Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the change of the season and the nostalgic feelings it brings with it: from the crisp, cool air to the smells of cinnamon and pumpkin and apple baking in the kitchen to the celebrations of the holidays-my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving.
With our temperatures in the triple digits over the past month and a half, I couldn’t have been happier with the approach of fall. Yesterday marked the first official day of fall and the past week has been kind to us Californians. The weather has been cool enough to turn the air conditioning off and to open up the windows and breathe in some fresh air.
The cool air, however, does increase some struggles we’ve been having with mom. I’ve recently written about mom’s “happy feet”; mom’s latest fixation is to go for walks.
“It’s so good for me too…It’s such good exercise for me…” she remarks about her 1/4 mile walks to the store or bank.
Now that the weather is cooling down, she is more determined than ever to get out there and go walking. One benefit of the triple digits was that we could usually talk her out of walking in the sweltering heat! (Mom hates to sweat).
All that to say, I’ve tried to nurture this newfound love for walking and have suggested to mom that we go for walks around the block. Walking is good exercise for her, but I think sometimes she points that out to manipulate us into being less suspicious about her true intentions. Unless mom has a purpose in mind, she really isn’t as interested in walking as she makes herself seem. Mom has 3 primary purposes to go for walks:
1. To visit her sister
2. To walk to the bank in an attempt to withdrawal money
3. To go up to the store to buy medicines that she’s not allowed to have
Having people with her every morning has helped immensely. We now have every morning covered so that mom is monitored during her “happy hour”. Morning has usually been the only problematic time with her; in the afternoon she naps and then wakes up to take medicine and eat a snack while playing computer games. Mom is pretty unhappy about having people looking over her shoulder every morning. It prevents her from accomplishing her aforementioned objectives. It seems that in her determination to get out without an escort, mom is taking drastic measures. Very drastic. Mom is now skipping her nap. Yes, you read that correctly: mom is skipping her naps!! If you’re an avid reader of mine, you know what a big deal this is. That one thing that has been both a pain in the neck yet a source of comfort at the same time-talking about her rigid routine-is now being broken to bits in her rebellion to get away. We used to count on the fact that at 12:00 mom eats lunch and at 1:00 she goes down for a nap. It left only a short window in the morning that mom needed supervision to prevent her from fleeing the coop.
I’ve heard of mom skipping her naps a few times in the past week. Today was the first time I witnessed it firsthand. This morning, I took mom for her long awaited haircut (it’s been a while!) I was relieved when we finished up; it was 12:00- just enough time to get her home, fed and down for a nap before I went to pick up my son from Kindergarten.
On our ride home, mom pulled out her coin purse and began counting some dollar bills. I knew, from talking to my dad yesterday, where the money had come from. Mom spent last week scrounging around the house for any change she could find in an attempt to cash it all in at the bank for dollars. Among her stash were some arcade tokens as well as old coins from dad’s coin collection. I think dad was able to retrieve the valuables before she took the rest of the change up to the bank to cash out the $8 worth of coins she had accumulated.
“Mom, what are you doing?” I asked, glancing over to the passenger seat next to me, watching her count her dollars. I didn’t even need to ask. I knew very well what was on her mind.
When she didn’t answer, I asked,
“What are you going to do when you get home mom? Are you going to take a nap today?”
After asking several times, she finally scrunched up her shoulders and gave her head a little shake.
“I don’t know, I feel so good too when I walk, I don’t have to take naps all the time when I walk too,” she quickly said.
“But mom, you haven’t gone on any walks today. Are you planning to go for a walk?” I asked, knowing full well of her intentions. On our way to her haircut appointment, she had asked me if I would drop her off at the bank on my way home. And that’s only because I arrived to her house early; her original plan was to walk up there before I came over (I caught her off guard when I showed up “early”). When I told her I wouldn’t take her to the bank, she came up with Plan B.
Now I faced a dilemma: what to do. She refused to ride with me to get my son from Kindergarten. As it neared time for me to leave, she showed no signs of going down for her nap. In fact, she was in the bathroom putting on lipstick when I left. Nevertheless, I had to leave. I decided to drive back to the bank after I picked up my son to see what mom was up to.
Sure enough, as I drove down the street, I spotted mom scurrying along quickly up towards the shopping center. I pulled the car over and rolled down my window. Mom was surprised to see me and was quite concerned that I needed to pick up Cody from Kindergarten. She peeked in the back window to see if he was there (he was). Then she turned to me and said,
“I’m just walking to get some exercise, it’s so good for me to be walking up here.” Then she mumbled something I couldn’t make out and walked away. I let out a sigh and turned my car around to follow her into the parking lot. At one point, mom was actually sprinting along the sidewalk; strangers turned their heads to see what the big hurry was.
I stalked mom from my car and watched her pass by the grocery store (after hesitating momentarily at the door) and cross the parking lot to the bank. I drove ahead of her, parked my car and got my two boys out of their car seats. I followed behind her to the line and asked her what she was doing. She ignored me.
When it was her turn to go forward, I followed behind her. She began talking so quickly it was almost incomprehensible to the teller.
“I want to know can you check this please too and tell me is my disability in there too, they’re supposed to give me some money for disability too can you please tell me if it’s there please too?”
The teller glanced at me, standing behind mom’s left shoulder, and I mouthed to her,
“She has dementia.”
The teller nodded and I audibly told her,
“She’d like to take some money out.” Then, quietly, I added,
“Can you please tell her there’s no money there?”
The teller was very cooperative, understanding my dilemma, and told mom there was no money in the account.
“No? It’s not here yet? You mean I have no money to take out yet, no? What about my husband’s account?”
The teller apologized and told her again that there was no money.
“Oh well I have $8, I hope that’s enough,” mom said. And she quickly turned around and darted out the bank door.
I thanked the teller and followed after mom. Except that I had to put my boys back in their car seats and drive across the lot. I put a quick call in to my dad, notifying him of the situation. I was able to prevent mom was draining the bank account but I wasn’t able to prevent her from buying the medication. I caught mom just as she was entering the check-out line, “Sleep Aid” medication in hand. At this point, there was no stopping her, so I stood quietly by as mom paid $7.08 for her medicine. I offered her a ride home, but she walked past me. The only words she said were,
“Don’t tell your dad I got this, if you tell your dad I bought this I’m going to be so mad at you too. He doesn’t support me, you should support me.”
And with that she stormed off and started her walk back home. I started following her back to her house, to make sure she arrived safely, but as we turned out of the parking lot, I saw dad’s truck pulled over to the sidewalk. He had finished work up early and, knowing the situation we were in, waited for mom to follow her home. I glance back in my rearview mirror to see dad driving alongside her and mom staring intently downward seemingly oblivious to any truck driving beside her.
A while later, I called and checked in with dad. He reported that he had confiscated the medication and that mom was upset and told him she hates him. She doesn’t know what she’s saying; she is throwing a tantrum for not getting her way. Nevertheless, I am sure it hurts. It’s hard to have to take away freedoms from someone you love. As hard as it is for me, it’s tenfold for my dad to have to do this to his spouse, his partner in life.
As mom’s behavior becomes harder and harder to manage, I can’t help but to feel anxious and worried about the future. How long will dad be able to deal with this? What is our next step? Will mom be able to stay at home in the long run?