The Aftermath of the Visit: Experiencing Mom's Bad Days
In my last blog, I shared with readers how my mother displayed a surprising "with-it-ness" when she had visitors recently. Everyone was surprised and pleased about her mental state. But then the next day came, and another side of Mom emerged.
On the day that followed Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty's visit with my mother, I ventured by to see Mom right after lunch. She was already in bed, eyes wide open but positioned for an impending nap. I leaned over the railing on her bed and quietly and calmly said, "Hello! How are you doing?" Mom didn't answer. I watched as her eyes focused on me, but there was no response. Since her eyes didn't leave me, I softly asked her again, "How are you doing?" Again, no response, just staring. So I decided I'd sit in her wheelchair by her bed and calmly just be present with her and for her. No such luck. Her response, garbled, was something to the effect of "Get lost!"
That response didn't surprise me. That was the same type of response that happened two years earlier on the day following a visit by my friends, Bob and Anna, with my mom. The next day, some long-time family friends, Pam and Don (who suffers from a disease that is similar to dementia), came to visit and, unfortunately, experienced one of Mom's "bad" days.
Pam later told me that she has found this to be a common trajectory with people who have dementia and similar diseases. It seems that after focusing their mental energies on a particular event, a loved one who has dementia often will have a mental and emotional come-down when the event is over. So whereas Bob and Anna saw Mom on one especially "good" day (which resulted in their questioning whether she really needed to be in a nursing home), Pam and Don saw Mom the next day when she was confused and disoriented.
Knowing that this is a strong possibility has helped me learn how to handle the ups and the downs that happen when Mom has special visits. I've learned not to pin too much hope on Mom's good days when she is cognizant and coherent with visitors because, unfortunately, that mental accuity will not last. Instead, I count these times as a gift. And I know that the bad days will soon return; fortunately (at this point) the after-effects pass and Mom soon regains a mental equilibrium.
So on that recent Saturday when I was so grumpily dismissed, I looked at Mom and quietly said goodbye. And then right as I was leaving, I turned back and asked her if it would be OK for me to come back to visit her the next day. The answer was "yes." And so I looked forward to yet another tomorrow with a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease.