E: Explanations and Evaluations
I don’t know why I feel I have to offer explanations for my mother to the staff and even other residents. Her problems and behavior are certainly no worse than those of anyone else there, yet I seem to need to excuse her to people: “She can’t hear” (pretty obvious); “she loves her sweets”; “she’s always used a lot of salt.”
It’s as though I feel defensive about her when there’s no reason to. The staff there deals with people in all stages of dementia and in need of all kinds of aid. My mother doesn’t stand out in that way. But when she first moved in I was so nervous about how she would take it, whether she would be argumentative or depressed, yet within a week the nurses and CNAs were telling me how delightful she was and that they loved her. When she would sit in the dining room and keep calling out “Where’s the food? We’re hungry!”, I would cringe, but the CNAs would laugh, lean over her, and patiently tell her that food was on its way. When she called out for a salt shaker, they would cheerfully bring her one. And they made sure her coffee (her drug of choice) was served to her with dinner. I learned quickly that no explanations were called for.
* * * * *
When she had been in the AL for about six months, the nurse gave me an updated evaluation and treatment plan for her.
I felt like a parent receiving a bad report card.
All the things she needed help with, all the things she couldn’t do, all the physical limitations she had--I had known all these things, of course, but there was something about having it come from another party that just made me feel bad. She’s incontinent; she doesn’t hear well; she has to have her food ground up because she can’t chew; she needs two people to help her up and into her wheelchair…. The list went on.
But then I reviewed my own list of good things: she’s taking her medication now, which I had to fight with her to get her to do. She’s eating well, and eating the food they give her; when we lived together all she would eat was sweets and soup. Her mood is much better now.
I know, of course, that the “report card” was not at all critical. It was an assessment. It just didn’t tell the whole story.