Yesterday when I went to visit dad, I found him sitting out in the lounge as he often has been lately. The only difference today was that instead of sitting alone on the sofa with the television running, he was sitting next to a lady and they were holding hands.
Dad introduced me to his friend (I’ll call her Mary) and said I was his daughter. I asked dad what her name was and he looked at her. He didn’t remember her name. She introduced herself and asked if I minded that she was sitting by him. I said no, if dad doesn’t mind, then I don’t. Dad asked me to repeat as he hadn’t heard me, so I did. I said, “Well, dad, do you mind”? He smiled and said: “”No, I like it.”
I have to admit I was surprised. Dad has been a loner for a long time. Even with mom they tended to each do their own things the last few years after dad gave up driving. My first thought was that he doesn’t wash his hands after using the rest room or before meals or any other time. He should be washing, especially if he is touching others. I have never been able to get him to do so, though, and I always wash as soon as I get home ;).
The other thought that passed through my mind was if Mary becomes a more constant companion, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about missing a day when I can’t visit. I did comment at the aide’s office about it as I was asking about his lost key. (I found the key in his laundry). They said Mary had been spending a lot of time with dad the past few days or even longer.
I had seen Mary at the assisted living facility before as she was often in the other lounge area when I visited dad. She had been spending most of her time with another resident and I thought she was his wife. In fact, Mary looks much younger than the other residents and dresses very nicely all the time. She always has her hair done well and keeps the conversation going with the person she is with.
I asked Mary if she were a visitor and she said no, she is a resident. I think she must have some dementia too as she didn’t remember how long she had lived there. She also said she had lived in Florida before coming north to live near her daughter. I asked what part of Florida she lived in but she didn’t remember. Thus I concluded she must have some cognitive impairment as well and that is probably why her family didn’t want her to live alone.
Dad said he would like to take Mary out for Pizza. Mary told him that he they can’t do that. He asked why and she explained that they can’t go out by themselves as the facility is responsible for them. “They won’t let you walk out the door”, she said. He didn’t really respond, but I don’t think he had thought about it before. He doesn’t like to walk and has always been satisfied to stay right there.
I might consider bringing something in to them, but I don’t know how it would work as I can’t provide lunch for everyone. Even if I could reserve the small dining room, I don’t know if Mary might be on a restricted diet or anything like that. I think I will wait for the time being and see what happens next.
The other thought that came to mind as I left was that she was no longer spending time with the man who I had thought was her husband. Did he feel like he had been left behind? Would there be hurt feelings if she spent time with dad and then moved on? I might just bide my time for awhile as I try to see what else I may have missed before.
I know there are always relationships that develop and flourish and then end at managed care facilities, just like anywhere else. I stayed at the community where mom and dad lived (in the South) before mom died and for four months after that until I brought dad North to live near me.. Dad’s friend and dining room table companion told me one day that his wife had left him and moved in with another man. I learned later from dad’s aide that not only was that story true, but the man she moved in with had another woman living with him before that. He apparently was quite the “ladies’ man”! Each facility is like a “small town” when it comes to relationships within it.
Today when I went to see dad he was in his chair in his room as I had seen him so many times before. I didn’t ask about Mary. I will see what happens there as time goes by. I straightened out his room and found some mail I had been looking for. Again dad couldn’t find his keys, and again they were in the laundry basket.