Fugue State. Neurology: A state in which the patient denies memory of activities for a period of hours to weeks; to external appearances, these activities were either completely normal or the patient disappeared and travelled extensively; most are functional; short fugues rarely occur in temporal lobe epilepsy.
Psychiatry: A state of personality dissociation characterized by amnesia and possibly physical flight from the customary environment or field of conflict.
When I entered mom’s room on Sunday she was lying in bed. She looked sweaty and disoriented. I said, “Hi, mom,” and stroked her hair.
She looked right through me and continued eating her lunch. The aide came to pick up her lunch tray and mom said, “I need more coffee, don’t take the coffee!”
She still didn’t acknowledge my presence. I said, “Mom, I’ll go get you some coffee,” and the aide told me I could get some at the first floor cafeteria. I told her that mom’s head felt hot and could the nurse please take her temperature. She said she would tell her.
When I returned with the coffee, mom took the cup greedily from my hands and thanked me, finally acknowledging my presence and that she knew who I was (thank God). I brought her two boxes of cookies—oatmeal and ginger thins from Sweden, which are her favorites—and a Starbucks ice cream bar, which she ate half of. I ate the other half.
The nurse came in and took her temperature: it was 99.3. She said they would monitor her temperature, and I thanked her. This was the first time in two months at the nursing home that mom has not gotten out of bed during the day. I noticed that her voice was shaky and that concerned me.
I asked her if she was cold, and she said, “I’m okay.” I took a cotton cardigan out of her closet and wrapped it around her shoulders.
We watched an old movie on the CUNY channel with George Sanders—something with a character called “The Torch”—and then part of a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film.
Mom said she needed to use the bathroom and two aides came to assist her: one to help her out of the bed and the other to place her in the wheelchair. I sat in a chair near her roommate’s bed. Her roommate is never in the room so this wasn’t an issue. The aides tell me that her roommate is “confused” and likes to pilfer mom’s clothes and things from her bureau, so they generally lock mom’s closet and drawers. Not today, though. I went through her closet and noticed that half of the clothes belonged to her roommate and her roommate’s closet contained some of her clothes. Oh well! I restored the clothing to their appropriate armoires.
Miss Irons, the aide who took mom to the bathroom, suggested that I get a dress from the closet and put her in the wheelchair, which I agreed was a good idea.
Mom seemed much better after doing her business and getting cleaned up. Then the aide stripped her bed sheets, which were wet.
I combed her hair, which was tangled and had grown even longer, and pinned it up as I always do. I have been calling mom’s social worker for two months to get her on the list for a cut and color at the beauty salon, which is on her floor, but they still haven’t squeezed her in. Apparently the beautician is new and only works two days a week, part-time. I suppose one day her hair will be cut, before she starts looking like Rapunzel.
Time often stands still at the nursing home.
I brought mom a rhinestone barrette from CVS and clipped it on her hair, then showed her how she looked in the mirror. She said, “that’s nice, if you like it.” I asked if she wanted me to apply some lipstick, and she said no.
There was chocolate under her fingernails and some food smears on her stuffed animal cat, Mouse. Mom named it after her kitty that died in March. She talks about it as if it is alive, so I always ask how Mouse is doing.
She said, “Well, she got some food on her fur and I wanted to cut it off but I don’t have scissors so I had to leave it.” I told her I could wash Mouse off in the bathroom sink and she said that would be good.
Then mom started pulling at her fingers as if she was trying to remove a pair of gloves and said, “I want to wash my hands.”
I wheeled her into the bathroom, turned on the faucet and put some liquid soap into her palms. She scrubbed and rinsed. I’m glad she does this. She had stopped washing her hands after using the toilet at her old apartment, so I always reminded her to do so. She would say, “You’re so fussy,” then add, “If you say so.”
Mom asked how the opera was going and I told her I was still learning my lines but rehearsals were going well.
She said, “That’s good. I know how much that means to you.”
I told her I hoped she could come to see it, knowing full well this was an impossibility: she usually cannot sit still for a performance over 45 minutes in length, and any foreign environment is very frightening to her. At least I can show her the video.
I wheeled mom around the floor and asked her if she wanted to go to the day room or sit near the nurse’s station when I left. She opted for the nurse’s station. She looked much better, more herself. I took a final glance at her sitting in a pretty floral dress with a shiny object in her hair. She smiled and waved at me as the elevator doors opened . The fugue state had passed.