Alzheimer's disease · Assisted living · Caregiving · Music

The elephant in the room / November 11, 2006

Here we are a week later, and very little has actually changed from our pre-hospital routine, aside from a new morning battle with the anti-embolism stockings. I was right in suspecting that a layer of delerium had been added to the mix in the nursing home, and now that it has disappeared my mother has settled back into her old ways. I don’t know if this is good or bad–I like being able to have a “sort-of” conversation with her again but I’m not crazy about the elephant being back in the room.

The elephant, of course, is the prospect of her move to assisted living. I haven’t brought this subject up since she’s been home, figuring I’d give her a break. I couldn’t imagine bringing her home and immediately telling her not to get too comfortable here. Not only would this be cruel, but I don’t know if she’d remember the original circumstances, which would mean an endless tide of questions and misunderstandings. So I’m letting the elephant sleep for awhile over in the corner.

I took a Family Medical Leave from work, which means I can work intermittently and use up even more of my dwindling sick time. I suppose this is the rainy day I was saving it for. I don’t know whether I should reschedule the homemaker or try the adult day center–if I pursued either one a vacancy would be sure to open up immediately at AL. So I’m just waiting and letting events dictate to me, an attitude that’s hard for me to adopt. I want to control the timing but I can’t. And people are getting tired of hearing me moan about bad timing.

We have received two invitations to Thanksgiving dinner, one from my cousin and his new wife (of this summer’s wedding) and the other from my father’s older sister and her daughter. We may actually combine both invitations into one. My mother seems sanguine about the prospect, but I must struggle to keep myself from imagining the worst. I hate hearing myself being pessimistic, but I’ve experienced the drastic mood swings too often to leave them out of the equation.

On the other hand, an “extenuating circumstance” often forces everyone to abandon routine in a manner that is refreshing, especially at this time of year. You can drop the code words and hand signals, and say just what needs to be said. I guess living this way all the time would be exhausting, but right now I find it invigorating. As if the rules have been suspended for awhile, and we can eat ice cream off paper plates wherever and whenever we want. We have big things to worry about, no time for the niceties. And having to expose a bit more of one’s private life to the world–by way of explanation or asking to be cut some slack–can cut through some pretty thick crap, to put it crudely.

So I’m trying to negotiate the balance between “one day at a time” and “the end justifies the means.” And any other aphorism that applies. One of my favorites is from the late, great John Lennon: “Whatever gets you through the night.” Lately, it’s been music–I’m rediscovering music that inspired me when I was younger, by way of iTunes. Last night I downloaded “The Sound of the Jam”–I’d forgotten how much I love their music: “Ghosts”, “Thick as Thieves”, “Eton Rifles.” (I’m listening to them as I write.) I think my next purchase may be The Clash’s “London Calling.” And some XTC or old Police songs. And Buffalo Springfield and Traffic. Music that reminds me of a younger, different self buried under the thick impasto of years.

I’m not wallowing here. I also downloaded the latest from Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale, as well as Lindsey Buckingham’s newest. Music is my mental and emotional massage, when I’m not too lazy to pull out a CD and plug in the headset, which I have been until recently. Now that I think of it, I’m heading back to iTunes.

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