Seniors say the…
Seniors say the darnest things:
By Christine Martinez, Senior Care Manager & Advocate
What happens in Texas stays in Texas I had been working with a senior for many years who I will call Joan. Besides managing her affairs, I was engaged to take her to the commissary every other week for many years. She was 85 years old and quite frail and visually impaired. She weighed about a 100 pounds soaking wet. It was quite an ordeal managing the logistics of maneuvering her in a wheelchair as well as pushing a grocery cart at the same time. We made sure that we would only go shopping when it was not payday for the military so as to avoid large crowds inside the commissary.
One day, we showed up and the parking lot was filled to the brim with cars. I mentioned to Joan that I did not understand why the parking lot was so full when it was not even a payday. I was not looking forward to maneuvering her wheelchair and the grocery cart among all the customers.
We proceeded down the first aisle without any trouble at all. As we came down the second aisle, there was not a soul in sight. Where are all the customers I asked Joan? She looked at me without blinking an eye and said, “Well, you know what my dead husband use to say?” I said, “no what did your dead husband use to say?” “There must be a whorehouse out back somewhere.” I had to take a double take. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was just so unexpected hearing the word whorehouse come out of this very old and frail senior lady. I started laughing hysterically and she just went back to her shopping.
I was taking care of Jane on another occasion and she happened to be having a moment of clarity one day about living at another assisted living facility. She told me that these places usually assign seats in the dining room. Jane had a dining companion named Ruth and they ate together every day for lunch. Sometimes after lunch, they would go to each other’s apartments and have coffee or something. As they were walking out of the dining room, Joan asked Ruth if she wanted to come over to her apartment for some coffee. Ruth told Joan that she couldn’t today because she had to go back to her apartment to clean Henrietta. Jane said okay and started to walk away when she turned and asked Ruth who is Henrietta. Do I know her? Ruth looked at Jane and said oh no this is the name the nickname I call my private parts down there. This is when I really realized that Seniors really do say the darnest things.
I had the opportunity to take care of Ms. Florence Marr for many years. As time went on her imagination became more vivid as her vascular dementia become more pronounced. When working with someone in this state of mind, you never ever tell a person that what they are imagining is not true. It simply makes them more upset and agitated when you try to reason with them that they are just hallucinating.
I learned very quickly how to solve any real problems that a senior might encounter in their lives. This was very easy for me to solve existing problems on a day by day basis. The challenge for me was solving problems that were not real. Although my senior’s declining state of mind is not in any way amusing, sometimes what she was hallucinating about could not be defined as anything but amusing.
I had a standing day of the week to work with Florence. I would come by every Tuesday and spend the day. One day I walked in and she was irritated by something that was happening in her assisted living apartment.
I asked her what was going on. She pointed to her favorite rather large mirror that I had hung on the wall when I moved her into this apartment. It was on the wall directly across from her bed. She told me that there was a man and a woman in the mirror that watched her every time she changed her clothes. Since she was an extremely modest woman, I totally understood how this situation was very bothersome to her.
At first, I just ignored her and tried to change the subject to get her mind off the couple in the mirror. However, this went on for a couple of weeks and she would not let the subject go. Finally, I decided that I would have to come up with a solution or she was going to become even more agitated. I had taken her to the hospital a few weeks before and they had given her a hospital gown to take home. Sitting on the chair was the gown. I picked up the gown and draped it over the mirror completely covering it. I told her that there was now no way for the couple especially the man to ever watch her again while she changed her clothes in the future.
When I left that day, I felt so relieved that I had finally solved this problem and eased her mind about being watched. I forgot about it as my week went on. I came the following Tuesday expecting everything to be okay with regards to the couple in the mirror.
I had not even put my stuff down before she brought up the problem again. I asked her what the problem was now. I had put up the gown and there is no way that they could see her change her clothes. I was not ready for what she said next. She told me that the man in the mirror is extremely tall and that all week he had been peeking out over the top of the gown and watching her change her clothes. I managed to keep a straight face while I was speaking to her. However, when I left that day, I was very amused at her active imagination.
You may be wondering how I solved the problem of the uninvited guests in her mirror. I moved her to a cottage at another assisted living place. When I hung up the mirror, I placed it in the living room by the back door. There was no way for the man and woman to ever watch her change her clothes again from the angle of the way that I hung up her mirror.