Adjusting to Assisted Living

I spent the day with my mom on Friday.  As I had planned the visit a few days in advance, my sister (the one who lives by Mom’s assisted living facility) called and asked if I would take her to a doctor appointment.  Mom had complained about being uncomfortable the last few days, and with her continuous weight gain, my sister felt the doctor should be consulted.doctor-clip-art-4

I don’t even know how to explain the appointment.  It was almost like a comedy routine between the doctor and my mom.   This doctor is probably 70 years old himself, and  has only seen mother one time.  He was kind of lost as her medical history over the last year is very complicated.   I tried to fill in the blanks and walk him through it, but well, it’s just complicated.   All I’ll say is at the beginning of the appointment, he said, ‘your thyroid is doing great; those numbers are good’.  And at the end of the appointment he said, ‘your thyroid is dead’.  Ok then.

But by the time we were walking out of the office, a CAT scan was scheduled for next week.  Good enough.  That’s all I wanted out of the appointment anyway.  Mission accomplished.

In the parking lot, Mom says’, ‘do I stop taking my water pills?’   ‘No, everything stays the same until we get the results from the CAT scan’.  We head for a restaurant to eat a late lunch, and Mom says, ‘he didn’t take any of this water off my tummy.’  ‘No, Mom, they aren’t going to do anything until after the scan’.

Mom and I make small talk at lunch, and once again she laments about not being in ‘her own apartment’.   Then she proceeds to tell me about her play money she won at Bingo.  She uses this cash to buy toiletries in the facility store.   She has recently changed dining tables for meals, and she tells me about her new friends at that table.  She talks about her watercolor class and her euchre game.  She tells me how much sewing she has been doing.   Oookkay…..

Last summer I read many books and articles about dementia.  One report said that loved ones will always want to go home.  No matter how content they are in their new surroundings.  No matter how long it has been since they were home, they will always want to go back.   They will continue to ask about going home.    The article suggests that saying things like, ‘well, that isn’t an option anymore’, or ‘this is your home now’ only causes frustration and anger for your loved one.  It is better to say things like, ‘I know you miss your home.  Some day, we can talk more about that’.  Then steer the conversation to different topic.   I have tried to implement that advice, and it really seems to work.  So when Mom talks about home, I listen and sympathize; I don’t get upset or try to talk her out of that desire.  I just move away from the subject, and we talk about other things.

When we are about done with lunch Mom asks again about her water pills.   ‘Yes, Mom, continue to take them’.

We go for some blood work and then head back to her apartment.  Walking into the facility, Mom says, ‘he didn’t take any of this water off my tummy’.   ‘No, Mom…’

After spending a few minutes looking at her watercolors in the art room, someone mentions the Good Friday service is about to begin.  Mom quickly walks me downstairs and says her good-byes.  I am not offended that she rushes me off.  I love that she wants to go to the service and be with her new friends.

As I take my leave, she asks for the third time about her water pills.

home-sweet-homeOn my way home, I do NOT cry — this is a first.    In the past, I have cried because my mother’s world had shrunk so small.  I grieved for her and the life she knew and missed.  But today, not only did I see confirmed that her short term memory loss is certainly still an issue, I saw her world enlarging again.  As Mom has settled into her new life, her heart has softened, and she is opening up to friendships and activities.  She is finding her place once again.

She may grumble.  She may always ask to go home.  But I’m not worried about her anymore.

She is content.  She may even be happy.

This IS becoming home.

 

 

Motherhood and the Circle of Life

circle-of-lifeI’m in a funk today, and tears have come too readily several times.  So unlike me.  I went to see Mom yesterday, and once again, I cried all the way home.  I’m not even sure why.  She is really doing okay.  Much better than any of us dreamed she would be doing in assisted living.  I got there just in time to sit in on the last 15 minutes of her Bingo game.  Mom looked up when I walked in, but barely acknowledged me as she continued to tap the corner of her bingo card.  Evidently Bingo is serious business.  I quietly grabbed an extra chair and just slid in beside her.  As they continued to play the last few rounds, I looked around the room and took in the other residents — they too were “nose to card”, so I could observe them freely.  Gray heads, feeble hands, canes, wheelchairs, walkers.  Everything you’d expect in a senior home.   All but two ladies were quiet and concentrating on their cards.  Those two were playing their own cards as well as their neighbors, reaching over to point out B10, G59.  They do this frequently and it irritates Mom.  I hear about it later (several times).    As I study these men and women, a sadness comes over me.  Really?  Is this where Mom fits in?  Is this her peer group now?  I struggle with accepting that.  The game finishes, Mom jumps up, and as we walk out of the room, she says, ‘see all my loony friends? it’s a loony bin in here’.  Sigh.  I’m a little offended at her words, yet I know what I, myself, was thinking.  I didn’t call them loony, but…

I spend a couple of hours upstairs with Mom in her apartment.   She does do some repeating and I can see the short term memory lapses even in the brief time I’m there.  I know she can’t live on her own anymore.  I know she might not even want to — although she’d probably never admit it.  I know she is in a good place.  I just can’t get over how small her world has become.   Can she really be happy?  Can she be thriving in this environment?  Does she get any stimulation from other residents?

As I’m driving back home, my thoughts go from Mom to my own girls, all grown now, the last one finishing up college this semester.   I have 4 daughters.  That’s right, all girls.  Only one lives close to me; the others are scattered all over the country.  Could this melancholy be connected more to them than my Mom?   Maybe I’m a mess today because seeing Mom has just stirred up motherly emotions.   Has Mom mothered enough?  Have I?  I am 25 years younger than my mom.  25 years…  That isn’t a long time.   And no guarantee of even that.   My girls have been my whole life.  And to be honest, I struggle at times finding my place without them under foot.  They defined who I was: Mom.  I know all the parenting books say we shouldn’t let that happen, but, well…

We are daughters by no volition of our own, but we enter motherhood, normally, by choice.

Yet we really have no idea what we are taking on.

Motherhood redefines us.

It changes everything.

Forever.

 

 

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Fading Green Envy

I received an email from my oldest sister last week, updating me on Mom’s recent doctor appointments.  She reported that Mom is doing well, yet the doctor did increase her thyroid medication again as her weight gain and blood work are still a concern.

My sister wrote that Mom also had a new sewing project (Mom didn’t mention that when we talked on the phone).  She made about 40 pillows for the Assisted Living Christmas Bazaar.  Sold every one of them.  Way to go, Mom!

My sister’s email says, ‘Mom and I went for pedicures on Tuesday…’  Hmm… I couldn’t convince Mom to go for a pedicure a few weeks ago when I visited her.

I feel that little green monster creeping out — I’m jealous.green-monster-mara-morea

When I look back at my very first post in this blog, I wrote about wanting a new, deeper relationship with my Mom.  Even though the circumstances were terrible due to my mom’s illness, I still had the desire of my mom and me connecting in a new way.  But when Mom was with me, she was really, really sick.  I don’t think she even remembers much about being here.  She told someone she lived with me for 3 weeks.  It was slightly over 4 months!   Now, she is doing better, and my oldest sister and my mom are bonding.

Ha!  My sister gets a healthier Mom; a Mom who lives a block away in a beautiful assisted living facility (not with her).  She can pop in for coffee anytime and pop back out into her own life.

Yep, I said the monster was green, the color of envy.

I talk with Mom every few days on the phone, but to be honest, the visits to her new city have been less frequent this past month.   I could be more involved in her life, but the 3 hours on the road to and from her apartment have been a deterrent lately.  I just wasn’t prepared for the holiday season, and I have played “catch up” for most of December.  Sigh.  Children, Grandchildren, Mothers, Nieces….  there just isn’t enough of me to do all that I would like to do; be all that I would like to be.   I’m sure I’m not alone with those feelings.   I want more time…. more days…. more me.

I just got off the phone with Mom.  She sounds good.  She sounds like Mom.  I could just sit here and cry over the miracle of that.  She is thriving and content.  My green hue is fading a bit.  I refuse to spoil any of this time with jealousy.   I still have my Mom.   I will treasure whatever relationship  I have with her.  Life is short and we only get to do this once — this Mother-Daughter relationship — I want to do it right.

There are many answered prayers and blessings this Christmas season…

My Mom is still with us.

She is thriving.

She is perhaps even becoming happy with her new life.

She is reading, sewing, playing Bingo, and making new friends.

And she is no longer angry with her 4 children for moving her into an Assisted Living Facility!

As I think about all the good and positive, there is no room in my heart for ugly green monsters…

and all the envy fades away.

Thank you, Lord.

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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.

 

 

Dementia? Yes, but best day ever!

Ok, two posts in one day, but I just can’t wait to write.  My mom had 2 doctor appointments today, and earlier I had talked with my sister briefly about how the day had gone.  My sister didn’t even want to talk about the actual appointments, she just wanted to talk about the personal strides in Mom she saw.   After talking with her, I hung up the phone, and called my Mom.  I wanted some of that.

She was energetic on the phone and talkative as she offered all kinds of info.  “The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me, so I guess I’m ok”.  “We went out to lunch, and were gone all day.”  “Just got back in time for my dinner”.    “There was a new woman admitted today, and they asked me to talk to her”.   “They asked me if I could sew; so I spent 3 hours sewing yesterday”.    What???  Wait?  What?    Who are you, and what did you do with my mother?  (I know I’ve said that before in a post, but hey, seriously, we are trying to figure out who this woman is).

So, yes indeed, a new resident was moving into her facility today.  The woman — and her daughter — were very distraught.  The mother was evidently crying, and when the Facility Director saw Mom walking in the hallway, she asked her to come talk with them.  Wow, bold move, Miss Facility Director!   But I guess Mom told her frankly that in the beginning she was very very angry.  And stayed that way for about a week.  But then things got better and, “I’m ok now”.    I just started crying when Mom told me that story.   Mom told me that she has good days and bad days, but she’s weighed it out in her head, and its ok.  “I probably do more things and am busier here than I was at my old apartment”.  Wow.

And yes, she did do some sewing for three hours yesterday.  Mom is an expert seamstress.  She had an upholstery shop in our home; also did some tailoring.  That facility found a gem.  I’m sure they will keep her busy with all sorts of projects now that they know what she can do.   They are evidently having a luau this weekend, and had Mom sew tablecloths, napkins, etc. to get ready.

And Bingo.  Mom is loving bingo.  Evidently they win play money.  Mom loves a competition.  And every few days, they set up a market with toiletries, etc., and the winners can spend their money on those items.  It’s a win win situation.

I am amazed.

Everything Mom told me lined up exactly with what my sister had said.

Mom did tell me some things 3 times, (smile), but I’m ok with that.   Yes I am.  Glad you’re back, Mom.  I’ve missed you.

Best day ever.

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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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Very Inspiring Blogger Award Nomination — Paying It Forward

I was surprised this morning by a comment on my blog.  frangipani nominated me for an award, the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.   What a nice surprise first thing in the morning!

Seriously, finding a community of caregivers that post about their experiences with their aging parents is encouraging.  No two dementia patients are alike.  Our journeys are all so different — yet the same.  I glean inspiration and strength from their posts.  Thank you for sharing.

You can read about frangipani’s experience with caring for her Mom at:  Reflections on Dementia, Caregiving and Life in General.   I enjoy her writing and insight into dementia.  Even though she lives in Singapore, on the other side of my world, and our cultures vary dramatically, we share a common bond — our mothers are slowly leaving us through disease.

I want to thank her for reading, commenting and nominating my blog.

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This is an award that we pay forward — honoring the bloggers whom we follow and who inspire us. Here are the rules:

Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
List the rules and display the award.
Share seven facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

I am now suppose to share 7 facts about myself…

1.  I live in the USA

2.  I live in a rural town where a large Amish community resides.  Horse and buggies and bicycles are their mode of transportation.

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3.  We have not always lived in the country.  Seven years ago, my husband made a career change.  After 35 years as a Certified Public Accountant, he decided to become a farmer.  So much of my writing (My Days Well-Lived) has been inspired by that move.

4.  I cannot remember much of my childhood.  I have very few memories and that makes me sad.  That is why I blog.

5.  I rely on God for strength, patience, kindness and wisdom.   I am thankful that He is patient with me as I am often a slow learner.

6.  I come from a large family, and I have lots of support on this journey with my Mom.

7.  I think this journey is far from over.

Blogs that I would like to nominate… not necessarily about dementia, but inspiring just the same:

Reflections on the Journey

Hearing God’s Voice

The Little Moments

Help! Aging Parents!

Caring For the Caregiver

Dealing With Dementia

The View From Here

Me, My Mum, and Alzheimers

As Our Parents Age

 

 

 

 

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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I hope her world makes sense again

It’s 2:30 in the morning, and I am wide awake.  Sleep eludes me.  It’s been a crappy day.  A long crappy day.

Mom had two appointments scheduled for today:  Follow up with cardiologist and the long-awaited dementia evaluation.   She knew about both appointments, but I know she did not fully comprehend what the evaluation entailed.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she didn’t remember the evaluation was even on the calendar.  We talked about it several weeks ago when it was first lined up, but her loss of memory has become a sore point so I don’t ‘go there’ any more than necessary.

The day just started out bad.  We have over an hour drive to the doctor’s location, and Mom was cranky and irritable the whole way.   I was practically biting my tongue in half by the time we arrived.   Once at the office, the nurse, doctor, and receptionist all got a dose of cranky-pants.  My sister and I tried to cover for her, and Mom says, ‘ my children are too nice’.   I don’t think that was meant as a compliment.

At lunch, Mom didn’t like the size of the salad, and barely touched her soup.   She seemed bored with the conversation, and frankly, tired of us.   I could be mad, and yes, I was somewhat, but mostly, I was just sad.  Six months ago, Mom would relish an outing with her two daughters.  She would devour her lunch and steal every conversation.   Who is this woman?

I was gearing up to confront her behavior, but after lunch, we relaxed at my sister’s house between appointments, and Mom settled down and seemed less frustrated with life.  Ok. Good. I hate conflict.

Before we left for the appointment, I reminded her that we were going to talk about her memory issues with this new doctor.  But once there,  I know she still felt ambushed.   Betrayed.

The doctor was wonderful.  He was kind, gentle, and extremely tactful.  He treated us all with respect, and I was very impressed with him.  The evaluation lasted an hour and a half with questions directed mostly to Mom, but some to me as well.  Mom didn’t fail miserably.  But she did fail.  That’s probably a bad way to express it.  As a failure.   But today, the test was about living independently and driving again.

He said no to both in the end.

There. Now. We. Know.

My sister got to get in her car and drive away after the appointment.  I wasn’t so lucky.  The car ride home was a bit tense.  Mom had a few things to say in the first few minutes then sulked most of the way home.  Ok.  I’ll give her that.  It stinks.  I don’t blame her.  I’d be mad too.

Five miles from home, I told her that I have to be gone for most of the day tomorrow, but she can stay back and relax.  My youngest daughter will be there to keep her company.  Mom says, ‘I can just go home’.   Her comment surprises me.  What?  ‘Mom, the doctor said you cannot live alone right now’.  ‘He did not!  He said my memory was fine’.  Sigh.

We toss that convo back and forth for while, and I finally decide some tough love is overdue.  ‘Mom…

…we all enter phases of life not of our own choosing.  ie. the empty nest, the loss of a spouse.  THIS is just another phase of your life.  You may not like it; we don’t either.  We want you to go home.  But that is not an option.  You can be mad about the change.  You can be mad about being sick.  But that doesn’t alter the facts.  This new phase doesn’t mean you don’t have a life.  You just have a new life.  And you have embraced change before.  You can choose to find the best things in this new phase or you can sulk.  The choice is yours’.

Is she sulking?  Is she mad?  Discouraged? Depressed? Sad?  Yes. Absolutely yes.

Me too.

I think she needs time to grieve.  Maybe we both do.  She has lost the life she knew, and I have lost the mother I knew.

A new phase for both of us.

May we both embrace the change and find the best parts of this new life.

I hope she can find joy, and peace, and contentment.  I hope her world will make sense again and she can find her rightful place.  I hope she shines again.

But for right now — it still feels like just a long crappy day.

Lord, more than ever, we need your wisdom and discernment.  We  need patience and kindness.  The next few days and weeks may be very difficult as we make hard decisions.  Please direct us.  May we do what is best for Mom.  May we shower her with love, and comfort her as she enters a new phase of life.  May she know that she is loved.  Prepare her; and may she be willing to explore some new exciting options.  Lord, we need your strengthen and compassion.  Please guide us.images

 

 

 

 

 

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.

If She Passes “the Test”, Does She Get To Call the Shots?

Mom is holding her own.  It is rather incredible, and we are happy that she appears to be doing better.   We had another big weekend with lots of family.  She participated in the outing and it was fun to see her interact with many of the great-grandchildren.

There are a couple of concerns:  she continues to lose weight, and has dropped 9 pounds since she came home from the hospital 12 days ago.  Due to the congestive heart failure, I have all the instructions on what to do if she gains weight:  No more than 2 pounds in a day; no more than 5 pounds in a week.  But what do I do about her losing weight?  Her appetite is good — she eats 3 meals a day plus a small snack in between each meal.  She is always excited about a dish of ice cream after supper;  cookies in the middle of the night (some habits die hard, I guess).   We have gone through her supply of Ensure — guess I’ll restock that cupboard.

The other concern is her desire to go home.  Here we go again.  She tells everyone that she is going home in a few days.   Besides myself, three other family members have told her that she is not going home.  Her apartment lease is up this month.  We have made plans to pack and store.  Her lease has not been renewed.  I have already canceled some of her utilities.  Sigh

She has stated three times today, ‘do not let anyone take anything out of my apartment’.  And three times she has asked me, ‘what would they do with all my stuff?’,  if they did.  And yes, three times I have told her, ‘pack and store’.  So there is that.  The repeating.  So in circles we go.  Round and round.  Over and over.

This. is. exhausting.

Can I just be honest?  She is much easier to take care of when she is really sick.  That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to say I want her to be sick.  I don’t.   I just mean to say this is challenging.  This half-sick/half-well is really hard.

Taking care of an aging parent is more difficult than I expected.  There are layers of crisis.  Just when we think we have a plan, the situation turns another direction.  Two weeks ago, we sincerely thought Mom was on her death bed, and now, here we are fighting about her returning home again.  What a roller coaster ride.

It. is. just. plain. hard.

I have talked with my sisters briefly today, and they know we might have a “situation” on our hands.  I suggested that we have Mom evaluated by a Neuropsychologist.   That was actually our plan a few weeks back — before she ended up staying over 20 days in two different hospitals.  The main reason she couldn’t go home was due to the dementia.  But hey, she is pretty darn lucid these days.  And we are concerned about her allergies, and how they tend be extremely irritated in that apartment.  But, if she passes THE test, then I guess she is an adult, and she gets to call the shots.  (There will be no complaining about the watery eyes, headaches or numerous sneezes.  Well, at least, there will not be a lot of sympathy extended).

I have raised 4 daughters, and yes, there were challenges.  There are still challenges.  However, this taking care of a parent tests me in different ways.  This changing of roles.  Every day, we are jockeying for our positions.  I never know if I will have a passive opponent or an active, dominant one.  And when my mother is my mother, she is dominant (that is a nice way of saying she is stubborn).

I guess I’ll call the apartment complex in the morning.  Hopefully, they haven’t leased her apartment to a new renter.  If that is the case, I may be in big big trouble.

But, you know, I’m just thinking out loud here.  I don’t really know what will happen.  I don’t know what I’ll do.   We will most likely have another family meeting.  I will probably not call the apartment.

This may get ugly before it gets done.   There is a vocal, sick parent, 4 siblings and several very involved in-laws trying to make the best decisions.  Anxiety on steroids.  Oh Lord, help us…. again.

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It’s a New Ballgame, And I Might Be In Trouble

This was a hard weekend, and I’m not even sure why.   I have so many conflicting emotions right now.  Mom appears to be getting better — both mentally and physically.  And that is wonderful.   She has clarity on most issues.   Evidently she had some vivid dreams while that drug was too high in her system, and on those “stories” she is adamant about what happened.   Even though we have tried to explain what really transpired, she won’t relent.  One particular event has become an area of contention between us so I am no longer going to talk about it at all.  Another lesson learned.   “Don’t you remember…” can no longer come out of my mouth.  Ever.

She is talking about going home.  She says she will stay here another week.  This is a new development.    She has been so weak and frail that going home wasn’t an option.  Also, mentally, she wasn’t able to sort things out in her mind, and I think she knew that — and it scared her.   But now, she is gaining strength and her mind is working at least as well as it was 3 months ago.  So now I have a dilemma.   I am no longer caring for a submissive sick woman.  Caring for her now is a bit more challenging.  I have to be on my toes and ready to play some mind games now.  In her mind, she is strong and capable of taking care of herself.   And she could for a day or two, but right now, she doesn’t have the endurance to keep on taking care of herself.   Before long, meals would become a pre-made-store-bought pudding cup and cookies; not because that is what she wants to eat, but because it is easy and quick and she’ll  not have the energy to prepare a good meal for herself.  That is clearly what was happening earlier this year.

I also see a shift in her countenance — she is willing to do what we ask, but she is rebelling on the inside.  This, I must admit, brings a smile to my face.  We do go backwards at some point — “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” playing out before my own eyes.     She doesn’t seek out any privacy when she talks on the phone to her friends, and occasionally, she lets slip what she really thinks.   ouch.  I think I might be in trouble here.    My siblings and I emailed back and forth yesterday.  I am going to need some hefty reinforcements soon.  They are somewhat divided on whether Mom will ever go back to her home.  Uh oh.  I guess I should have seen that coming too.

There are so many things to consider when she wants to go home.  We are not only considering recent health issues, but her apartment lease is up in 3 months.  What then?    And to be frank, we don’t really want her to go back to that apartment.  She has lived there for 3 years, and has had major allergy issues ever since she signed the lease.  And even though I am taking 2 different allergy meds myself this week due to the tree/grass pollens, she appears to be doing fine; she hasn’t sneezed once in 4 weeks!  ‘Mom, how are your allergies?  Do you have a headache or scratchy throat?’  ‘No, I’m doing fine’.    Hmm…. makes us wonder if the allergies were due to mold or something within those 4 walls.  But she loves that apartment.  I think I might be in trouble.

So as I begin week 4 of Mom here in my home, I realize it is a new ball game.  We had gotten accustomed to one another and had settled into a routine, but the rules have changed.   So did I want Mom to get better?  Isn’t that what I prayed for?  Absolutely!!   But her “better” may never be better enough for her to actually go back home.  Her better may be just enough to make her miserable.  And I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

I think I might be in trouble here.

Lord, I need wisdom here.  I need discernment.  I need patience.  Help me today to make the right decisions in caring for Mom..  Help my sisters, brother and me to make the right decisions for our Mom for her future.   Help us to love and honor her in all these decisions.   I pray that she is content and happy.  I pray that she has a peace about it.  Oh Lord, we need help!

That Would Be Terminal For You

The good news is the CT scan was normal.  The bad news is Mom is back in the hospital.  I just want to cry.  I tried so hard to avoid her going back in, but some things are just out of my control.  It isn’t her heart or her congestive heart failure.  Blood work showed that she has improved in two weeks.  But her legs just won’t work.  And the doctors all agree that something isn’t quite right;  she is a fall risk.  The ER doctor bluntly said, ‘you can’t go home because you might fall and break your hip, and that would be terminal for you’.   Ouch.  But it was what Mom needed to hear.  It was what I needed to hear because I wasn’t so sure I was going to leave her there.

I am here at home today caring for my three grandsons.  The distraction is good.  My sister-in-law is at the hospital texting me periodically with updates:  ‘waiting for MRI…   gone for MRI…. will take about an hour…  Doctor just in…. He is coming up with nothing’.  Great.  Not what I wanted to hear, but I guess I don’t know what I want to hear.  I’m not sure there are any good scenarios here.

So I wait.   Hard to be here and not there.

I don’t think she’ll be coming back here for awhile.  I think they will try to do rehab somewhere.   That “somewhere” will most likely be the local nursing home.  And that makes me want to cry too.   I know Mom doesn’t want to go there.  I told her I would do everything I could to keep her here.  I just pray to God if she has to go there, it will only be temporary.   I don’t want her last days to be in a nursing home.

I fear she won’t come out.

 

 

 

She Just Listened For Our Cries

I was born in a small town hospital and lived in an old white farmhouse for my first four years.  I hardly remember anything about that house.  There are a couple of snapshots in my head, but that’s about all.  I had two older sisters and one older brother;  he was still a baby himself when I came into this world.  I know my Mom was busy with all those kids.  Another sister was born three years later.  It’s a wonder she got any sleep at all.  They didn’t have baby monitors back then.   She just listened for our cries.

I had four babies of my own.  For the first three, I too just listened during the night.  I didn’t sleep soundly in those days.  The least little whimper from those kiddos, and I was wide awake.  I spent many nights in a comfy recliner, rocking babies and making promises to God if He would only make them sleep.  By the time our fourth and last baby was born, I had a baby monitor system.  I don’t know that we really needed it.  After all, I had never slept through a baby’s cry.  And the monitor only intensified every single burp and gurgle.  I think I got less sleep with that contraption.

Funny how life circles back around.  I’m lying in bed listening to my mom over a recently installed monitor.   I can hear her trying to get settled; a few grunts and several deep sighs.  I just tucked her into bed and turned off the light.    I don’t “tuck her in” every night.  She has been pretty independent, however, she is struggling right now.  Her legs are like noodles; not sure why.   As she was getting ready for bed, she dropped her hearing aid.  After bending or squatting to get it, she couldn’t get back up.  Thankfully, I was keeping watch in the hallway.   “Mom, you okay?  Do you need help?”    My husband and I easily stood her back up.  I know she hates this.  She hates being weak and dependent on anyone.

After she was done in the bathroom, I walked her back into the bedroom, and helped her into bed.  “Mom, please call me if you need to get up during the night.   Your legs are a little wobbly today.  Please let me help you.   I don’t mind getting up”.   I know she hates that too.   She doesn’t want to be a burden.   And she is not — no more than I was when I lived in her home and I needed her.

So as I listen over this monitor, waiting for her to fall asleep, emotion overtakes me and I begin to cry.  I let the tears freely fall and grieve for my Mom.    I’m worried about her.

I won’t sleep soundly tonight.   And that’s okay.

Lord, help me to enrich my Mom’s life.  I don’t want the days to just slip by.  I don’t want to get so caught up in the daily care of her body that I forget to nurture her spirit as well.  Lord, I love my Mom.   Help me to bless her.

Ephesians 4:29  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

 

 

Good Luck, PT

So Mom has been very lethargic and weak the last two days.   It may be that Physical Therapy did too much with her on Friday.  That would normally irritate me because they are the experts and they should know what they are doing.  And Mom, who has been rolling her eyes at me about physical therapy said, ‘see? enough of that!’

However, when I look at the choices of what could be wrong — PT messing up is the best option.  Because as I watch Mom, and do some reading about her symptoms, I think she has a lot of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.  A lot.  I actually mentioned this to her new doctor last week, but he didn’t think so (after 10 minutes in the room with us!).   I also told him that she fell a couple of years ago — fell over backwards off a friend’s porch and hit her head.   I don’t think she ever went to the doctor for that accident.  Anyways, I must have said enough because he did order a CT scan.  She will have that done tomorrow.   So if I have the choice between PT over-doing it or Parkinson’s.  I choose PT screwing up.

But I will be shocked is it isn’t Parkinson’s.

By the way, PT is scheduled again for tomorrow morning.  Yeh, good luck with that.  I think you may see some eye rolling and attitude yourself from my Mom.   … just sayin

Lord, we need some help here.  Please give the doctors wisdom.  Help them discover what is going on.   We need some answers.  Mom is not getting better.  She should be getting better.  I want her to get better…

Why Can’t I Just Go Home?

It’s been a little over two weeks since Mom came to live with us.  She was so incredibly weak when she arrived.   What did they do to her in that hospital?  She was better before she went in!  How can “taking water off” her body leave her so emancipated?  She looks like she has aged 10 years.

We have tried to settle into a routine, but life has been a little crazy.  Home Health Care is coming for awhile to help with rehabilitation.  There was one nurse who came for two and half hours just to ask questions.  There was a physical therapist who came for about an hour and half and evaluated Mom’s legs — walking, balance, etc.  The next day, an occupational therapist came to check on her arm strength and cognitive skills.  Then the next week, actual therapy began.

Mom isn’t a happy camper about therapy.  She rolls her eyes at me (kinda funny — is this payback time, Mom?).   She thinks once she is back on the golf course, she will get strong.  “Golfing will make me strong”.    I think I may have to take her into the backyard myself and let her attempt to swing that club.  I think she is a kinetic learner.  Once she actually sees that she cannot golf, physical therapy may not seem so silly to her.

So in the last two weeks, I think we have had a total of seven different professionals here.  Those who evaluate, those who actually train, and those who fill in for those who train when they go on vacation.  What a zoo!    And on top of all that, we had a big milestone birthday bash for my husband here — planned months ago.  I felt sorry for Mom.  So many people here and such a long evening for her.  She did great, but she was exhausted.

The next weekend, she went to my sister’s.  My husband and I had a short getaway planned to Chicago to complete his birthday celebrations.  Again, Mom, I’m sorry.   I know routine is your friend.  Life has been anything but routine.  She is confused about why she has to go there.  ‘Why can’t I just go home?’

I’m getting that question a lot.  I don’t blame her.   I try to make things as easy for her as I can.  I try to give her plenty of “space” to do what she wants.  I haven’t made any extra demands on her about eating or exercising.  She is eating well and walking.   I’m trying to give her as much freedom as possible.  But I know she just wants to be in her home.  I get that.  And it makes me really sad.  I wish I could give her that; and it breaks my heart that I can’t.

 

Lord, Show me how to make Mom as comfortable as possible.  Help her adjust to our home.  Make it her home.  Give her peace and contentment.  Please don’t her friends forget she is here.  Help me to be creative in getting them together.

 

 

A Phone Call at 2 a.m.

It’s been a crazy week.  A solemn week.  A phone call at 2 a.m.   I’m half asleep, but I think I hear the last few chimes on my cell phone.  My first thought is:  Mom!  But no, it’s not Mom, and it takes me a few seconds to change gears.  But I hear my daughter’s fiance’ saying things like, ’emergency room, sedated, intubated’.  And I physically feel his words in every pore of my body.  As I try to make sense of what he is saying, I scribble as fast I can on the pad by the phone.  He hands the phone to the ER nurse and she relates, more calmly, exactly what I’ve already been told with the addition that they are transferring her to the “bigger, better” hospital.  The weight of that sinks in.

I wake her dad, as I start throwing things into an overnight bag.  Why does she have to live 5 hours away?!  Dear God…. Dear God…. Dear God….   I pray the whole way there.

The better hospital has her stable when I arrive.  No mother ever wants to see her child like this — tubes and wires everywhere.   So much equipment in the room.  A machine is breathing for her.  Her eyelids, face and neck are very swollen.   I run my fingers through her hair (she always loved that) stroking her and telling her, ‘you’re okay;  it’s going to be okay; I love you’.  At one point, later in the day, as I am holding her hand and whispering to her, she squeezes back. Thank you Lord Jesus.  Thank you.

Anaphylaxis.  I was barely familiar with the word.  A few more minutes and we would have lost her.  Severe, life threatening, allergic reaction.  To what?  We’re still not completely sure.   And that’s the scary part.  Dear God…

While at the hospital, over the last few days, I have touched base with Mom every day on the phone.  She is doing fine.  She sounds good.  I know my sister has been there to visit.  I’m not worried about her.

When I arrive home, the adrenaline has left my body (I’m great in a crisis), and I crash on the couch for a complete day.  I’m worried and sad and scared and…

On Monday, after checking in with Mom, I go shopping.  Enough said.  I just can’t be in this house doing normal things.  I have been thanking God constantly, but now I just need a distraction.

On Tuesday, I’m scheduled to pick my 8 year old granddaughter up from school.  I am “in charge” of her while her Mom and baby brother go to Riley Children’s Hospital for a somewhat minor consultation.  While waiting for the school children to be released, I call Mom.  It takes her quite awhile to answer the phone.  She says, ‘bathroom emergency’.  Evidently this has been going on for a few days.  “I’m not taking my meds anymore.  They are making me sick.  I can’t live this way.”   Sigh.   As I convince her that she must take her pills; she has no choice, I also allow her to remove the “memory” patch.  Throw it away.  Don’t put on another one.  Let’s wait a few days, and see if that helps.  She accepts this and says she’ll take her pills.  We talk for a few more minutes, and I am confident she understands.  Pills must be taken. 

I call the doctor’s office just to let them know what’s going on.  Since our last appointment, we have gone for blood work and had the scheduled mammogram.  I cancelled the stress test — the Cardiologist, after all, gave her a “stable” status and isn’t seeing her again for six months.  Let’s not fix what’s not broken right now.   We are awaiting more blood work, bone density, and physical therapy.  I think that’s all.

I need to check my notes.  Having a daughter get sick has muddled my brain.   My whole life was held in balance there for a few days.  I haven’t even processed what “take the memory patch off” entails….  I can’t think about it right now.

One day at a time.  One crisis at a time.

Mom, daughter, granddaughter…  I hug the 8 year old a little tighter; a little longer.

Lord, thank you.  I am so grateful….so very grateful.

What Are Those Pills For?

I think I am seeing some improvement in Mom remembering details and the sequence of events.  Just little things here and there.   I don’t know if the new “memory” medicine is helping or if she is just recovering from being so sick in December, and things have settled back into a routine.

We had two doctor appointments today.  The first one was with her Cardiologist.  He was pleased with her progress.  Blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse, and heart rate all passed with flying colors.  He declared her ‘stable’.  Yay!  In fact, he doesn’t need to see her for six months.  Good news.  Really good news, and we are feeling great when we leave and head to lunch.

Mom doesn’t want to eat.  She doesn’t even want to see a menu.  She just orders the soup of the day, not even caring what the “soup of the day” is.   She forces it down — no crackers, no bread.  This has been going on for a month now.  No appetite at all.  And bouts of diarrhea.  She has been elated with her weight loss, however, I am not.  Even though, yes, she could stand to lose a few pounds, I know her loss of appetite is not a good thing.

It is also while we are eating that Mom shows signs of the disease again.  I answer several questions 2 or 3 times each.  She has already forgotten that we have another doctor appointment today.  ‘Where are we going?’  And she tells me a story that I have already heard a dozen times.

Mixed emotions.  Oh, Mom….

I keep my grandchildren 2 days a week while my daughter works.  I love knowing them intimately and taking care of their needs.   I want to remember that these two care-giving relationships are not the same. I want to help nurture and train these sweet babies.  But with Mom, while I want to help and care for her, I don’t want to patronize her and “talk down” to her.  I want to respect her.  I want to keep learning from her … everything I can.  And I want to be patient and kind.  Please don’t let me be short with her.  Help me to listen intently to every story every time.

We get settled into the little cubicle at the Internist, and we wait …. and wait and wait and wait.  Argh.  When he finally arrives, he takes his time, and is sincerely interested — and it is hard to stay irritated.

And I am right; the loss of appetite and upset GI tract mean that she cannot stay on the new medicine.  We cannot trade one problem for a set of others.  He wants to try a patch instead.  It needs to be changed daily.  I cringed at that — I wish it was a monthly or even a weekly patch.   I am pondering that as he goes on…  ‘I think she should have a bone density test, a mammogram, blood work, physical therapy, a stress test and…’.  What? Huh? Oh, yes, of course.  It takes us way too long to “check out”, and as we leave, I have a stack of papers in my hand:  prescription, blood work forms, doctor appointment reminders.  And I am a bit overwhelmed, and I am no longer feeling “great”.

One day at a time.

I settle Mom back into her apartment.  I tell her I’m going to fix her pill box and take out all those little memory pills.  I also take the prescription bottle out of the medicine cabinet.  I tuck it into my purse as fleeting thoughts of taking them myself float across my brain…  helps with memory and weight loss…  hmm….

Mom brings me back to reality and says,  ‘what are those pills for?’  And I can’t help but smile.

Lord, I feel so inadequate to take care of her.   At times, it feels overwhelming — not that she is hard to take care of or difficult in any way — but the responsibility of it scares me sometimes.  What if she falls?  What if she has a heart attack while she is here?  What if?  Lord, protect her.  Give me wisdom and insight and discernment.

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.