Thursday, February 9, 2012


A few days ago mother-in-law fell and hurt her head and her knees. She slipped on mother's urine. Mother hadn't made it to the bathroom in time.

Mother-in-law had been complaining. She no longer wanted to share a room with mother. Due to her own dementia she could not understand that mother is now blind and could not get around by herself.

Perhaps as a coping mechanism, mother-in-law convinced herself that mother is a bad person; that mother talked some old ladies into beating up mother-in-law; that mother told the whole nursing home that mother-in-law has a lover. This can be funny. But it's not. It's the end of a very long and loving friendship.

Mother was moved to another unit in the nursing home - a locked unit for persons in the last stages of Alzheimer's.
I sat in the multi-purpose room watching old people pacing, talking to themselves, crying, laughing. Some bickered and quarreled over old magazines and puzzle pieces, like little children. They say one returns to childhood in old age. Apparently, there's truth to that.

"I need to go back to the kitchen," mother said. "I can't see anything here. Why do they keep the lights off?"

"Mami, it's not the lights, it's your eyes. You're having trouble seeing."

"No I'm not. I could see perfectly before, in the kitchen. Take me there! It's so dark, I can't see a thing."

I calmed her down easily by changing the topic of conversation. That's the hidden blessing in the fact that she forgets everything a few seconds after it's been said.

According to quantum physics, the observer affects that which is being observed. I wondered how I changed the dynamics of this motley group. I wondered if staff behaved differently when family members are not present. I worried, that staff lacks the sensitivity, skill, caring necessary to respond to mother's needs.

A lady who had been sitting at our table, rambling on about her family and imaginary problems, suddenly turned to me and said,

"Don't worry. I'll help her. As long as I have life, I promise you, I'll help her."

Her senseless words, inserted so delicately into my reality, somehow gave me comfort.

But, my worries did not cease and gradually my mind was swirling towards feelings of despair, guilt and regret. I know the futility of these emotions, but the heart does not always harmonize with the mind.

There was a lady walking around, talking about a myriad of things. She sat in the empty chair beside me. As my emotions swelled and I was about to give in to tears, the lady looked at me.

"The people here are really nice. They take good care of us. They're very good people."

She said this with such lucidity and affirmation, that I was stunned.

I decided to accept the messages from these childlike beings. Life can speak to us so clearly sometimes. I guess we just have to listen.


  1. Myrna, my heart aches for you and your Mom and your Mother in Law. The only solace is that the elderly ladies are probably not suffering nearly as much as you are, Darling. In these situations, we have to take comfort and solace from anyplace we can find it. I know it's dreadfully hard. And I'm so sorry.

  2. I believe that angels spoke to you in those moments to reassure you. This is a very difficult situation for you, no question. Linda is right though - the moms discomforts are momentary and fleeting. It is you who holds onto the memory and the worry of them. My mom had Alzheimer's and she lived a long time with it. Dad had a stroke, and so there he was in Long term care and there she was in the Alzheimer's section. He had a funny story about fighting with his roommate over the TV remote control. Dark humor, but still. I'm sorry you are going through this. But listen to the angels - I think they are telling you that everything is really all right, and you can ease your worry.

  3. i wish i could give you a hug myrna... not easy but i love how that conversation calmed you mother used to work in a nursing home...she was doing nightshift and some nights she took my brother and me with her... i was always a bit afraid of the people cause of course they were always talking to us and it didn't make sense... my mom was very good with them and they all loved her dearly..

    1. i too wish i could give you a hug...i know this can be grandmother is starting to get this was a bit and it def tests the patience at times...

  4. My lovely Myrna,
    I used to work in the hospital dealing with mental health & I know only too well how upsetting this must be for you. I am so sorry. It's tough watching the ones you love gradually succumb to this disease. I agree with Linda, for your own peace of mind, you must take comfort anyhow you can get it.
    Keep courage my dear. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Thanks for sharing. It means so much to me that you always take the time to visit my blog in spite of your own worries. You're a priceless gem (smile).

  5. I must agree with Andy. I am touched that you take the time to visit and comment on my blog with all that is on your plate. Much love through this difficult journey and thanks for your writing and sharing. You inspire.

  6. My heart is with you, M

    Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

  7. Myrna, I hear you and can feel the emotions that are surging within you. Big hugs. I always wonder how old age would be and when I see old people, I tend to think a lot about life and death. I recently saw a film, Is anybody there? which is teh story of a ten-year-old boy in a home where his parents take care of many old people. It was sad to see that movie. You should see that one if ever you get a chnace.

    My thoughts and parayers are always there for you, dear Myrna.

    Joy always,

  8. Oh dear Myrna, my heart is breaking with yours as I read these words..."the heart does not always harmonize with the mind." Such truth in this my friend. Sending you love.

  9. What pain. Your story broke my heart. It is so hard.

  10. Hi Myrna,
    I've been so self absorbed lately that I forgot about your struggles with your mother and mother in law. The whole nursing home situation brings back many memories. This time last year I was struggling with this with my dad. This is why I am so very grateful to Roshan, his caregiver. We were lucky to have him. Dad did become a child towards the end. But he was an adorable child (most of the time). You are, hands down, the most loving person I have never met :) You do so much for others - those closest to you and strangers like me. I am so happy to know you.

  11. Oh what a touching post. You speak of reality as a realist and yet with an optimistic streak. I love that as it is no easy subjects you bring up here.
    This brought back some memories from my younger years, when I worked a month during my summer break as an orderly at a retirement center in a hospital. To this day I recall this as the most depressing work I ever had, as it brought old age so inevitably close on. I disliked everything about that place, as it was *the end station* and as such it felt every minute of every day. I do not recollect this time gladly and yet I know it is a reality that might be awaiting me one day...

  12. Dear Myrna,

    You touched my heart with the love, intelligence and authenticity of your beautiful story. I'm holding you and your family in my heart. Thank you for all that you are! XOXO

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