Every time I take my mother to the supermarket, it's an adventure. She'll call out of the blue and expect me to drop everything I'm doing simply because she is my biological mother. My previous blog entries show that my mother and I really don't like each other but we tend to spend a little bit of time together out of some sick "moral obligation." I feel sorry for her at times and she believes even though she never raised me, I am still supposed to 'serve her' so off we go.
I had begun to notice a mental decline in my mother. She'd call and when I answered, she'd ask to speak to me. She would tell me of these images appearing on her living room walls at night. Every time we went to the market, she could neither push the shopping cart down the aisle nor recognize any of the items on the store shelves. She couldn't read her own hand-written grocery list and at times seemed to be asking my permission before putting anything in the cart. Something was wrong. I had this nagging suspicion. I began to listen to my gut instinct. Was it Dementia? The first stages of Alzheimer's Disease? Nope. Something worse. She has "S.H."
Last week, I spoke to her doctor's office nurse and told them her symptoms. "That certainly is a sudden change." the nurse said. Then I began to understand. As bad as what I was thinking sounded, it would explain everything. So I made her an appointment then put a plan in place.
The day of her doctor's appointment, I asked an aunt of mine to call and check on Mom for me. I told her I was concerned.
"She seems fine to me." she reported.
Then I called and asked my mother if she needed anything from the store before we went to the doctor. She said she did so I told her to go ahead, make a grocery list and I'd be right over but then I said, "But don't pull any of that crap you pulled the last time or I'll have to tell your doctor."
"Okay." She said and hung up.
We got to the store and I said, "You go on ahead, I have to go back to the car." She proceeded to get a cart and head down the first aisle of the store. I didn't go to the car, I basically hid and watched my mother shop as independently as you or I would. Suddenly, the woman who couldn't identify a box of Raisin Bran with me by her side was reading labels and comparing prices on her own. I waited until she got to the checkout counter (which she could never seem to find with me) and stood beside her. Suddenly, she couldn't open her purse, find her money etc. I was onto something. I just turned to her, told her I'd be waiting in the car and walked away. She proceeded to buy her groceries, walk over to a separate counter, buy cigarettes then come outside and put her groceries in my car.
Later at the doctor's office, I went in the exam room with my mother. I ordinarily didn't do that but today, I was on a mission. I spoke privately to her doctor in the hallway after her exam.
"Why is my mother unable to shop when I'm with her but is fine on her own?" I asked.
The doctor just smiled at me and said, "Dyane, you're mom has one of the oldest conditions in existence. She has 'strategic helplessness.' " A-ha!!! Gotcha!