I called Mom Monday morning to see how she was doing. She said she was fine, but she’s been waiting for a call to go to the meeting where she would see her husband again. They found him. My brother and sister-in-law know all about it.
She is now convinced that a man in a wheelchair living at her residence is her “ex.” He doesn’t want to talk to her and she wants to know what she’s done to upset him. He was a connected guy, and the Jewish Mafia has brought him back.
Later, she called me while I was on the phone with a client. She was very upset. She might have to file a complaint and have him arrested. Maybe she’ll call for a cab and go to her apartment. She tells me I’m making her feel like an idiot. I’m actually not saying anything, I’m just listening and getting pretty bent out of shape myself.
She wants me to call my brother. I told her to hang in there and I’d try to get some answers.
The business manager at the home answered the phone. I was glad to hear her voice; she’s a very nice, kind person. She asked me what was up. I said “My mother’s freaking me out.” She said that was not uncommon and she would connect me to Wellness.
The head nurse, another person I know and trust, picked up. I asked her if she’d heard anything about my mother being particularly weird. She said no. I told her that Mom is convinced that her dead husband is now living there and I’m afraid she might be harassing some poor resident in a wheelchair. Then she recalled that she HAD heard something. They were in fact going to collect a urine specimen to see if perhaps a urinary tract infection was responsible.
I started reading web posts and decided to call my mom’s doctor. They have an associate who pays house calls at Emeritus. The doctor called me back on Tuesday and I told her about Mom’s sudden agitation and profound delusions. She said she would arrange for a battery of tests at the hospital.
After calling Mom’s insurance company and getting a royal run-around, I spoke to the doctor again and she assured me that taking Mom to the ER was fine; when a patient goes suddenly acutely wacky, it’s time-sensitive and the hospital would navigate the insurance for me. I went to get Mom.
She was dressed and waiting for me in the lobby. She seemed pretty calm. I kissed her and went up to Wellness for her paperwork. I didn’t realize she’d been put on a new blood pressure medication. Good thing I looked!
After getting Mom into a heavier coat (she doesn’t go out much and it was a raw, nasty, rainy day), we were off to the hospital. She was much less agitated than on Monday and she talked about a lot of things, nothing too troubling.
We got to the ER, I checked her in and Mom enjoyed watching the fish in the big tank in the waiting room from her comfy wheelchair. Eventually, we were called and screened by a nurse who asked what the problem was. I told her gently that my mother thought her dead husband was miraculously reconstituted. Mom pretended to close her ears when she saw my discomfort with reporting the issue in front of her. The nurse asked Mom if she knew where her husband was, and she replied “In the Atlantic.” (This is true. We took Dad’s ashes to his old boat slip on the Intracoastal below their apartment and committed his them to the water on the first anniversary of his death.)
So she knows he’s dead, but there’s this man at the home who kind of looks like Dad to her, and she realizes it’s in very large part a wish fulfillment fantasy. She believed it because she really wanted to.
Anyway, once she got situated in a room, we were interviewed by a lovely physician’s assistant. They were going to run a lot of tests: blood, urine, chest X-ray, EEG, CAT scan of her head. I waited with her until 6:30. My husband came to wait with her while she waited for her CAT scan (everything else was done in the room) as I had to go to Borough Hall and air a council meeting at 8pm.
She did indeed have a urinary tract infection, they administered IV antibiotics and they admitted her. I called Wednesday morning and she was really out of it. I spoke to her nurse about the antibiotic. They put her on Levaquin. I asked the nurse to get her off it ASAP. I had told them she reacted badly to Levaquin, but they put her on it anyway. The nurse said she’d see about getting her switched. I called the doctor to make sure. I was assured a different drug would be used.
The day after Mom was admitted, I received an AgingCare Newsletter and the headline article was this: http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Elderly-urinary-tract-infections-146026.htm?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=May+18%2c+2011&utm_campaign=Newsletter%2B-%2BMay+18%2c+2011 While I had known that UTIs cause delusional symptoms, this article hit on everything: predisposing factors, complications and much more. Reading the comments, I got a really good idea of just how prevalent this is. Makes you wonder how many people in dementia care facilities have a readily addressable (and potentially deadly) condition rather than Alzheimer’s or other sinister cognitive syndrome.
When I called the nurse on Thursday, she verified that the antibiotic was changed as soon as I asked. Mom sounded better over the phone.
Friday, I went to visit Mom. I have no idea how long she will be in the hospital, but she’s still mighty confused. She rambled on at length about a lot of things, but one thing that finally emerged was that she had been experiencing burning on urination and couldn’t get anyone to help her. I told her she could always tell me. But now I know: I have to ask her specifically if she’s having those problems. I asked her often when she lived with me as part of her regular “inventory” of complaints.
It’s really hard for me to listen to her. She speaks at length about places and people, but when I try to understand what and who, she gets frustrated because she can’t remember and can’t put names to the things she pictures. The only thing that’s clear to me is that she has really vivid dreams, and when she wakes, she has a tough time discerning what she dreamed from what’s real. I suspect her TV watching gets thrown into the cauldron too.
I’m going to have to bring all this up at the next meeting of the Jewish Mafia. I need answers, damn it!