My grandma was admitted to the Arcadia Unit today, a locked addition to the nursing home that houses those suffering with dementia. My mother described her tour of the building as though it were a utopian paradise with helpful nurses and doctors that cheerfully administered care to the patients in a prompt and professional manner. The truth was vastly different.
Sarah (my roommate) and I picked up my grandfather from his assisted living facility and took him to see my grandmother. A nurse’s aid was wheeling her back from dinner and she was screaming, “Let me see the doctor!” I had no clue what was going on, but soon found out that her sore heels had gotten worse. While it was true that her left heel was sore and wrapped in a bandage, her right foot appeared to be fine.
Still as we sat with her in her new room, her cries of agony engulfed us all. Confused and clueless, I called my mother on my cell phone. She told me to get a nurse and expected me to have an entire plan laid out for my grandmother’s foot treatment laid out. I don’t handle these issues! I’m not the power of attorney. Sometimes I feel like such a little girl.
My mother proved to be of little help. She did share that individuals with dementia often become agitated and disoriented when placed in a new environment. I know that my mother needs a break, but I cannot believe she still asked me to take my grandfather to the nursing home today. Why would you ask your emotionally unstable daughter to walk into a sure-to-be chaotic situation?
So I hung up with my mother and we dealt with the situation as best we could. Sarah summoned a nurse. The nurse offered my grandmother a pain pill, which she later accepted. But our problems were far from over. I explained my mother’s theory on why my grandmother was so irritable to Sarah in the hallway. Right in front of us stood a slightly unsteady elderly man who was fingering the top of his pants. I was afraid he was about ready to drop his drawers. Instead he put his hands together and shot a golf ball that only he could see down the corridor. “Wow! It’s a hole-in-one,” I commented, grateful for the momentary distraction. His face lit up with glee and his hands came near me. I crossed my arms in front of my chest half-afraid he would try to touch my breasts. Instead he patted me on the shoulder, and said something incoherent. He was clearly happy and quite proud of himself. Sarah and I exchanged confused, but amused looks, and went back into my grandmother’s room.
As usual, she told us strange stories comprised of nonsense—going out to dinner with my mother, telling us how the nurses forced her to fetch them coffee and donuts, and told a strange story about the “family” that lived in the birdhouse she spied in the courtyard of the facility. I started to fight back tears somewhere in the midst of the babble. Two confused women wandered up and down the hallway, briefly pausing each time they passed the room to blankly gape at us. Screams from an unhappy woman flooded the room from somewhere down the hallway.
I sobbed uncontrollably, hiding my face behind my hair. I pretended to be fascinated by something outside the window and turned from my company. I was jolted back to reality when my grandmother announced that she wanted to go to bed. She could not understand why she had to wait for the nurse to assist her. For half an hour, Sarah, my grandfather, and I had to use our creativity and brute force to keep her in her chair until a nurse’s aide came to assist. Despite the fact we pressed the buzzer alerting the staff we needed help, my grandfather’s trip into the hallway, and my follow-up trip to find a nurse, we were not helped until later. The nurse’s aide bluntly told us that she was on break. Later, we found out that we were supposed to wheel her to the nursing station so she could hang out beside the nurse’s desk with the rest of the dementia prisoners.
During her many attempts to escape from the wheelchair, I called my mom again as a play to distract my grandmother. Instead, my mother overreacted and decided that she needed to show up at the nursing home. As the nurse’s aide was getting my grandmother ready for bed under my close supervision, my mother and stepfather rushed into the room. However, after talking to the head nurse who placated their anxiety, they seemed to think that I was the one who overreacted.
My mother listened to me, but I don’t think she heard me. She said that I shouldn’t cause a fuss and walked out of my grandmother’s room. They took my grandfather back to his assisted living facility, and I have not heard a word from them since. I hate not being heard.