Thursday, July 29, 2010

Got to love apartment living

Apartment drama. My husband got home and I ran down to the street for a quick errand. Imagine my surprise when the ancient woman who lives above me was behind the elevator door.

The poor thing. And I hate the Portuguese word tadinho for poor thing but it's so fitting.  I asked her where she was going and she told me home and pointed to my apartment. I haven't spoken to her before but I know she lives above me. I told her no and that I'd take her home to the 5th floor.

My heart broke when she said "but no one is there and I can't get in".  She thought she must have been at the wrong place because no one opened the door for her. Making my heart break even more, she told me that she went to the wrong apartment they only laughed at her and wouldn't answer any of her questions.

She was in her nightgown, smelled of urine, and I assumed she had locked herself out. The elevator automatically went to the lobby. Someone had called it.  I opened the door and asked the doorman to put a chair in the elevator for her to sit while we went up and figured everything out. She was having trouble standing. 

It, obviously, wasn't the first time this had happened. He took her hand and sat her down in the lobby. He told me he had it under control and not to worry. I came back after my errand and she was still there. 

I was shoo-ed away by the doorman.  I wanted to stay but I felt the need to listen to the sane doorman before the slightly less sane older woman. 

Of course I asked my husband about it when I got home. We have experienced this same thing once before but he had answered the door.  Apparently she is senile and quite dramatic.  She has help during the day and a son who lives with her. Sometimes, if the son works late, she spends a couple of hours on her own.  Personally, I think that's unacceptable.  

I also know that she's had a couple of blow outs in the common hallway, filling them with things that I don't even want to describe.  I can assume life up in that 5th floor apartment isn't particularly easy. 

At the same time, it just broke my heart in two. I hope to have better care when I hit that point.  Personally, I think it'd be better for her to be in a home.  I know, sacrilegious in this country, but she'd have 24 hr care and people experienced in taking care of the elderly. 

Regardless of circumstance, it's just wrong for an older woman to be taken care of in a way where she manages to get locked out, urinate on herself, and roam around a building in her jammies. 

She looked confused and deflated.  I almost adopted her that moment but Daniel won't even let me get a dog. Imagine what he'd do if I brought home an old lady!


  1. Rachel,

    I am new to your blog and can relate to most posts (being an American mom of a toddler living in Brazil - BH in my case), but I can REALLY relate to this one. My mom, who has secondary progressive MS lives in Brazil with me. First at home, and now in a home. Not only is there a very strong cultural bias against putting parents in a home, most of the homes are very institutional and not the best quality, basically a warehouse for old people. There are a few good ones, but you pay through the nose for it (over R$4000 a month for a private room). We dealt with various forms of cuidadoras and nurses assistants in the home (not cheap either and not 24 hours) for about 2 and a half years before I made the choice (which my husband still disagrees with). This woman´s son is probably doing all he can. Where is the rest of the family, I ask? Why are they not helping out? My father-in-law is partially paralyzed and spends most of the day at home with the oldest son (who is usually in his room watching TV and not responsive), and it breaks my heart. But I understand that most people don´t have other alternatives than to give spotty care, relying on often times reluctant family members to help out. Makes me, like you, worry about getting old in Brazil.

  2. I commend you Corinne! It's a hard thing to do here. I have a student who's mother had to put her Mother in a home. She was so senile it was getting dangerous. She would walk out of the building and needed 24/7 watch in the apartment so she wouldn't hurt herself. The worst part is that they paid a lot of money for a "great" place and she ended up with horrible bed sores because they didn't move her!

  3. i would never put my mom in a home..... family is family

  4. That's sad. :( We should have great respect for the elderly and, as much as possible, we don't want them to be treated like that. But there are still people like us who have so much respect for the elders, even when they knock on our apartment all the time.