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In appreciation at the holidays

December 22, 2011 - John D'Agostino
We received a letter to the editor here regarding Chautauqua Adult Day Care. The writer, a city resident, asked us to not use her name.

That goes against our newspaper's policy, which indicates a name must be used for publication. But we can definitely use the comments as part of a blog. Merry Christmas.

Harmony for the Holidays

An open letter of appreciation for the Chautauqua Adult Day Care Center located in Dunkirk.

My mother and I have shared a turbulent relationship since I was born almost 60 years ago, she is now nearing 80. Typical of many mother daughter relationships, bickering is our sport. My mama loves me even when she doesn't like the things I say or do and don't you dare say anything bad about my mother, leave the complaining about her to me.

About a year ago my mother started having little lapses of memory, forgetfulness and difficulty with simple tasks such as operating the TV remote, using the phone and setting her clocks. I have yet to figure out how to use all the buttons on my own TV remote nor have I taken the time to figure out how to operate the hands free speaker feature of my cell phone, so I was little help in these situations. In the beginning it was easy to laugh about the little set backs and make excuses. Mother has pride, when her episodes became worst she would complain about how her things were not working and I would run out and try to fix it, she now has a large collection of clocks and all new phones. I fretted will she ever be satisfied, what can I possibly do to please her.

My mother's communication style is to have a lengthy conversation eluding to what she needs, I call this "talking in code", she defines it as being "polite." In my mother's world this is the way people should talk with each other and the person hearing the vague issue should understand easily what needs to be done and simply volunteer to provide exactly the assistance needed. Our styles of communication set us back to to my teenage years when it was a daily battle between the two of us. I became increasing irritable trying to break the "code" and snapped at her on a regular basis, "just tell me what you need me to do, make a list, I don't get the code, just say what you want me to do and I will do it with a joyful heart, but this decoding will make me lose my mind. Of course my snapping just contributed to my mother's anxiety. There were times she told me simply to "go home" and to stop yelling at her. I would stomp out the door and home, cry and feel guilty for being such a bitchy disrespectful daughter.

My mother has always been what I would call a "spit fire," she worked hard and relied heavily on her routines to get all she needed done, so she could pursue her many other interests. As tasks became more difficult, it was easier for her to simply sleep her day away while I was at work. This led to her having more restless nights and lots of energy to call me throughout the night for minor assistance. There were times I thought she is just attention seeking. I would tease her "oh please give me time to get to back to sleep before you wake me up again, to be of your service", which of course she did, with a smile. I was totally exhausted when I left for work each morning, I felt used up and she felt alone and unloved. Sleep deprived, I called the Chautauqua County Adult Day Care and asked about services. I was told to bring my mother in for a visit the very next day, it was that simple, no paperwork, no battery of questions, simply an invite to come in. Wow, I felt like the Calvary had arrived. That evening we discussed the idea of adult care care, simply put, no codes, I told her that I need my sleep, I need to feel that you are safe while I am a work, please give it a try. You need something to keep you busy while I am at work so we can both sleep at night. Mother had a few tears, but she has come to accept that her isolated confused states have become more frequent and intense in nature. Mother also shared with me that she is simply "bored out of her mind" and doesn't know what to do with herself.

The next morning when we arrived at the Chautauqua County Adult Day Care Center in Dunkirk, we were welcomed by a room full of smiling and friendly people. Mother received compliments and even some friendly flirting from the guys. I drove out of the Center's parking lot feeling both guilt and relief. When I picked her up about four hours later, she was smiling. Mother now had something new to share with me and I wanted to hear it all. We had made arrangements for her to ride the Chautauqua County Adult Day Care van to and from the Center the next day. We were both nervous about her riding the van, but the staff made us both feel comfortable with how they greeted us with a "good morning" and assisted her safely from her home into the van. That day when she was schedule to come home, I left work and followed the van to her house staying a distance behind so I could observe how my mother was treated, without being obvious that I was watching. I observed staff being extremely patient, assisting her to out of the van and safely into the house. As soon as she was in the house I pulled into the driveway and thanked the staff for treating my mother with such kindness and respect and went inside to see how her day was. Mother, of course, accused me of being a spy, we laughed and shared the details of our days.

My mother's day is full now, she's off to Adult Day Care which we call "work", because it is work for her to keep her mind alert and her mood lifted. Mother has been going to "work" less than a week now, but already we are celebrating our relationship again, she has things to share with me outside the walls of her house, is reading more and working at her crafts again. Mother is no longer "bored out of her mind", she is now actively working to keep those wheels turning and getting on with the living of her life. We have harmony again, of course we will never tell you it is perfect harmony, remember we share that age old mother ñ daughter relationship, perfect harmony is not us. Since my mother is now back to "work", we both sleep at night and have more energy to deal with life's little complications.

We both wish to express a big THANK YOU to anyone who had a part in the development and implementation of the Chautauqua County Adult Day Care Services. We are most appreciative of the staff and volunteers who make the Adult Day care a safe and pleasant place. We are grateful for the new friends we have made at the Center.

God Bless you all and have a joyful holiday season.

Please do not use my name in the article, I want to respect my mother's right to tell her own story to who she wants to know. THANK YOU.


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