My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's and the most common behaviours she has include paranoia, memory loss and hiding things. Last weekend, DH and I took her to a play but before we went, she was stressed about her daughter because she just noticed that her daughter's name was on her bank account statement but she doesn't remember setting up the joint account with MB (daughter). MB set up the joint account with her mum because she wanted to ensure that her bills were being paid and so if she lost her bank card again, MB could request a new one on her mum's behalf.
But her mum saw this as MB being interfering and spying on her. She also said that MB was dishonest because she kept insisting that she had returned her mum's health card and passport but since my MIL obviously didn't have them, and since being dishonest wasn't like MB, my MIL deduced MB probably was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We ended the talk by promising her that all of her kids (MB, DH and TJ plus me and MB's DH) would come and visit her this Saturday (yesterday) so that she could air her grievances.
So, I called her yesterday morning and she was in good spirits and remembered that we were all coming to her house in the afternoon but I don't think she remembered why and I didn't want to tell her and then possibly ruin her good mood. She said that I had to remind her at the grocery store to pick up some treats for her company later in the day.
At the grocery store, I tried to steer her towards healthy snacks like a fruit platter and some blueberries that were on sale but she also insisted on getting two kinds of cookies and she definitely wanted ice cream. I suggested a small tub but she was having none of that because she wanted some leftover so she could have more when we were gone.
We compromised on the ice cream and bought some strawberry frozen yogurt instead.
I dropped her off at home and told her we'd probably arrive around 3:30 and that the most important thing for her to remember was to put the fro-yo in the freezer when she got upstairs (which she did).
The family plan was that the kids were going to meet ahead of time to review what MIL told DH and me last weekend and go over our game plan. I brought the book that I had bought and distributed to each of the kids two weeks ago, The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace & Peter V. Rabins, which was recommended to me by a friend whose dad had Alzheimer's and she found it really helpful.
The main points that came out of this pre-meeting were:
- that we would let my MIL lead the day and the talk and go from there
- we wouldn't talk about her medications which she's not taking unless she brought it up. (DH met with her doctor a couple of weeks ago and he said that her not taking them wasn't life-threatening and that they would just help with her memory so if she didn't take them, it wasn't the end of the world.)
- we would take her concerns seriously and not try to talk her out of them
- we would stay calm no matter what happened
We got there just before 4 and in addition to the treats she had bought earlier in the day, TJ had brought a Valentine's cake because it was marked down to $1.99 and he just couldn't pass up the deal.
Initially, we just made chit chat and then I started to get hungry so asked MIL if I could get the fruit platter out of the fridge and that started everyone moving to the table to put out the "food" so that we could eat. It wasn't the most healthy "dinner" I've ever had but it was definitely sweet. I had strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, 3 very slim pieces of cake and about half a cup of the fro-yo. (I was desperate for real food by the time we got home around 8 and made a salad.)
When we were mostly done eating, MB brought up whether her mum had found her health card yet and her mum said that MB hadn't returned it to her yet (MB had) and I guess they came to some kind of agreement that maybe her mum should just look in her purse to confirm she didn't have it (I wasn't paying any attention at that point) but when she went into the bedroom to find her purse to check, I went with her.
First of all, her purse was hidden in her really cluttered closet behind lots of shoe boxes on the floor of the closet.
She pulled out her wallet (really just a plastic folder like the kind that your insurance and ownership might come in) and we took all her cards out and lo and behold, there was her health card. So, I yelled into the other room that she had her health card but that it had expired last July. We put everything back into her purse and left the room with me leading. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that she had hidden her purse again but in a different spot this time.
DH said that if he could have his mum's health card, he could find out what was needed to renew it so that she wouldn't have to so we headed back to the bedroom to get her purse and the card and guess what? We couldn't find the damn purse!
It wasn't where she had gotten it from last time and of course, she couldn't remember so all 6 of us crowded into her room and looked EVERYWHERE! In her dresser drawers, under her bed, under her mattress, under her pillow, in her hampers (she has two), in her nightstand and of course, in her closet. Her bedroom is so cluttered. In addition to the large amount of shoe boxes (that are empty, by the way), she has piles of newspaper in the closet and clothes everywhere! On the bed, in all the drawers, in the closet, in both hampers, in two suitcases -- EVERYWHERE!
When we couldn't find it in the bedroom, we started searching the rest of her apartment (kitchen & living/dining room) even though I knew she hadn't brought it out of the bedroom. All told, we probably spent close to 45 minutes looking for that damn purse and finally, DH and BIL decided to look on every single hanger in her closet and lo and behold, that's where it was! Crazy!
All-told, the visit was fun and crazy but not very productive other than the health card. Oh well, I'm sure there will be more opportunities.