mom is slowly destroying me. I don’t sleep well. I am getting a talking to at work about expectations next week. I am tired. I can’t focus. I can’t think. I moved out her to make things better. I could not fully participate in or heal my relationship with my ex-fiance. My demented mother is taking down the entire ship. How do you care for someone who you don’t even recognize? How do you show love or compassion to this woman who is really a stranger. I vaguely recall what she was like before becoming demented. How do you willingly walk into a psych unit when you know she is draining you of energy? She has the power to destroy me. She gave me life, a life I should appreciate and participate in more fully… yet when I think about death and dying, it doesn’t scare me. Instead, I think peace and quiet.
~Photos taken by Meredith Farmer, http://www.flickr.com/photos/meredithfarmer/