The Road is Paved with Good Intentions
Today started out with very good intentions. I was going to visit my 91 year old mother who resides in an assisted living facility and has several hours of extra assistance daily. This is because she has almost no short term memory and various other ailments of old age. The winter has been long and hard, and she has been inside most of the time. So my intention was to surprise her and take her out to lunch to enjoy one of her favorites, a meatball grinder.
I headed down the road to her place. Once there, I walked in the main entrance and found her sitting near the dining hall. It didn't strike me as odd that she had her coat on. I cheerily said, "I'm going to take you out to lunch." She was happy, but said, "but they are coming to get me."
This also didn't strike me as odd, because every evening her caretaker comes to help her back from the dining room. So I said, "She comes every day at 7 p.m. It's OK." She was somewhat anxious, and several more times said, "But they are coming. I don't know what time."
Assuming this was due to her lack of comprehension of time, I just helped her out the door and into my car, left her walker in the foyer, and never looked at the note taped to the walker. Every day her caretaker puts notes on her walker about the time she will see my mother. A few minutes later we were at Naples Pizza and I ordered her a meatball grinder. She was increasingly anxious and finally said, "But Gloria was going to take me to Chippanee for lunch."
Uh, Oh, I thought. Gloria is one of her best friends in life, so now I had specific information and an uncomfortable feeling that maybe she did have someone coming to take her out. Her anxiety increased. She was worried she had made them go out of their way for nothing.
She needed to use the rest room, so I checked it out and the women's room had no toilet paper. I went to the men's room and removed the roll and put it in the women's room and stood guard a distance away. Some teenage girls headed toward the women's room and I told them it was occupied, use the men's room. They looked at me like I should be on the child offender list. My attention was distracted a moment and I heard somewhat of a shout and saw a restaurant worker trying to enter the ladies room to supply toilet paper. "No", I shouted, "I already put the men's paper in there." Another weird look.
My mother and I finished our meatball grinders with her asking every twenty seconds, "Wasn't I supposed to go to lunch with someone?" I kept assuring her that no one else was coming for lunch, but she was so insistent and anxious that I was becoming uncertain. We left the restaurant and once back at her place, I rushed to the walker and read the daily notes. "Gloria coming at noon." It was now 1 p.m. I had to admit to mom that I had caused her to miss a much wanted and not very frequent lunch with Gloria. Her anxiety increased tenfold as this confirmed that she had inadvertently stood up her great friend. I called Chippanee and sure enough, Gloria and her daughter and another friend were there. I gave my profuse apologies for not reading the note to Gloria and her daughter.
Then I had to calm mom's distress. She may have almost no memory, but it looks like her son, the lawyer, didn't read. If I had not assumed her lack of memory, if I had been a little more patient, if I had wondered why she had her coat on, if I had read the note, if, if, if. But mainly, like all of us, I should have listened to my mother.
What a comedy of errors. For all of you out there with parents with dementia and lack of memory, I feel your pain.