There’s a saying around here: “It’s a hot mess!” Of course, there’s also the personalized: “He’s a hot mess!” I believe this expression is a derivation of the colloquial: a stinking pile of (mess). I’m not sure if what we’ve got here is a hot mess, or if the mess is just in my brain…hot or otherwise. Either way, it stinks.
Mom’s been back in her comfortable surroundings for several weeks now, and frankly, I can’t remember when last I saw her as functional. Her routines are well-established; she wants for nothing. To use her favorite phrase: “All is well.”
Except that it isn’t.
Mom informed her night nurse this week that she would no longer take her prescription medication for dementia: Aricept. Mom’s reasoning was that the drug was making her sleep too much. This news didn’t set right with the nurse who brought the problem to me today. Together, we looked up the drug and learned that sleepiness was not among its side effects. After some discussion, we speculated that Mom was feeling poorly about sleeping so long and so late these days. We examined her sleep medication and developed a plan to help us learn what’s really going on after Mom gets her nighttime meds. Settling that, I went in to talk with her.
Me: “Mom, you’ve stopped taking your dementia medication.”
Mom: “My memory’s fine!”
Me: (to myself) How would you know? (To Mom): “Your memory has been fine because you’ve been taking Aricept.”
Mom: “I don’t need it.”
Me: “You do need it. Your long-term memory’s great, but your short-term memory (is a hot mess) isn’t so much. (She nodded in agreement.) Mom, this med helps your ability to think. The nurse will bring it to you again tonight, and you should begin to take it again, okay?”
She said that she would.
Then I asked about her sleep meds. Mom said she was stunned to learn that she wasn’t getting Ambien anymore. In fact, Ambien, which works just fine for lots of sleepless people, didn’t work well for Mom at all, and we began adjusting sleep meds months ago. Now she’s getting Trazodone — used off-label — which is working perfectly to ease her to sleep and keep her sleeping until she’s well-rested. Sometimes that’s 7 or 7:30am. Then she gets up, opens the blinds, and spends another hour resting in bed. She loves this part of her daily routine.
I went back to the nurse and called off our elaborate sleep-detection scheme.
Mom’s strongest visible trait is charity. For as long as I’ve known her, Mom has worked hard to do for others. I am witnessing the resurrection of this trait, and am not crazy about what I see.
One resident needs a picture hung on her wall. Her family won’t do it. So I do it. No problem.
Another lady needs a tarnished silver picture frame cleaned up. Her family won’t do it. Mom asks me to bring in some silver polish. I’m beginning to see a pattern.
Another lady is scratching her CD’s because they don’t have covers. Her family won’t bring any. Mom asks me to bring in some covers. Red flags are flying.
Will this one day progress to our paying room and board for someone who’s family won’t do it?
Mom is attempting to solve the problems of others without realizing that her dementia-driven neighbors will always have new problems to be solved. In her right mind, Mom would ultimately feel taken advantage of (though she’d never admit it). In her current mind, she doesn’t see that at the end of this rainbow awaits another hot mess.
I found myself in the unkind position of explaining this to Mom today. The experience — both for her and for me — was something akin to picking up a blob of mercury with welding gloves. I couldn’t get through, and she couldn’t understand. Such is the way of dementia.