Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looks like my bathing days are not over…

The saga of Mom’s baths continues.  She’s been in the Alzheimer’s assisted living facility for three and a half months now and although their standard is bathing twice each week, they have been lucky to get Mom bathed once each week.  Actually, there have been weeks when she didn’t have a bath at all.

That may sound terrible but before she moved in with me in May of 2010, she was not bathing properly and I’m sure had longer times without bathing than we have experienced the last three months.  That’s why I have not stepped in other than to bring up the issue.

It wasn’t an easy transition when she moved in with me.  You can look back over my posts and probably find my lamentations about Mom cussing and yelling at me, pretend crying, whining, and even throwing things at me.  Over time, however, she came to realize that I wasn’t a pushover.  I had a very good teacher – her! – who taught me how to handle obstinate little ones.  She may be 95 now and certainly no longer little but dealing with an adult with Alzheimer’s/dementia is in many ways just like dealing with toddlers.

The aides at the facility have tried.  Don’t think that they are just ignoring the need because that is not the case.  Their process is to approach and if the resident vehemently refuses, they back off and reapproach later.  That works for many of the residents because they forget the initial approach.  Not so with Mom!  Either she realizes that she’s getting away with her behavior and keeps thwarting their efforts, or she also forgets the initial approach but has the same reaction each time.  We’re not sure which but sometimes my brother and I think she knows more than it seems… J

Last Friday I arrived for my visit and again, Mom had not had a bath all week.  The aide asked if I wanted her to try then and so we did.  Mom started her normal routine but I looked her square in the face, told her I wasn’t going to argue with her and that she could yell at me, hit me, whatever, but she was going to have a bath because her mother taught her to take one once a week.  She wasn’t happy but she settled in with me giving the bath.
Took Mom for ice cream after her bath!

I notified the Health and Wellness director that given Mom’s continued obstinacy, I would take over giving her a bath but I would do it once a week.  The way they break down their services I have the option to do that and eliminate that portion of the fee.

So, today I went up to visit Mom and gave her a bath.  She threw her little fit – it was almost comical at times – but soon settled in and let me wash her hair and give her a good bath and foot soak.  It was so nice to see her hair so soft and beautifully white again!

I let her know that from now on, I’ll be giving her a bath once a week – just like Grandma taught her and she taught me.  She can’t argue with Grandma!  J

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Visiting Your Alzheimer’s Loved One OR How to avoid that haunted visitor look…

Have you ever visited at a nursing home or assisted living facility and felt uncomfortable?  I see it in visitors’ faces quite often – even those close family members that visit their loved ones frequently.  It’s almost a combination of worried and harried.  They have smiles for their loved ones but their eyes show their smile is on the surface for the benefit of their loved one.

So many things cause that look.  Guilt because the loved one has been placed in a facility instead of keeping them home, uncertainty about how to communicate with the loved one who is losing the ability to put thoughts and sentences together, fear of the other residents of the facility because it appears they are not mentally capable of communication, and the list goes on.

When I see that look, I count my blessings because although I’ve never been comfortable in social situations, various things in my life have given me the ability to be comfortable in a nursing home. 

Being the youngest in the family, I spent more time than my siblings did with Mom and Daddy.  Daddy was always one to visit folks in the nursing home and I was right there with him.  Alzheimer’s appeared to be less of an issue back in those days because folks generally got sick before their minds went – it seems we live a lot longer now.

I felt so comfortable with the elderly that I took a job in a nursing home when my girls were little.  I helped in the kitchen and dining room and loved every minute with the residents because they all had their funny quirks that made them who they were.  For example, there was Gladys.  She would put her head on the dinner table and pretend to be asleep but if you got down and looked up at her face, her eyes were darting around to see if anyone was noticing.  J  She just wanted someone to put her in bed.

What can you do to be more comfortable?  Biggest thing – learn the names of both the staff and the residents and always greet them with words and a smile.  It’s even important to greet those residents that don’t look like they can communicate!  Don’t hesitate to ask them how their day is!  When dealing with Alzheimer’s, you never know what kind of an answer you might receive but that’s the fun.  It’s important to get to know the folks that live with and help your loved one so you can understand the dynamics of the atmosphere at the facility.

If at all possible, take part in the activities that are provided for the residents.  You may feel like taking your loved one to their room or away from the others and that’s fine for a bit but if your loved one sees you spending time doing the activities with the group, it makes them feel that you value the others in their life there at the home.

So what did I do today?  I greeted each and every resident when I arrived.  I found Mom alone in her room but brought her out to exercise with the group and we helped them make Rice Krispie Treats.  Mom was tired this morning but because I took part, she did also. 

I spent a few minutes alone with Mom before I had to leave but she was happy to go back to join the group.  They were listening to songs from the Sound of Music and I sang Edelweiss to Mom before I left.  She was all smiles as I kissed her goodbye and said goodbye to everyone.  We blew more kisses as I walked out the door – a happy visit for both of us!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Alzheimer’s, Sex and Nursing Homes

Being the baby of the family, I think I had a different experience growing up than my siblings did.  The oldest three were already busy with school by the time I was born and when the fourth headed off to school; I still had three years alone with Mom before heading there myself.  Life continued that way with the older ones heading up and out and Mom and I were quite often alone together after I came home from school.  When I was a teenager, we used to watch Phil Donahue together and that generated many discussions on many different topics.  The best thing was that I was allowed to have my own opinion and Mom would discuss it with me, not try to make me see it her way.

Those open discussions may be why, when Daddy was taking his journey through Alzheimer’s, Mom just opened up to me one day and said that Daddy wanted to have intercourse every day and she was tired of it and didn’t know what to do.   At the time, I’m thinking “TMI” (too much information) but I didn’t say anything, just let her talk.  I certainly didn’t have an opinion on that subject because although I was married and already had two children, I was still in my early 20s and intercourse every day was just fine with me!

Talking seemed to help and I didn’t hear any more about it and it wasn’t long before Daddy went into the nursing home and could no longer remember how to walk, let alone think about having intercourse.

So here I am all these years later and Mom is now in an Alzheimer’s Assisted Living facility.  In her little world there are 11 residents, including Mom, all in varying conditions of the later stages of Alzheimer’s.  Six are women, one of whom uses a walker and one is chair/bed bound.   That leaves five men; one using a walker and two are chair/bed bound.

So what does that have to do with sex?  Well, there may not be anything near intercourse happening but it’s always good to remember that these folks have Alzheimer’s – they’re not dead!  It’s also good to remember that just because they have spouses, it doesn’t mean that they always remember that!

I have to say that the staff members at the facility are well aware and watch over their charges carefully.  One of the residents is a gentleman that may well be in that stage that Mom described to me years ago.  He has a wife but she is healthy and still lives at home so there are times when we’ll see him strolling with one of the other ladies holding hands.  It doesn’t last long though because the staff members are quick to remind both parties that they have spouses who wouldn’t appreciate it.  Some might wonder why make a big deal out of it but after Mom’s stories… hmmmm…

What about Mom?  Well, she just keeps telling everyone she’s getting married soon.  We haven’t met the guy but we’re hoping it’s Daddy – at least that’s who she was talking about today.  J