|Baby monitors let us hear Mom call even if she is unable to reach her one-touch phone.
My mom has her own living area attached to our house, a mother-in-law addition if you will. Mom's cat isn't allowed in our part of the house because of the grandkids' allergies, but when her door is closed I don't have confidence we could hear her if she called. And so we have a baby monitor in Mom's apartment with two parent units in our part of the house, one upstairs and one downstairs. But during the day, Mom's music selections emanating from the monitors bother me. She loves jazz, I do not, and I'm one of those people who have trouble concentrating if music is playing constantly (yes, doctors' offices drive me nuts...).
I have learned that if I will turn the upstairs unit to the lowest setting and slide it into the top drawer of a bureau in the hallway, I can still hear Mom's outside door alarm, her smoke alarm, and her voice if she calls loudly, but the music is blocked out. At night we always turn the monitor to it's loudest setting so we will be certain to awaken if there are unusual sounds from Mom's rooms. Thus, when my husband and I go to bed each night one of us usually says to the other, "Did you get Mom out of the drawer?"
This has made me think about how easy it is to be misunderstood when one is taking care of someone with dementia. Appointments with Mom's physician can turn into a comedy of errors as the doctor, following good patient protocol, addresses all questions to Mom rather than to me as her caregiver. With a short term memory of about 5 seconds but still very bright in the moment she is in, Mom utilizes her ample store of creative imagination as she replies. This has led to some interesting situations. The poor doctor often receives two very different accounts of the reason for our visit, and though inevitably inaccurate, Mom's version often sounds more credible.
Mom is proud of her pretty apartment and has no idea she is not the one who works hard to keep it that way. If the windows are clean, she must have washed them; if the afghan on the couch is attractively displayed, she must have arranged it thus. She once told our pastor that she uses vinegar and water to wash the windows, which caused him justifiable concern because Mom is short and the windows are at a height that require a step stool. I could see by the concerned expression in his eyes that he believed I had allowed my 91-year-old mother (who uses a walker) to climb a ladder to do my household chores.
If any messes are apparent though, Mom is fully convinced I am to blame and doesn't hesitate to absolve herself of responsibility before guests. She knows she would never allow such a situation.
However, as the story at the opening of this post proves, my husband I are perfectly capable of fostering misunderstanding even without Mom's input. For example, in order to mute Mom's music in our downstairs area, the living room baby monitor is often pushed beneath a cushion on an overstuffed chair, a maneuver that allows louder noises to gain attention but mutes the offensive-to-me Jazz selections. This evening I was on my way into the kitchen to work and was afraid I might not hear the monitor. As I left the room I turned back toward my husband and said, "Would you get Mom out from beneath that chair cushion?"
Thank the good Lord no one else overheard that one.