Mom went to visit Dad today. She found him in the dining room waiting for his lunch, sitting in his "thinking man pose".
Dad was in good spirits so they sat and chatted until his lunch arrived. His lunch partners were the man in the train engineer's cap and the gray haired lady who always gets grilled cheese sandwiches and then complains because it is burned. She flipped the sandwich over to show Mom and Dad how burned it was....
Both Mom and Dad said in unison, "Tiger brown", and then laughed... They told her that is how Dad likes his toast. We have always called it that in our family... With their explanation, the woman offered the sandwich to Dad. He politely refused, suggesting she eat something...
Dad had already polished off his Salisbury steak with gravy, baked potato with sour cream, broccoli, bread sandwich (which he dunks in his glass of milk and then sucks the milk from the bread), coffee, red jello and a sucker the engineer game him. Apparently, the Engineer's daughter keeps him supplied with a regular load of lollipops.
The lady who bangs her silverware, who normally sits at another table, swung her wheel chair around to the vacant spot near Dad. The gray haired lady with the burnt grilled cheese, threw a paper napkin at her and told her to get back to where she belonged... So she reversed her wheel chair, and went into the hallway.
Dad shared with Mom how well he has been sleeping lately and she told him she was very glad. He began talking about something Mom could not understand, but he sounded happy, so she smiled and nodded her head as if she understood...
As per his routine, once he eats lunch, Dad is ready for a nap. When he began to yawn, Mom knew it was time... She told him she had to get home as she remembered she had not unlocked the back gate for the Gardner. They kissed and hugged good bye and Mom waved to several of the staff on her way out.
Mom saw a woman who is there EVERY DAY with her Mother. We all see her and comment how often she comes. She looks haggard and very sad. Mom stopped to tell her hello. Mom sensed the woman was ready to unravel. Mom took her hand and reminded her to take care of herself. She looked so guilt ridden and sad, but managed to smile back to Mom.
So many families visit more than they can emotionally handle. They insist on going daily, out of duty, or guilt, or devotion...only to burn out and stop visiting abruptly. It is really important to find a good place for our loved ones, so we can give ourselves a break. This woman is a classic case of burn out. I saw it when visiting with my mother in law, when she had Alzheimer's, and I have seen it with other family's while visiting Dad.
It is a huge emotional challenge for the Caregivers and family. We have learned getting into a good support group is key in adjusting and dealing with such a tragic situation. We share and learn together. Those before us, pass down their experiences, wisdom and reading material, helping and improving the way we treat and deal with dementia and Alzheimer's.
I so appreciate those of you who have shared your stories with me with your loved ones. It helps more than you know, realizing we are not alone, and how other's coped in this situation.
We are thankful for another good visit... Love you Dad.