Last night, after putting Mom to bed to read herself to sleep, I noticed it had begun to snow. Because she likes snow so much, I went upstairs and tapped on her door. When I opened it, she was sitting on the edge of her bed, rifling through her bedside stand. “What are you looking for, Mom?”
“I need rubber bands to put around my pajama cuffs so they don’t ride up my arms.”
“Rubber bands around your wrists probably aren’t a good idea…” And then I saw it. A scrap of orange plastic laying in her drawer. A scrap of orange plastic that, so far as I knew, was around her left wrist. Her temporary DNR (do not resuscitate) bracelet. The bracelet that should not, under any circumstances, be removed because emergency personnel will not honor it if it has been tampered with.
“What’s this doing in here?” I said.
“It poked my skin, so I cut it off,” she replied.
“You were supposed to leave this on!” I know I spoke more sharply than I’d intended, but it had taken much paperwork and two longish trips to her doctor to get this accomplished and I had hoped the thing would last until her permanent, metal one arrived.
“It poked my skin.”
“This is your DNR bracelet,” I said. “If something should happen now blah-blah-blah, I told you blah-blah-blah…” And then, of course, it hit me. As it always does, as it probably always will, because even when you’re dealing day-to-day with someone with memory loss, YOU forget they have memory loss. Sure I told her. So what? She didn’t remember. And getting angry at her because she didn’t remember, because she can’t remember, is a pretty useless way to expend some energy. (Although, admittedly, for about an nth of a second I wanted to pitch her off the roof.)
So she said she was sorry and I put her back to bed. I called the doctor this morning. I can make an appointment to bring her in and have another temporary put on (the permanent one isn’t due in until probably the middle of January). And it’s all okay, but for the frustration, the constant feel of “One step forward, six steps back” that is the daily grind of living with someone with dementia, that sense of futility, of knowing that no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you try to work around things, it isn’t going to make a bit of difference in the long run.
And I wonder why I’m tired.