Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Or breakfast, or teatime, or bedtime snack, or lunch. I really haven't a clue.

I am relatively more relaxed here in Florida, in my mother's own house, and feeling much less guilt about keeping her somewhere against her will. She has a beautiful, sunny, well-maintained home. She can roam around and around in her walk-in closet the length of a bowling alley and re-organize according to color the 64 short-sleeved blouses hanging there, among all her other legions of garments.

Like a child who learns early how to manipulate her parents to get what she wants, my mother has become an expert at getting her way.  And until I get more confident about the new woman behind the mask in this Floridian incarnation, she pretty much calls the shots.

We visited my daughter's new home so I could help her do a small paint-and-repair. I situated Mom on my daughter's couch in front of a large-screen tv, watching a Nature episode of "Odd Animal Couples". Checking on my mother after a few paint strokes, I leaned over the balcony and saw her listing sideways, swallowed up in an over-stuffed sea of suede. Weak, helpless, and limp like a ragmop, she had covered herself in a blanket. Her pathetic, wrinkled little head popped out and warbled, "I want to go home." For pity's sake, it was only 6 p.m, I wasn't keeping her out past her bedtime but if the Florida Department of Elder Services had seen her, I would have been reported for abuse for sure. I told her, I'll be done in just a little while, and gave her something to eat. We left shortly thereafter.

When we got home, my mother bolted from the car and walked, unaided, out the lengthy driveway to the street, in the dark, to check the mailbox. Her back was straight and her footing was strong, independent and confident. Then she came in the house and started rattling the silverware drawers and foraging the pantry for food. She didn't know what she wanted to eat but she wouldn't let me help her find it. This is a very harrowing procedure and convinces me never to leave her alone in the kitchen again. In trying to keep her safe and the house from burning down, I watched from the side and allowed her to cook what she was capable of doing alone. Along the way an egg salad sandwich got stored on a paper plate in the oven; fresh fruit salad was wrapped in copious amounts of saran wrap and stored in the microwave, and her dinner consisted of a three-decker sandwich made of white bread, more egg salad, and Italian dessert cookies. She turned and shouted for me to shut my mouth so she could get back some kind of normalcy.

Really? NORMALCY? What kind of dementia patient uses a word like NORMALCY?


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Oooohh, Jan!! I just love your blog posts--you are a fantastic story teller. \r\n\r\nI think of how I would have felt watching that kitchen commotion from the sidelines. It would have taken every ounce of patience and willpower to simply watch. \r\n\r\nWere you jumping out of your skin?


Thanks, Jean. I most certainly will check those out.


Thank you for your comment on my post. You may not know our story, but we just returned from a summer in my Ohio house and now we winter in her Florida house. I always struggle with the Ohio part, that I am selfish to do that, but my husband is there. She seems to recognize her home most of the time, but the little things, like what is in each drawer, are always new now. She can spend hours, HOURS in the closet. My husband was wonderful in Ohio, where almost daily she would ask to go home, and he always said, \"we'll go home tomorrow\" and it always worked. Thank goodness for the people with the answers, if only for one more day.


Reading your post brought tear-filled eyes and simultaneous laughs. The theater masks image certainly fits!\r\nYou descriptions paint the scene so well. Your mother must have been a powerful presence pre-dementia? \r\nI am in awe of you and anyone who can live day-in day-out with an Alzheimer's caree. My sister lived with my mom in her house until mom broke her hip then went to nursing home. Mom got to point where she could not be left alone at all, even when my sister was working in the next room doing medical transcription from home so we hired an aide for a shift so my sister could work.\r\n\r\nDoes she still know it is her own home and recognize it as such? You said \"feeling much less guilt about keeping her somewhere against her will.\" I think the disease keeps her against her will, not you. The last time I visited my mom when she was still living in her own home, as night approached, she kept saying, it's time to go home. My sister started telling her every night that they were going to \"spend the night here tonight\" and go home tomorrow. She no longer knew she was in her own house.