Bibs for Everyone

Mom is sewing up a storm.  Every other day, the Activities Director knocks on Mom’s door and has some mending for her to do.   When Mom tells me this, she pretends it’s a bit presumptuous of her, but I think she is loving the attention.  Mom has always had a love/hate relationship with sewing.  On the one hand, she loves the challenge and creativity involved.  But on the other hand, she hates the drudgery of alterations and mending.  I know the Director is probably searching out sewing jobs for Mom to keep her engaged and busy.

When I called her a few days ago, Mom said, ‘I made myself an apron from some material your sister dropped off’.   ‘An apron?  Why do you need an apron’?  Mom replies, ‘well, it’s a bib, really.  I made one for myself and everyone at my table’.   I can’t believe my mother is willing to wear a bib — even the instigator of wearing a bib at mealtime.

Wow.  I don’t even know what to say about that.

Yesterday I joined Mom for an early Thanksgiving meal prepared by her facility.  When we arrived downstairs, she haimagesnded out a few more bibs to appreciative fellow residents.   It got a little comical as Mom couldn’t remember which women had asked for bibs.  One woman got one and didn’t know why.  Another resident wanted to know why she didn’t get one.  It was kind of funny, and I think Mom will be making a few more this week; maybe everyone will be wearing a bib the next time I join her for lunch.  The dining room was overflowing into the hallway as  family members and guests gathered for this lovely dinner.   I did notice that Mom did NOT wear her “apron” for this meal.  The bibs evidently are saved for regular, no-guests-present, kind of meals.  Good for you, Mom.   You had me worried there for a minute.

Health wise Mom is doing very well.  After some routine blood work, the doctor put her back on thyroid medicine (her weight gain was also evident that something wasn’t quite right).   She has made great progress over the last 3 months, and we are happy about her renewed strength.

Her memory is still playing tricks on her.  The sequence of events and remembering recent happenings are still her biggest struggle.  She is guarded when questioned because she has caught on that those are her weaknesses.  Visits with her are taxing because she has become quiet.  Quiet is not an adjective that would ever have described my mother in the past.  She answers questions when personally addressed, but she does not initiate most conversations.

I think we were prepared for the memory lapses as we thought that was the definition of dementia, but this whole new personality change has us all a bit perplexed.  It’s like getting to know someone new.  And that’s okay.  Three months ago, we didn’t think Mom was going to live.

I have much to be thankful for this year.  So many blessings.  And the biggest and best is my mother will be sitting at our Thanksgiving Dinner table.

I wonder if she’ll bring her apron?

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No Pedicures For Us Today

I went to see Mom yesterday.  I intended for us to go for pedicures.   My sister had mentioned a couple of times that Mom’s piggies could use some attention.  Sounded good to me… who doesn’t love a pedicure?  Well, Mom, evidently.   There was no persuading her otherwise.  I tried.  I really really tried.  I texted my sister, ‘unless I tie her up and drag her to the car, there will be no pedicures today’.   Ok then.

Mom has gained almost 30 pounds in the 8 weeks she has been at the assisted living facility.  My sisters think she is feeling better and eating too well.  (I could write a whole blog about my skinny sisters, food struggles, and my weight, however, my anxiety level is high enough today)  ‘They give her dessert at every meal”.  Well, yes, but 30 pounds?!  She isn’t chowing down and bingeing on bowls of ice cream every night.  Of course, there will be some weight gain as she was down to 110 pounds, but this much, this fast, isn’t a normal, healthy weight gain.  No, I think maybe the recent downward swing of that thyroid is still playing havoc with Mom’s body.  Doctors have adjusted her meds again.    Recent doctor’s appointments have yielded praise of Mom’s rebounding health, and frankly, no doctor is concerned about her weight.  Seriously?  I’m kinda concerned… and I don’t think its the Moose Tracks.

She called me on Monday because she was frustrated with a sewing machine someone gave her.  The bobbin thread was in a tizzy.   Anyone who sews knows that messed up bobbin thread can make you crazy.  I told her I would bring my extra machine.  “I’m not using it.  I can help set it up.  I’m coming tomorrow so I’ll put it in the car right now”.  She called me again on Tuesday morning before I left.  …the bobbin thread on that machine was in a tizzy.  Anyone who sews knows…    bobbinYep,  a repeat of the conversation from the day before.  Oh, Mom.    She called me twice more as I was driving, remembering things she needed me to pick up for her sewing tasks.  Setting up the machine and filling extra bobbins of various colors was a fun, normal thing to do.  It was so good to see Mom in this setting.   It would have been “just like old times” if it wasn’t for the repetition.  I think three times, she said, ‘I wanted you to pick something up.  What was it?’  “Pins, Mom, you asked me to pick up straight pins.  See, here they are.”

I am still a little shocked at the repeat questions.  It may be something I never get use to.  How does the brain work?  Why do those recent words not stick?  I want to take her face in my hands and say, listen Mom, listen to what I say.  As if only listening were the answer.  Remember.  Please, remember, Mom.

She hears the repetition in her fellow residents…  she says things like, “they are like my Mom was…”   I just nod, and my heart is sad.  Very very sad.  Dementia is a cruel disease.  It is stealing my mother.

She doesn’t even know she’s leaving.

I hate dementia.

I fear dementia.

 

 

Maybe That’s Why She’s Quiet… I hate Dementia

Mom continues to gain strength, and has actually gained around 15 pounds as near as I can tell.   Over the last several weeks, when asked about her weight, Mom would reply that she weighed 112 or 127 or 119 — all within the same conversation!  My sister and I were concerned because Mom’s weight is relevant due to her Congestive Heart Failure.  My sis has since bought a small dry erase marker board which sits right by the bathroom scale.  Mom’s daily journal seems to confirm the 127, give or take a pound each day.

However, it is complicated because now that the Hyperthyroidism is under control, of course, she is gaining weight.  Her appetite is back, and she is eating well again.   I try not to take offense to “the eating well again” comment when my sister says it.  Hey!  I was feeding her well when she lived here.   But, seriously, 85% of the time Mom was with me, she was a very sick woman.  And with the thyroid out of control, it didn’t seem to matter what she ate, she still lost weight.  I haven’t opened any of Mom’s cupboards in the new apartment, but my sister says she tends to gravitate to the candy aisle whenever they are out shopping.  That, too, could be responsible for a few extra pounds.  She also has dessert choices at every meal in the dining room — she does love her some lemon pie!  That’s okay, eat whatever you want, Mom.   At 84, some habits are just not going to change.

Since I posted last, I have seen Mom a couple of times.  She has been fairly reserved and quiet.  She will talk when asked direct questions, but she rarely begins any conversation herself.  I think that is the biggest personality change I see.  She doesn’t seem mad anymore, just not herself.

I hate dementia.  What an awful disease.  There she is right in front of me.   But where is SHE really?  Like many other daughters around me, I have cried myself sick over my mother.  (The hour and half drive home serves me well that way.)  Grieving…

Our family worked like crazy over the last year to get Mom healthy again.  We fought the doctors at every turn when they gave up.  And we were right when we said,  ‘something isn’t right; you are missing something’.   After eight months, the doctors landed on the correct diagnosis, and here we are two and half months later, Mom is certainly healthier — she has gained back strength, stamina, and weight.  She looks good.  But, I can’t help but think all that havoc on her body accelerated the dementia.  She is a different woman than she was — even 9 months ago.  Sure, we saw the signs, and we knew things we a bit amiss, but the rate at which her mind has stopped playing nicely is alarming to me.  And it grieves me.

I think it grieves her too.

Does she hear the repetition?  I know she hears the repeating stories in some of her fellow residents, and it drives her crazy.  (smile)  Yes, that does make all of us kind of snicker.  Oh, Mom…

Does she know she is confused?

I think she knows.  And it probably scares her death.

Maybe that’s why she’s quiet.  The less she talks the less she reveals to us … and to herself.

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Assisted Living Adjustments. This. This. And This.

call-mom-on-phone-means-talk-to-mother-100250803Funny how all of her kids have a different kind of interaction with Mom.  My sister who lives 600 miles away has always had a great rapport with her over the phone.  So, lucky for her, that relationship can just keep on keeping on.   I am not much of a phone talker so that has never been how Mom and I have communicated.  The phone calls we make have always consisted of details that need to be shared.  This. This. And This.  Ok, I love you, bye.  We have always lived within “meeting for lunch” distance.  We talk face to face.

Mom now lives an hour and half away.  This lunchtime meeting is more challenging so, of course, phone calls need to be made.  But after last week’s visit, I’ve been a little reluctant to call Mom.  Everyone else seemed to have a good report after being with her, but my encounter was less than “good”.  I decided to give her a little more time to adjust…maybe a lot of time.

However, these are the new developments this week:

Adjustment #1:  my sister stopped in to see Mom yesterday, but Mom wasn’t in her apartment.  After checking at the front desk, Sis discovered that Mom went with a bus group to a local restaurant for lunch.  When they got back, Mom went to play bingo with some of the gals.   My sister found her in the Rec Room, smiling and having a good time.  Wow.  Bingo.

Adjustment #2:  Mom called me this morning.  She needs some more pants.  She told me the colors and size to buy.  I know that call sounds trivial, but this was a “normal” kind of phone call from Mom.  She sounded good.  She sounded like Mom.  It was a short call: This. This.  And This.

But I’ll take it.

‘Ok, Mom,   yes…yes…  how about you…   yes…  I’ll get them for you…  ok, I love you, bye-bye’.

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Four Days Into Assisted Living…

Mom is four days into the assisted living apartment…

I think about my mother every day.  I wonder what she’s doing.  How is she getting along?  I wonder if she has found a close friend yet; a friend to chat with over a cup of coffee.  Is she eating with the same people at lunch and supper?  Does she look over the dining room and seek anyone out yet?  She told us on Sunday, she was going to find the youngest man there, marry him, and get of there.  (smile)   Spunky even in her anger.  I miss my Mom.

Has she gotten involved in any of the activities yet?  Did she actually go for that watercolor class?  Or is she just watching the news and doing cross road puzzles?  I wish I knew…

My sister is stopping by twice a day to check in with her.  Today’s report was encouraging as Mom and her were able to talk without either of them getting irritated.  I heard there were some tears.  I know Mom is disappointed that life has taken this turn.  I know she is grieving her old life.  We all are.

Her new apartment is about an hour and half from my home, and I haven’t gone to see her since we moved her in last Sunday.  I thought some space would be good for both of us.  I can’t decide whether to call her or not.  If she is content and enjoying her day, I don’t want to “remind” her and fluster her.

As much as my world was turned upside down when I was Mom’s caregiver, I miss her.  There is an emptiness, and some anxiety about her being so far away.  It’s like sending your teen away to college for the first time.  All day long, you think about her and wonder how she’s fairing.  You know if she’ll just give it a chance, this new life has much to offer her; different things, but still, really good things.  But at the same time, you are grieving the loss of her —  and life as you knew it.

So I wait.

And I wonder.

And I miss my Mom.

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My Mother May Never Speak To Me Again

Roughest two weeks of my life.  Mom just continued in her anger.  We are not sure exactly what is going on.  Is it a medicine side-effect?  Is she just plain mad at us for not allowing her to go home?  Is it dementia?  So hard to know.   I have never seen my mother exhibit anger like this toward her children.  It is heart-breaking.

Last Tuesday evening, she was scheduled to go out to eat with my niece and her family.  At about 3:00, Mom walked into my kitchen and demanded to go home.  “Home” of course, does not even exist anymore, but Mom does not remember that.   I calmly reminded her that she had dinner plans.  She then stated she would be going home from dinner then:  ‘I am not coming back!’  Sigh   I did not answer her; no reason to pick a fight.  But shortly after that conversation, she began to pack up every single thing she owns.  She folded clothes into laundry baskets and put shoes into grocery bags.  It didn’t take her long, and before I could actually think of a plan B, she had emptied every drawer and closet.

She was practically giddy for the last 30 minutes while we waited for her dinner date.  Wow — such a personality change.  Hmm, so she can control it.  In the midst of all this activity, I had received texts from my siblings that Mom would stay the night with my brother (niece’s dad) and then head to my sister’s for a few days.  She left happy as a lark and I was bawling like a baby.   She thought she was going home, and I knew she was headed to yet another kid’s home.  Seemed like the ultimate betrayal.

A little side story from over the weekend:  For those of you who have read previous posts, you know my Mom lives to golf.  That was her ultimate health goal: To be able to get back on the golf course.   My sister’s husband is a golfer, and since Mom wasn’t mad at him, he offered to take her golfing.  They played nine holes.  Nine holes!!  And she beat him.  Are you kidding me?  I know my mother is a strong woman — and a stubborn woman — but she had something to prove that day.  But, wow.  Nine holes!   Thank goodness my bro-in-law is a good sport!

Mom was angry for the four days she was at my sister’s home — barely talking to my sister.  It is extremely challenging for anyone to live in that kind of environment.  Enough said about that.  We can talk about “why” forever, and still never know.  We’ll just blame the disease and give Mom the benefit of the doubt.  Who is this woman?  How many times have I said that during this journey?

A week has passed since she left my home.  And in that time, we have moved Mom into an Assisted Living apartment 3 blocks from my sister’s home.  My sister had already laid all the ground work for the facility; Mom’s insistence on leaving my home only accelerated the move.  Sunday was the hardest day of my life.  I may write more about that some time, but for now the emotions are too fresh, and raw, and too close to the surface to blog about it.  Some day, maybe.

The apartment is in an amazing facility.  There is much offered and people actually want to live there.  It is not “home” yet.  And Mom is still very mad at her children.  However, she is talking and engaging with the staff.  Not so much with residents yet (baby steps are okay).  My sister found out she signed up for a water-color class.  Seriously?  Wow.  So we are 2 days into this dramatic move, and I see a glimmer of hope.

However, I’m not sure my mother will ever talk to me again.   When I kissed her good-bye on Sunday, her last words to me were, ‘I didn’t think you’d ever do this to me’.

I hope she finds her place.  I hope she continues to get healthy.  I hope she thrives.  And I hope she forgives me.

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Just a Pat on the Hand

I was not at my best yesterday.  Four hours of sleep and the stress of getting Mom’s apartment ready to pack evidently were not a good combination.  And unfortunately, I let my guard down.

Mom and I had our first big confrontation yesterday.  We were both upset and mad and didn’t speak the rest of the evening.  I take the blame for the argument.  I am not the one who is sick and tired.  I am not the one with a dementia diagnosis.

She went to bed first — without eating any supper.  I followed shortly after.  Lying in bed, I knew I would never sleep.  What am I doing?   Over the monitor, I could hear Mom’s restlessness as well.

I slipped into the kitchen, took a plate from the cupboard.   And with a few hardy snacks, I tiptoed into her bedroom.   I knelt by her bed, ‘Mom, I’m sorry I got mad.  I love you.  I brought you a few snacks’.

She was drowsy, but as she patted my hand, she said, ‘I love you too.  It’s okay.  But I’m healing…I’m healing’.   I don’t think I ever remember my mother patting my hand.  Emotions run deep.  Why do mother/daughter relationships have to be so complicated?

I kissed her cheek and gave her a hug then headed back to my own bed.  Big deep breath.

Lord, forgive me.  I blew it.  I cannot control anyone else.  I can only change my behavior — and only with Your help.  May I be kinder and gentler.  And may I have patience.

I pray for contentment and peace for Mom.  This is so hard on her.   Help us know what to do.  We just don’t know what to do…