It may seem like this post has nothing to do with dementia care advocacy, but it does, trust me. All will be revealed in the fullness of time…
In the meantime, enjoy former astronaut turned author and inspirational speaker Commander Chris Hadfield (on guitar & vocals) as he covers Piano Man with family physician Dr. Jeff Dresselhuis (on keyboards) and the #CMASummit2018 “jam band.”
Mom was in bed when I arrived on August 13, but she was articulate, alert, responsive, and in good spirits, despite the fact that her speech was slurred just as it had been a few days earlier.
When I complimented her on her hair and told her she was beautiful, she took exception:
Mom’s feistiness meant it was a perfect day for Eric to come over. I called him immediately and then told her the plan:
Two caregivers helped me move Mom from her bed to her wheelchair, and I took her downstairs to have tea and chat with Shirley while we waited for Eric to arrive. We had ginger snaps, and talked about the weather.
Eric brought his guitar and we sang a whole whack of our favourite songs: Mrs. Brown You’ve got a Lovely Daughter, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Ain’t She’s Sweet, ’Til There Was You, Rock Around the Clock, Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Clementine, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, How Much Is that Doggy in the Window?, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Mona Lisa, Goodnight Irene, and Would You Like to Swing on a Star? Mom knew some or all of the words to every one; I captured a few moments on video:
We were so lucky to have had Eric and his healing music during the last four years of Mom’s life. I will be forever grateful for that.
It was fairly easy for me to tell when Mom had been inappropriately and/or overly medicated.
She was either “asleep,” or her whole demeanour changed, and/or she simply couldn’t say what she wanted. When I say she couldn’t, I mean in a physical sense. Getting her words confused and talking gobbledygook was one thing, that was a “natural” brain to mouth communication short circuit of some kind.
But slurred speech and the inability to clearly articulate words that could be more or less understood, even though they may or may not have made sense, were different things entirely. They were drug induced, and it was easy to know when she was medicated and when she was not.
On August 10, 2016, a week before she died, it was clear Mom had been given more drugs than usual for some unknown (to me at least) reason. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell the difference.
Here’s Mom and I conversing on August 9:
Now listen to her speech the very next day (August 10) when, even though I’m able to decipher her meaning, the effects of the increased medication are unmistakable:
Now compare this with her capacity to speak two days later, on August 12:
I could deal with the aphasia. I could deal with her thought processing challenges. I could deal with the stuff associated with Alzheimer disease and the resulting dementia.
But I couldn’t deal with my mother being inappropriately medicated, neglected and abused in the multiple ways she was. Sometimes it was just too much for me to witness on top of everything else. After the experience of August 10th, I couldn’t visit on the 11th. I just didn’t have the strength to do it, so I stayed away for both our sakes. I’m so grateful I did because it gave me the wherewithal to be with her for five of her last six days.