“I Don’t Like Old People”

Tracey Martin

“I Don’t Like Old People”

Tracey Martin
My mom at age 84 is going to  adult day care. This is a huge step for her (and for me).

A little bit of history. I have been caring for my mom since her stroke in May 2012. For the first year, I had help. My sister shared the task and, for all intents and purposes, she did a much better job. She spent months at a time with her. She was also my mom's partner-in--crime. They could go out during the day and mom enjoyed every moment of it. My sister was diagnosed with lung cancer and her trips to my mother's home diminished. My sister still wanted to help with mom when she was in remission but we knew it was time to hand off the baton permanently after the mistake.

They had traveled to Maine for one of my sister's medical appointments. As they packed up in the hotel room, my sister gave my mom the wrong insulin pen and she took 27 units of her shorter acting insulin. Fortunately, she had a large breakfast that morning. On their ride home, they stopped into a Dunkin Donuts as Mom wasn't feeling well and she later became unresponsive.

My sister called my cellphone and started the call with "I killed Ma." I said, "So, you're having a bad day?" She then went onto say that she gave her the wrong insulin and that my mother had a vacant look on her face and was drooling. She was panicked. I asked my sister where she was and she had no idea other than to say they got off an exit from the major highway. Being directionally challenged myself, I told her to immediately go to the counter and give the phone to the cashier. I explained that my mom had a critically low blood sugar and that they needed to call 911 right away. I stayed on the phone as they called from a landl ine. After they called, I asked the cashier to hand the cellphone back to my sister as she was beside herself. We stayed on the phone until the paramedics got there and I explained my sister's medical condition and my mother's condition to the EMT. My mother's blood sugar was 32.

This is when we began to limit my sister's caregiving activity with mom. AND This began my 24/7/365 caregiving experience. I began teleworking and created a presence in my mom's home. My mom doesn't qualify for state help because she has saved for a "rainy day".  (Insert PushingPetal's reference here.) The problem is, she doesn't realize that the flowers need to be watered or they will shrivel up and die. She refused to allow anyone in the home to help provide services. Knowing full well how things would go, I began discussions with my mother about home care. She wanted no part of it. "No one is coming in my home. They rob you blind. I'll take care of myself."  Here was resistance from a mild/moderately demented woman. I cried. I asked other siblings to talk to her, they got the same answer and left it at that.

Months later, I visited  the local adult day health program and came back armed with information and told her I booked a tour. She threw a fit and said, "I don't like old people!" I probed all of her answers but ultimately she dug in her feet. I suppose I should have told her she didn't have a choice, walked away, and brought in  elder-at-risk services but I couldn't do it.

Every now and again, I would sneak in the conversation. Her primary care provider didn't seem interested in talking to her about options. My mother wears her "care recipient" badge proudly. He asked if she felt safe at home. She replied, "All my kids are great, they all help". Over time , I corrected her, giving pass only to my ill sister. Her provider still did not catch on. Her falls increased and in February, she had her fourth fall of the year. She was admitted to the hospital and qualified her for a skilled nursing facility (SNF)  rehab stay.

My mother had been to this facility a few times. I was really sick for five days and my trips to the SNF this time were limited because I didn't know if my illness was viral. My mom was forced to fend for herself and find a social life on the unit outside of my companionship. When I returned, I found my mother jovial, talkative, and showing more social skills than I had seen in a year. She joked with other patients. She introduced me to a staff member  who was half her age who we knew from a previous visit. He said with a twinkle in his eye, "We are getting married. I am going to take her back to Ghana. We will exchange a goat. This woman is wonderful." My mother whispered as he walked away, "He isn't serious. He  takes good care of me and he makes my stay enjoyable. Everyone here is old and I DON"T LIKE OLD PEOPLE!." My mother remarked that one lady had three roommates in three days. As a Registered Nurse, I know we juggle rooms and thought that they moved people around. My mother stated matter-of-factly, "Oh no, they died. Each night, a new roommate died."

When it came time for discharge planning, I asked the social worker to incorporate a medical/social day program into my mother's plan. Hell, what did I have to lose. Perhaps if the doctor ordered it, it might carry some weight. They began to work this into her therapy discussions.

  •  Continue to work on her pain and mobility issues while at the rehab facility;

  •  Discharge home with services to continue therapy and identify home mobility issues;

  •  Continue with strengthening and conditioning at an adult day program after home services.


I carefully danced around the plan so it didn't appear to come from me. She stated, "Aw, $*%7, they want me to go hang out with old people, I don't want to do that!" I reinforced the reasons for this and she shut me down with her typical response of "we'll see" which translates to "over my dead body!"

Mom was discharged home, we reiterated the plan. She was talking to a family member on the phone and talked about her "snowbird" experience in Florida. "You know I made friends in Florida but not many because you meet them one day and then bing, bang, boom, the next day they are dead " What an eye-opener that was for me. She is afraid of making friends for fear of losing them.

We booked the tour of the day care. I insisted that other family members come along for a show of force. She was reluctant to get ready that day, my husband met us at the house. My brother cancelled with an excuse. We arrived at the day care, the social worker was adequately prepped by me the day before. The social worker played the role with expertise and was prepared to counter any objections. We got through the interview and when we exited the office, we could turn right to go on the tour or left out the door. I had my husband stand in the exit hallway so she couldn't change her mind.

The tour started.

  • Physical therapy room (noted "old person" in the room). Mom: "I don't need therapy"

  • We met the chef. Mom (looking at me): "I  have a  personal chef." I remind her: "You don't like my cooking."

  • We met the registered nurses. Mom (with no appreciable emotion): "Okay."

  • We saw the bowling alley. Mom: " I don't like bowling."

  • We saw the BINGO board. Mom: "I don't like Bingo".

  • We rounded into the main room, a vast open space with various groups. An "old person" saw us and smiled "Oh, a new client! You are going to love it here." The social worker stated, "Hi everyone, this is 'Doris'." The group in unison welcomed her: "Hello 'Doris'." Mom: (No response).

  • We saw the library. We saw recliners. Mom (with a sudden gleam in her eye): "Naptime?" She learns there is "no naptime"; she pouts.

  • We saw the gambling/baking room. Mom: "I don't play cards. I like slot machines. I don't cook."

  • We saw the private bathrooms. She said, "Oh, good."

  • We returned to the reception area. They asked the question, "So, what days would you like  to come?" (I jumped for joy as they did not give her a choice by saying  "So, can you picture yourself here?") Mom: "Tuesday, no more than that."

  • We walked to the car and she said, "I don't like old people."


When we returned home, the family started to call and a few stopped by to ask how things went. She started to soften but mocked the way the residents said, "Hello Dorrrrrrrrrrrrris". She scrunched up her face, lowered her voice, tipped her head to the side, and held her arm in an awkward fashion. I have never seen my mother make fun of people. I knew this was a sign of distress. Her anxiety started to increase from that point on so I fibbed when she asked me how much it would cost. I skirted the issue that she needed to commit to at least one month at twice per week.

Before she went to day care, we went online and ordered some new clothes. She said, "I guess all the old people wear these clothes." I reminded her it is just like before we (the kids) went to school, we got new clothes. She reminisced about how some of us loved school and others had to warm up to it. Break-though? Yes, think of it as school.

She went to bed early the night before, just like we did when we were kids. The next day, she looked at the clock and thought she had overslept, then made a remark about "getting up early with the kids for years, so she could do this." We packed her bag and headed out, I dropped her off, met a few staff members, and cried a few tears as I walked out the door. When I picked her up, she stated things were okay. She joked with her great-grandson and asked if he had any tips to get kicked out of school.

She made note that "I'm not the oldest one and there are some young ones" and that she is fortunate that illnesses have not left her as bad off as some. She came home last Thursday with a fresh manicure and said, "I won a game, no one killed me and nobody else died."

She is looking forward to tomorrow.

Like this article? Share on social

5 Comments

Sign in to comment

Denise

Hi PP--What a terrific explanation of a process and it's such a process!!\r\n\r\nI've been giving lots of thought to your insight that your mom doesn't want to make friends because then they all die. Wow! If there's any better argument for intergenerational day programs, I'm not sure. The beauty of young and old together is that we get all the perspectives of hope, wisdom and renewal.\r\n\r\nI hope all continues to go okay. Thanks so much for keeping us posted.

jan

What a fabulous post. I read every word and walked every step with you. It was the DAY CARE ISSUE that drove me, in a frenzy and despair, to this website. I commend your persistence in making it work for both of you. So much emotion lurks behind every line you have written. I hope she continues to feel comfortable there and you gain confidence in their ability to do for her what she needs right now. Good job.

Hansolosgirl

Yay!!!!! If she's only grumbling a little, she will like it. It was same for MIL moving to senior housing, she hated old people, people steal etc. but when she moved she found friends and community. She got partners in crime and ran away from SIL more than once! She gained independence she thought she had lost. She went to parties. Your mom sounds just like MIL before, exactly! You're such a great daughter bringing this opportunity to her, I think she will flourish as MIL did. Keep to your plan and increase days if she gets better, continue to focus on positive and downplay any drawbacks. I think this is a huge win for you both

EllysGdaughter

I am taking lessons from you!!! Very Well Done!!

Hussy

Your carefully crafted plan is a success! Well done :) (Well written, too!)