“Do you know where Diane took me this afternoon?” my mother exclaimed when we got home. “She took me to visit a nursing home. Can you believe that?”
“Did you have a good time?” my nephew Mike asked. “Oh, yes, I had a wonderful time. Everyone was so nice and the place is lovely. I wouldn’t want to live there of course. I’m quite happy right here in my own home and have no intention of leaving.”
“So, don’t get any ideas Diane,” she added as she turned and smiled at me sweetly.
It’s true; we did visit what some people would call a nursing home. We went to Fallbrook Woods, an assisted living facility in Portland for people with memory issues. People like my mother Beverly, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
I took her to Fallbrook Woods mainly because I wanted her to see the magnificent mural recently painted by artist Francine Schrock. I wrote about the mural for my other blog Catching Health, and in the process learned something new about people with Alzheimer’s. Linda Olore, the administrator at Fallbrook told me that “A lot of folks who have Alzheimer’s and dementia become fearful of water and so we usually try to avoid items that have a lot of water in them.”
Unfortunately, Francine’s preliminary sketch was all water. “Adirondack chairs and the ocean — right out to the abyss,” she described to me. “That was quickly nixed.”
The final sketch was a collaborative effort that included input from some of the residents. Several residents also sat and watched Francine as she painted, sometimes offering suggestions along the way — to add more birds for instance.
My mother thought the mural was beautiful.
I had a second reason for taking her to visit Fallbrook, also linked to the mural. I had interviewed three residents for my original story and was struck by how closely their manner of communicating mirrored my mother’s. They were all gracious, cordial, and engaging, but a few moments into our conversation, it was clear that they weren’t able to retain most of what we talked about and would often repeat information. They reminded me so much of Mom, I wondered if she might enjoy meeting them.
Linda mentioned to me that every week they host a wine and cheese social for the residents and we both thought it might be a good experience for my mother, so we made a plan. After we saw the mural, we were invited for wine and cheese, around the corner in the library.
I didn’t tell her about the social ahead of time because I thought it would be too confusing. In retrospect, I think I should have. When we first walked into the room, she was not only confused, but also agitated. She wanted to know why we were invited and why there were so many old women in the room. I diplomatically pointed out the two elderly gentlemen in the corner, asked her to indulge me because there was a big plate of cheese and I love cheese, and promised we wouldn’t stay long.
Here’s a picture of my mother about 15 minutes later.
Give credit to a few sips of wine, but it obviously didn’t take long for her to become relaxed and quite comfortable. With that sweet smile, she was quick to make friends.
According to Linda, who is kneeling directly in front of her in the picture above, my dear mother was imparting some of her wisdom. “Don’t trust men,” she warned. ” I should know. I had eight children!”
Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a resident sitting alone at a table. “I’m sure I know that woman,” she said to me. “She looks so familiar.” We encouraged her to go over and find out. It wasn’t clear if they actually did know each other, but they seemed to enjoy trying to figure it out.
On the way home, she asked me again how we happened to be invited. I told her we got lucky, and she agreed. She asked if I was preparing her for anything and I said no, that all eight of her children were committed to doing whatever we can so she can stay home. “Good,” she replied, “because that is what I want.”
Between family and home care providers, so far we’ve managed, but truth be known, it’s challenging and only getting more so. “Don’t get any ideas Diane,” she tells me. But our family needs all the ideas we can get as we try to maintain a balance between what she needs to be happy and what she needs to be safe.
I’m glad we ended up having a good time at Fallbrook. We were only visiting, that’s all.
This story was originally posted in Diane and Beverly, a blog about me and my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.