Friday, December 7, 2012

Traditions are changing…

Family traditions of getting together have changed over the years as beloved relatives have grown older, their circumstances have changed or they have passed on.  Each change happened of necessity but each one left me with a feeling of loss until new traditions were formed. 

I remember when I was little there would always be a picnic at GE Park with my grandma and grandpa, uncles, aunts and cousins on Daddy’s side.  In October we would drive down to Kentucky to visit with my mom’s birth family for my grandpa’s birthday, and for Thanksgiving, we would drive north to Darke County to watch the Macy’s parade and have a wonderful meal at my great aunt and uncle’s farm.
On Christmas day we would always open our presents, go to church and head to my grandma and grandpa’s (Daddy’s side) for a meal.  It was fun, all of us in their small, cozy home.  We would all sit at tables arranged in an L from the dining room into the living room.  I can still remember Grandma’s roast duck, the red hots that were always in a jar on the floor model radio and chocolate stars in the copper candy dish on the buffet.  A few of us cousins enjoyed playing a game with the city map that my grandpa had hung on the wall at the landing of the steps in the basement.

As time passed, our summer picnics ended – I think because Grandpa retired.  My Kentucky grandpa passed so we no longer had a yearly gathering in Kentucky and our trips to Darke County ended when my great uncle, a wonderful teddy bear of a man, passed on my birthday one year and my great aunt’s health problems started soon after.
New traditions emerged even as my brothers and sister married and moved into their own homes.  Mom and Daddy took over Thanksgiving and we moved the meal to the Sunday before so that my siblings could go to their in-laws on the holiday.

The Christmas meal changed when my grandma and grandpa moved into a retirement home but as we had our own homes and children, we continued to gather at Mom and Daddy’s for sharing of presents – all from Santa except for those items Mom handmade for each of us.  Daddy was always the one to pass out the presents and did it in the most rapid fire manner that the presents were open in a short period of time.  Maybe because of all those years we needed to get to church?  J  Whatever the reason, it warms my heart to think of the fun and laughter we shared!
Traditions changed again when Daddy’s Alzheimer’s put him in the nursing home.  Mom moved out of our farm home and in with my brother’s family 26 years ago.  I took over Thanksgiving for our family of 24, holding it in our three bedroom townhouse.  Thank goodness it was nice weather because they had to fill their plates and walk out the back door to eat on the patio!

Christmas was held at my brother’s house in the basement apartment that was built for Mom and my brother took over passing out the presents in the same manner Daddy had always done. 
Other new traditions were born also.  My middle brother and his wife began hosting the family for a celebration of Mom’s birthday in April and a 4th of July pool party.

For 25 years we have gathered as a family four times a year as our number has grown from 24 to 78!
Now traditions are changing again, and again, I feel sad, but I also know it’s time.  This year we moved Mom’s birthday party to her ALF.  We didn’t have as many family members present but those of us that were able to make it enjoyed it and Mom was all smiles.

I also made the decision to let go of the Thanksgiving tradition.  Our home was truly bursting at the seams as we hosted up to 65 of our family members each year and I realized it was time to allow my siblings to begin their own family traditions. 
So this year, I invited everyone to Mom’s ALF for the Thanksgiving meal that they prepare for the families.  Not everyone could make it, of course, but we had over 20 of us there to eat with Mom.  The home made a wonderful meal!
Two very long tables were set aside for Mom's family.  I think she had more than anyone else at the home!
While I missed having everyone at my house this year, it warmed my heart to hear the fun the others looked forward to and had with their own families.  And after cooking for 60+ all these years, I nearly forgot to get the potatoes cooking for my own family!  J
The Christmas tradition continues at this point and I am very thankful that my brother still wants to host our huge family.  Unless something changes, Mom will be there amidst all those folks that are on this earth because of her.  I love her and each and every one of them and crazy as it may seem, I am thankful every day for Facebook because it gives me a way to keep up with all of them wherever they may be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vitamin D Deficiency? Banking on those genes...

I received a call the other day from a doctor - Mom's new doctor.  I was surprised!  He actually wanted to chat a minute about Mom.  Wow!

He had just seen Mom for the first time and wanted to ask about the incident of swollen ankles he had seen in the files.  I explained that they swell when she doesn't move around enough which typically happens if she doesn't feel quite up to snuff and she just sits in her chair.  One ankle is always more swollen due to a long ago sprain.  The swelling doesn't hurt however and if we get her up and moving, the swelling goes down.  For a 96 year old, I think that's pretty good and so did he.  He commented that she looked great and had good genes.  My typical reply to that is, "I'm banking on those genes" although interestingly enough my grandma died very young when Mom was just two months old and my grandpa and Mom's siblings all died in their early 80s.  Mom obviously pulled the long straw.

He invited me to stop by and see him if I'm there during his normal visit and we ended the conversation.

A few days later I received a call from the home.  Seems the doctor had ordered blood work during his visit and the results had come back.  You would think that at 96 there might be a few numbers that just didn't hit the mark.  In Mom's case, just one.  Her vitamin D level was very low.  Given the heat this summer it was difficult to get the residents out in the sun as much as usual and Mom doesn't drink a lot of milk either so it wouldn't contribute enough to compensate.  I wasn't surprised by the deficiency.

The fix - a vitamin pill.  The only pill that Mom needs at the age of 96.  Like I said, I'm banking on those genes!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Their time and ours – or – “I have a meeting…”

It’s not easy making the decision to place a loved one but sometimes it is for the best.  In the case of taking care of a parent, I think we feel that they took care of us therefore we should take care of them.

To a certain point, I believe that to be true.  I also realize now that when Mom was raising me, however, she was able to continue her life and it was a busy one!  Sewing our clothes and quilts, knitting and crocheting our sweaters, hats and mittens, taking care of a vegetable garden that took up an acre of land and canning or freezing everything that came out of it took up her days.  In addition, of course, she was taking care of all of us, especially me, the baby of the family of five children.

One memory of my childhood comes back each time I kiss Mom goodbye now.  I most always visit in the morning and stay until she sits down to each lunch.  She always wants to know if I am staying and is obviously looking for a place for me to sit.  My response is always the same.  “I have a meeting”, I say, knowing that response will put her at ease.  I don’t have a meeting but it is something with which she can identify.
Mom begins her process of preparing her place setting for lunch.  For some reason, she uses her napkin as a placemat.
Daddy was a teacher and Mom was a homemaker all the while I was growing up.  I remember the school nights after dinner when we would all be in the library of our home, Daddy grading papers and my brothers and sisters doing homework.  Busy during the day, Mom used that time to read, something she loved to do and hence, the reason we had a “library” in our home.

Some nights, however, Mom and Daddy would leave after dinner to go to a meeting.  They were involved in church, Daddy’s school, and the local school my brothers and sister attended.  There were also 4-H meetings because they were both leaders, separately – Daddy of a livestock club and Mom of a sewing club – and Daddy was one of the founders of the local baseball league given that he had three sons to keep busy.

So, out they would go, telling me that they had a meeting to go to.  It was sometimes frustrating to me because in my mind, I was the center of their world.  Why would they leave me?  J  One particular night, they told me I could stay up until they came back home but they didn’t tell my brother whom they left in charge.  When I refused to go to bed, I very clearly remember him picking me up and carrying me upstairs to my bed.  He was gentle and kind about the entire thing and kept telling me that Mom and Daddy didn’t tell him that.  Needless to say, I was not happy with them when they arrived home!

Lucky for me, Mom is not a child.  She may need help at times like a child and she can’t find the words she wants but there are some things that still strike a chord in her mind.  Meetings is one of those things and if a little lie like telling her that I have a meeting will put her at ease, then I can do that!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It’s so interesting…

I saw a story on the news this morning about a man with dementia, living in a nursing home, who, although unable to communicate, seemed to be comforting one of the other residents.  The gentleman’s son finally realized that his father, a medic in WWII, was comforting another resident who had been the cook for his unit in WWII.  Seems the cook was injured during the war and the medic took care of him.  Somehow his demented mind recognized the long ago friend!

You just never know what might trigger something in the mind of someone with dementia.  Recently, one of the aides (CNAs) in Mom’s ALF decided to move to Florida and go to school.  This CNA, Whitney, was an integral part of the staff so the decision caused quite a stir.
One day when I was visiting, Mom told me that she would be leaving for Florida soon because “they” wanted to try it out down there for awhile.  Grandma and Grandpa moved to Florida with her when she was little to try and make a life there.  They found they didn’t like it so they moved back.  I thought that she was just flashing back to that time of her life so didn’t think anything of it.  I just asked if she was going with Grandma and Grandpa and she looked a little confused and responded, “I guess so.”
It wasn’t until later that I learned about Whitney’s move and, of course, there had been some discussion of it.  Mom obviously overheard and thought that “they”, probably Tina, Whitney and Mom, were heading to Florida to “try it out”.
Since then, Whitney left and the residents have been enduring the process of finding the new CNA that will fit into the “family” there.  In the past, if Mom’s CNA, Tina, was off, quite often Whitney was working and took care of Mom.  Now if Tina is not there, there is no Whitney to cover and I have found reasons to be concerned about Mom’s care.
I have raised my concerns with management and they have asked for patience while they work out the staffing plan.  I can only hope that they will find a solution that will again make me feel that the Mom is well cared for when Tina is not there.
The good news is Mom is still happy.  I find her confused more often but in spite of that she still seems content.
Mom's awake and ready to play noodle ball!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We'd love to have more like her...

Today, like any day, had both happy and sad. My daughter, Jessie, and my grandsons made the trip up to see Mom with me and she was so happy to see them! She saw me first and was quite excited, just like the other day, but then she noticed the other visitors.

The funniest thing happened after we took a walk while they were getting things ready to play noodle ball. We had Mom settled in a chair ready to play and she looked up and saw Jessie. Now, she had already seen Jessie and talked to her but it was like she was seeing her again for the first time. She was so excited and smiling! I think she actually was confused for a moment thinking it was an additional family member coming to visit. Jessie's comment, "Yes, we all look alike." :)

The sad side was that one of the residents, a woman much younger than Mom but who was already in a wheelchair and pretty much uncommunicative when Mom moved in, is in the process of passing. She may, at this point, have already passed. Beth, the activities person, and Tina, felt she wouldn't make it through the night.

It's sad when the residents pass on and at the same time you can't help but feel relief for them that their journey has ended. I've watched over this last year as many have progressed from walking, talking and enjoying activities to sitting huddled over and uncommunicative to finally passing on.

Through it all, Mom continues to bop around like she's not 96 years old! I looked at Beth today after our conversation about the other resident and told her that Mom is going to outlive us all. She said, "We'd love to have more like her!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh my goodness! Putting her in the assisted living facility has made her healthier!

This may sound really strange but when I first brought Mom to live with me, there were times when I thought she was at death’s door.  I would call my brother, whom she had lived with for 24 years, and he knew exactly what I was talking about.

Fast forward to the present, after spending a year living with me, and now a year living in the ALF and again, OH MY GOODNESS!  I swear Mom is going to outlive us all!

I drove up for my visit today and when she saw me, she got all excited and held out her hands to hug me.  I helped her up from the couch and she held on to me, telling another resident, “This is my daughter.  She’s mine… well, and my husband’s too.”  J

We walked around outside for awhile and sat in chairs in the sun while she exclaimed over the blue sky and how much she loved it and told me about the plantings and she and Daddy had done part of it and other men had helped with the rest.  She talked and talked and some of it actually made sense although it was all wrong – but she thought it was and I just went along with it.

The days aren’t always so clear.  Some days she doesn’t know me at all but not often.  She usually recognizes my face although she can’t come up with a name for me or anyone else in her family.  Some days she doesn’t recognize the family (in pictures) and sometimes she does.  I don’t know until I arrive.

Physically, however, she is thriving.  The only issue we see is that her ankles swell now and then, typically when Tina, her regular aide, and Beth, the activities person, have been off for a day or two.  I think she sits and sleeps on those days.  Other than that, their meals are obviously working wonders – and they should because their menus are all about nutritious meals for the digestive systems of seniors.  That care definitely shows on Mom!

Back to the mental part though.  Mom still has everything packed into her dresser, ready to move at a moment’s notice.  Not that she wants to, it seems, she now says she doesn’t know when they will come in and tell her she has to leave.  I assure her that they don’t want her to leave and that the family knows where she is so all is good.

It’s always fun to see what she has decided to put on her dresser.  It is the only place she will display anything and what is there changes from time to time.  I quite often take a picture and share it with my family on Facebook so they can see who rose to the top that day.  Here’s today’s picture – note that Jesus is sitting in the tray from her false teeth container…  the funny side of the mind!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

He really does watch over us…

Some might think I am crazy but my first memories involve Mom, Daddy and God.  Sometimes all together as in going to church or getting ready to go to the hospital when I busted my head open on an iron radiator when I was about three.  Sometimes it’s just Daddy as when he came into my preschool class at church to play piano or when he taught me to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.  Sometimes it’s just Mom as when she made me lunch in a lunchbox and we ate it outside on a quilt in the yard because I wanted to be like my big brothers and sister and have a lunchbox or when I played under the quilt frame while she worked on a quilt for one of our beds.

Sometimes it was just God.  Most vivid is the memory of our big old house, built in the 1880s, and how noisy it would get when there was a thunderstorm.  I was so scared of all that noise and the thunder and lightning!  I can remember being as young as three and hiding under the covers and saying a prayer to God, “Please God, I’m scared, could you please make the storm go away?”  I can’t say if the storm went away or if I became peaceful enough to sleep but the next thing I would know, it was morning.  As far as I was concerned, God was there watching over me.  I have carried that feeling throughout my life.
I would not claim to always have listened to Him – sometimes I have made huge mistakes that obviously were not in His plan.  I eventually realize my mistake and, not without trial and tribulation of my own making, I am led back to the path I should take.  I also never ask Him, “Why?”  I figure that’s not for me to know but there’s a purpose to all.

So why is this all on my mind?  Well, many changes have been occurring with the residents at the home.  Over the last year I have watched the steady progression of the disease and eventual death in some, others are following that path quickly.  For the most part, it’s really been a calm ride but every once in awhile there is a resident that acts out and can be a danger to the aides or the other residents.  There have been a few times recently when I have helped the aides as they tried to deal with these situations without anyone being hurt.  I truly appreciate what they deal with on a daily basis!
Still, you probably wonder what God has to do with it.  When Daddy was 69 and far into his journey with Alzheimer’s, he suddenly didn’t know my brother and ran across two fields and jumped three fences to get to our neighbor’s farm and get away from my brother.  He was VERY healthy!  Shortly after that, he checked himself into a local hospital that is known for geriatrics to get some testing done.  A half hour after he arrived he forgot why he was there, wanted to go home and became violent.  They immediately gave him a sedative.

No big deal, right?  Unfortunately, Daddy had never taken any medication so the proper dosage for his height and weight hit him like a ton of bricks.  He was out for the better part of three days and when he woke up, had to be reminded how to chew and swallow again.  Although a week or so before he had run across those fields and jumped those fences, he never walked again.
I don’t think any of us ever felt there was a reason to be upset with the hospital because they had no way of knowing what would happen, nor did we.  I believe that God was watching out for Mom, knowing that Daddy had progressed far enough that she needed more help.  Daddy went directly into the nursing home and Mom spent every day, all day, with him but never had to deal with violence – because he was no longer mobile – and was able to get her rest every night at home.
Do I believe it was supposed to happen that way?  Definitely!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

So back to food…

The story of food in our family is complicated yet simple.  Growing up, if it was grown on the farm, we ate it.  Daddy planted a huge garden every year, first with a horse (before my time) and later with a tractor.  Mom not only picked fresh vegetables and fruit for our daily meals but canned and packaged more every day to hold us through the winter and to harvest of the next growing season.

We also had a milk cow and raised our own cows for beef, chickens for eggs and meat, and rabbits.  Daddy and my brothers did the butchering and Mom packaged it all up for the freezer.  So between the garden, the animals, the walnut and fruit trees and berry and cherry bushes, we ate well!
As all of us kids grew, married and move out, Mom continued putting up food for quite a long time, even putting up enough that we all had some too.  My girls still like only canned green beans and frozen corn because that’s the way Grandma made them!  It wasn’t until Daddy was too far down the path of Alzheimer’s that she quit but she still provided Daddy with wonderful, well-balanced meals.

The gardening, canning and cooking skills eventually faded in the face of Mom’s dementia.  As I said before, we missed the signs for a long time. 
When we finally realized the situation, I thought I could improve things once she moved in with me.  I was able to give her healthier evening meals but I quickly decided to stick with her preferred breakfast and lunch because I found I had to pick my battles.  Her preferred breakfast and lunch may not have been the healthiest but they weren’t horrible.  So I left those alone and instead fought the bathing and other battles.

What I didn’t realize, until Mom moved to the Alzheimer’s facility and began eating their planned meals, was that Mom obviously has some digestive issues caused by particular foods.  Again, we are in some ways too accepting of our situations.  We knew that Mom made many trips to the bathroom every day – sometimes as many as five times in just a half hour.  We didn’t think about looking at the food she was eating, we just thought she had issues with digestion in general.
Now, after almost a year in the facility, Mom’s aide, Tina, and I have come to the conclusion that Mom has trouble digesting milk in any form.  I can always tell now when she has had some type of milk with a meal because those are the times she is constantly running to the bathroom – even in the middle of her meal.  Most days, however, she is able to have several hours between trips.

Despite the issue, Tina and I haven’t made a recommendation to take all of Mom’s milk away.  After all, she’s 96 now and why would we want to prevent her from enjoying ice cream?
Mom's favorite - chocolate!
If we would have known this years ago – hindsight is 20/20 you know – we could have helped Mom make changes to her diet.  For now, we’ll just try to keep the milk intake to things she really likes.  Like ice cream!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

They try to communicate...

Although this is a really large cake, I'll continue my story of food in my next post.  Meanwhile, Mom turns 96 this week.  We had a little party for her on Sunday but I'm not sure that she ever really understood what the hoopla was about.  Life for her is quite often a mystery.

To give you an idea of life for someone with Alzheimer's, there was a video documentary on PBS last week taken in an Alzheimer's care unit and focusing on one particular resident.  I missed it but it is available for viewing online for a few more days and I took the time to watch it there. It depicts the disease very well and gives you an idea of what it is like to have a conversation with someone with dementia.

I recently took a seven minute video of Mom but I was unable to upload it here.  In the video, you can tell when she's trying to find words and she rambles.  She actually managed to stay on topic for a good bit of the video but it was very disjointed, she didn't respond to questions, and she is never able to actually get a point across.  It really makes me wish I had a video of her in the past.  She was so full of family history and knowledge of sewing, knitting and more. 

She's here, but I miss her so much...

I'm currently participating in a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association.  If you would like to contribute, it would certainly be appreciated by me and all the others dealing with this disease that slowly takes their life away without taking their body.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Food can be a sign…

One of the signs of Mom’s decline happened so gradually that even though we recognized a total change in the long term, we ignored the incremental changes as they happened.  Those changes revolved around food.

I’ve mentioned the schedule Mom lived by several times.  When we were little everything thing ran on schedule.  That schedule continued through Daddy’s Alzheimer’s and probably helped Mom care for Daddy during that time. 
That schedule is what we used to gauge Mom’s ability to care for herself as she got older.  As long as she was getting up, fixing and eating meals, and going to bed at a regular time, all was good.  Or so we thought…

What we weren’t seeing were the little changes.  She typically had cereal for breakfast with reconstituted nonfat dry milk.  On Sundays, she would have an egg on toast.  Lunches varied (years ago) depending on what she had and wanted to use up.  She might have a sandwich or she might have some leftovers.  Dinners were small servings of chicken or beef with a vegetable and either bread or potato.  Although Mom never was one to use spices, she always served well rounded farm meals and she continued that practice in her little kitchen after moving to my brother’s.
Breakfast stayed much the same over the years.  She continued to eat cereal and milk but at some point started heating the milk up a bit because it was “too cold”.  That was fine until my brother had to replace his microwave in the few months that she lived there.  She no longer had the ability to learn how to use it.

Lunch became very regimented.  She would have a slice of lunchmeat and a slice of cheese on two slices of bread.  She placed the sandwich in a half sheet of paper towel and put it in the microwave it to warm it – until the new microwave came along.
Dinner was the most interesting change.  Instead of a little plate with separate foods, she began creating little casseroles.  She was so proud of them!  Actually, she would break up a piece of bread in a little plastic container and add other things on top.  Sometimes it was leftovers from my brother’s meals – he didn’t dare throw any food away!  Sometimes it was a portion of a can of stew or soap.  When she first started this habit she would also put some vegetables in the mix but over time that changed.  Her dinners actually became more starch than anything else.  Her little creations were put in the microwave for warming – until the new microwave came along.

Once the new microwave came along, my brother was able to help with the use of it in various ways so that she was able to get her meals.  It wasn’t long after it came along that I started making the trip up to be with Mom during the day and learned firsthand what her meals had become.
As I look back, I realize that Mom was probably malnourished but we didn’t know it.  The story continues next time with how the story of food as a sign continued after she moved in with me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Signs and (of) Denial

Oh, denial!  It is a stage in everything that we face in our lives, good and bad.  We see the signs of what’s ahead or what’s afoot and we don’t want to recognize them.  We gloss over them or totally ignore them or chalk them up to a “passing phase”.

I know this only too well.  My family is so loving and accepting that my daughter was 10 years old before she was diagnosed with epilepsy.  For years my call to her was “Earth to Jessie” because she was sitting right in front of me and not responding.  Grandma and Grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins, we all said the same thing, “It’s just Jessie.”
It wasn’t until Jessie was 10 and she had a complex partial seizure lasting about 20 minutes that we realized something was wrong.  I finally took her to the doctor and started the long journey that continues to this day.

Years ago, Daddy realized that memory problems were interfering with his ability to do his job.  As a teacher and head of the science department at a local high school, he was missing meetings that he had scheduled and forgetting the names of his students and co-workers.  He retired at the age of 61 and unknowingly started his journey into Alzheimer’s.
You would think that we, as a family, would learn from the past.  Well, we’re still those “accepting” people that we’ve always been.  Mom lived with my brother for 24 years and during the last 10 or so years there, she began her journey – but we were oblivious.

I can’t tell you the order of the changes because, of course, we weren’t keeping track.  As long as she continued with her normal schedule of eating and sleeping, we figured she was doing too well to need help.  Truth was that things were changing even though the schedule wasn’t.
She had problems with dizziness so we moved her to the main floor to avoid steps.  She developed problems with constipation and talked about it a lot in inappropriate places.  She heard a doctor on TV say that an aspirin a day was good for you so, unbeknownst to us, she decided to take an aspirin each day – a regular one, not a baby aspirin.  Next thing we know she stops going to church because she’s filling the toilet with blood whenever she has a bowel movement.  The list of changes goes on and on but we were all in denial because her schedule hadn’t changed.

Please don’t think we ignored the problems.  I took her to the doctor for many problems and we fixed everything we could – hiding the aspirins that were helping the constipation aggravate her hemorrhoids, getting her on stool softeners, encouraging her to walk around the house to keep moving and eliminate some of her pain caused by sitting too much.  Truth was, though, we were fixing issues but not looking at the overall situation.  She was no longer bathing, her sleep was constantly disturbed, she stopped reading, stopped watching TV, stopped going out of the house, and more.
So, wondering if it’s time that your loved one needs help?  It’s time to dig beneath the surface and punch through that wall of denial.  But don’t feel bad – you’re not alone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Full moon and a special day no longer remembered…

I arrived at the home today during exercise time but Mom wasn’t there.  She had gone back to her room to put her shawl away but evidently forgot to come back out.  Her door was locked from the inside so I knocked… and knocked… and knocked.  No answer.  Whitney unlocked the door for me and there Mom stood, looking toward the door.

A huge smile washed over her face as I stepped into the room and her arms went out for a hug.  Greetings and hugs out of the way, we walked back down the hall to join the others for exercises.  Sitting in a chair, Mom moved her hands and raised her arms a few times and then stopped, pointing to her shoulder.  She, and the other residents, watched as Beth and I did the exercises.  Seems they weren’t of a mind to join in today.  J
The Daily Chronicle was next and one of the residents, a former school librarian, read the one page newsletter.  Her reading skills are still quite strong and she even adds a bit of wry commentary here and there.  The residents seldom catch her quips but there are times when Beth and I can’t help but laugh out loud.

As she read, I pointed to the date on the newsletter, March 7.  Mom looked but registered no recognition of the date.  Today would have been Daddy’s 96th birthday if Alzheimer’s had not taken him so many years ago.  The date no longer holds meaning in Mom’s mind but she still recognizes his picture.  Most days she says he is her husband, here and there she says he’s my father, an indication that she recognizes our relationship at that moment, and sometimes she even comes up with his name.
Full moon is dancing around today though, tomorrow being the official full moon.  I watch as one resident is holding a few of today’s Daily Chronicle, showing the gentleman beside her something on the page but talking about a totally different topic.  Meanwhile the gentleman, seemingly participating in the conversation, is telling her, “I’m glad we got that settled.”  I wish I would have been able to record that conversation!
Mom didn't smile because she was trying to figure out what I was holding "that thing" up for.
The full moon effect shows up in Mom in a subtle way today.  She told me she needed to go “in there” – her signal that she needs to use the restroom.  When she walked into her private bathroom, she looked lost.  I gave her a gentle reminder of her purpose but she looked at the fixtures as if wondering what they were doing there.  She told me that things “were very different”.  I pointed out the toilet and the toilet paper – she was still confused.  Then she went to her dresser to get her “bits”.  She looked through her dresser, obviously looking for something to use in the bathroom.  I let her go through her motions because I have learned that stepping in to the midst of the task can cause more confusion and have surprising (and not hygienic) consequences.

She eventually made her way into the bathroom and used it successfully.  I gently reminded her to wash her hands and we walked to the dining room where I was able to get her settled for lunch.

For now, her love for Daddy is still there but I’m happy to take over the remembrance of his special day since she can’t.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Even those with dementia love kids but…

Oh, the look on the residents faces when I walk in with my 3 year old grandson!  They are all smiles and saying hello as we walk back to Mom’s area.  Even when we walk into Mom’s area, where those residents in the later stages of dementia live, faces light up.  Words aren’t always there for them but they convey their pleasure in their expressions.

Mom really lights up when she sees a child.  I’ve only seen her when one of her little ones (great grandchildren) walks in and she seems to know they belong to her but I have a feeling she would be delighted with any child that walked in.
Yesterday, however, was a good example of how happy things can turn volatile quickly when dealing with dementia.

We arrived during exercise time and sat down next to Mom.  My little guy, Anthony, was feeling shy so he sat on my lap through the exercises and the reading of the Daily Chronicle.  The residents watched him and smiled but went on with their routine.  Snack time came next and while I passed out glasses of water, Anthony finagled a couple peanut butter crackers from Beth without asking but did whisper, “Thank you”.  J
Next up was noodle ball!  Anthony was happy to play and the residents were happy to play and watch him.  He’s 3 so I did have to remind him to share and make sure he was careful not to hit anyone but all was going pretty well.

There is a relatively new gentleman in the group who reminds me of my daddy because he calls the women “Mom” and everyone else “George”.  He talks constantly and was talking all during noodle ball.  He seemed to enjoy playing with Anthony and kept commenting on “the boy”.  Suddenly, as we played, the gentleman became upset and stood up, waving the foam noodle in a menacing fashion, talking the whole while.  It appeared to me that he was imagining some slight to “the boy” by the other residents.
Tina, the wonderful aide who cares for Mom, stepped in front of the gentleman and tried to gain his attention.  He towered over her but she is intrepid!  She worked on calming him and while I felt no threat toward Anthony, the aides were concerned so I took Mom and Anthony away from the situation.  Tina quickly calmed the gentleman and soon had him sitting on the couch holding one of the baby dolls.  Volatile situation averted.

It was another reminder of my daddy.  Daddy was in the nursing home when my son and youngest daughter were around Anthony’s age.  We went outside with Daddy and he became very agitated when we let them run across the driveway unattended.  He didn’t understand that it wasn’t a road and that they were safe.
While their memories are fading, you can never tell when a situation will bring forward an old memory, good or bad.  I know in my heart that the gentleman was being protective of Anthony but given the ravages of dementia, he no longer has the social skills to deal with the situation.  To avoid a similar situation, I think I’ll work on a different way for Anthony to visit Mom.
All tuckered out after his visit with Great Grandma!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I must come from a long line of moving people…

The majority of my ancestors on my dad’s side have been in one area of Ohio for almost 200 years so I just have to think that the urge to move has to come from my mom’s side.  Given her story, it only makes sense.

Mom’s great great grandfather moved to Kentucky almost 200 years ago, much like Daddy’s moved to Ohio.  I can find a majority of my ancestors on my mom’s side in two cemeteries not to far from where I live now.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Although my great grandpa spent his life in Kentucky, for some reason his children moved to Illinois.  My grandpa met and married my grandma there and they proceeded to have four children.  My mom, the baby of the family, was just two months old when my grandma died.  Left with an 8 year old girl, boys 7 and 5, and an infant, I’m sure Grandpa had his hands full and he had to make some tough decisions.

Within a year of Grandma’s death, Grandpa headed back to Kentucky.  On the way, he allowed my mom to be adopted by a wonderful childless couple in Indiana but kept in touch with them as Mom grew up so I was lucky enough to have two grandpas on my mom’s side.
The moving around continued through Mom’s childhood.  They moved from Indiana to Ohio to Florida and back to Ohio.  They finally settled down when Mom was in elementary school and stayed in that area until Mom was married with children of her own in a town close by.  At that point, they moved in with Mom.  From that point on, Mom spent a good, long time in one spot but her “moving” experiences translated to moving furniture.  She seems to have passed that habit down to a few of us.  J

You may wonder what this all has to do with anything today.  Well, every time I visit Mom she tells me that she has “everything ready to go”.  She tells me that “he” told her that she’ll be moving.  It has made for some interesting situations.
When we moved her into the home, we tried to set her room up with furniture and pictures that would be familiar to her.  We tried hanging pictures on the wall but she pulled them down, hangers and all.  Pictures or anything else that we put on her dresser were soon packed away in the dresser drawers.

Most recently she has begun stacking her furniture so that it is “ready to go”.  Tina, her aide, has been quite surprised at times to walk in and find pieces of furniture stacked three high.  The stacking is troublesome because of the possibility that might fall and hit Mom.  Hmmmm…
So today was a bit of a moving day although Mom was not aware.  Once I had her settled at the table for lunch, I went back to her room and gathered up the pieces most likely to cause a problem.  I took home a straight-backed chair and a storage footstool.  We’ll see if I have to take anything else home next time.  J

Friday, January 13, 2012

You’re probably wondering why it’s been so quiet…

It’s quiet because all is well!  As expected, it took awhile to get Mom truly settled in to her new home but eventually she settled into a routine of some sort and the aide who cares for her most became used to her habits and idiosyncrasies.

That’s not to say that every day is peachy keen.  This last full moon was a doozy as far as the effect on all of the residents.  The confusion and behavior became quite comical at times – it’s best to laugh rather than dwell on the fact that their once wonderful minds are slowly leaving them.
The week leading up to the full moon found Mom alternating between grumpy and downright crabby.  Each time I walked in and asked how things were going I learned that Mom had been a handful.  Tina lays out Mom’s clothes each day but Mom is still able to dress herself – for the most part.  There was a day that Tina had to send her back in three times to get it right and Tina finally went in with her to help.  Ten minutes after getting the clothes on correctly, Mom went back in her room and changed the clothes all around again.  J

The day of the full moon was a treat too!  I didn’t visit that day but my sister and my niece did.  Mom refused to put her teeth in and kept insisting that they weren’t her teeth.  Tina was not working that day so I promised to take a look at it the next morning.  It was doubtful that they weren’t her teeth but given the full moon, you never know.  I’ve watched the aides pull all sorts of personal items out from under the couches and chairs and I’ve watched them searching all the rooms trying to find a resident’s glasses or some other item.  In fact, Mom’s is one of the rooms they always have to search!
I walked in the day after the full moon and Mom was practically wiggling from head to toe, she was so happy to see me.  It was easy to see that she had her teeth in and yes, they were hers.  So at that point I just chalked up the teeth issue to the full moon.

During my visit, I happened to get a side view of her face and noticed that all around her right eye was puffy and red. She wasn’t complaining or rubbing it and it wasn’t noticeable when you looked at her because of her glasses. I also noticed Mom was coughing a bit. I thought nothing of it at the time but later in the day it dawned on me. Mom had complained about her teeth because she was having a sinus problem with the weather change and it made the bones in her jaw hurt.
If you look real close you can see the redness around Mom's right eye.
I alerted the home to the possibility and the nurse checked Mom out.  It was just a little pink at that point so the nurse gave Mom some Claritin and said she would keep an eye on her.
So, yes, there are blips, but all in all, it’s all good.