Two more thoughts

Utah and UW friends

My BFF from the University of Washington and me during one of her visits to our home.

Without my friends I would have been lost.

I’m talking about my recent visit with my mom. In case you missed it, I wrote about it HERE. It was difficult to find my mom in skilled nursing and to see how drastically she’s aged since my last visit.

I stayed with my best friend from college who lives six miles from my mom’s assisted living. Lots of times I stay in a small hotel close by. It’s not that nice, but affordable. It was so much better to come back each day to my friends’ comfy house and not be alone.

My BFF’s husband loves to cook and he shopped and prepared my favorite foods. The first night he made steamed clams, garlic bread and a delicious salad. Last time I visited, we went to Pike Place Market and I bought clams, which he cooked. They remembered how much I enjoyed them which was touching. I suppose they didn’t forget after I kept asking if they wanted the clams on their plates! They surrendered them to me.

steamed clams from Pike Place Market

It was so comforting to not stay by myself and to be able to relax and talk with close friends each day and tell them about my mom. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

The power of music.

One day my mom was kind of out of it. When I walked into her room, she was asleep. She woke up and said “Who are you and what do you want?” I was standing over her bed. To be fair, she didn’t have her glasses on and was groggy.

I got her out of bed and helped her sit in a chair while I sat on her walker. I turned on the TV, but she wasn’t interested and stared down at her hands.

I remembered my brother told me that she perked up listening to music. Mom was a coloratura soprano opera singer. My brother played her Joan Sutherland, a famous coloratura soprano, on his phone¬†and he said Mom sang along with her. I played her favorite songs from Don McClean including Vincent, American Pie, And I Love You So, and Castles in the Air on my phone. She owned every one of McClean’s albums and played them over and over when I was a child.

After a few minutes of listening, my mom began to sing along. The music moved her and made her more alert. She focused on getting out of her chair to walk to her old room. I was amazed at the power of music and the effect it had on her.

“And I Love You So”

And I love you so
The people ask me how
How I’ve lived till now
I tell them “I don’t know”

I guess they understand
How lonely life has been
But life began again
The day you took my hand

And yes I know how lonely life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won’t set me free
But I don’t let the evening get me down
Now that you’re around me

And you love me too
Your thoughts are just for me
You set my spirit free
I’m happy that you do

The book of life is brief
And once a page is read
All but love is dead
This is my belief

And yes I know how loveless life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won’t set me free
But I don’t let the evening bring me down
Now that you’re around me

And I love you so
The people ask me how
How I’ve lived till now
I tell them “I don’t know”

One of my mom’s all time favorite artists and songs.

What are your thoughts about the power of friendships and the power of music? Do you have any examples of how they’ve added to your life?

Use it or lose it

This was my lunch at Sushi Oto, where I used to go with my mom.

My mom wasn’t in her room when I arrived at her assisted living facility.

Her name was still on the door. Her things were inside. I took a quick roam around to the dining room and living rooms to see if I could find her.

I stopped at a nurses’ station and was informed that she was upstairs in “Skilled Nursing.”

My brother had told me that they were going to move her there eventually. He fought against it for two years. But I didn’t know they finally moved her. She had fallen several times, she wasn’t walking and she’s incontinent — so she went to the next level of care.

When she first moved in, she was in a two-bedroom apartment on campus that didn’t have help. Then she was moved into a studio room when she need more help with daily tasks.

I found her upstairs in the skilled nursing floor. The rooms are all the same. Two hospital beds with a curtain in between.

Her roommate came out from behind the curtain, wearing nothing but adult diapers. I mean stark naked except for pull ups. She spoke gibberish and my mom dove under her blankets to hide.

I went to the nurses station and said, “The woman in my mother’s room is talking to me and I don’t understand what she needs.”

“Oh, don’t mind her. She has severe Alzheimer’s. I’ll send someone to check on her,” the attendant said.

Two staff members came in and profusely apologized to me as the naked geriatric patient was standing at my side.

“Miss Helen, where are your clothes?” she was asked.

They moved her back to her side of the curtain and got her dressed.

My mom needs physical help, but mentally she is not as far gone as most of the people I saw on the skilled nursing floor. She has trouble with short term memory but enjoys laughing and has a great sense of humor.

During my last visit, we played croquet and I took her out to lunch for sushi. We played cards in the card room, went to Bingo and chair yoga. This visit, she demanded that I take her back to her old room. I told her if she could walk to the elevator, I would take her there. She walked about ten yards with her walker and said, “I can’t do it.”

What a reminder for me to get out and move. I’m heartbroken at how quickly my mom has aged since my last visit.

When our parents age, do you find it heartbreaking too?