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Showing posts from 2019
Alzheimer's Can Be a Selfish Disease
Alzheimer’s can be a selfish disease.That doesn’t mean your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s is a selfish person, at least not intentionally.But it affects the lives of those around them in selfish ways.
When Dad passed away, we were unable to notify some of our relatives in another state about his funeral.Prior to his death, Mom had delusions that he was seeing certain female family members behind her back even though it was impossible unless he had a time machine.So my sisters and I had to make the difficult decision not to notify them about the funeral, not even his death, until after the fact.We wanted Dad’s funeral to be dignified.We didn’t want this difficult day to be tainted by Mom’s rants, false accusations and malicious glares.We took the easy way out.
What made it even more difficult was that afterwards we couldn’t even tell them the reason they were excluded.We were afraid they might not understand.They might call Mom to confro…
Win / Win
.Last week I received a phone call from hospice that began..."Kristy, this is never an easy call to make but..."
 My heart sank because even though I thought I was prepared to let Mom go, I wasn't really.
 She continued..."but Flo is doing so well that we have to take her off of hospice."
Wow.  That’s great news, right?Mom had been on hospice for two years because her weight was too  low.Now her weight was stable so she no longer qualified for their services.
But on the flip side, Mom would really miss her cheerful hospice visitors.
The next morning one of Mom's regular hospice workers came by with the contract to end Mom's care. 
"Don't worry about Flo.   I still plan to visit twice a week on my own time.I love her," she assured me.  
What a comfort that is.
Two days later, another hospice worker e-mailed me to say she had no intention of stopping her visits with Mom because she loved her.
 What a relief that is.
 Yesterday, the hospice cha…
Turning the Impossible Into the Possible
          Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.That’s how I coped with my mother’s issues as I was growing up and through my adulthood.I didn’t label her.I never used the words dementia or Alzheimer’s to explain her behavior.Yes, she had paranoid tendencies.She accused my dad of bizarre indiscretions.She heard strangers talking about her in the post office line.But she wasn’t my problem.She had my father to deal with her, so it was easier for me to ignore her symptoms. Then Dad died.Now she was my problem.Things were far worse than I had realized.When I helped her pay the bills she could barely sign her name on checks.When I visited she had tied elaborate rope knots around her door knobs to keep the neighbors out.I ran into the same quandary as Dad had confided to me in the past.She needed professional help but convincing a paranoid person that they need help is an impossible task. A local policeman called me.Apparently Mom had been going to th…
Replacing Worry with Peace

Sometimes it’s hard not to worry about getting Alzheimer’s when both my grandmother and mother have had it.When I walk into a room and forget what I came in for I worry.If I can’t remember the name of the actor in a movie, I’m briefly concerned.  When I wash my hair and can't remember if I put the conditioner on or not.  When I lose my reading glasses I am relieved to find them on the nightstand, not in the freezer or the trash can.
My doctor knows my family history and so she tests my memory annually.She gives me three words to remember and repeat back several moments later.She has me draw a clock and put the numbers and hands on it.She tests me on the season, year, month and day.
My recent test went well until the final question.
“What day of the week is it?”
“Monday, I mean Tuesday, because yesterday was Labor Day, no it was Memorial Day,” I stammered.
I nervously waited for a reaction from her.Was this it?Had I blown it?Was I finally showing memory…
Turning Sorrow into Joy
Around the same time that my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my toddler grandson moved in with us for awhile.
I rejoiced as Tyler learned to speak and increased his vocabulary.But I was saddened when my mother struggled to remember words and names.
As Tyler advanced from baby mobiles to building blocks, my mother could no longer figure out how to dial a telephone.
Tyler loved to pretend that he was driving our car.Mom was turning over the keys to us, knowing she would never drive again.
My husband and I would shop for educational but fun items that would challenge Tyler and stimulate his brain as he grew.At the same time we would shop for Mom, trying to find items that would simplify her life, such as remotes and telephones with the fewest number of buttons possible.
Having Tyler with us at this difficult time was a Godsend.It helped me come to terms with the fact that although I was facing a progressive death of my mother, I was also experiencing a prog…
Any Special Requests?
Just an FYI:When performing for a roomful of Alzheimer’s patients, it may not be wise to ask for song requests from the audience.Not unless you want to hear the same song over and over!   A well-known local band visited Mom's memory care facility as a special treat.  As soon as they played one requested song another member of the audience would ask for the same song again!  And each time, all the residents would nod their head approvingly at the suggestion!  As though they hadn't just heard the song over and over!  I was pleasantly surprised that Margaritaville and Hotel California were the two requested tunes.  But now I cannot get either of them out of my head.
Every Meal Should Be a Happy Meal!
When I was little, Mom and Dad always made me eat my peas and carrots before I could have desert.I hated peas.Sometimes Dad would hide them in my mashed potatoes but all that did was make me hate mashed potatoes.I became a magician of sorts, making them disappear under my sleeve or in my napkin. Our dog was my accomplice and would gobble up any that I ‘accidentally’ dropped on the floor.
Now on the days I visit Mom at lunch, I have the power to choose her menu.At first I fed her vegetables and meat and then ended the meal with desert.But during the last few years, she began losing her appetite and consequently losing weight.She showed little interest in food.
So I’ve decided to throw the rules out the window!She’s eighty five years old so why should she have to eat her peas?Whether she eats her meal or not, I treat her to a large bowl of vanilla ice cream smothered in both chocolate and caramel sauce.She will devour the bowl and sometimes will eat a…

Good Medicine!

Alzheimer's is such a sad disease, sometimes it is good to laugh a little...

Last week Mom complained of stomach pain, but she couldn’t tell me where it hurt.I asked the staff nurse to check on her.Here’s the conversation: . Nurse: So, Flo, your daughter says you are experiencing stomach pains? Mom:  I am? Me:  Yes, remember?  You said your stomach hurts? Mom: I don't think so. Nurse:  Ok.  How have you been doing?  Any problems? Mom:  Well, my stomach hurts. The nurse and I exchange glances. Nurse presses lightly on her abdomen:  Any pain when I do this? Mom:  No Doctor presses on various areas of her abdomen, pelvic area and lower back:  Doctor: No pain, when I touch it here? Mom:  No Doctor:  Does it hurt worse after you eat? Mom:  I don't think so. Doctor:  Ok, Flo, let's have you lay back on the table so you can point out exactly where it hurts.  We may need to order an ultra sound.
The nurse assists mom in removing her blouse.Underneath the blouse, her bra is on backwards and is …
Good Intentions
The elderly woman looked a bit lost as she sat in her wheelchair in the center of the recreational area.  Her eyes flitted from person to person as though searching for someone or something familiar.
I was there to eat with Mom, but she was getting her hair styled, so I had nothing to do but wait.
I hadn’t seen this woman before.Maybe she was new.  Perhaps I could help her.  I made eye contact with her and smiled reassuringly.She seemed startled at the attention and slowly wheeled her chair over to me.
“I don’t know where I am or why I am here,” she said.“I don’t understand.”
I leaned down to eye level.I wasn’t sure how to respond, how to make her feel less confused.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, in what I hoped was a soothing voice.“Maybe I can go find somebody to explain where you are.”
“You’re making me feel stupid!” she snapped at me.She wheeled away before I could respond.
In retrospect, I can see that I was talking to her in the same tone I use with my grandchild or m…
Some Days Are Crappier Than Others!

While visiting Mom today, I decided to take her out of the memory care center and let her enjoy the outside for a bit.It was a lovely day for Oklahoma.
I pushed her wheelchair down the corridor and out of the building to one of their many garden areas.The scent of freshly mown grass mingled with the fragrance of the flowers.I sat on an iron park bench next to mom’s chair.
“Isn’t this lovely?” I asked as I turned my face towards hers.
Something was terribly wrong.Mom was trembling and pale. She wore an agonized expression.
Was she having a stroke?A heart attack?
“Mom, what’s wrong?Are you okay?”
Her breathing seemed laboured and her eyes darted around frantically.Was this the end?Was this going to be my last memory of her? Watching her in agony?
I hurriedly wheeled her back down the hall to the memory care center and frantically pushed the button three times, the code for them to let me in.
Beth, one of my favorite staff members, opened the door.
“S…
Stolen Time
I was visiting Mom and waiting out in the hallway as they finished dressing her.
One of the residents, who I thought of as the cat lady because she was always clutching a bedraggled plush cat, wheeled herself over to me.Normally she wanted me to admire her cat, but this time she handed me a piece of paper.I scanned it.It appeared to be from the memory care facility files.It had personal information on it, such as her name, social security number and so forth.
“How old am I?” she asked
“Well, let’s see,” I said.I found the date of birth on the paper-1934- and deducted it from 2019. I double-checked the math in my head to make sure it was correct before I answered her.
“You are 85 years old!” I said cheerfully.“You’ll be 86 in a few weeks!I bet they will give you a birthday party.That’ll be fun, won’t it?”
I was hoping to make her smile, but instead her eyes filled with tears and she hung her head.
“I thought I was 75 years old,” she said.  "I don't know what happe…

Struggling with Guilt

Struggling with Guilt
“I could never put my mother in a nursing home.”
“Don’t you feel guilty having strangers take care of your mother?”
“I’ve heard horror stories about what goes on in those places.”
At first I felt shamed by people’s reactions.Then I felt the need to defend myself.Following that, I was angry that I felt the need to defend myself.
If you are like me, you struggled with your decision.It wasn’t one that you made lightly.It’s not as though I dropped my mother at the door with a paper bag of belongings and scurried away, leaving no contact information.
If you are caring for your loved one at home, I respect you for your commitment.  I'm not in a position where I can care for Mom on a full time basis.  So I spent months visiting different places with Mom until we found the best accommodations for her.I visit frequently, sometimes with no advance warning, to monitor the care she receives.
People who aren’t in your situation will try to make you feel guilty, no matter…

Enjoying the Nectar

Enjoying the Nectar
We used to have a humming bird feeder on our deck.A particular hummingbird decided that it was his personal feeder.He would hover over it and if any other hummingbirds came close, he would chase them off.He didn’t really have time to enjoy the nectar.He was too busy making sure nobody else enjoyed the nectar.
Mom, especially as her Alzheimer’s progressed, lived her life like the hummingbird.She would watch her neighbors suspiciously through the front window trying to catch them in the act of theft or vandalism rather than greeting them with a kind word.She would stand on her deck with a broom so that she could chase away birds before they pooped on her property, rather than enjoy the color and music they contributed to her view.
After she was moved to a memory care facility, a day that I’m sure her neighbors celebrated, we began clearing out her home in order to sell it.We found jewelry and money in her valances.Her favorite turquoise dress was wrapped in a paper …

Mother's Day

Mother's Day
Searching for the perfect card for Mother’s Day can be difficult when your mom suffers from Alzheimer’s.Hallmark should make a series of cards just for that situation:
Mom, I’m sorry you can’t remember my name, but I hope you remember that I love you.Mother, remember the time we…? Oh, never mind.Dear Mama, I know you think I’m stealing your money, but I’m not.Really.Hey Mom, if you can’t find your purse, it’s probably under the mattress.The same place you always hide it.Mom, I remember you before you had Alzheimer’s.I remember the boo boos you kissed, the drawings we made together, the made up bedtime stories you told and the Easter dresses you sewed.I remember You. She is still my mother, whether she remembers who I am or not.  She will always be my mother.  Because of my faith, I believe that when we are reunited in Heaven and our eyes meet, she will once again look upon me with recognition and love.
Until then, happy mother&#…

Misplaced Anger

Misplaced Anger
After Dad died, visits to the lake place became bittersweet.All our memories involved Dad: drifting in the pontoon boat, watching the fireworks from the deck, charcoaling burgers.
My sisters and I weren’t surprised when Mom decided to sell it.She never loved it the way Dad did.She and nature didn’t get along too well.She was fearful of the sun damaging her skin, the wind messing up her hair and the birds pooping on her deck.
In order for Mom to sell it, we needed to clear it out.We planned one last family weekend at the lake place to help Mom pack.We pictured a quiet weekend of reminiscing about Dad.
But Mom ruined it.She complained if we took a break to enjoy the view.She snapped at us if we dirtied a glass.She accused us of stealing items that she couldn’t find.
By the time we left Sunday morning, anger consumed my thoughts.On the long drive home, I vented to my husband how Mom destroyed the weekend.How my memories of the lake place were ruined.
After a couple of ho…

Alzheimer's Bingo

Alzheimer's Bingo
While visiting Mom today I decided to join the other Alzheimer’s residents for a game of Bingo. It went something like this:

Bingo Caller: B9.

Gertrude: Did you say D9?

Other players start frantically looking for D9 on their cards.

Mabel: No, she said B9.

Gertrude: (sounding garbled): What???

Mabel: (Shouting) B9! B9!

Bingo Caller: Gertie, did you put your hearing aids in your mouth again?

Gertrude (still garbled): Huh??

Bingo Caller: Spit them out, please.

Mabel: Shit them out? That could take days!

Bingo Caller: sigh...

Mom: What are we doing?

Me: Playing Bingo.

Amy, the aide, sticks her hand out and Gertie obediently spits out the hearing aids. Amy dries them with a towel and puts them back in Gertie’s ears.

All the ladies look around in confusion wondering what is holding up the game.

Bingo Caller: Ok, next number is N43.

Mabel points at Margaret's card, rolls her eyes and announces in a superior tone: You missed one! Put a jelly bean on N…