The sun, freshly risen, pours a gentle stream of light through the partially open kitchen bay window. The birds outside are squabbling amongst themselves, floating musical notes indoors.
The 82 year old woman of the house pads down the hallway and enters the kitchen. She takes in the beauty of the morning welcoming her. She smiles lightly at the day being handed to her in a menagerie of senses. She decides it is a perfect morning for a bowl of her favorite cereal, Honey Bunches of Oats.
After gathering a bowl, a spoon and the boxed cereal, she nestles into a chair at the table situated in the breakfast nook. Filling her bowl with cereal, she turns her attention to the box and begins to read the material on the back. In one hand she holds the box, angled slightly, as she reads. With the other, she dips her spoon into the bowl of dry cereal. Her face twists in confusion. She glances down at her breakfast. It’s not registering what exactly is off.
She tries again. The next bite renders the same result. The cereal must be expired she thinks to herself. She looks inside the box and smells it. Everything about the cereal seems to be in order. Although she is perplexed, all at once and with unmitigated confidence, she trashes the full box and the bowl she has prepared. She opts for cup of coffee instead and writes ‘cereal’ on the grocery list hanging from the refrigerator door.
Now, under normal circumstances, this scene would not be alarming. But it was. Extremely. This was yesterday morning at my parents’ home. I have been staying with my mother for the last few days in light of my father’s recent surgery. I feel terrible “spying” on her, but I have been taking this time to see just how she navigates through her day. My hope is to see just much longer I will be able to leave my parents in their own home.
Although I watched the scene with the cereal play out, I entered the kitchen as my mother sipped her coffee and inquired on the grocery list with the new item added. She explained that the cereal had spoiled and she’d been forced to toss it out. I went over to the trash can and retrieved the box.
“Mom, this cereal is fine,” I told her.
“Well, you eat it then. I know when something has begun to rot. I tried to have a bowl and there is undoubtedly something wrong with it.”
After careful consideration, I decided to tell her that she had forgotten to add milk. I knew this would anger her, as every reminder that she has forgotten something triggers an argument. I recently read that you shouldn’t argue with someone with Dementia. It’s virtually impossible. And I am learning this is a fact.
My mother and I went around and around about her having forgotten to add the milk. While I couldn’t let on that I had watched her do so, I tried to show her the dried cereal she’d discarded into the trash.
Not only was I frustrated with the fruitless argument, I was terribly disappointed in myself for engaging in such an argument. I even raised my voice in frustration. As I recount this to you now, tears well. I am losing my mother and essentially my patience and it feels so unfair.
My hope in this argument was to help my mom recognize that her condition was worsening and she needed more help. She allows Sarah, the FSL caregiver, to come out once a week but my plan is to increase this to every day. We got a little too heated in that conversation but I am determined to make it happened. For my parents’ safety and my sanity. Wish me luck!