Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bloom is Off the Rose... Settling in at the ALF

It did not take long for the bloom to leave the rose. Tuesday morning, I did things at home that I had sorely neglected and then went to town around 2:00 to run some errands. I stopped by Southridge to give some papers to the administrator, schedule the beauty shop visits for Mam-ma - and see her briefly. She had called for a night-light bulb (turns out she had tripped the GFCI - ground-fault circuit interrupter - on her electrical outlet and didn't need a thing), and then she phoned and told Greg she needed wire pliers to unscrew the caps on her 20-oz. Cokes. He relayed the message, although he thought that was a lousy idea.

I stopped at the beauty shop and got Mam-ma scheduled for a weekly shampoo/set.  Mam-ma's beautician is a woman who went to school with us. The only available day/time is Tuesday afternoons at 2:30. I told Mam-ma if she doesn't like it, we can go back to her regular hairdresser.

As I said, things were much different on Tuesday from Monday. Mam-ma said she "liked to froze to death in the night." Her heating unit was turned off when I was there at 2:00, but the room was very warm and sunny. She had scootched a chair over by the window... I inquired... she said, "I'm freezing to death... my feet are so cold they may never warm up." I turned the heater on - and up...knowing the room would be stifling. I told her I thought Bible study was beginning at 3:00 - the little ladies were all lined up ready to go into the dining hall. She informed me she can't go to Bible study. Like an idiot, I asked why not. She said, "Because it makes me nervous." I just didn't question it.

So I went to town and changed Mam-ma's address at the post office and did my errands - and I got a few more things at her house. When I returned, she was in the dining hall, sitting with a nice little lady who is her fourth table mate. Mam-ma has been paired with two ladies from our community we have known all our lives - Evelyn, who was in a coffee klatch with my maternal grandmother; and Ruth - my 3rd grade teacher.

I got Mam-ma's key and unlocked her room to put away the things I brought, and here she came. She had a fit - I'd brought the wrong pliers. I told her that was all I could find in her kitchen drawer, and she screamed at me that it was not. I told her, "Mam-ma, those were the only pliers I saw." I also told her that this was not the way to open her Cokes, and she said it was the only way. I told her no... she should be asking her aides to do this. Well, she didn't know they would do that. I told her yes they would... and they would get her a cup of ice, too. She had ice water on her night stand - she said an aide brought it to her. So she said, "Just give them pliers to Greg."

I left, and while I was cooking supper, I called my sister about meeting to clean out Mam-ma's refrigerator. She and her husband were visiting Mam-ma. She said Mam-ma had told her that Evelyn spent the afternoon with her, and she didn't get a nap. Mam-ma told me she only laid down, but she never mentioned Evelyn to me. Suzanne called me when she got home, and she said Mam-ma's chief complaint to her was that the bed is too high - that she didn't need the box springs... just a mattress. I told Suzanne, I think we have our cousin Ricky to thank for that one. He stopped by as I was putting Mam-ma to bed on Monday night, and he went on and on about how he surely hoped she didn't fall out of that high bed! (It's not that high!)

Suzanne wanted to get her a little stool for climbing in and out of bed. I said NO WAY! It's really not too high, and I don't want Mam-ma fumbling with a stool. Suzanne said she told Mam-ma to call for an aide to help her up and to the bathroom at night, and Mam-ma said she didn't know the aides would do that. Suzanne assured her they would, and she said, "Well, I'll just call them then."

I told Suzanne that Evelyn was not in Mam-ma's room at 2:00 - in fact, Mam-ma found me at the beauty shop - she was out looking for another friend, Viola. But at any rate, we can't believe all Mam-ma is telling, because I know for a fact some of it is not true. And her room might have become cool that first night, if her heat was really off then, but she was snug as a bug in that bed. And Greg showed her Monday in detail how to run the heat/air. Yesterday, she said, "Well, I didn't know how..." So this is just a process, and I told Suzanne...we have to work through it.

I told Mam-ma I was not coming by on Thursday - that we were going to the state basketball tournament, hosted at our local high school gym. I didn't really plan to go back to Southridge again for a few days. She needs to acclimate, and I had things I wanted and needed to do - like the ball tournament.

Monday, Mam-ma casually tossed out that "you need to check my crochet yarn... there is $20 stuck inside. I don't know how it got there." Well, yesterday, I looked in her crochet yarn, and yes, one ball had a $20. The other ball had three $10 bills! So I checked ALL of the yarn for money. And we are going to check everything that has a lid or closes - Bibles, books... everything... for stashed money! She said, "I don't know how come me to put that in there." I'm just glad she thought to tell me!

My mom sent me a Facebook message to inform me that Mam-ma told HER that she had called her former housekeeper to come and get some of the clothes in the closet. She told Mom... "I think they just cleaned out all the closets!" [and took ALL of her clothes to Southridge]. I don't know why Mam-ma felt she had to involve her housekeeper. I had just inventoried her closet on Monday, and we only took the items she wanted. We did not take all of her clothes - we only took the ones on which she insisted - a closet full! I think I counted 35 blouses, 16 pair of pants, better than a dozen "suits" and about a dozen coats/jackets.  That doesn't include sweaters, underwear, socks, pajamas, and bathrobes.  I don't know if she ever really called the housekeeper... apparently Mom talked her out of it.

Greg went by the ALF at noon on Thursday, and he said everything seemed fine. She and her friends were busily eating a delicious plate of bar-b-qued pork and all the trimmings. He said the dining hall smelled like a bakery.

I didn't go to Southridge on Wednesday - my sister and I cleaned out Mam-ma's refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.  I didn't go on Thursday, either - we spoke by phone, but I didn't physically go to see Mam-ma.  Greg made a "pass-thru," and we went to the gym for ballgames instead.

Friday morning, Mam-ma called at 9:00 - she said her TV remote needed batteries and she couldn't turn off her TV in the night so she got up and unplugged it. We don't think so - the outlet is behind her dresser. We think she got her remote on the wrong button, but we took some AAA batteries, just in case. The "stinger" was still in the "out" position! I told her I was quite sure she had a package of AAA batteries - and several other sizes. She became quite irritated and said, "No I don't... I've tore this place up looking, and I don't have any." So we took some.

Greg picked up the remote and looked at it. One of the batteries was in upside down. He fixed that, punched it, and the TV came on. Mam-ma argued with him that it did not work. He assured her it did. She gave him a mild dose of what she normally gives me... that very firm, curt, "No it don't!" He tried to explain she probably punched the wrong button... "No I didn't!" she said in her most agitated voice. He also told her that the battery was in upside down, so that's why it wouldn't work. She said, "Honey, it wouldn't work before I took the batteries out!" That's when he told her she punched the wrong button. She argued that she did not! So he said, "Okay... let's just put new batteries in it to be sure they are not the culprit." She replied, "Well, I started to say, let's change them batteries."

I opened her desk for something, and there was a whole package of AAA batteries. I showed them to her, and she shrugged and said, "Well, I'm sorry I called y'all. I didn't know I had them." I told her it was okay - we had AAA batteries at home (which we had brought), so it was no problem.

Greg had taken Mam-ma a little wireless device that allows her to turn her lamp on and off from bed with a tiny remote switch. She doesn't have to get up to turn on her lamp - and she can turn it off from bed after she gets in. He showed her how it works. I said, "Now practice that a few times to make sure you can do it." She promptly turned, faced the TV, and punched the device. I said, "Look at the lamp." She nodded... yes. I said again, "No, look at the lamp and see if it went on and off... this is not for the TV." "I know," she said, nodding, and still looking at the TV and punching the device. "Mam-ma - turn around and look at the lamp - this is to turn on and off the lamp, not the TV." Finally, she did, and I don't know if she will understand how to use it or not. It's very simple, and we put it on a little "rope" for her so she won't lose it, hopefully... on the floor or somewhere in her nightstand.

Mam-ma told us she did not go to exercise class... but she walked outside. She said her catfish lunch was good, but "there is so much to do here, I can't do it all." I told her it was all optional except for bathing and eating! She also said, "Now I've got too many clothes in that closet." I had taken her some empty hangers. I told her we only brought the clothes she wanted to bring. "Well, I know, but it's too much - that closet is too full, and I can't wear all them clothes." I told her some day when I was there and had time - and she felt like it - she could pull out some things she didn't want, and I'd take them out of there. She said, "Well, I don't care what you do with them, but some of these clothes have got to go!" I had put two pillows atop her bed for decoration - on top of her regular bed pillows.  These were covered in pillowcases she embroidered herself, and I thought she would enjoy seeing them. Those are in her closet now. So she is making it her own, which is perfectly fine.

Both Greg and I thought Mam-ma was not really "with it" Friday - and then, she said, "You're wearin' my earscrews." Sure enough, I had on a pair of her red "earscrews" that she gave me the before she moved. Now, "Eagle Eye" saw that and noticed... but she can't figure out the remote switch for her lamp! Go figure!

When we got to the ballgame, I saw the mother of one of my high school classmates, and she said, "I saw Polly at Southridge a few days ago. I was down there to visit and saw her." Mam-ma has never mentioned it. The Associate Pastor from Mam-ma's church had lunch Friday with the First Baptist Church ladies (I assume) in a conference room. She did tell us that! We sat with the Baptist pastor (who is a lifelong friend) at the ballgame, and he said he tries to do that himself every few months, but it didn't work out on Friday... so he sent the Associate Pastor.

The pastor-friend said that after I told him last fall we had told Polly no more peanut brittle making, he went by her house to visit one day, and she and Ruby were in the kitchen - making peanut brittle. I'm sure he was in a quandary about what to do. He said they had quite the discussion about Polly's peanut brittle vs. his mother's and how his mom "pulled" hers to help it spread in the pan after cooking. He said if you closed your eyes and didn't pay attention to the thickness, his mother's and Mam-ma's tasted virtually identical. I told him that when my sister and I cleaned out the kitchen last week, we found corn syrup and peanuts in several places in the kitchen - Mam-ma's private "stash!"

Friday, we stopped by on our way to the gym to visit with Mam-ma and see about her remote control. We told her if the teams won that night they would play next weekend in Hot Springs. Greg said, "We'll just about have to go if Heber Springs is in the STATE finals!" Mam-ma never missed a beat... she said, "Well, y'all just go on... that'll be fine... you don't have to worry about me any more, so just go on!" Now first of all, we weren't asking permission, and secondly... don't have to worry about her any more? PahLEASE!!!

Saturday, it was stamps. Mam-ma called around 9:00 a.m. to tell me that she had written a letter and couldn't find her postage stamps. "They are in your desk," I told her. "No, they aren't!" she retorted. I assured her they were, that we took everything out of the top compartments and put it in a desk drawer for the ride to Southridge... then I tried my best to restore the contents to their rightful places. "I'm sure that I didn't get things back in the right spots, but it's all there." "Well, it's not," she informed me. I told her to sift through her things like dealing cards, and I was sure she would find the stamps. She assured me she would not, because they were not there. I said, "Do you remember telling me your AAA batteries were not there, and I showed them to you in your desk?" "Well... good-bye," she said! "Good-bye!" I replied. At least she didn't hang up on me.

Sunday night about nine, Mam-ma called me - did I not leave her any toilet paper? I told her Southridge furnishes TP. She said, "Well, I thought you told me that we would have to get our own." She went on to explain that James, the maintenance guy, moved her toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom on Saturday - he didn't think she could reach it on the wall. I told her that is why Southridge provides the toilet paper - they want the residents to use their dispensers. DUH! Anyway, we got that cleared up well enough, I guess.

Then she told me, "I tell you what, I just can't keep eating like this... I'm a gaining weight!" Now, she needed to gain a little weight, and I told her so... and I also told her she will work it off walking the halls. She said, "Well, if I can ever get outside..." I told her "Mam-ma... there are acres of hallways in that place... just walk inside." She said she had been, and that the food is delicious, but there is just more of it than she can eat - and it's making her fat! I assured her that she will get into the groove with exercises and walking, and that the food will help her gain strength and feel better... so EAT UP!

I thought Mam-ma was in a pretty good mood Sunday night, but today was another story. We went to Wal-Mart to buy her a flat-screen television, and while checking out, she called and said, "I need you to pick up some B-12 at the drugstore... the nurse is going to call it in." I tried to explain to her that she had two vials of B-12 at the nurse's station already... along with syringes, sterile pads, and more... and nothing needed to be ordered. She added... "Well, I need you to go to the house and get my Woolite, so I can wash my undies." I had taken the Woolite home with me when we cleaned out the cabinets. So I turned around and went back into Wal-Mart and bought more Woolite.

Greg got the TV set up, and I talked with the nurse and straightened out the confusion on the medications (hopefully). Greg showed Mam-ma how to use the new remote control, which is pretty straightforward, and she informed us she cannot get the channel where she watches "Wheel of Fortune." "I guess it's not on any more," she said. Now that happens to be a local channel, and it is indeed on each night. Greg showed her where to find it. She said, "Well, as long as these books hold out, I'll probably just read anyway."

I honestly think that she will come to enjoy the television and the nice, big, bright picture. She had told the aides one day last week that she wanted her bath early in the mornings. When the aide came today to help her bathe, she said, "Can I have it tonight after supper?" The aide graciously accommodated her. I figure that things are going a whole lot better than she wants me to know... and I can see that she is being pampered. Her room was spotless... the housekeepers had been there. The bed linens will be changed and laundry done tomorrow. The food is fantastic. She is safe, warm, and surrounded by people. She says she is learning to use the little remote switch for the lamp. I opened the desk, and there were her stamps. "I see you found your stamps," I commented. "Uh-huh!" she answered, quickly changing the subject.

We made our "good-byes" and suggested Mam-ma take a nap. Her nurse said she would give her a B-12 injection later (which usually perks her up fairly quickly), and there is no telling what all she will do this afternoon/evening - or who she will see. One thing is for sure... we'll never know the half of it... at least not the half that is good!

1 comment:

Mark said...

What a great write-up of the first days of an ALF stay. That lamp remote sounds better than the clapper! I need to get some of those. I hope she keeps getting settled in and making friends.