Don Berry Illustration logo


An Artist's Journey

bio index....................previous chapter


Chapter 16: It's all about Mom duty


The year 2010 ended with a call from the nurse at The Inn, Mom's assisted care facility. The concern was that Mom's safety was at risk because of her propensity to fall, but even more importantly, she would usually refuse to ring for assistance when she needed to get up from her chair or the bed to go to the bathroom. Her worsening incontinence made this a frequent event. When I talked to Mom about it she scoffed at the idea that she should call for help because, she said, "I don't know when I'm going to fall."

The nurse felt that her cognitive decline meant that she couldn't understand the importance of calling for help and that cognition would only get worse as her dementia progressed. She had a physical therapist come in to give Mom exercises and instruction for more safely using her walker and getting from bed to chair to walker. He reported that she was resistant to the instuction and couldn't remember a simple sequence of actions he would try to get her to do. The nurse recommended that Mom be moved to their memory care facility where she could be more closely monitored.

This cartoon of Mom was done with the charcoal and blender tools in Corel Painter

Mom reading

I brought those concerns to her doctor on our next visit on January 6. Since her vital signs were still good, she still was aware of her surroundings and the people around her, and she vehemently insisted that she did not want to move to nursing care, he felt that she could remain where she was for a while longer but said he could provide a list of nursing facilities in the area if the assisted living facility became more insistent or Mom's condition deteriorated further. As I wheeled her out of the exam room she loudly declared so that all could hear, "Thank you for listening to me. Finally, someone is listening to me!"

Mom's confused, agitated, sometimes very angry calls to me continued. To her, every day was the day I was supposed to be there, she would not believe what anyone said about what day it actually was and when I was coming, she could not make sense of the calendar and insisted the clocks were wrong. She felt the physical therapy was dumb because "That's not the way I do it" and that the therapist was just trying to get her into the Gardens, their memory care facility. The therapist tried for three weeks but could make no progress with her and ended the sessions. I was getting calls about once a week from the caregivers that Mom had fallen and was still not heeding reminders to call for assistance. Although the falls have been minor, she has been very lucky not to be injured.

After the last fall the nurse called again and, after they gave me a price that was no more than she was paying now, we arranged to tour their memory care facility. I talked with Mom about it and, although she was still very resistant, she agreed to go over and look. We did that on Wednesday, February 9, and I arranged to move her there two days later while she was still somewhat agreeable to it.

The rest of the family were kept informed and agreed that this was the thing to do. Unfortunately, the move happened too quickly for any of them to be here to help and I had a physically and emotionally exhausting day Friday, February 11, 2011, helping the movers to get her and her things to the Gardens. Now she is very upset and insists she doesn't want to be there. I'm told that this is not uncommon and that eventually people calm down.

This has been perhaps the toughest chore in my role as caregiver and manager of her affairs since she moved back to Tucson in 2004. It's a big adjustment for her to shift to a semi-private room and have to surrender the independence and sense of control of her life that she has enjoyed to this point. She has been livid at times and has angrily demanded to leave. She has complained bitterly about just about every aspect of her new situation and cannot yet accept that the decision is no longer hers to make. I continue to see her on the same schedule and will get her to her appointments as always, but in her mind I'm trying to get rid of her. It's very difficult to deal with and I feel awful about it.

One bright spot is that I have not seen her so alert and alive in many months. The opportunity to complain and be angry about this change seems to have stimulated her.




The image above is from a dream in which I was offered, along with many other people, a one-day job that would pay $500. The task was to place stone faces in a wall. As I began carrying stones from a huge pile I saw that this guy was chipping away at one of them to help a face emerge. I'm not at all sure what this means, if's just a dream, right?

Then these cartoons were inspired by seemingly endless, often stressful Mom duty as I sensed that the end was near for her:

Sorry Mom



Food stamps (SNAP), take 2

Normal business had been absent all year and by October money was so tight that I applied for food stamps again. I didn't expect much after the first experience in 2009 (see chapter 14), and the process is not exactly easy, but I knew the ropes now and things went more smoothly.

The system had changed somewhat. The office I went to two years before was a few blocks from my home, but now I had to go to a different facility in the downtown district where they had consolidated the processing. I biked there on a mid-October morning for my assigned interview. There was a long line outside and it took a while to get through the door and check in for the appointment, but I only had to sit a few minutes before my name was called by an attractive young woman who led me into a large warehouse-like office space subdivided into a maze of cubicles. I sat next to her desk for 30 minutes as she perused my information and entered it into the computerized system. It calculated that I qualified for $111/month. We were both surprised.

"That's quite good!" she said.

"Gosh, yes, that's more than I expected...and for me, enough for two week's groceries, so it's a real help."

I only got $47/month last time even though my situation was quite similar. The maximum for a single person is around $160, but few get that much. I think a person would have to be pretty much living on the streets. The larger amount I would get this time was a good reflection of how dire my situation was in the eyes of the state. Unfortunately, I no longer qualified for AHCCCS, the Medicaid program that they automatically put me in before. There had been a rule change to cut costs, and childless adults were no longer eligible. Federal law doesn't require it, but Arizona had included us before. I didn't really care since I was still healthy and didn't need it, but thought it was interesting that the Feds felt folks like me shouldn't have it. After all, we could need health care like anyone else. Why are people with no children less deserving of medical attention?

Animation returns as a new focus as 2011 ends

The two Mom-related cartoons were emailed to family and friends on Halloween, 2011, as a form of self therapy. Soon after that I thought it would be fun to try to animate one of them. I found that PhotoShop in animation mode was best for what I wanted to do, and Corel Video Studio Pro X4, an inexpensive program, provided the capability to add a few sound tracks and convert the production to the proper video file formats. It took several weeks of trial and error to create a 23 sec. feature based on the crematory scene. It was completed late in December. Although a bit crude, it taught me a lot.

This interest in animation had been placed on the back burner since the 1970's when I did my first experimental video during my DINFOS training (see chapter 2) and animated films in graduate school and Elmer Graphics (chapters 3 and 4). Those early efforts were accomplished with borrowed or rented 16mm film cameras, sound equipment and lighting, plus dealing with film processing labs and related expenses. Now, with digital tools and software, the process is dramatically simpler and the results are high quality.

So it was that the Great Recession opened the door to a fresh creative direction for the new year. Ideas are flowing and new video projects are in the works.


bio index.................previous chapter