Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our First Caregiver

Over the past several months I have been in contact with the Alzheimer's Association. I have only good things to say about them. In this difficult journey, they were one of the few people that we have come across that I have felt really care about our situation and are trying to help us find some relief to our dilemmas. I had called them several months ago about resources for support groups in my area. About a month later, a woman called me back just to check in and see if the resources they gave were helpful. As we talked more, the issue came up about our dilemma with a caregiver. We were having some concerns about mom being left alone all day long and the main issue with hiring a caregiver is the cost. After a couple months of working with us, including a home evaluation, it was determined that we are eligible to receive some assistance with a program they have for respite care. It's only for a couple of months (and then I suppose we'll have another evaluation to see if we can stay on the program) and it only offers 30 hours a month, but that is perfect for our needs at this time. As it is, I go over on Mondays, my Aunt and Uncle go over on Tuesdays, and another Aunt goes over on Thursdays. This leaves Wednesdays and Friday open for mom to cause trouble with nobody around ;)

Today was our first day with a caregiver. Teresa is scheduled to come for a few hours on Wednesdays-mostly to supervise and make sure mom is safe. She will also do some light cleaning and cooking if we need her to. My dad tried explaining the idea of a caregiver to mom. She, as expected, was very resistant.

"No, I don't need anyone over here, no. I don't know why you want anyone here, no. I'm fine, I don't need help."

Dad asked if I would be available to go over this morning to be there when the new caregiver arrived and help mom settle in to her new routine. I told him of course, I would be there.

I arrived to mom's house a little before 10:00 am to talk to mom and remind her what was going on for the day. As usual, when I got there mom was locked away in her room. I knocked on her bedroom door and she didn't respond. I put my ear to the door and heard the shower running, so I gave her a few minutes to finish getting cleaned up.

Just before 10:00 am, Teresa (the caregiver) rang the bell and she came inside the house as we made introductions. I liked her right away-and not just because she's Portuguese (turns out her mom has the same maiden name as mine...I knew it as soon as she pronounced our family name in the proper Portuguese language, which nobody has ever done before! We connected instantly ;)) Right away I could tell that she was a kind and caring person, as I was further able to see in her interaction with mom. After talking for a few minutes with Teresa and giving her some background on mom, I excused myself to go check on my mom. I walked down the hall and knocked on her door. No answer. I knocked several times and called her name loudly. Still no answer. After several minutes of this, I decided I should get the bedroom key and make sure that she was okay in there. I fumbled through a set of keys, trying each one until finally one key unlocked the door. I turned the knob and called mom's name as I went in, announcing my entry into her bedroom. I found her poking her head out of the wooden, sliding bathroom door, towel wrapped around her hair, as she stared at me.

"What? Don't come here, I'm naked. Do you want to see my weird, different body?" she said, emerging from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel.

"It's okay, I'm not looking mom," I said, turning my direction away from her so that she would know I was NOT interested in seeing her in the nude.

"I just wanted to let you know that someone is here to see you," I told her.

"Oh I wanted to show you something too..." Mom rushed over to her bathroom counter and pulled out 2 boxes of Revlon hair dye. She wanted to know if the 2 colors she picked out were okay; Friday is hair dyeing day because it has to be done exactly every 8 weeks. Despite my efforts to talk to her about Teresa, mom was focused only on the hair dye and wasn't hearing a word I had to say. Finally, after about 5 minutes of rambling, I was able to get her attention. She narrowed her eyes at me and her demeanor changed instantly when she figured out what I was trying to say.

"No, I already told your dad last night, no. I don't want anybody over here. I don't understand why he thinks I need someone here, no. Tell her no. No."

"Mom, she's already here, she's not leaving yet. She's not leaving until 1:00."

She continued to object, "No. I'm not even ready for anything, no. I have other things to do too," she argued, trying to make herself seem busy as she picked a few things up off her bed.

After a few minutes going back and forth, I finally told her,

"Mom, she is here now. Finish getting ready; do your hair and make-up and then come out and meet her and see what you think."

And with that, I walked out of her room and left her to finish readying herself. About 20 minutes later, I heard her footsteps coming down the hall. She practically glared at Teresa, as Teresa said "hi" in a friendly voice and introduced herself. She held out her hand to shake mom's as mom stood there; she did not return the handshake.

"I already told my husband I don't need anybody over here. I don't know why you're here, I don't want anyone here. I like to be by myself sometimes in the day too," she protested.

Without skipping a beat, Teresa said,

"Your hair looks so pretty. You look really nice, did you just finish your hair?"

Mom's frown quickly turned to a smile as she realized the compliment Teresa had given her.

"Oh, yeah. But I'm going to dye it on Friday," she said, glancing at herself in the mirror which hung right above the seat on the couch where Teresa sat.

The two talked for a few minutes; Teresa asking her some questions and mom talking about whatever subject was on her mind, mostly about how funny and weird she looks now and how she used to think she was "such a cuter young girl". We got up and followed mom into the kitchen and Teresa asked her if she could make her something to eat. I quickly filled Teresa in on her eating schedule-mom wouldn't be ready to eat until 12:00.

For the next hour, I stood by as Teresa and mom became familiar with one another. Mom talked about her usual topics; Teresa doesn't know any better (for now) and just listened with great interest. After Teresa complimented a picture of mom's parents, which was sitting atop an end table, mom took that as a cue and led Teresa down the hall to show her more pictures of her family. In no time, she was talking about her relatives who were Mormon pioneers. I was in the living room, but heard Teresa remark,

"My sister-in-law is Mormon."

Mom didn't seem to hear. I rushed over to her, knowing a friendship was about to be forged, and tried to redirect mom's attention to what Teresa had just said.

"Mom, did you hear what she said? She said her sister-in-law is Mormon." I repeated this a few times, standing directly in front of mom's face and making eye contact. She finally caught on to my words and became excited at what I said. A connection had been made!

"It's really such a really good religion and there's such really good people there too. It's one of the best religions too and I was wondering if you would ever wanna be baptized too?" she asked her at one point during the conversation. I stood by, shaking my head and laughing. Teresa was a great sport and did very well conversing with mom.

After about an hour, I could see that mom was settling in and starting to feel more comfortable with Teresa. I figured, at that point, that it would be okay for me leave. Teresa reassured me that they would be fine and mom seemed fine with me leaving as well. I told her I loved her and that I would see her later.

I called my mom later this afternoon, just as my dad had gotten home and asked mom about the day's events. I asked him how she felt about Teresa and he said that mom was quick to let him know that she doesn't need her there every week. She wants time to be alone and do her own thing (probably to play on the computer without someone looking over her shoulder) and she doesn't understand why she has to be there. I'm wondering how it went after I left (I suppose I'd have to call Teresa to find out the truth about that!) I envision my mom telling her that it's time for her to go because it's her naptime and not to bother coming back. Sorry mom, but I think Teresa's gonna be around for a while ;)


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with your mother on this blog. My mother has an undiagnosed type of dementia. She is 87. I have moved to be closer to my parents, in order to help them, and share the burden with my brother who also lives close. It is a challenge, and sorrowful at times, to see my mother's decline. But it can also be comical, so I appreciate your sense of humor about some of your situations.

    1. Thank you for reading Nancy. Sorry you have to go through this with your mom as well. What a great daughter you are to move closer and be there for your parents!

  2. Ho! That's a hoot! A baptismal challenge in 15 minutes! Gotta love it! I can't wait to see her when we get back from Utah to hear her tell us all about Teresa. She might even want Tia Tina to meet her!!

    1. If Teresa spoke spanish she would definitely want Tia Tina to meet her! Lol. I'm sure she will give you an earful when you're back ;)

  3. I find your mom's story amusing because our family went through the same situation before. My dad didn't want to have a caregiver. He kept on insisting that he didn't need one, but his doctor thought otherwise. He even tried to make his caregiver give up and walk away. But I think the one we hired have brought all the patience she needs and stayed. Hehe! Well, if you ask me what's the situation now, they're fine. They've clicked after a few weeks and I hope that this will be the case on your mom's too.

    Theodore Wong

  4. Hi there, Cassandra! How's your mom? Does her treatment to her caregiver changed now? Your mom has had her reason to feel resistant. It's maybe because she isn't used to that kind of attention. But with her condition now, it's best to have someone who will look after her needs.

    Taneka Carl

  5. Taneka has a point. It's because most of us easily get irritated as we age. But I think it's a matter of patience and persistence on the part of the caregiver to establish rapport with her patient.