Sunday, April 26, 2009

What a week!

It’s been an incredible week. On our visit to Mom at the hospital on Monday we were told that she was going to be moved to a nursing home on Thursday: Oudtburgh, in Bergen. I had really been hoping room would be found there, since I’d heard so many good things about Oudtburgh from friends who had family members there.

Then on Tuesday morning Caitlan called us at 6:30 to announce that she had given birth to a baby girl -- Lux Avalon Plooster. All had gone extremely well. We planned on going down to Rotterdam later in the day and spent several hours with Cait and Björn and Lux. It was hard to let go of Lux, and almost impossible to stop looking at her.

On Wednesday I spent much of the day preparing to get Mom moved to Bergen: washing clothes, packing and writing up a brief biography of her life for the nursing staff there. Jim printed two large photos of Lux and Cait and brought them in for her. She was simply beside herself. Cait and I thought this birth was something she had really been waiting for, every day. Even before the stroke she kept saying to me, “I have to make it until April,” and it seemed so unlikely that she wouldn’t. But she must have had some kind of inkling.

Thursday morning we went to the hospital, where Mom was dressed and ready to go. All her things had been packed up. The photos of Lux and Cait were prominently displayed on the table, and the nurses all came in to say good-bye and to admire her beautiful great-granddaughter. The speech therapist came in and had a chat. She said to Mom, “There’s going to be a speech therapist at Oudtburgh, too, you know,” and Mom answered, rather sarcastically and dismissively, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” It sounded funny and we all laughed, but it indicates how little motivation she has to attempt any rehabilitation.

The wheelchair taxi took us out through the fields to Bergen, which is located near the national dune reservation and very close to the sea. A beautiful spot. We were greeted by Eva, a young woman in charge of my mother’s group of residents. There are 180 residents at Oudtburgh, broken down into groups of 10. For every 10 residents there’s a small parlor/dining room and kitchen area, where they can eat together and sit. Lots of sun, very quiet and peaceful. We were introduced to some of the ladies sitting around a table, and when Eva asked if any of them spoke English one of them said, “I do!”

Mom’s room is small but sunny, with a wooden bed so it doesn’t look like a hospital room. Plenty of room to store clothes and other things, a bulletin board and a cabinet with a glass door for knick-knacks. We set up the big photo of Lux right away, which made her happy.

She was completely exhausted, so we got her into bed (she can’t do this herself anymore) and she was glad to be there. Then Eva talked with us privately about the details of living at Oudtburgh and showed us around. It’s a very comfortable feeling place. The staff don’t wear uniforms and it doesn’t feel therapeutic. There’s a large café, a barber shop, and even a bar. A large garden is being built out in the front, but it’s still under construction.

We walked back to the center of Bergen for lunch (about a 15-minute walk) and took the next bus back to Alkmaar.

On Friday we biked out to see how Mom was doing. It’s about a half-hour bike ride. She was seated at a table in her little parlor with two gentlemen residents. It’s hard to imagine her isolation -- not only can’t she speak Dutch, but she can’t speak at all. I’ve read that stroke victims often become depressed if their lives are radically altered. This kind of situation really calls for an inordinate degree of resolve and positive thinking, neither of which she seems to have right now. The people who work in nursing homes are accustomed to this, of course, and they’ll certainly have some tricks for energizing a despondent lady. I hope.

We took her to the café so she could eat with us, and we all had sandwiches. She ate part of her sandwich and had a cup of coffee. We suggested taking her for a little walk to see the building, but she didn’t want to go. She just wanted to go back to her room and sit. So Jim said, “How about we just see one new thing, and then go back?” and she agreed. So we showed her the bar, which is built like a traditional old Dutch “brown café,” panelled in dark brown wood. We told her someday we’d come out later on in the day and have a beer with her, and she really liked that. But she wanted to go back to her room. When we left she looked tearful.

We’re going to try to arrange to bring her TV out so she can see some English language programs. I’m glad the rehabilitation work will soon begin. This means a daily program will be created for her so she’ll be occupied with the work of getting better. Even if she’s dismissive and unmotivated, at least it fills your day!

-- Nancy

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