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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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…

 

 

 

 

 

Its Not About Me And Yet…

Mom just fixed her breakfast.  She has been fixing her own breakfast for about a week now.  She brought her laundry out to the mud room yesterday — rolled it on her walker.  I was already in that room, so I loaded the washer for her and later transferred it over to the dryer.  Once it was done, I took it to Mom, and she folded it.   This is good progress.  For months, she has not had the health or energy to do any of these things.  We ran a few errands earlier this week, and Mom seemed to enjoy that day.  She got in and out of the car several times and did fine.  She bought some new clothes at a local shop — much needed items as her own clothing hangs on her now 60-pounds-less frail body.

All that progress, but still, I sit here looking up Movers and Self-storage Units.   She wants to go back to her apartment.  She loves that apartment.  It is sad.  Heartbreaking.  Melancholy: a gloomy state of mind.  Sigh

Even since our “family meeting” on Sunday, where we talked very frankly to Mom about her physical and mental health and explained why she cannot go back to her apartment, she tells everyone she is going home next week.  And seriously, I do not believe she is being stubborn; I think she does not remember most of that Sunday conversation, and in her mind, she intends to go home.

And that is why she cannot.

She is still too confused to live alone.

Her physical body is healing and gaining strength.  Her clarity has improved dramatically over the last 3 weeks, but her mental state seems to have stabilized about a week ago.    She is almost “there” but not quite.   We cannot, in good conscience, allow her to go back to an apartment building to live alone.  Would she forget to turn off the stove?  She never has.  But what if?

My Mom is in a hard place.  She has had so much taken away from her in a short period of time.   Even though she just celebrated her 84th birthday, and by anyone’s standards, that is an old age, she was on the golf course 9 months ago.  She took a road trip with a friend out West just a couple of years ago.  This is not the average 84 year old woman.

I have been a little uptight and anxious the last few weeks.   I have been too quick to complain and see the negative.   Her half well/half sick state challenges me on many levels.  Shame on me.  I can do this better.  I will never have another chance to do this.  I want to do it right.

This is my Mom’s story.  It’s not about me, but yet, do I have some control on how we all walk down this road?  My attitude and mental state affect not only me, but they affect my Mom and my children and grandchildren.   It IS my story in that sense.   How do I want to do this?  Who do I want to be in this?  When I look back…

Lord, I need discernment, wisdom, kindness and strength.  Help me to do this better.   I want no regrets.  Help me to do this right.

You Look Familiar

Ok, so among all this turmoil, there has to be some humor.   I don’t want to make fun of or dishonor my Mom in any way, but this is kinda cute….   just part of the journey.

Two weeks ago, we were at the pharmacy yet again, waiting for prescriptions to be filled.   This was our second trip that week.  The place was busy… people standing and sitting everywhere, waiting for their meds.

I was in line; my Mom was sitting across the aisle from me, chatting with another elderly lady.  This lady was a stranger, so they were just talking about the weather and the busyness of the store.  Mom decided she needed a few other items so she got up and went to retrieve them.  A few minutes later she was back and sat down again.  She looked at this elderly woman, and said, ‘you look familiar; you were here the other night when I was waiting too’.   Seriously, I almost laughed out loud.   Oh Mom…. I didn’t say it, but no, Mom, she looks familiar because you were just talking to her 5 minutes ago.

But the icing on the cake was when the other elderly woman said, “I was?  hmm, I don’t remember being here the other night’.    Oh, God love ’em.

Lord, If I don’t find some humor on this path, I just might get swallowed up by my grief.  But I ask that you  help us to find joy and laughter together.    I don’t want laughter at her expense.  Bring joy into Mom’s life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

How About A New “doo”?

One of the challenging things with Mom right now is determining what ailment is causing what symptoms.  Her eyes are watering, her head feels “full”.  Is this the congestive heart failure?  Is it a side-effect of some med?  Or is it allergies?  She has always suffered from allergies, but the last couple of years have been a bit more severe.  She moved into an apartment just about that time.  We are wondering if she is allergic to something in her home.  Oh my, what a mess that will be…. another move?  Can her memory deal with all her belongings being in yet a another new closet, new cupboard?  Oh Dear God….

She wanted to take me out to lunch on Monday.  We ate at a local eatery, then made our weekly visit to the pharmacy.  Afterwards, I hated to take her home so soon.  The weather here has been bitter this winter, forcing her to stay inside most days.   We live in a small community — not much to do on a very cold winter day, but I suggested we stop by a hair salon.  “How about a new doo, Mom?”  It had been months — years maybe — since a stylist cut her hair.  Mom is kind of a “do it yourself” woman.   The plumbing below her 20140210_151529kitchen sink can attest to that!  Anyways, after a couple of stops, we found a salon that could take her immediately.   The young, heavily tatooed, fuchia-hair-colored beautician was the perfect fit for mom.  She was kind and gentle and very patient.  I took a few pictures, but I only feel comfortable, at this point, posting one.  Some day I may add the rest.  Look at that head — hardly a gray hair!  She has never colored it.  I think I have more gray hair than she does.  It was a fun, normal thing to do.  I love my Mom.

I have not noticed any major memory lapses this week.    However, I do think the pharmacy has decided it is their mission to test her.  I have asked them to text and call me now.  Let me deal with all that confusion.   Seriously, there is just a lot of communication with so many drugs involved.   I made that decision when they ran short of a couple of her meds and wanted to only fill half the bottles.  Good grief.

We’ve had a communication problem with the new cardiologist.  Some very important drug dosage info was left off the paperwork — and oh my — their paperwork is their gospel.  I can’t seem to get the nurse “hotline” to understand what actually transpired.  These are the kinds of things that drive me crazy.  But lessons are being learned.  I will never walk out of a doctor’s office again without the paperwork being accurate.

During one of our conversations this week, Mom mentioned my brother’s upcoming trip.

She remembered.

Not only did she remember he was leaving, but she remembered when he was going.  I said, ‘do you remember where he is going?’  Yes, she did….

That, my dear friend, is progress.  I am hopeful.

Lord, hope keeps us going.  Thank you for the little things that bring hope.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Remember, Mom

My mother is sick.  She is very sick, and it has consumed me.  She has always been a strong woman — emotionally and physically.   But this illness is taking its toll.   She will turn 84 years old this summer, and she is worried her health will affect her golf game!  Yes, that kind of strong.  She may fully recover and be able to play golf this summer — that is our goal, however, seeing her frail and weak makes me sad.   This is new territory for both of us.  I don’t want to be morbid, but it has been hard to watch her try_to_rememberface her mortality.   I see something in her eyes that has not been there before.  And it grieves me.

The physical illness is acute right now, and is wrecking havoc on her body.  My sibs and I are concerned about her heart and her lungs.  But something else is going on, something friends and even doctors haven’t noticed yet.  She can’t remember.

Mom has always loved to talk.  She commands a room.  And she frequently forgets what she has said to whom, and so repeats herself.  She may tell me something 5 times — or forget to tell me at all.   That is Mom; who she has always been.  But this is different.  She covers well, but I am with her often enough now, I know the truth.  I know the details of her life, the sequence of events.  She is confused.  She can’t remember.  And its scaring me.

I was raised in a family with 4 girls (and a boy), and I have four daughters of my own.  I know first-hand that mother-daughter relationships can be tricky.  My mom and I have always been on good terms.  No major upsets.  We have done fine.  But we have lacked some common ground and some depth to our relationship.  I have yearned for something more, and I have always kind of blamed her for the lack.  But something has happened lately.  Through doctor appointments, trips to the pharmacy, “pill box” dates, and frequent luncheons, Mom and I are together — a lot.  We’ve finally ventured beyond the weather and Fox News.  We’ve had some important talks.  We’ve talked about life:  her childhood, my Dad and us kids.  We’ve even talked about death.  I didn’t want to put extra worry on her (she has lost so much lately), but one conversation gently circled around her memory or lack thereof.  I prodded softly, wanting her to open up and share what she thought was happening.

My Gramma forgot too.  Not the alzheimer-kind of forget, but the “D” kind.  We aren’t really saying it yet.  Like if we don’t say the “D” word, it won’t happen.  We are just talking about remembering and forgetting for now.  There have been advances since Gramma walked this road.  And Mom is already 10 years older than her mother was when her memory failed.  I asked Mom permission to talk to the doctor about it at her next visit.  I said, ‘He can’t help if he doesn’t know’.

We’ve since had the appointment.  Yes.  There it is.  Now we know.  I already feel the loss.

We are just beginning our journey with this new diagnosis.   The meds haven’t kicked in yet.  She is still confused, but I feel hope that Mom can be helped … that we can ward off this disease for as long as possible.

Our roles are kind of reversed now.  I am watching over her.  I’m checking in and calling.  I am the caregiver.  I feel an urgency to know her.  To learn all I can.  I want to stop the clock.  This is how I have always felt about my children, but now…

There is a new depth to our relationship.   Has it been me all along?

Lord, I don’t know what the days ahead hold for my Mom.  But I know you have it under control.  Psalm 139: 16 says, “You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”   May we trust you fully each and every day.