Parental Journal 90 from Planet Elderly: “What Was It That Made Us Move Here?”

 

Friday, June 16, 2017 – afternoon

At Last…Mom Has Settled In

It’s hard to believe that within two and a half months’ time, Mom has settled into her new “apartment” at Mill Creek Village – The Arbors.  She started in the Assisted Living building next door, but within two weeks or so, it was clear that she was more suited for The Arbors which is their memory care building.  She’s been there over a month with her own furniture and treasured things I had moved down, and within a short time she stopped drilling me about wanting to go home or to go back to Grayslake.  These days she’s more worried about the car.  It’s here in Columbia and my son is using it.  “I just want to make sure he knows it’s my car and not his.”

The other day, while we sat in the shade of one of the patio areas, she asked, “What was it that made us move here?”  I explained that because we are both older, we agreed to live in the same community…so now we are both in Columbia..

“Oh that’s right.  I never thought I’d be living down here.  It’s a nice place, though.”

This did not happen by itself.  I give a lot of credit to the staff at Mill Creek Village, and  especially to Mary Kaye, Mom’s special friend and guardian angel.

Mom and Mary Kay June 2017 01

 

Mary Kaye is the Coordinator of Activities at The Arbors at Mill Creek Village and she has become someone Mom knows she can talk to whenever she needs an ear.  Mom also knows that Mary Kaye will be honest and up front…as well as compassionate.

I’m an only child whose parents lived 400 miles away.  Now that I’ve relocated Mom to Columbia after a few months of widowhood, it’s like I’ve acquired a younger sister…one who understands where Mom is coming from, who has gained Mom’s respect and confidence, and who can talk to Mom in a way I cannot…very straightforward gal-to-gal manner which Mom loves.  She’s been a huge help to us both.

Mary Kaye plans a monthly schedule of activities and it’s always flexible.  She has the group of residents involved in gardening, crafts, weekly play time with the pre-school group, cooking, daily walks when the weather allows, time with visiting dogs, artwork, and so on.  Because Mom is pretty high functioning, Mary Kaye makes sure Mom goes next door to assisted living to enjoy Bingo and some chair Zumba or chair Yoga classes if possible.

At present, the population of The Arbors is not at capacity.  Mill Creek Village is one of the newer communities here in Columbia.  But even at full capacity, The Arbors is all on one level and designed to allow freedom of movement and exploration safely monitored in a small setting.  There are only 18 rooms, which in my opinion is wonderful.  As of today, there are two married couples, two widowed ladies and I think 2 or 3 single men…so about 8 or 9 folks or so with a couple more scheduled to arrive soon.

Here are some photos from Mill Creek Village Facebook page:

  1.  Gathering some blooms and creating a bouquet for the dining area:

Mom gathering flowers for bouquet June 2017

Mom with gathered flowers June 2017

Mom arranging bouquet The Arbors June 2017

2.  Residents and some staff being good sports on Walgreens’ Red Nose Day  (Mom is a Walgreens’ retiree.)

Red Nose Day at the Arbors 2017

Mom Red Nose Day at The Arbors ...Mill Creek 2017

3.  Time Outside:

Mom and neighbors at the Arbors Mill Creek Village June 2017

4.  Holding Mary Kaye’s hand:

Mom holding Mary Kay's hand spring 2017

5.  Mom trying to keep busy while Mary Kaye is on vacation:

Mom Napkin Duty June 2017

6.  Mary Kaye and Mom went shopping for “soda” glasses at thrift stores.  Mom began her career at Walgreens behind “the soda fountain,” and she has lots of fun stories about working at the Walgreens on State Ave. in downtown Chicago during World War II.  Mary Kaye came up with the idea that they should have a “soda jerk” day…and so they did!

Mom and Mary Kay as Soda Fountain Jerks June 2017

Mom reliving soda fountain days June 2017

The Relocation Is Completed

With the help of the administration, the nurses aides, the directors of nursing, activities coordinators, cooks and maintenance staff, Mom relocation to The Arbors at Mill Creek Village in Columbia, Missouri is completed.

Mom’s life is now far more engaged than it has been for years.  For over a decade she was the primary caregiver for Dad; then she visited him every day for 1 1/2 years after he was moved to a skilled nursing facility.  Now it is her turn to slowly let go of all the worries and responsibilities of trying to live independently with her confusion and memory problems, and instead be part of a community that helps her find joy, companionship, and meaning.

Mom and Mary Kay, Activities Coordinator, The Arbors at Mill Creek May 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parental Journal 89 from Planet Elderly – Relocation Saga: Are We Settling in yet?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017  early afternoon

Settling in yet?

Kinda…sorta…a wee bit now and then…depends on the time of day.

A few weeks ago, friends Susan and Bonnie helped me arrange Mom’s furniture in her room and stock drawers/shelves.  Mom was next door engaged in some activities.  The plan was to leave before she saw it, so we did.

Good thing.  From what I heard the next day, Mom was royally pissed to see her favorite and cherished things set up in her room.  On some level, I’m sure it registered as a confirmation that she is not returning to Illinois.

We had a visit with Mary Kaye, Director of Activities, and Mom was given an opportunity to tell me how she felt about everything.  She did a wonderful job expressing her emotions.

After listening to Mom I was asked to promise that I would never lie to her again.  I agreed… basically.  No lying about the relocation or anything else important, but I may need to fib a bit about small stuff if it’s in her best interest.  It happens when a loved one lives with dementia.

Threats

General thinking was that once Mom had some of her own things moved in, she would adjust to the relocation more easily.  Not exactly.

I tried taking her on an outing to Stephens Lake.  We drove over to the lake, started walking around the area, and she immediately started talking about wanting to go home.  “I don’t fit in here.  I like Grayslake better.  I’m bored.  I miss my place.  Can you take me home tomorrow?”

“I can’t, Mom.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve made the relocation thousands of other families have to make every year so that we live in the same area.”

“Well I hate it here.  I don’t know anyone.  Please…can’t you just take me back so I can live by myself in my own place?”

“I can’t, Mom.”

After hearing my third “I can’t,” Mom turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “Goodbye Jeanette.  I’ll go myself.”  Then she started walking…presumably to Illinois.

Mom attempting to walk back to Illinois from Stephens Lake Park April 2017

I waited a bit and then followed her, trailing behind a bit.  After about 10 minutes of walking she saw me following her.

“Just leave me alone.  I might as well just walk out into the street and get run over.”

Eventually, I convinced her to get back into the car.   Well, it was more like, “We need to get back into the car, Mom or I will call the police.”  I’ve used that line twice before and it was never an empty threat.

While driving back to Mill Creek Village, Mom continued talking about how unhappy she was.  I just let her vent.  She needed to.  Just as she began to proclaim that she might as well jump out of the car, I made sure the doors were locked.  We made it back without further threats but I was spent.  I needed to leave and go home where I could feel half sane.

Looking back on the relocation, that day was probably the worst. Mom was clearly distraught and obsessed with going back to Grayslake.  I was just recovering from having her stuff moved in and feeling guilty because she never saw it coming.

Adjusting

More recently, I can say with some confidence that Mom and I are both adjusting.

I’m adjusting to her being in Columbia, visiting her several times a week, and learning not to feel guilty if I don’t see her every day.  My son visits on Monday mornings.

She’s adjusting but forgets that she’s doing so.  Thus, there are still conversations about wanting to go back to Grayslake…even though “The people here are very nice.”  Sometimes she says, “Is this where I live now?  I’m not happy about this one bit…but I gotta make the best of it.”

Weekdays are best.  There are various activities Mary Kaye makes sure Mom enjoys, either in the memory care building  with walks, gardening, crafts, baking projects or next door at assisted living building where there is bingo, chair Zumba, chair yoga, special activities, etc.

Weekends are when I try to step in and engage Mom.  Most communities have fewer staff and fewer activities on weekends, so for someone like Mom who is easily bored, her contentment on the weekends is iffy.  Going on outings is iffy, too, because it usually ends up with a monologue about wanting to go back to Grayslake because she can take care of herself…and if she falls and hurts herself, just let her die.   g.r.o.a.n.

Mother’s Day   

In contrast to the day she thought she might try to walk back to Illinois or at least to a bus station that would help get her there, we had a very nice Mother’s Day.  I bought Mom a top and a pair of jeans with an elastic waist.  She loved them.

Mother's Day 2017 wearing new top and jeans

We shared a spaghetti dinner at Babbo’s and Adam joined us.  His portion of lasagna was monstrous and he took half of it home.  We gave him remainders of the giant meatballs that came with the spaghetti.  Mom believes meatballs need to be small.  I agree.  Not a fan of the huge meatballs at Babbo’s, but the spaghetti sauce was delicious…a bit creamy.

Observations

Mom speaks of being tired a lot.  Plus one toe on her left foot hurts.  Her feet and ankles tend to be a bit swollen.  Podiatry appointment in early June.

She is still packing her things to go home.  One day she had a large pillow case stuffed with clothes.  She told me she had done laundry so I helped her put things away, including the winter gloves packed between sweaters.

Based on staff recommendations, she is going to have a month of occupational therapy three times a week.  I suggested they teach her how to turn the TV in her room on and off.

Things continually get “lost.”    The TV remote:  found it in her purse.    Her purse:  found it hanging on a hanger in her closet.   Her shoes:  often under the bed.  Certain items of clothing:  occasionally stashed in Wal Mart plastic bags on closet floor.

The drawers of her dresser were once well organized.  Now each is a jumble of various items of clothing.  Gloves from the 1960s lie on top of sweaters; various pieces of underwear are located in various drawers; a bundle of nylon knee hi stockings nestles next to pj bottoms.  Matching pj top is in a different drawer.

An expedition is needed to find something if it is missing.  Well, at least it’s something to do.

I find myself in wonder during times when Mom is witty and with it.  A recent conversation in the car:

“Are you dating anyone?”

“Huh?!!    Uh…no.  I don’t date, Mom.”

“Why not?”

“Oh…just done with all that.  Been married twice, had a couple relationships…so now I focus my time on family and friends.  I’m good.”

“Well,” she said, “you never know what life will bring you.”

“Life brought me my perfect match:  an 11-year-old cockapoo who is mostly blind.  We don’t get on each other’s nerves.  I like my independence.”

“Me too, but if you meet someone and they offer to take you out to dinner….”

“Oh…sure.  I’m up for a free meal and good conversation.”

“You know, some men like ladies with a little meat on their bones….”

I gripped the steering wheel and kept my mouth shut…sorta.

 

primate  youtube.com

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Parental Journal 88 from Planet Elderly: Relocation Saga – Anger and More Changes

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – 2:30 a.m.

Good News/Bad News

The good:  Mom’s still in Columbia.

The bad:  She hates me, Columbia and anything related to Missouri.

And why not?  She’s been uprooted from a home she loves and planted in a strange place with barely any personal belongings.  And even though this was planned and agreed on “for a few months,” in her mind she’s kidnapped/trapped/imprisoned and demands to go home.

The whole scenario could have been much better if I had had some siblings who were on board.  Mom’s move could have been completed in one step.  Instead, she is in “visitor” status and hell bent on returning to “Chicago,” even if she has to walk.  On Friday, her furniture arrives and friends Susan and Bonnie will assist in bringing “home” to her.

This isn’t going to go well.

First Two Weeks

During these first two weeks, we’ve been postponing the realization that Columbia is now Mom’s new home.  We can’t return to Grayslake because the front stoop is not fixed and I have a dental appointment on the 20th.  The narrative will need to change to “this is your new home.”

While in the assisted living area, Mom has participated in all the activities, eaten well and has made a new best friend, Esther.

She enjoyed having her hair done.  Below, having lunch with friend, Esther.

Mom new hairdo april 14 2017

Esther has enjoyed visits with my dog, Cinnamon:

Esther and Cinnamon april 14 2017

When not engaged, Mom is obsessively thinking about how to return to Illinois…train, bus, taxi. She talks about it frequently in person and on the phone.  “When am I going home?”  “Are you taking me home today?”  “Can you take me to the train station?”  “Maybe I can get a bus.”  “I’ll go if I have to walk.”

I was hoping the assisted living residence would be a good fit.  Eric, the administrator, hoped for the same.  However, Mom routinely has difficulty in the late afternoon and evening hours.  She gets agitated and focused on going home.  When angry, she sometimes yells and threatens to leave.  When on the phone with me she talks about not having anything to live for, wanting to be dead and sometimes tells me to go to hell before she hangs up.

Of note:  Mom’s outbursts of wanting to die and her telling someone to go to hell when she is angry is long standing…decades long.  She has always been easy to anger and lash out.  Fortunately, she calms down after a while and often tells people, “I have a temper.”  Yep.

Change of Location

Mom’s behavior has been a bit disturbing to other residents…most of whom do not have dementia or if they do, it is mild.  Some have spoken with Eric with concern for Mom.

Last Friday I met with Eric and two directors of nursing, and we agreed that Mom would be better served in the memory care building next door to the assisted living building.  In memory care, she will be more secure at night and will have more individualized assistance for times when she is agitated.

The plan is to have her continue to enjoy activities next door in assisted living and time with her friend, Esther.  She and I can go out and do things in the community.  Safety and security at night are the main issues.

I’m Dreading This Week

Mom will be introduced to her new room tonight.  I’m expecting the worst.

There are no one-bedroom apartments in the memory care building.  Because this is a new facility and their population is low, Mom will have a double room to herself.  That will give her more space.

A room has been selected and yesterday I brought over some additional clothes and some decorations from home.  Staff helped get things set up and furniture will arrive Friday.  Mom will be over at the assisted living building while her furniture is moved in, and friends and I fill her dresser with her things and spruce up her room.

The logistics of it all and my assumption of Mom’s reaction are what has me up in the middle of the night writing this blog entry.  I woke up driven with the idea that I must plan what furniture goes where in her new room.  I have a draft and will share it with friends for their input.

Meanwhile, we have to get through the day and the eventual introduction of Mom to her new room.  But first we will party.

Mom and Esther Join Gal Pals for a Birthday Happy Hour

Today is friend Susan’s birthday.  Eight or so of us gal pals will meet at Houlihan’s around five for a happy hour celebration…drinks and appetizers.  Yesterday, while visiting with Mom and Esther over coffee, I mentioned the birthday celebration for Susan.

“Me, too?” Mom asked.  I admit to pausing a bit.  Esther said, “Sounds like a good time to me.”

“Sure,” I said.  “Esther, would you like to join us?”

“Yes, I would,” she said.

With that decided, I informed Eric and he checked with Esther’s niece, Robin, for permission.  Robin and I spoke on the phone, shared stories, and are both fine with having Mom and Esther join my gal pals at Houlihan’s.  I know what to order for Esther and Mom will probably enjoy a sandwich or dinner item.  Susan and I will pick up Mom and Esther and bring them back later.

While we are out, the staff will move Mom’s clothing and other minimal items she has for now over to her room in the memory care unit.  When I bring Mom and Esther back, we will go into the memory care building and be greeted by staff who will explain Mom’s new arrangement to her.

Then we expect some difficult days/weeks ahead as Mom adjusts.  We hope that when her furniture and favorite things arrive on Friday, things will get better.

Very Mixed Emotions

I am grateful for the support of family, friends, pals, folks on the Agingcare.com forums and the staff at Mill Creek Village.

That said, I lively daily with regrets and fears for Mom’s well-being.  This is pretty typical with family situations such as ours, and I will need to learn how to keep the demons of regret and fear on the far back burner.

It’s just so damn sad.  Dementia is such an insidious disease, especially for someone like my Mom who is extremely independent, never wants anyone’s help, and is prone to mood swings.

I know that when we visited Dad when he was in skilled nursing with advanced dementia, her greatest fear was “ending up like that.”  And now, six months into widowhood, she is being relocated and is royally pissed.  I get it.  I would be, too.  I just wish she had the ability to reason and understand the necessity and benefits of living in the same community.  She doesn’t…and never will.

One of my fears is that my mother will die hating me.  That is likely to be the case.  Sure, there could be a miracle and she might one day say how nice it is to be in Columbia…but she’s a clever gal who enjoys holding on to grudges.  I will always be the bad guy…but I know she cannot live alone safely, so here we are.  She is safe and angry.  I am experiencing weird sleep patterns for a while, but relieved she is in Columbia.

It’s 4 a.m.   Maybe I can get back to sleep.

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Parental Journal 87 from Planet Elderly: Relocation Saga Part Two – Crash Landing

Thursday, April 6, 2017  evening

The eagle has landed…and she is pissed.

Unexpected Change of Plans

The original plan was for Mom to look at some assisted living apartments, choose one to try for a few months, go back to Illinois to pick up some things and get some furniture moved, and have her settle in and most likely adjust to assisted living in the same city where I live.

However, during the drive to Columbia Mom started talking about how much she loves her house and has no intention of moving to where I live.  We were driving through farmland doted with dilapidated small hamlets and she said, “You might be able to live out here, but not me.  I want to go home.”

I kept trying to remind her how she agreed to try it out for a few months and how nice it would be to have her here in Columbia where she would be closer to family.  Of course, there’s no reasoning when someone has moderate dementia, but at least she agreed to go for free lunches and tour a couple communities.  She’s always up for a free lunch.

For the time she stayed with me, we had many discussions which turned out to be pointless, but at least she easily conveyed her feelings and I had good practice trying to keep my mouth shut and just listen actively.

It was also a time of realization for me.  She wasn’t in her own familiar territory and her cognitive deterioration more clearly presented itself.  She had difficulty remembering which room was the guest room, got up at night and left lights on and the stove fan running on high, wore the same slacks and top four days in a row, and all she could focus on was how much she wanted to go home. Without someone at her home to provide some assistance and guidance, I knew there was no way she could live alone safely.

The community we liked the most was Mill Creek Village, run by Americare.  It’s the newest facility with new residents and staff coming on board almost daily.  The one bedroom apartments in assisted living are spacious, light, and welcoming.

Thursday of last week we went to Mill Creek Village to sign “preliminary papers,” but Mom was angry and we ended up with a therapy session, tears of frustration and unsigned papers.  I was upset and kept quiet.  When I was making sandwiches for dinner Mom asked if I was angry with her.  “Yes,” I said, “but mostly frustrated.”

This led us to a good conversation…one of many we’ve had before…where I answer her questions, provide simple logical answers, she agrees with me…and then within hours forgets she agreed.

After she agreed with me, we ate dinner, joked and talked, and watched a couple of episodes of “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix.  We went to bed around 10.  She slept.  I did not.

The next morning I decided we were going back to sign papers, administrators were informed, and we also had plans for another lunch. I said nothing to Mom.

When we got into the car she asked if I was taking her home.  I explained that we were going to sign some papers like she agreed to last night.  She didn’t rage.  She pouted.

As papers were given to me to read, I passed them on to Mom.  The first page defined legal terms.  Mom spent a few minutes looking at it and said, “Well, it looks like I’ll be staying here a while.”  She wasn’t happy…but once papers were signed with me as her POA, we had a nice lunch with residents we had met at our first lunch.  They welcomed us warmly.

Essentially Mom caved…but just for a short time.  While signing papers we came to the decision of when she will start her residency.  I asked her and she said, “Well, why not right now.  You just want to put me away, right?  Now is fine.”

We didn’t respond right away.  We reminded her that this would be a trial for few months which she had been agreeing to from time to time, and after a few months, she could make a final decision.   “Might as well start today,” she said.  And so we did.  Mom became a resident at Mill Creek Village Assisted Living on Friday, March 31, 2017.

After lunch we returned to my place to get the few items of clothing she packed for the trip to Columbia.  I did not offer to help her pack for the trip…just left her to herself.  She packed four pairs of slacks, two pair of underpants, one pair of knee  hi stockings, four tops, an old, torn white tee shirt of Dad’s that she likes to wear, three pairs of shoes, and a half pair of Dad’s old briefs that she sometimes uses as a dust cloth.

We gathered her stuff, put it in the trunk and left my place.  As we drove back to Mill Creek Village Mom said, “Well, thank you for the nice visit.  I know you’re happy here and I’ll be glad to get home.”

I did not respond.  I just kept driving and nodding my head to her statements.  When we arrived at Mill Creek Village she asked what we were doing there and I reminded her we had signed papers and she agreed to give it a try for a few months.  She mumbled something in anger, got out of the car and insisted in dragging her suitcase in herself.

I remember helping her hang up some things, turning the TV on, and walking around a bit but I can’t remember what was said as I left her there for her first night.  I do remember feeling a bit numb…and very grateful that as fate would have it, we crash landed and both of us were still walking and talking…although I wish she would say something other than, “I want to go home.”  “Am I going home tomorrow?”  “When will I go home?”  “Is there a train or bus to take me home.” But I get it.

Lies

This first week has been a huge adjustment for us both.  I’m just not accustom to lying to her so much…but I have to think of excuses.

  1. They’re going to schedule the front stoop to be redone and concrete will have to cure. (true) No one is supposed to be there, so we have to wait until it’s done. (lie) Her response:  “Shit!”
  2. I have a dental cleaning (true) but not until April 20. They could not get me in sooner.  (lie)

Then I had to think of some story to tell her to explain why I would not visit this coming weekend.  Susan and I are traveling to Illinois to arrange for furniture to be moved and to bring her clothes and treasures back.  This actually took a powwow with four of us gal pals thinking of a story over appetizers and happy hour drinks.  Here’s what we came up with:

Bonnie has to go to St. Louis this weekend for some special tests to be done.  Doctors want a family member or close friend to be with her, but her kids live out of state…so I said I could.  (lie)  Then I embellish it with how stuff is going on with some of my gal pals…Grail fractured her hip  and she’s been the caretaker of her husband who needs care (true)…three friends are moving (true) and need assistance (lie)…and so on.

I told her the story today and will tell her again tomorrow.  Over the weekend, my son, Adam, and his youngest, Kaylin, will visit Saturday and Sunday.  Staff know the story and will be reminding her of Bonnie needing someone to go to St. Louis with her.

Mom Adam Kaylin 040217  Mom, Adam and Kaylin April 2 visit

This is exhausting.  I usually wake up around 1 or 2 a.m. with busy mind…strategizing what to say and do so she won’t get mad at me.  Of course she’s made at me…furious most of the time.  That’s her nature when she’s upset.  It always has been and that’s why the little girl in me is still afraid of her mother.

Giving It a Try

Although being forced to give it a try, Mom is no slouch.  She participates in every activity offered:  movies, bingo, crafts, exercise, chair yoga, story discussion and three meals a day plus snacks.  She likes to keep busy.

Others try to engage her and she’s a good sport…willing to join in.  She likes Esther who is a very kind and pleasant woman.  I try to engage others in telling us their stories about moving closer to family members…or being forced to as some will bluntly offer.

“How long have you lived here, Esther,” I asked.

“Oh…since about last July.”

“Are you going to stay here?” Mom asked.

“Oh, I don’t know.  I guess so.  There’s plenty to do.”

When I asked Esther if she had children she said no, but that she raised a niece and nephew.

“I had a car accident last year.  I think I had a stroke.  That was it.  My niece arranged for me to move here.”

“Are you still driving?” Mom asked.

“Oh, no.  Not anymore.  You?”

“I’ve pretty much given it up,” Mom replied.

Riding a Pendulum

Much of the time I feel like I’m riding a pendulum.  One minute she’ll give this a try; the next minute, no way.  Take her home immediately.  Back and forth, day in and day out.

Yesterday morning when I visited, we sat in the dining room having coffee and she sounded like a commercial for Mill Creek Village.

“Well, I like it here.  It’s nice and clean…everyone is friendly and there are activities.  It’s good to do things rather than sit around alone.  I don’t have to cook and the food is good.  I might think about staying.”

I jumped on the bandwagon…”Oh, I know.  Honestly, I really like it here.  When I’m done living by myself and taking care of meals and the house, this is where I’d like to live.”

I stayed for lunch and a by four in the afternoon she was on the phone yelling…insisting that she wanted to go home.  “I can’t stay here!  I want to go home!” …and I remind her of the dental appointment I have … the cement stoop that needs to be done at her house…the assistance I’ll be providing to Bonnie when she goes in for her medical tests this weekend.

“Well, alright then!” she yells.  And I hear her say to the aide who helped her make the call, “Well, it looks like I’ll be here a while.”

Observations

  1. Even though I bought her some new clothes, she wears the ones she brought…when she doesn’t have everything stuffed in a suitcase ready to leave.

Today she had on four tops.  Normally I’d let it go because sometimes folks with dementia present with interesting fashion statements.  But I couldn’t resist.  “Are you cold or something, Mom?  You’re wearing four tops.”

“I’m ready to escape,” she said.

  1. She refuses to sit on the toilets…thus, spattering toilet seats.  “I don’t want to catch any diseases.”  Today I learned that she has never sat on a public toilet.  “They tell you not to,” she said.
  1.  If her clothes are packed in the suitcase I ask where the clothes in her closet are.  “I don’t know.”  When I ask if they might be in the suitcase, she says, “Somebody must have put them there.”   “Somebody” is very busy…both here and in Illinois.

Needing a Shield

Because the child in me is still fearful of her mother, I sometimes arrange to have shields…others with me.  That way Mom curbs her anger a bit.  Most of the time the shield is a friend or relative.  Today is was my dog.  If I go alone, I suggest we hang out in the dining room.  Sad to say, I just don’t want to be alone in a room with her.  She is miserable and I am guilty.  We need distractions.

This morning I brought my dog, Cinnamon, for a brief visit.  He charmed everyone he met and he had a great time sniffing where other dog visitors had walked.  He was my shield because I had to tell Mom the story of where I would be this weekend.  She was concerned about Bonnie…”She’s really been a good friend of yours.”

And This Afternoon

I returned to visit Mom and had a cup of coffee while listening to a lady from one of the independent living cottages talk about her health.  She has a mission to make sure everyone knows that some of these pain meds they give people actually block them up…then one is constipated and that creates more problems plus the need for additional meds to unplug things.  Who knew? Told her I would keep that in mind.

Mom and I joined in the “book club” which is really a group who enjoys having something literary read to them…then they discuss it.  Today it was a story by Mark Twain called “Luck.”  The movie for the afternoon was “Thelma and Louise.”  I had only seen it once when it came out, so I stayed and enjoyed it a second time.  Good flick.  Mom and a few others dosed off now and then.

After the movie I told Mom I’d meet her tomorrow at the doctor’s office.  She’s seeing my primary care physician, Dr. Carolle Silney, for a general check-up.  I brought Dr. Silney some background information on Mom a couple days ago.  After the appointment I plan to ask Mom if she’d like to go out for lunch… maybe Chinese which she enjoys.  I figure even if she’s mad at me, she’ll still say yes.

And so…with near freezing temps this early April evening, I’m going fix a cup of hot cocoa and relax.  There’s classical music in the background and four lit votive candles around my small wood Buddha.  The simplicity and tranquility are comforting, especially after such a busy week.

 

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Parental Journal 86 from Planet Elderly – Relocation Saga: ROADBLOCK

Monday, March 27, 2017 – 3 a.m.

Mom woke up early yesterday and announced that her house means too much to her.   She will not move to Missouri.

I sipped coffee and listened.   She told me how comfortable she is in her home, how she likes Grayslake and “everything is so close,” that she goes to bingo and the grocery store is “just down the street.”  She feels like Dad is there and she does not want to leave him.  She reminded me that she has always had to take care of herself and how much she enjoyed sleeping in her bed last night.  She doesn’t mind living alone.  “If I die, then I die.  Don’t worry about me.”

I continued to sip coffee and listened.  I wanted to give her time to say all she needed to say and to carefully listen to her.

I know the way I’m trying to approach relocating Mom closer to me is mostly likely impossible.  Her reasoning is hampered by her vascular dementia.  On top of that, she is 90 and attached to the memories of Dad and her life with him in their home.  My efforts to involve her in the relocation process and hopefully have her realize the benefits of living in the same city are probably futile.  Nevertheless, I’ll continue for a while.

When she finished talking and sat sipping coffee, I started to cry.  I had tears of frustration from two weeks of her talking about moving one minute and then changing her mind the next.  I shared my thoughts and feeling, tried to give reassurances, and pretty much pleaded with her to have an open mind about the situation…all the while realizing the futility of my efforts because she has such difficulty holding on to new ideas if they do not speak to her own understanding and needs.

By the time I finished sharing my thoughts, she was agreeing with the plan again.  We had a light breakfast, finished packing, loaded up the car, told Kevin and Sue we would see them in a week or so and we were on our way to spend some time in Missouri checking out assisted living apartments and spending some time with friends and family.

Since it was Sunday and raining, traffic was light.  Around 1:30 we stopped at Baker’s Square in Springfield, Illinois and enjoyed a late lunch that ended with blueberry pie.

Mom at Bakers Square 032617 trip to MO

When I make this trip, I use a rural route my Dad showed me years ago.  It avoids St. Louis by going west from Springfield and then hitching on to 54 in Missouri.  It’s a pleasant drive with lots of rural landscape.

About an hour after lunch, Mom wanted to know where we were…if we were heading back to Grayslake.  I reminded her that we were going to spend some time in Columbia.  She asked if we’d be going back to Illinois tomorrow because she missed her house.  She gestured to the farmland around us and said, “Maybe you can live out here, but I can’t.  I miss my home and I’m not leaving Grayslake.”

Sigh.

I listened as she lectured me on how I have my life and she has hers.  She doesn’t want to be a burden to me and she enjoys being by herself.  “I don’t have much time left and I want to live where I’m comfortable.”

It is important for her to live somewhere where she is comfortable…but also safe.  A big cloud of dread took over me, but I continued to listen.  Honestly, I’m pretty amazed at how well I’ve been able to avoid reacting and just stay focused to let her share her thoughts and feelings.  Obviously, over the last year or so I’ve pretty much learned that reacting does nothing but end up in a battle of wills…a loud battle.  Must avoid going there.

Once we got to my place, we unloaded the car and did a bit of grocery shopping. She would not let me pay for the bananas. Afterwards we watched an episode of Midsomer’s Murders on Netflix and then went to bed.

Although I slept for a bit, I woke up at 3 a.m. today with busy mind.  I’ve hit the roadblock I was naively hoping to avoid:  dementia in a 90-year-old fiercely independent widowed mother.

I’ve decided on the following:

  1. Cancel tomorrow’s visit to Candlelight Lodge.
  2. Make an appointment with the attorney and let her provide guidance in terms of what is required concerning eldercare law
  3. Try to do some fun things until the meeting with the attorney is completed
  4. Continue as I have been…and hopefully get her to agree to have a free lunch and tour at the newer assisted living facility we’re scheduled to see on Wednesday.

 

I’ve read about situations where some family members take the elder who has dementia/Alzheimer’s on a short trip while others move the elder’s furniture and belongings to the assisted living or memory care facility.  The staff takes over and helps the elder settle in.  Over time, most elders adjust to their new location.  I don’t have others to carry out a type of abduction relocation. Not sure I would anyway.  It’s just the two of us and probably a no win situation.  It’s likely, I will need to rely on assistance from legal or medical authorities…and it’s going to be quite heartbreaking.

Mom’s going to fight me…to the death…as long as she has the kind of stamina and determination she has now.  I can’t fix her inability to reason, her ongoing grief and her fear.  I can only continue to listen, share my feelings, and move forward as gently as possible.

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Parental Journal 85 from Planet Elderly: Relocation Saga – Part one

March 25, 2017 – evening

I arrived two weeks ago with hope and dread in my heart.  I was hoping Mom would not go ballistic when I approached the subject of her relocating to Missouri.  The dread was, of course, how I/we would cope in the event that she did go ballistic.

I could tell that in the time she’s been home alone living independently as a widow with neighbor Kevin checking in and assisting, she has mellowed out a bit.  In recent weeks there were fewer tearful calls about not having any money or being bored/restless.  We spoke almost daily, and often she was fairly cheerful although confused at times.

My plan was to bring up the it’s-time-to-relocate talk after I’d been there several days.  Much to my surprise…okay, shock…she brought it up.  Here’s how I shared it via an email to some pals:

Folks –
Mom and I had time to kill today between dental diagnosis visit and referral to oral surgeon for a tooth extraction…so I went searching for documents we’d need for filing her taxes.  Dad’s Soc. Sec. statement was missing and she claimed it never came.  I found it in a drawer…and some other documents.  Kevin had tried to take/save other documents…and gave me a stack when I arrived yesterday.

So I came downstairs and Mom was sitting in Dad’s old chair.  “Do you think it would be better if I moved down by you?  It’s a lot to be coming up here all the time.”

Huh?????  I’d spent the morning dreading how I would approach the subject a few days from now and wishing I could just get it over with.  Bingo.  She brought it up.

I sat down and shared my thoughts…that it was time, we are both getting older…and regardless of who dies first, I don’t want us to be 400 miles apart.

I’ve been planting seeds for over a year…and she hasn’t been happy living alone these past six months since Dad died.   She’ll have second thoughts from time to time…but she is really enjoying having me here…so now I don’t think I’m going to meet huge resistance.  I assured her that it would not be a burden to have her in Columbia…that it’s much more difficult going back and forth.

Expected to get 5-10 inches of snow overnight.  Tomorrow we plan to go through things here and there…to decide what to pitch…first stages of purging.  We’ll start with Dad’s old shaving brushes…30 year old bottle of Old Spice…etc.

 

Since that day, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but in general Mom is reluctantly willing to go along with the plan to relocate.  She keeps reminding me that she’d rather “stay here.  I don’t mind being by myself.  Just forget about me.”

When she raises objections, I listen.  I don’t engage her in reasoning because it doesn’t do much good and it sometimes makes her feel defensive.  I just let her talk and occasionally tell her, “I understand.  It’s very difficult to leave the home you’ve loved for so long.”

Sometimes we cry together when sharing memories.  Just this morning, we sat in the living room after breakfast and she broke down a bit.  I remained silent, grateful she could share so openly about her feelings.  On one hand she understands our situation; on the other, she is bewildered.  It was a dark, cold, rainy morning…a wonderful time to be still together.  At one point I remember saying, “Well, every year thousands of families like us go through this same thing and it’s never easy for the elderly parents to leave their home.”   After that, we decided it was dark enough for a morning nap, so we went upstairs and sacked out for a couple hours.

Today we’ve been packing for the visit to Missouri.  Mom’s been cheerful and freely says how much she will miss this place.

Cinnamon

Overall, my newly adopted older dog, Cinnamon, has been a great ambassador in winning Mom’s heart.  Mom thinks it’s cute when he begs for food at the table and she sometimes sneaks him a few treats when I’m not looking.  She loves to see him play with his ball and it’s great to hear her laugh at his antics.

Cinnamon begging mom March 2017

Accomplishments

We’ve accomplished a lot during this visit:

Surviving a tooth extraction for Mom

Getting over a head cold for me

Purged:  the main medicine cabinet, the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and the front coat closet     purged medicine cabinet 031817

Took five bags of clothes, belts and ties to Good Will

Purged three boxes of stuff Dad saved:  maps/travel information from the trips they took, recipes, weight loss information, diabetes information, managing a condo information, gardening tips, articles about investing, and tips on gambling

Made a list of the furniture Mom wants to move to Missouri

Got taxes prepared and filed with the help of the AARP volunteer who has assisted my folks for years….THANK YOU, Phil!

Enjoyed several episodes of “Shark Tank” and “Antique Roadshow”

 

Observations

Mom naps more readily, although she doesn’t really believe she’s a napper.  It’s been nice to just go upstairs and shut down together…the three of us – Mom, me and Cinnamon.

She fried me an egg this morning and made toast…but she is no longer making oatmeal much or cooking in general.  She eats a hell of a lot of toast.  When she does make oatmeal, I’ve seen her add teaspoons of oatmeal to the boiling water rather than measuring it out per instructions.

She still has a great appetite!! Loves having donuts and coffee cake around.  We went to the dollar store the other day so I could get some bubble gum.  She bought some Snickers bites.  She loves Snickers and I made a mental note:  keep Mom supplied with Snickers bites.

She tires easily and is far less feisty than she was a year ago.  A lot less anger, too…at least for now.

Her sense of balance is more impaired.  There’s quite a bit of difference over the past three months.  Her walk is often hesitant and halting…sometimes shuffling.

She doesn’t remember visiting me and meeting my pals last September.  I offered some reminders and she perked up when I mentioned how she kept sweeping acorns off the back deck.

Sometimes she has issues dressing herself…putting pants or tops on backwards…or wearing a different shoe on each foot…maybe not buttoning a blouse or jacket properly.

mom shoes march 2017

Thank goodness she still has her sense of humor and enjoys socializing.  We’ve had several great laughs this visit.  We also enjoyed a fabulous reunion with some friends we made at The Village of Victory Lakes when Dad was in skilled nursing there.  We joined friends Dorothy and Betty who are residents in the independent living area…plus Judy and her aunt, Sister Margo.  Not only did we have a great time gabbing and enjoying delicious food in a lovely dining room, we got to see Dorothy’s and Betty’s one bedroom apartments.  It was a preview of the communities we’ll visit next week in Columbia.

Plans for Visit to Columbia

The main purpose of this visit is to have Mom look at one bedroom apartments at assisted living communities.  I hope to also schedule an appointment with a lawyer recommended by a friend.  The lawyer is active in eldercare matters. We’ll need advice on several matters.

We’ll also have time with family and some of my friends.  Mom met some friends last September, and it will be like meeting them for the first time again.

Mom’s awareness of what is planned ebbs and flows.  At dinner this evening she talked about how happy she is in her house.  It’s just the right size…comfortable…and she feels safe here.  An hour earlier we were visiting with neighbor Kevin chatting about relocation plans to a one bedroom apartment in Columbia and some of the furniture she plans to take.

Oh well…at least part one of the relocation saga is complete.  Part two starts tomorrow with the road trip to Columbia.

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I’m Now an Official Resident of Planet Elderly

On March 2, 2016, a mere eight days ago, I turned 70.  That’s the magic number I use to define “elderly,” although I know others might disagree, especially those in their 70s.

When I taught at a community college I tried to encourage students to be aware that words have different meaning for different folks.  I often asked them, “So, how old is “old?”  Most would hesitate, especially since they were keenly aware their instructor was probably over 60.  Others would should out, “40!”   “No!” some would respond, “more like 60 or so.”

Then I would ask them to define “elderly.”  This usually resulted in several seconds of silence.  Maybe most had never considered the difference between “old” and “elderly.”  However, the consensus was twofold.  Some said, “70 on up.”  Others insisted that “elderly” implied some impairment of some kind…having to use a walker or wheelchair.

Thus, 70 sounds just about right for me.  I may not be impaired in any way, but I’ve slowed down.  I’ve been managing the care of my elderly parents.  Dad died last Sept. at the age of 94.  Mom is 90 and now that her dementia is worsening, my major project for 2017 is to get her relocated to Columbia, Missouri where I live.  Since I’m an only child and live 400 miles away from her, this will be a challenge.  Anyway, with my parents’ situations, I’ve become keenly aware of what “advanced elderly” might be like.

I have a rather “reactive” sense of humor…often laugh too loudly or blurt out some snarky comment, especially when I’m among close friends and family who I figure can take it.  So to help “acknowledge” the day I woke up at the official age of 70, I posted this photo on my Facebook page.

70th bday photo

I’m a resident now.  I could drop dead at any minute or creak on into my 80s; doubt I’ll get to the 90s and not sure I want to.  But I know one thing:  For every day I can cook for myself, feed myself, dress myself, toilet myself, do a bit of gardening, take a walk, read, enjoy music, and enjoy the company of family and friends…I will be extremely grateful.

Cinnamon and Jenny 030117

 

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