Killing Her Softly

Quetiapine. Alprazolam. Trazodone. Benadryl. Ambien. In six months in the facility, mom’s medication dosage has ballooned. Even in better-care facilities, adjustment to group living is a six-month benchmark. It’s a firm necessity, and, at times, a deal-breaker. Because there’s never enough staff to come after a calf straying from the herd. One who could fall. One who, of waning mind, might pilfer things from desks, rooms, or closets, may clog a toilet with a facecloth, or may wheel another resident into a closet (my friend’s dad did this).
The delicate balance between medicating the crap out of an independent-minded resident and keeping her functional enough so that she doesn’t fall down and break a hip is difficult to attain. The nurse tells me it takes weeks and different combinations of meds to get it right. Mom will not sleep in her room. She gets up after being put to bed, or simply will not go at all. A strong Ambien dosage worked for awhile, but then she began again to wander into the TV room in the wee hours, and curl up on the couch. What draws her to that spot? She used to love to spend time in her room when she lived independently. Now she can’t seem to be alone anymore.

[caption id="attachment_288" align="alignleft" width="225"] Mom rolls up  hand towel and holds them gently like little babies for comfort. She offers them to other residents, too.[/caption]

Her expression is drawn down like Droopy Dog, the cartoon Bassett hound. When she’s not dozing she’s a feisty two-year-old intoxicated by the sound of her own voice chiming “No!” at home-aides in green tunics. I stand, watch, and don’t believe what I see.
Joy, pleasure, compassion, desire, friendship. Simple contentment. All fundamental things that seem forgotten. But then, as we sit on the couch watching “The Rifleman,” she takes my hand, starts to hum, and gives a little wave to the lady beside her, smiling, offering her a folded towel and a Kleenex box, the art of giving (and it is an art) delivering to both giver and receiver.


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2 Responses to Dementiaville_19

  1. Melanie says:

    The first job I had out of high school was in a nursing home. That was 1972. What I find so striking about this beautifully written story is how succinctly it sums up life in nursing homes and how, after 30 years, nothing but the names of the drugs have changed.

  2. Melanie says:

    OMG Janet, I never stopped to do the math…it’s been 40 years now. Reading this story, it all comes back to me as though it was yesterday.

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