Parental Journal 99 from Planet Elderly: Mom Now Resides in a Skilled Nursing Community

The journey with dementia moves onward, and during the past couple of months Mom has fallen a few times.  Watching her gait over the summer, I could see that fall episodes would start in the near future. In September, she willingly agreed to try using a walker and said she felt more secure.  Trouble was, she didn’t remember to use it, so getting around started becoming rather precarious.

First Medical Adventure

I received a call saying she was shaking and having trouble communicating.  She was taken to the ER and it was determined she had an infection…maybe sepsis…but they weren’t sure. She was admitted and given two varieties of big gun antibiotics intravenously.

I stayed with her 12 to 14 hours each day but needed to be home to sleep. She was moved a few times to different rooms, and there was never anything other than a hardback chair for me to sit in.  Fortunately, the hospital could monitor her via video and using a sound alarm built into the bed.  It would go off any time she tried to get out of bed.  That gave me some peace of mind when I went home to sleep.

For Mom, she was just tired a lot, but her breathing was monitored as were her other vital signs.  She was put on oxygen because they suspected pneumonia.  The biggest challenge was going to the bathroom.  She needed assistance but didn’t think she did.  A few times assistance took a long time coming and she found her self in a puddle of urine and feces.  I had to advocate quite a bit.  When I told some physical therapists about the puddle, they were horrified something like that could happen in their hospital.  No shit.  I’m sure it happens often with the aged old who are hospitalized and cannot speak or advocate for themselves.

Mom had several tests done (Why not?  Medicare was paying for it, right?), and several rather fast-moving rides to those tests by young folks who had no idea she had dementia and would scare easily.  She didn’t scream or cry out, but her eyes got big.  She rated the food at this hospital as “lousy.” I would agree.  She didn’t eat much and lost some weight.

From the hospital she was sent to a rehab skilled nursing community to receive physical and occupational therapy.  She was not a happy camper, but after several days she was glad to be able to “go home” to her regular memory care assisted living community where she was welcomed with open arms.

mom and me shoes

(Chilling out during her first visit to the rehab center)

Second Medical Adventure

While roaming around without the walker one evening, Mom fell and was in a lot of pain.  I met her at the ER and it was determined that she broke her shoulder, a common kind of break for the aged old.

The ER doctor, who seemed in a rush because “I’m the only physician here,” he said, seemed attentive enough, but he wanted to send Mom “home” with some pain pills and a brace to keep her arm stable.  We were told it would take about 6 weeks to heal.  If it didn’t heal, there was an operation involving putting a rod in her arm, “but due to her age….”  I just nodded my head.

Because it was 3 a.m., they found a room for her to sleep in overnight and I was able to go home to sleep.

The next day the rehab community picked her up and brought her back for another visit and round of therapies.  She was in terrible pain.

She was at the rehab community only a couple of days.  As I watched how she was watched and assisted, and as I looked around the somewhat dark and dingy atmosphere due to the community being located in a basement area of a larger senior community, I just wanted something better for Mom.

Proactive Me

It’s my nature to look at problems and situations and try to plan options.  With two recent hospital adventures, it seemed clear to me that Mom was headed toward needing a skilled nursing facility as her permanent home.

I found it to be very stressful to have an incident lead to an ER visit, which led to time in the hospital, which then led to time at a rehab community, which maybe would lead to going back to her home community only to know that the same scenario would happen again and again.

I drove over to a new skilled nursing care center at Lenoir Woods, a Luther Senior Services community that has been in Columbia for several decades.  In recent years they have built new independent living apartments, torn down the old care center and built a new one with three skilled nursing facilities, and over time have stepped up their game to match their mission in helping elders live better lives as they progress through the aging process.  They are highly rated and have a good reputation locally.

My idea was to get Mom on the waiting list.  I just walked in and was able to speak  with the advisor who hadn’t yet started her busy day.  I told her about Mom’s background and what had been happening.  Turned out there was an opening, and Mom was moved in a few days later.

Third Medical Adventure

This one I missed because I did not hear my cell phone ring three nights ago at 11 p.m.

I did wake at 3:30 and saw that I had a voice message.  Checked that and was told to call.  When I did, I learned that at about 11 p.m. Mom was found lying on her back next to her bed and that she was bleeding at the back of her head.

They had her taken to the ER where she was examined, given two CT scans around midnight, had three staples put into the back of her head, and sent back to the care center.

“They didn’t find anything serious and sent her back.  She is fine now,” I was told.

I made some coffee, listened to NPR news for a while, and had a nap.  I woke up and got myself ready to go check in on her, not sure what to expect but having visions of her pain and misery from previous medical adventures.

When I arrived, a man was leading a program for the crowd gathered in the living room area and there was Mom, seated in a recliner, wide awake, participating with a smile, and when she saw me, she said, “Oh, hi!  How you doin’?”  No word about pain, about being tired; no memory of her latest adventure.

Eventually I did say, “I heard you were at the ER last night.”  She looked at me as if she didn’t believe me.  “Yeah, I’m told you fell and had three staples put in the back of your head.”  Her eyes shifted left to right.  “I hope they were nice to you.”

“Oh, yes.  Theyt were nice.  They were very nice.”  And then she started feeling the back of her head to check on the staples.

And Here We Are:  Observations as of Thanksgiving Weekend 2018

*Mom has been eating less these past few months.  We had a fabulous Thanksgiving meal yesterday at her community, but she only nibbled at it.  I cleaned my plate and ate a few bites of hers.

*She weighs 109 now.   When I moved her to Missouri she weighed about 103 and her doctor wanted her to gain some weight.  While at her first community, she ate well and peaked at 134 or so.  That was a bit much a bit fast, but then she started eating less this past spring.

*In addition to lessening food intake, her taste buds seem to be changing and she doesn’t recognize food very well.  She was unsure about whether she liked the homemade rolls served at every meal.  A couple of weeks ago, that was a favorite item.

*She feeds herself, but has difficulty reading and selecting from the small lunch menu that offers two main items and a variety of vegetables and sides.  If left to herself, she may only select “mashed potatoes and gravy.”  They are yummy…and made with real potatoes.  She never says no to the dessert cart when it stops by her table.  She rarely finishes dessert, but she enjoys a few bites.

*She has difficulty remembering to use the walker and how to use it.  She struggles with it, often trying to carry it or use it backwards.  At least she is still getting around, although she put staff in a panic the other day when they found her walking without the walker.  She cannot learn new things and that is sad to observe.

*She is having more difficulty expressing herself.  She will point and start a sentence but cannot find words to state her question or concern.  She is aware of this difficulty and it frustrates her.

*She responds quickly and happily to anyone who walks by and says, “Hi, Pearl!”

*Swallowing pills is more of a challenge.

*She has her own wheelchair now for any time she wants to use it and for the future.  When I told her we were buying one, she said, “Good.  And then you can use it, too.”  Yep.

*At lunch she sits with three other folks who are quite verbal; not everyone there has dementia.  I enjoy sitting with them and chatting away.  We have a lot of laughs and Mom enjoys it.

*Mom’s short-term memory is kaput. She tries to cover up with “oh yeah,” but it seems clear that she cannot retain what recently happened or what was recently said.

*After Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, she started to sundown.  She kept asking what I was going to do and what she is supposed to do.  She could not remember that she has a room there, so we walked to the room and I showed her several of her things…side table, recliner, favorite knickknack, bathroom.  After returning to the loveseat in the living room, she asked again.  She had no memory of our walk down to her room.  We went again.  “I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said over and over.  We went back to her room and she decided it would be okay to sit in the recliner and watch The Hallmark Channel.  She remembered that channel.

Mom ER visit nov 2017 cracked rib

(one of her ER visits)

Each day when I am with her, I try to take in her presence…make her smile…share some laughs.  If she is agitated or in pain, I just sit with her and let her talk…acknowledge her difficulties.  And I am sad.  Going through this long grieving process is difficult, but for now, we can still talk to each other and have some golden moments.  I am grateful for her lucid times and I am grateful we are still creating memories.

 

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Parental Journal 98 from Planet Elderly: “I Need to Find Myself”

Tues. July 31, 2018

Mom and I have been coasting along with a regular schedule for the past year and four months since she moved into assisted living memory care.

Mom and me Shelter Gardens spring 2018

Shelter Gardens outing Spring 2018

 

Our current schedule includes daily visits except for Mondays.  That is my “work” day.  Essentially it’s my day off.  And it was highly recommended by my psychologist and group of gal pals.

Admittedly, it’s been wonderful to wake up each Monday morning and know that I have the whole day to myself.

Dual Downsizing

This past March I decided to move from a rental house to a duplex located next door to a friend. The house was nice, but I did not have a sense of community.  Apparently, I’m more socially oriented than I thought I was.

The duplex is a bit smaller than the house, 30 years newer, it’s located on a quiet cul-de-sac on the very western edge of the city with a diverse population,  and I absolutely love it. I call it my Independent Living Nest.  This is where I plan to stay until such time that I either die or can no longer live independently.

At the same time I was moving, it was recommended that Mom move to a private single room.  She had been in a double room, but in anticipation of more residents eventually moving in, the private single was agreed on–even by Mom.

We spent a lot of time joking about downsizing at the same time.  I hoped it would ease the transition for her.  Overall, she did quite well and thinks it’s cozy.  The main issue is that she can’t remember where it is.

Changes

I have read that one characteristic of vascular dementia is that changes seem to happen in “steps” rather than a gradual decline. I think Mom is currently going through her second step of changes since arriving here March 31, 2017.

*She will experience bouts of feeling okay with bouts of anger and unhappiness, which she calls “being crabby.”  Her emotional quality of life is failing, and we will be visiting with her doctor to have a urinary tract infection test done…and to propose that a low dosage antidepressant be tried to help take the edge off her bouts of crying, anger and unrest.

*Her short-term memory is failing even more.  She cannot remember what happened ten minutes ago.  During a recent visit with two of her great-grandchildren, the 14-year-old great-granddaughter was sitting at a table with us. We greeted Mom about ten minutes earlier when we arrived.  Mom turned to me and asked, “Do you know who that is?”  I explained and she responded with “Oh yeah…She is so pretty.”

LaEabha and Mom Spring 2018  With oldest great-grandchild

 

Mom and Kaylin Summer 2018  With youngest great-grandchild

She is often found napping in her old room.  When she wakes up and goes into the bathroom there she becomes upset.  She thinks someone has stolen all her stuff.  She is directed to her new room and finds familiar things, especially the bed comforter that she loves.

*I am told that she wanders and more recently has set off the door alarm a few times.  She has joined that club now, apparently.

*She has had two altercations with the same neighbor when Mom attempted to slap or actually slapped her.  She has always had a short fuse.  I know.  Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was afraid of my mother’s temper.  I know she has also been extremely rude and unkind to staff.  She tells me sometimes.  At other times, staff have shared that “she brought me to tears.”  Kudos to all the staff who work with the elderly, especially those elders living with dementia.  Some residents are quite sweet and obliging.  Then there are spitfires like Mom who shoots dagger of hate at anyone who suggests she take a shower or spa bath.

*Although she still goes to the bathroom by herself, accidents happen more often.  Often she is not able to tell if she has soaked a disposable panty or soiled herself.  Staff are cleaning up more messes now.  That’s one reason why they want her to shower or bathe more often–to make sure she is nice and clean.  When they suggest a shower or bath, she interprets that as as meaning “she stinks” and it pisses her off.  “They should just tell me I smell,” she will snarl.

*But who resents “being told what to do all the time”?  Mom.  She has been fiercely independent her whole life, even when married.  Now she needs more assistance. In recent weeks, she acknowledges that fact, sometimes agreeably; sometimes with a scowl. I often try to put myself in her situation.  How would I react?  In all honesty, once I could no longer sit through a movie, follow the story line in a book,  or be able to work a computer, table, or radio, I, too, would probably be a miserable bitch and occasionally take it out on others.  In addition to not always appreciating staff assistance, she will complain about not liking “all the busy bodies here.”

*She is losing a bit of weight; does not like to eat if she is upset or angry.

What Stays Pretty Much the Same

*Coffee and morning chat time with others when I come to visit

*Going for walks and engaging in activities most of the timeMom activity 2018

*Loving naps

*Listening to other gal neighbors and me when we tell stories and share tips on getting old…and laughing loudly together

*Our outings to doctor appointments followed by lunch out…usually a cheeseburger, sometimes a taco or fried fish filet…or a craving for a root beer float:Mom rootbeer float July 2018

*Her appreciation of her best staff friend, Mary Kaye, who continuously weathers all the up’s and down’s of residents’ realities with dementia.  She is a pro…and a saint.

 

Awareness

After a recent refusal to take a bath, Mom shuffled off to her old room and laid down on a bed.  I joined her and just sat in a chair next to her.  She did not talk a lot, but she was honest.  “I am so angry most of the time.”  “I hate my life.”  “Don’t be surprised if you come to visit sometime and I’m not here.”  “I should find another place to live.”

After a long silence, she gazed at the doorway and said, “I need to find myself.  I don’t know if I can, but I need to try to find myself.”  I didn’t respond.  I was struck by the profound reality she was expressing as a person who is so often confused because she lives with dementia.

Slowly I mentioned how she has told me she likes how clean it is here.  “Yes, it is very clean.”  Then I mentioned how she has told me that she thinks the staff are very nice.  “Yes, they are nice…even when I’m crabby.”  And the food?  “Yes, the food is good.”  And you have nice neighbors.  “Yes…well, most of them.”

Then I moved to the bed and sat next to her.  We hugged and she told me, “I love you. I know you are doing a lot for me and I appreciate it.”

“That’s okay.  Look at all you did for me over the years.”  We laughed

“Yes, but you are happier than I am.  Sometimes I’m jealous and wish I was as happy as you.”

Mom 073118

Flowers from Betsy’s garden  July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parental Journal 97 from Planet Elderly – There’s a Sadness Settling In

January 8, 2018 afternoon

Mom has been at her assisted living memory care community for almost 10 months now.  I am so fortunate that, although difficult in the first few months, she acclimated better than I thought.  I owe a lot to the staff at The Arbors at Mill Creek Village.  They have always been ready to listen to her when she was confused or upset and to reassure her.  They understand that when she is “cranky” (her word) or “difficult” (my word), it is part of the disease.

Except for Mondays, I continue to visit every morning and enjoy coffee with Mom and her neighbors.  Some mornings are rather quiet; other mornings a topic comes up and we gab and laugh.    images (2)

But I’m noticing changes that indicate Mom’s vascular dementia is going south a notch, if not more.

Washing Depends

She will sometimes take soiled Depends and try to wash them out in the sink.  When I visited a few days ago she told me not to come in.  She had a mess to clean up.  I had an idea of what it was, but I left to visit with other friends and returned a little later.  She was trying to wash a pair of Depends, but I also noticed feces smeared on the shower curtain and on the toilet bowl.

“Oh, those panties, Mom…the great thing about them is that if they get wet or soiled, we just throw them away.  Nice, huh?”  Then she remembers and I help her put it in the trash and clean up shreds of paper lining off the floor.  I keep a container of disinfecting wipes in her bathroom so that I can wipe soiled areas.  She is not even aware of soiled areas, but she always thanks me for helping.

Multiple Layers

It used to be she wore two pairs of knee hi nylon stockings.  And because she likes to be very warm and toasty, it is not unusual for her to be wearing three or four tops of one kind or another…sometimes more! More recently I am noticing multiple bras on occasion and multiple pairs of pants.  This morning I noticed that she had two pair of pants on.  She was mystified.  I asked if she wanted both on and she said no.  When she took one pair off, I noticed that the seat area was a bit damp.  “Oh, this feels a little damp.  How about if we just put a fresh pair of slacks on?” I asked.  When she took off the second pair of slacks I saw that she had her Depends on inside out, thus the reason for wet pants.

She is increasingly willing to be assisted with dressing by me…and I hope by staff that see the need and offer.  I gave her a fresh Depends, clean slacks, and asked if she wanted to put a clean top on.  She did and we picked one out to put over the purple Alzheimer’s fundraising tee shirt she likes to wear.

“You know,” she confided, “people around here keep trying to get me to change my clothes all the time.”

“Well, they just want you to feel nice and clean.  It’s fine.  They suggest that to everyone.”

Sleepiness

Nowadays it’s not unusual for Mom to drift off to sleep during one of the coffee chat sessions we have with friends.  She is often up very early, eats, and then has a morning nap…or two.  She is often restless, so I doubt that she gets a full night’s sleep anymore.  Not sure how many people over 70 do.images (1)

Sometimes when I visit, I find her in bed snoring.  She’s in a deep sleep and I leave her alone. I have coffee/chat time with others.

The other day she fell asleep while visiting with her old friend, Jerry, on the phone.  He’s 91, restores old tractors and cars, gardens, and lives alone on 3 acres in southern Illinois.  He also likes to talk….and talk and talk and talk!  She just drifted off, so I took the phone and explained that “Mom is sleepy.”  Then he tried to engage me in listening but I dodged the opportunity.  He had been talking for 20 minutes and I didn’t want to listen to another 20.  We’ll call again sometime.

Confusion

Mom’s confusion is more pronounced, and she is not as quick at correcting or justifying herself as she used to be.

It’s still difficult for her to remember where her room is.

She isn’t sure if she had breakfast, or she simply says, “I don’t remember.”

She is often unsure of where she lives, sometimes thinks I live in the same place, and still spends time “trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.”  A response I settled on a month or so ago was, “One thing to be doing now is being such a good friend to Elaine and Eunice and Joyce.  They really appreciate your friendship.”  And then we move on to talk about some of the outings they had and the activities they enjoy together.

Recently after agreeing to go brush her teeth, she came out holding two small bottles of Revlon liquid make up.  “These are toothpaste, aren’t they?” she asked.  I followed her back into the bathroom and showed her what her toothpaste looked like.

On at least two occasions, one discovered by me and one by a staff person, Mom was wearing a knit top as a bottom, or trying to.  She had one leg in the sleeve of a top and the rest of the shirt kind of pulled up when I came and found her waking up one morning.  Also, she had on no Depends.  She hasn’t needed or wanted help getting ready for bed, but that will be changing.  When she tried to get up and go to the bathroom, she had difficulty walking.  “Oh…” I said, “It looks like you tried wearing the top as a pajama bottom.  Here, let’s get your leg out of the sleeve and I’ll get you some slacks.”

“Well, I knew something didn’t feel right,” she said.

I gave her a pair of Depends, fetched clean slacks, and we went on with the morning.

A similar incident occurred with Della, one of the CMA’s.  Pearl came out saying she needed a safety pin.  She was trying to wear a top as a bottom and couldn’t figure it out.  Della escorted her back to her room and helped her dress correctly.

Sadness

Some days I drive home rather sad seeing my fiercely independent mother lose skills and abilities.  I have sort of put grieving for my stepdad at bay and take it out once in a while.  With my increased sadness as I watch my mom struggle and become more confused, I know that my grieving process for her is beginning.  We have become very close over the past two years.  I love her in a way I never have before, and I feel a great deal of compassion for her.  Even as I write those words, I weep a bit.

images

The sadness, however, is part of the journey and it will deepen.  I accept that and try to enjoy this time when she knows me and can still banter…still complain…still accuse me of stealing her comb…and still thank me “for coming over.  I love you.”

I love you, too, Mom.

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Parental Journal 96 from Planet Elderly – Christmas at The Arbors 2017

Although it was a quiet Christmas this year, it was meaningful.

The decorations at The Arbors were beautiful, especially the spectacular Christmas tree.  Mom loved it…and kept insisting that “it’s been up for two years.”  Not sure how she came up with that since she’s only been in residence nine months.

Arbors tree 2017

In addition to great decorations, we enjoyed a delightful holiday gathering right before the hectic weekend.  It not only included fruit, dips, crackers and sweets, but for those who imbibe, we had a variety of beverages.  I brought a bottle of light, dry wine and Mom thought she would have “a little.”  I reminded her that we sip wine; it’s not OJ.  She took one sip and declared it to be “terrible.”

“Want to try some eggnog?” I asked, knowing she liked it years ago.

“OK.”

“Want a couple drops of bourbon in it or do you want it plain?”

“A couple drops.”  And she enjoyed it.

Several family members attended and it was a nice event.

Christmas Eve

I had morning coffee and chat time with Mom and pals…and said I’d be back after dinner to hang out a bit.  I brought my dog Cinnamon with when I returned, but the place looked deserted.  Mom was in bed, but got up to hang out with me.  Gil was walking around, checking to make sure everything was working.  No one else was in sight.  Most had retired to their rooms.  Party poopers.  Gil and Mom enjoyed some time with Cinnamon and then I found a good version of  the movie “A Christmas Carol” for Mom to enjoy before I left.

Christmas Day

Some folks left to spend the day with family.  Others were visited by family and friends.  I stayed for lunch and we had fried chicken breasts and some fabulous mashed potatoes.  After dinner Mom and I worked through an entire word find puzzle.  It was fun to see her so engaged.  While we worked on the puzzle, one lady made four attempts to “go shopping,” which set off the alarm system, but the staff was very kind and patient and repeatedly explained to her that the stores were closed.  She finally sat down and dozed off.

When I arrived, I gave Mom a gift from my friend Bonnie, whom she knows.  Before opening it up, she just sat there and cried.  I knew where she was…a little girl long ago whose mother was too ill to take care of her and sent her to an orphanage where no one ever received any love or gifts.  That time at the orphanage, before her aunt came to get her and have Mom live with her, is a deeply embedded memory that will probably never go away.  It’s also a favorite story the staff and I have heard multiple times.  I don’t dismiss it when she talks about that time.  I try to acknowledge her feelings and redirect her to the wonderful life she had later when married to Dad.

The gift from Bonnie turned out to be a mug with a Christmas sweater…and Mom loved it.

Mug gift from Bonnie Dec. 2017

I brought Mom a gift of a top and new pants.  She was wide eyed.  “I have some new clothes!  But I didn’t do any shopping for you.”

“We live in the same city now, Mom, and that’s the best Christmas gift ever.”  She agreed…opened the box and loved the contents.

Observations

Mom still thinks she needs to get a job somewhere, and she frequently crabs about my taking her vacuum.  She claims she could use it; I tell her the vacuuming is taken care of, but since it has always been her favorite chore, she’d rather do it herself…sort of.

She is requiring more assistance with dressing.  It’s not unusual for her to wear two or three bras…three pairs of nylon knee hi stockings…backwards pants…two or three pairs of Depends, different shoes.  It doesn’t bother her; it drives the rest of us kinda nuts.

Not changing clothes:  She seems perfectly  happy to wear and sleep in the same clothes for two days or longer.  Staff have different approaches to trying to get her to change clothes.  Some work; some don’t.  “People around here don’t want you to wear something more than once.  They think you have to put something new on every day,” she reports.

About those Depends:  She loves them.  She still manages her own toileting mostly, but she thinks these are “the best things…so comfortable,” and I remind her that if she has any accident, just throw them away.  “You don’t have to wash these, Mom.”   “Yeah, that’s great!”

Dental Care:  A matter of importance to everyone, but at her last cleaning with a new dentist here in Columbia, the dental hygienist cautioned how important for Mom to brush close to the gum.  Lately I’ve been reminding her to brush.  I didn’t want to make her made thinking I was telling her what to do, so I created this question:  “Have you had time to brush your teeth this morning, Mom?”   She responds quite well to that, and the answer is usually no; then she gets down to business.

Wrong Toothpaste:  After leaving her to brush her teeth, I returned to find her making faces.  “This toothpaste tastes TERRIBLE!”

“You’re right, Mom.  It tastes terrible because it’s the Benadryl itch gel, not toothpaste.  Here, try Crest…and we’ll keep the itch gel out of the bathroom.”

We laughed because it reminded us of the time when I was in school and Dad got Mom up to get ready to go to work. She was so tired that she tried using his shaving cream instead of toothpaste.  When we went to join friends for coffee and chat time, I told them about the itch gel being used as toothpaste.  Gordon and Joyce roared with laughter and Mom joined in.

Mobility:   As time goes by, Mom seems more and more unsteady on her feet.  It takes some time to go from sitting on the bed to standing up and walking.  Sometimes she says to herself, “Don’t fall, Pearl” because she did…but no one knew.  A couple of weeks ago, she had a red spot on her face…deep pink and then sort of a scab over one eye.  I asked if she had fallen and, of course, she said no.  Later she admitted to a staff person that she had fallen.

Once she’s up and going, she is fairly ok.  According to her, she walks a lot every day.  We have Dad’s rarely used walker ready for her, and I’m told that occasionally she has used it.

Itchy Skin is still a problem.  She gets relief from the various creams she has and Zyrtec is available for the staff to give to her.  She doesn’t seem able to realize she’s is scratching and then get the itch creams.  She just itches and tears at her skin, so several of us are keeping an eye on that and assisting with administering the cream.

Overall, it was a nice Christmas holiday.  I remember Mom asking, “Will you be visiting for Christmas?”  “Oh sure…Christmas Eve morning coffee and afternoon visit…lunch with you and your friends on Christmas day…you can’t get rid of me.”

“Good,” she said with a big smile.

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Parental Journal 95 from Planet Elderly: Wearing Three Bras Today?

Our Routine

I visit almost every day…mid-morning.  Some folks wonder why, but I enjoy being part of Mom’s community.  I’m probably still dealing with a bit of guilt for changing Mom’s life so dramatically when I moved her down here to Columbia.  On the other hand, we always agreed that we would enjoy living in the same community, but not with each other because we would drive each other nuts.  She still shakes her head in agreement when I mention this.

With three-year-old great granddaughter:

Mom kaylin 02 oct 2017

Mom Kaylin oct 2017

With two older great grandchildren:

Mom LaEabha Pax Oct 2017

Interesting Dressing Habits

Mom seems to like multiples.  For some reason, she puts on two pairs of nylon knee hi stockings.  I check regularly, and if I see what is probably multiple pairs, I just ask if she wants them on.  “No…I don’t know why I do that,” is often her reply.  So I help remove them and discard those with holes.

Tops are another multiple favorite and a shared fashion statement with others at times.  It’s not unusual for Mom to have on 3 or 4 tops.  “I like to be warm,” she would say when I asked.  I don’t ask anymore.  In fact, I marvel at the variety…shirts, blouses, and tee shirts I’ve never seen before.  They’re probably “borrowed” or “found.”

“Well, that’s a nice purple tee shirt you have on, Mom.  And it has a pocket.  Kind of looks like a man’s shirt.”

“Well, I don’t know how it got here.  I just found it so I put it on.”

“Any name on it?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t look.”

I’m quite sure not all of Mom’s things have her name on them.  I should do an inventory and apply the black marker with the word “Pearl” where needed.

Only one time did I see her wearing multiple slacks.   She had on a pair of her own and over those she had on a  pair of very large beige colored culottes, shorter than her pair.  I admit I stopped dead in my tracks and decided I would address this.

“Oh…it looks like you have two pairs of slacks on.  Are you chilly?  Do you want to wear two pair?”   If she said yes, that would have been the end of the conversation, but she looked perplexed.

“I don’t know where these came from.  No, I just want one pair on.  I don’t need two.”

About those three bras….

Mom has dry skin and problems with bouts of itching.  We have all kinds of creams and the doctor even said to try Claritin which, it turns out, made her itch even more.

One day she was trying to scratch her shoulders and back.  I suggested we go to her room and put some itch cream on her skin.  She agreed.

When Mom began removing her three tops, I saw that she was sporting three bras.  Well, two and a half, really.  She had two on and the third was fastened around her waist but not yet hoisted up.

My reaction was a mixture of surprise and sadness.  It looked funny, but I felt so sad that she struggles with getting dressed…and what is it about her dying brain that has her wearing multiples…including bras?  I didn’t laugh.  I tried to be matter-of-fact.

“Oh, I see you’ve put on more than one bra.  You want to wear those or do you want to wear just one.”

“Oh…uh…just one.  I don’t know why I did that.”

“It’s okay.  Let’s take off the one around your waist and then you can take off one of the others.”

Once the bra situation was resolved she relished my putting itch lotion on her back, shoulders, and front area.  I get bouts of itching as well, so I know how maddening it must be for her.  If I have an episode, I take a Zyrtec.  Twenty minutes later, no itching.  The director of nursing has put in a request to Mom’s doctor to allow Zyrtec.  If we get approval, I hope that helps her.

Pretty Well Settled In and Helping the New Guy

Mom and her neighbors all have times when they want to “go home.”  There are times of agitation, sadness, confusion and anger.  With the help of staff, everyone weathers through those times and I’m sure the care taking and dining staff have plenty of tales to tell when they get home.  Since I visit before noon each day, I don’t experience Mom during her sun downing or more difficult times.

But all in all, at least when I am with Mom, she seems pretty well settled in.  She recognizes neighbors and staff and feels badly that she can’t remember their names.  She may need reminders about where her room is…or that she did have breakfast…or that she needs to brush her teeth and put on itch cream, but overall she is adjusting.

Mom and friends enjoying some chat time:

Mom and friends Oct 2017

Getting her hair done by Nancy:

Mom and Nancy hairdo day Oct 2017

New “DO”…and the perpetual PURSE:

Mom new hairdo Oct 2017

Halloween visitors:

Mom halloween visitor 2017

Recently a new resident moved in.  After about two weeks, he realized that he was not going back to where his wife lived…and he was upset.  I was told that Mom heard him and came over to talk to him.  She told him she didn’t like being here at first and has days when she is restless and angry, but now she knows this is the best option and people here are nice, etc.  I didn’t hear what she said, but I was so pleased to learn that she made an effort to approach someone new and comfort him.  It doesn’t matter that maybe two hours later she was complaining and insisted on going back to Grayslake.  She had compassion and clarity for a time and wanted to help someone who was going through what she had gone through.  What a sweetheart.

 

And Then There Was Our Visit to the Emergency Room Last Saturday

Last Saturday was the family and friends Thanksgiving dinner.  My taste buds were eager for that visit, but when I arrived I found Mom wincing in pain in her room.  She could barely move.  After being examined by the director of nursing, it was agreed that Mom should be seen.  Staff helped me get her in the car and when we got to the ER we lucked out.  No one was waiting.  (I had visions of us being there for 6 to 8 hours and missing the Thanksgiving feast.) Mom ER visit nov 2017 cracked rib

Of course, as soon as Mom was situated in a room she felt “fine.”  The resident doctor did an intake and an examination.  Then the experienced head doctor took a look/feel.  X-rays were ordered and we were told that she has a cracked rib.    Tylenol, walk around, and practice coughing.

How did she get a cracked rib?  No falls were witnessed by staff and Mom, of course, swears that she never fell and never bumped into anything.  I remember the ER nurse saying this would take time to heal, but that it was much better than a broken hip or a concussion.   Mom’s eyes were wide as saucers when she heard that.  She was helped into the car and we got back to The Arbors At Mill Creek Village  in time to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Observations:

When I do her nails, she sees cotton balls and thinks they are eggs.  But she loves the end result.  We go for a subtle look:

Manicure 111917

She will have days of crying and sadness; then things change and she acts content and glad to be where she is because “the people are nice and they keep it clean here.”

She can engage in lively kidding and jokes during coffee/chat times…sympathize with others if they are upset.

I’m seeing a “lost” look on her at times.  I know things will only continue to decline, so I am grateful for every visit we have where she and I can chat and laugh with our friends at The Arbors.

When Mom looks sort of lost:

Mom lost look oct 2017

Mom and Me Oct 2017 far away look

Putting on pants backwards is another fashion trend she has.  I mention it to her and ask if she’d like to turn them around.  If not, okay.  She always chooses to put them on the right way and will again say, “I don’t know why I do that.”

She seems pickier about food.  She’ll wrinkle her nose when I read her the lunch menu…even if it’s something she has always enjoyed.

I do believe that on some level she understands that it is good for both of us to live in the same city.

 

So we have our routine now and Mon is glad to see me when I visit.  Unfortunately, after I leave she sometimes thinks it’s been days or weeks since she last saw me.

Mom often tells me how wonderful it is that I have many friends and that I should enjoy myself.  She has always just wanted me to be happy and to be in relatively good health.  So far, so good, Mom.

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Parental Journal 94 from Planet Elderly – Visiting Miss Pearl and Friends

October 9, 2017 – afternoon

Mom’s been living at her memory care community for a little over six months.  I visit her every day unless I’m out of town (rarely) or dealing with something like the upper respiratory virus I’ve just finished limping through.

It’s been six months of ups and downs, but I must say, I see mostly the ups.  I hear tales of her moods and behaviors that take place in the afternoon and in the middle of the night.  It can get quite dramatic at times, and I am ever so appreciative of the staff at The Arbors at Mill Creek Village.

What follows are various situations I’ve watched or heard about involving “Miss Pearl” and her friends.

Up at night Saying Her Goodbyes

When I visited Mom yesterday I was told she was up all night saying her goodbyes.  She was telling staff she was leaving and wouldn’t be back.  I walked into her room and she was smiling and calm.  There was, however, a pillowcase “packed” with necessities.  I was part of her preparation for leaving and she has done this before.

“Hi Mom.  I brought some pumpkin bread with oatmeal and walnuts.  Want to have a cup of coffee and have a slice?”

“Sure.”

While we had our snack she told me how she was glad she was finally retired.

“I just woke up and was told I don’t have to do anything anymore.  I can take it easy.”

“Well, yes…there’s not much we have to do now that we are retired.  And here in your community, they take care of just about everything.”

“I know…and it’s wonderful,” she said.  I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning feeling so happy.  I was told I can just be free.  You know, I think it was good to make the change.”

“The change to move here?” I asked.

“Yes.  People are nice in general.”

“And you’ve made some nice friends…Eunice, Irene, Joyce, Mary Kaye, Shonna and others.”

I think she only recognized a couple of the names, but then announced that the pumpkin bread was “really delicious.”

A bit later she asked if we could go to the bank.  I reminded her that we counted her money a week ago and that it was in her wallet the last time we counted it.

“I know, but it’s not there now.  I think they come in and take it.  You don’t know how embarrassing it is to go out and then when we stop at a store I don’t have any money.”

Ah….the continuous money dilemma.   “Well, how about we go into your room and look around.  Maybe you put it somewhere else where you thought it would be safe.”

Once again, we looked in every drawer to find all her purses and anything that looked like it would hold money.  As I went through her purses I laid them on her bed.  In one I found a black wallet, opened it, and there was her money.

“Oh, good.  We don’t have to go to the bank,” she said. “I must have put it there to keep it safe.”

Then I seized the moment to ask if she thought she needed five purses.

“No…I don’t think so.  Do you?”

“Well, if there’s one you don’t really need, I can donate it.  Five is a lot.”

She pointed to a black shoulder bag.  “I never really liked that one anyway.  I thought maybe you could use it.”

“I have plenty, but I’m sure a nice lady will enjoy having this one.  It’s so soft!”

Yea!  One purse out of the way…and I’ll confess here that when she wasn’t looking I took a pair of her shoes and stuffed them into the purse.  Black pumps with a little heel.  She doesn’t do well in Sketchers…let alone any kind of heel…so I took them while the taking was good…figuring one falling hazard was now out of the way.

I picked up the packed pillowcase and saw that she had her favorite statuette in there.  “Oh, look.  Here’s one of your treasures.  I wonder why it’s in this pillowcase.”

“I was getting things unpacked.”

Okay, so can I help you unpack the rest of what’s here in the pillowcase?  We can work together.”

And we did.

All in all it was a wonderful visit…but so interesting to me that she was up half the night insisting she was leaving and saying her goodbyes, and by the time I came for my morning visit, she was happily retired in her new friendly community.

 

“Where’s the TV Remote?”

I don’t know about other memory care facilities, but at Mom’s place, TV remotes come and go like crazy.  For a while, there was just one primary suspect:  Mom.  She might have two or three TV remotes in her room, but the one to her TV was not to be found until we checked purses.

At home, Mom often tried to call people with the TV remote.  And she would try to change TV channels with the phone.  This mix up probably continues, but there’s something about a TV remote Mom thinks is important to have.

Once I discovered her hobby of hoarding TV remotes, I announced to staff that if anyone was missing a TV remote, check with Pearl:  drawers and purses.

There are some new neighbors now, folks rather high functioning like Mom, and one of them also likes TV remotes.

Yesterday was Sunday and Sundays are slow because the activities coordinator is off for the weekend.  Regular staff members try to engage residents with occasional walks, visits outside, and TV time.  Yesterday it was TV time…a popular Netflix program of high interest to the staff, and there was quite a group of folks gathered in the living room area by the TV.  Mom and I were busy with other things.

All of a sudden Netflix posted its question, “Do want to continue watching?”  Well of course they did…or most of them did.  A few folks were napping.  But no one could find the remote to press the button for Netflix to continue.

In the TV area there are three remotes…orphans from somewhere…but the needed remote was not among.  So I headed for Mom’s room to search for the right remote while staff looked elsewhere.  We knew it was in the building…but where?

I searched every drawer and every purse…under chair cushions…in all the cabinets in Mom’s room.  I didn’t find the remote to the main TV.  I did, of course, find the remote to her TV, so I put it next to the TV.

When I walked out to the group, the Netflix question was still on the screen.  So I turned to Gil and said, “Gil!  Did you hide the remote?”   He’s fun to joke with.

“Well, gosh, I certainly hope not.”

Then I joked with sweet Rothy…”Rothy!  Did YOU hide the remote?”  She just laughed, shook her head and said, “No.”

About a minute later, one of the staff members saw an awkward shape in Gil’s pocket.  BINGO.  The remote was found.  He hadn’t a clue and just chuckled.

Now we have two remote TV lifters:  Miss Pearl and Gil.  They will always be the prime suspects.

“How Do You Like Those Disposable Underpants?”

I will be forever grateful that Mom never even batted an eye at the idea of wearing adult pull ups.  To the contrary, she thinks they are so comfortable and handy.

Unfortunately, she hasn’t quite grasped how to use them.

Yesterday, I found a used Depends stuffed into the packet of unused ones.  I took it out and put it in the trash.

In Mom’s curio cabinet of treasures, I’ve seen an unused Depends resting on a butter dish.  For a while I let it be.  Today, I finally removed it and put it in the bathroom.

When I arrived, I also saw a used Depends in Mom’s laundry basket.

“Oh, when the disposable underwear is dirty, you can just throw it away, Mom.  It doesn’t need to be washed.”

“Oh yes, that’s what’s great about them.”

Twenty minutes later while we were having coffee and chat time with Eunice, Mom left to go to the bathroom.  She was gone a long time.  Finally, I decided to check in on her.

“Do you need any help?”

“Yes I do!”

She was standing at the bathroom sink naked from the waist down trying to hand wash a Depends.

“Oh, you know, Mom, you don’t have to bother washing those.  When they’re dirty, just throw them away.  They’re disposable.  Isn’t that convenient?”

“Oh, yes it is,” she replied as she tried to scoop up handfuls of whatever the super absorbent white stuff is that triples in volume when exposed to moisture.

I let her finish cleaning up the remnants of a hand washed Depends panty while I wiped down the toilet seat with Clorox Wipes.  There were remnants of feces and I’m beginning to wonder if a bit of bowel incontinence is starting.

“I just had to go all of a sudden,” Mom said.  “I couldn’t help it.”

“Well, isn’t it great that we can just throw away these disposable panties whenever they get dirty?  You don’t have to put them in your laundry basket or even wash them by hand.  Just throw them away.  Nice, huh?”

“Oh, yes.  So nice,” she said.

Not So Nice Confusion

Increased confusion is what I’m witnessing after these first six months.

Sometimes Mom is unsure of where she lives and she worries that she doesn’t have any place to go.  “You mean I live here?”

Sometimes she wears two pairs of knee hi nylon socks.

Sometimes she wears two different shoes.

Sometimes she has her pants on backwards or her jacket/sweater inside out.

Sometimes she wears three tops.  “Well, I get chilly!”

Sometimes she can’t remember what she had for breakfast.

Sometimes she thinks she slept the whole night when, in fact, she was up most of the night.

Sometimes she forgets that Dad died.  “Can we go see Dad today?”  And then I look at her.  “Did he die?”   “Yes, he died a year ago.”  “He was such a good man,” she says as her eyes fill with tears.   “Yes, he was; he was a prince.”

And sometimes I drive home so sad to watch Mom’s cognitive functioning die little by little…and so grateful that we still have lots of good talks, some teasing and laughing…and the never ending search for TV remotes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parental Journal 93 from Planet Elderly – Mom’s House Is Empty Now

Thursday, September 30, 2017 – afternoon

I spent most of the week of September 11 in Grayslake, Illinois emptying Mom’s townhouse and getting it ready to put on the market.  It was one of the most difficult weeks of my life, but I had some angels on my side.

Judy Beyer, Sister Margo, Betty Beyer Sept. 2017  Judy Beyer, Sister Margo (Judy’s aunt) and Betty Beyer…angels extraordinaire!

I was the house guest of friend, Judy.  She and I met in 2015 when our fathers were roommates at the skilled nursing section of The Village at Victory Lakes. Both died last year.  Judy and I kept in touch now and then, and when I thought about spending almost a week closing out the townhouse, I wrote to Judy and asked if I could spend evenings at her place.  I knew I would need some companionship and some support.  I offered her a part-time paid gig…which she was planning to refuse…but I would not hear of it. One day Judy and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch with her mom, Betty, and Aunt, Sister Margo.

Jenny, Judy, Sister Margo and Betty Sept 2017

It turned out to be what seemed like a week of miracles.  There were some large items to sell or donate, kitchen and bathroom cabinets to empty, and closets and a basement to purge.  I was unsure of where to donate items that would be of use to someone…items I did not want to keep and ship to Missouri.

St. Vincent de Paul

That’s when Judy mentioned St. Vincent de Paul.  Early in the week she stopped by to talk with them and saw their moving truck.  She spoke with a lady from her church and explained what we were doing.  The movers agreed to stop by Mom’s place to pick up whatever we had to donate before going on to their scheduled pick up.  Talk about great timing!

I was at Mom’s going through some things when Judy called unexpectedly.   “They have a truck and can come right over.”  “I’m here!” I replied.

They were at the door within 20 minutes, looked over the big items and a few boxes set aside for them and they took it all:   mid-century long couch, twin size hide-a-bed, four twin bed frames, a mid-century king size headboard, a vintage 1960s sewing machine with bench, a mannequin for sewers/tailors, and I can’t remember what else.  It was packed in a matter of 40 minutes and when I went to thank the guys before they closed the van, I saw everything placed neatly in the van.  And then I wept.  There were tears of gratitude, relief, and sadness. The burden of having to donate/sell large items was lifted, thanks to Judy and her connection with St. Vincent de Paul. One organization took it all and saved me so much time.  The sad tears came from a part of me that felt I was erasing my folks’ lives in a home they both loved…but over time those thoughts subsided.  Judy reminded me that I was creating a new chapter and that the items donated would go to many in need.

Purging, Packing and Prepping

During the following days Judy and I were quite busy.  We purged and packed.  We packed boxes and designated items she took to St. Vincent de Paul as well as items packed for shipping back to Missouri.

Boxes from Mom's place  Boxes arrived in MO

Neighbor Marcy recommended a lady who cleans houses, so rather than go with a franchise, I chose a woman making her own way in life.  I was not disappointed.  Jacquie was terrific…thorough beyond expectations.  She found a sponge lodged underneath one of the stove burners (!!!!!!) thus preventing a possible future disaster.  In addition, Judy and I offered her anything she could use and she found some stuff to take home in her van.

The realtor I originally contacted was stuck in Florida’s after hurricane chaos, so I called Better Homes and Gardens Realty in Grayslake and ended up working with Jamie Hering.  What a gem!  I shared with Jamie my ideas of marketing a 1970s era townhouse, paying the association fee for 2018 as an incentive to potential buyers, and she got right to work.  She scheduled a photographer for Wednesday after the carpets were cleaned.  I think the first showing was Friday, September 22.   By Sunday, September 24 I countered an offer and we had a deal.  “Easy Peazy” Jamie wrote to me in a text.

On Friday the 15th, I took seven boxes to the local UPS shipping shop and arranged to have them sent to my Missouri address.  When I first thought of this task, I thought I might have to have 20 to 40 boxes shipped and donate to organizations in Columbia MO, but I shipped 7 boxes and packed two in the trunk of my car.

The last chore was disposing of many trash bags filled with unused and unusable “stuff,” much of which was stored in the basement.  I scheduled “Got Junk?”  for the same Friday I had the boxes shipped.  They took away ancient twin mattresses and box springs, bags in the garage, and bags and unusable stuff in the basement.  It was all done within an hour and well worth the fee.

Empty

By mid-afternoon of September 15, Mom’s house was empty.  I was very tired and very sad.  I was also very relieved.   With Judy, St. Vincent de Paul, a realtor I immediately had confidence in, a gal who loves to clean houses, and the “Got Junk?” crew and Stanley Steamer coming in the next week…it was all done.  It felt surreal.   We accomplished all this in six days?  We did.

Goodbye

I walked into every room, looked around one last time, and said, “Mom and Dad, I did the best I could.”  And then I sobbed.  Closing my parents’ home was one of the most difficult things I have done.  I was glad the furniture and things that meant most to Mom were moved to her memory care community in Columbia, MO.  Emptying the rest of it…well, it’s an experience that will always be close to my heart.

Italian Food To Celebrate

Judy and I celebrated the end of our busy week with dinner at Lino’s Ristorante in Libertyville, IL.  It was delicious and we shared an unbelievable tiramisu for dessert.  Fifteen days later, I can still taste it.

Tarimisu from Lino's Ristorante Libertyville IL Sept. 2017

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