What's a good birthday present for somebody with dementia?
It's a thought that has been rattling around my brain this week.
We took Okaasan to a Day Spa last weekend and she seemed to enjoy it ok...I guess. She enjoyed being with us and chatting, the car ride, the fruit farm...maybe she enjoyed the hotel and the spa and the lunch.
I'm not sure because I do think the new place - the hotel - and the new activity - going to a spa in this hotel, then buffet lunch in a new restaurant - all of that...I wonder if she really could enjoy it or not. A lot of it was confusing for her really. Was that a good birthday present?
On Monday a student whose mother is a bed-ridden invalid mentioned that it was her mum's birthday and we discussed what on earth would be a good present for someone who basically stays in bed and sleeps 90% of the time....
Made me think some more.
Yesterday I did some cleaning in Okaasan's room - actually WITH her, for a change.
I did it in stages, and stopped it when she started getting stressed.
First I asked her if she could help me by neatly tieing up the newspapers for recycling - a household job she is good at.
Then I introduced the vacumn cleaner and while I used it, asked her to pick up a few things....well "few" means "tonnes"...in front of the vacumn machine.
She gathered up stuff and dumped it in other places - the clothes, the bits of paper, random plates and cups.
I tried to help her sort some of the clothes: basically into winter-and-don't-need-now stuff....and dirty/clean.
It's hard this: to tackle the pile of clothes Okaasan keeps permanently around her on the carpet and sofa, on the table, under the table.
But I got an insight into her thinking about this jumble of clothes. She seems to think that all of it is out in sight at the moment for a reason:
- this needs mending
- this needs washing
- this needs to go to the dry cleaners
- this is old and I will show it to Dear Son who will buy me a new one
- this is clean and still drying
Of course, sadly, these plans hardly ever turn into action. Days and weeks go by and the clothes stay where she has dropped them.
She picks them up and examines them occasionally, then there is something on Tv that catches her focus and she puts it down to be forgotten again.
Okaasan doesn't go to the dry cleaning shop. She doesn't actually DO anything with the needles and threads in her sewing kit, she doesn't talk to Dear Son about needing new clothes.
It's all in her head. She is permanently in the middle of doing all this clothes sorting out, always in that loop of necessary activity - but never finishing it.
She and I sorted clothes a little, I managed to get out some beyond repair pajamas. Take out one sweater for dry cleaning. Change the blanket for a summer one. Put away a winter muffler out of sight.
Then I sensed she was getting a little loud-voiced and over excited about WHERE I would go for the dry cleaning. In her mind there is only one good dry cleaning shop in the whole city and it is right back across town, near the first apartment she lived in when she came to start her life with us. I don't go there now - it's too far - but I tell her I do...and cut off the shop tags when I return any dry cleaning to her.
So. A productive 30 mins cleaning with Okaasan.
After an internet search for ladies fashion brands I located a shop in a department store downtown. I went in today and bought two pink flowery, summer pajamas - exactly like the ones that Okaasan has had for years, which are now tattered and beyond repair.
Tonight I will give them to her: maybe they are a better birthday present. Something familiar and important to her, the clothes she lives in every day. The same brand of clothes. The same pattern.
I hope I am right :-)
But, before we all get warm and fuzzy here. Let me admit: it was far, FAR easier to go in and buy the pajamas myself, alone. If I'd taken Okaasan to the store and let her shop for them herself - although she would enjoy it....I know for sure I would hate it: the endless toing and froing, the decision making, the trying to buy other stuff, the wandering around looking at the same stuff repeatedly.
I couldn't do that. Just can't. Not patient enough.
So, I am a good daughter-in-law...up to a point.
Hope she is happy with the pajamas though.