Saturday, October 25, 2008


It wasn’t THE phone call I dread…but it was close. Early this morning I was awakened by a call from a staff person at my mother’s independent living center, informing me that, when Mother was in the dining room for breakfast, she had been unable to get up from her chair and was having trouble putting words together. Inexplicably, they did not call for an ambulance, but simply took her to her apartment. I drove over to her place and my heart stopped when I knocked on the door several times and there was no answer. The door was unlocked and I went in, holding my breath. Mother was in her bed, but roused when I called her name. But the words that came out of her mouth were gobbledygook. I took her to the nearest ER and she was admitted with a diagnosis of a stroke.

Luckily her motor abilities seem more or less intact…she even put her shoes on and tied them before moving from the ER to her hospital room. She also seems to understand everything that is said to her. But she is unable to express any thought coherently.

She not only is dealing with the frustration of being unable to communicate, but has been dealing with the additional frustration of the staff treating her as if she is demented. I was dismayed to see this assumption from folks working on a stroke unit. If I hear one more nurse comment that Mother seems “confused,” I may scream! I went home for a couple of hours this afternoon, and when I returned the nurse informed me that Mother seemed confused and had tried to get out of bed. I talked to her for a while and was finally able to understand that she needed to go to the restroom (desperately). That is why she had tried to get out of bed, but no one had even tried to figure that out! I made sure before I left the hospital tonight to inform the nurse that Mother understands quite well and is simply having expressive language problems.

In what was basically a depressing day, there was one moment of humor. When the ER staff was trying to determine whether Mother was oriented, they were running through the standard questions: what day is it, what year is it, where are you? When they came to the question, “Do you know who’s the President of the United States?”, Mother got an angry look on her face and proceeded to give them an earful! None of it was understandable, but her intent was clear. The one coherent word was “Change.”


Thom said...

It is distressing to experience how an educated person (and I mean that in the most general sense) has to fight to make something so apparent to “experts.” I’ve had to do that for myself, my mother with her “TMI’s” and my mother in law with her dementia. Maybe your mother was looking for a “change” of venue as well.

Thom said...

OK, well, TMI was true as well, but I meant to say TIA...