As I mentioned in a previous post, my Mom, Evelyn suffers from dementia. Some of the symptoms of dementia are perseveration (focusing on the same thing over and over), obsessive/compulsion issues and of course, forgetfulness.
One of Evie's compulsions is aspirins. As she is aging, like most other elderly individuals, her body aches. So, of course, she wants to take an aspirin. The only problem is, she forgets she has taken them, and as a result, if left unattended, she would unknowingly take an entire bottle of aspirin. So, unfortunately, her caregivers must now ration the aspirins.
As you can imagine, this does not sit well with Evie, especially for a once strong-minded, intelligent, independent woman of 77 years of age.
"What do you mean, I just took an aspirin?" my mother asks. "Why can't I have an aspirin?"
The caregivers usually try to answer quickly and then distract her.
"We just gave you an aspirin and taking too many aspirins is not good for your body. Do you want to come take a walk?"
Evie, not willing to succumb easily to any kind of distraction, answers.
"No, I do not want to take a walk, just give me some DAMN aspirin!"
And so it goes.
As a mother of two children diagnosed with special needs, unwillingly, I have learned clever ways of avoiding tantrums. In fact, after years and years of finally figuring out how to redirect an angry child, you get pretty good at solving a problem using a creative approach.
While picking up a few items at the grocery store for our mother, my brother, John and I decided to try a creative approach to solving the "aspirin" problem.
"Let's buy a big aspirin bottle, empty it and fill it with candy." I suggest.
"Great idea," Johnny answers.
"Yeah, but what kind of candy looks like an aspirin?" I answer unenthusiastically.
"I know!" John exclaims, "How about some Tic Tacs!"
"Yeah!!!!!! That's it!" I answer.
We check out with our groceries and head to the truck where we empty the bottle of aspirins into my purse. One by one, we open the plastic Tic Tac containers and shake them into the aspirin bottle.
"Chk, Chk, Chk, Chk," as package after package of Tic Tacs are poured into the empty aspirin bottle.
"She's gonna know." Johnny says.
I "don't know," I answer "She doesn't see too good these days"
Then I think back to the "original Evie", the woman who could read six books a night and complete the most difficult of crossword puzzles.
"You know, I said to John, "the OLD Evie would know in a heartbeat."
"I was just thinking that," John said sadly.
"Chk, Chk, Chk," we continue pouring the last of the tic tacs into the aspirin bottle. We screw on the cap and admire our aspirin bottle facsimile....
"Looks pretty good!" I say.
"I don't know, John says, "what about the smell? They smell like mints. She's gonna know."
"We could tell her they're a new kind of aspirin." I answer, unsurely.
We drive to our mother's assisted living facility doubtful that our aspirin scheme will work and silently fearing for our lives.
We talk to the nurses and educate them on our latest aspirin ruse. They smile and it is clear to me, that like me, these nurses are also familiar with playing the "anything to avoid a tantrum" game.
"Let's try it," they say, happy to try anything that will alleviate the wrath of Evie.
"Evelyn, they say, "we have some aspirins for you." They hand her two tic tacs and a bottle of water.
"They smell funny", Evie says, ever the sharp minded woman. Oh no, I think, we're doomed as I prepare for my lashing.
"Oh", the nurse responds quickly, "that's because these are mint aspirins, they help to soothe your stomach." the clever nurse replies.
I hold my breath, waiting for my mother to explode......
'Well you know what they say...." my mother says.."an aspirin a day," and she swallows the tic tacs.
Johnny and I let out a long breath. phhhhewwwwwww.
As we travel back to our homes, Johnny says,
"Ya know, the next time we come back to visit Mom, instead of taking their aspirins, I bet the entire dementia floor, will now be taking their daily dose of Tic Tacs."
I wonder what the manufacturers of Tic Tacs would think about this new use of their product?