Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Bridge Game

Bea seems panicked when I enter her room with dinner.

“I can’t take it anymore,” she says in a hoarse whisper, peeking out from under the covers, which are pulled way up over her head. “They won’t go home.”

I look around the room. Who is she talking about?

“They’re playing bridge. It’s time to go home, but they won’t. They keep playing cards.”

“It’s all right,” I tell her in a soothing voice. “Look. They’re gone now.”

Bea peers around anxiously, then relaxes. “I’m too old to entertain anymore,” she says with a lingering shiver. “Will you please take over for me?”

“Be glad to,” I say and slip an Aricept pill into her mouth. Aricept is supposed to slow down senility, but sometimes I think it increases nightmares.

After I leave the room, the guests return. I put my ear to the door and realize Bea has joined the game. She is using her public voice, the one for entertaining, slightly louder and more gregarious. I hear her making bids, sitting out hands, worrying about a child someone has brought along who shouldn’t be up late.

Sven reassures me that his father went through a similar period of being half in, half out of reality. His parents spent their final years in a very good, state-funded and operated nursing home in their hometown, Eksharad, Sweden.

After Bea’s stay at the Pleasant Bay Rehabilitation Center, I understand the dynamics of the nursing home environment better. Some members of the staff were more emotinally involved than others. Some were preoccupied with their own problems. Most took very good care of Mother.

My daughters wanted me to take advantage of Bea’s hospital stay to put her in a nursing home. I struggled with the decision but could not embrace it. I felt she should be home. Sven encouraged me in this choice. (Ronni Bennett in her popular elderblog writes May 8 about “Long-term Living” and the options available to the elderly in this country.)

Through the door, I can hear Bea's laughter. At least she is enjoying herself.

At 10, I take in a glass of water, which Bea drinks eagerly. Her throat is parched from socializing all evening. I have to go in two more times and tell her to be quiet.

Finally the guests leave around midnight. I wonder whether Bea will remember their visit in the morning?


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