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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Parental Journal 92 from Planet Elderly: About that 91st Birthday

Saturday, August 19, 2017 – afternoon

Tears

I have lots of nice memories floating in my mind from Mom’s 91st birthday, and they start with tears.  I was assembling Mom’s gift bag, wrapping new clothing items in pink tissue paper and placing them in the bag when I found myself almost ready to weep.  I was excited about the day and looking forward to it, but out of the blue my eyes swelled with tears and I remember thinking, “This might be Mom’s last birthday.”

I slapped that thought out of my head with the words, “Don’t go there.  Just enjoy the day and help Mom enjoy it, too.”

Who’s This Crabby Lady?

When I arrived, I was told Mom was in bed.  She often eats early and then goes back to bed.  I knocked on the door and could tell this was not a good-mood-moment.

“Hi, Mom.  Happy Birthday!”

“I don’t care,” she said.  “I’m not feeling well.”

“Well, I picked up the birthday pies and they cooling in the dining area.  Lemon meringue.”   Mom Birthday 07 2017 Pies from Peggy Jean’s Pies, Columbia MO

“That’s nice.  I’m just tired of all this.  I wish I was dead.  I’m crabby.”

“Are you feeling okay?  Do you hurt anywhere?”

And then she talked about being mad because she is old and is experiencing “that stuff,” meaning the prolapsed uterus and bladder.  “I sure hope you don’t have to go through this.”

“Me, too.   Do we need to go back to the doctor before our next scheduled appointment?  We can do that.”

“No.  I’ll be fine.  I just hate my life.”

I left to let her put herself together.  A bit later Activities Coordinator, Mary Kaye stopped by to give Mom the kind of pep talk she responds best to:  People are here to celebrate your birthday, so pull it together.  And she did…masterfully so.  No one would have ever guessed she started the day as a crabby old lady.

Friend, Esther, came by to enjoy lunch and help celebrate:

Mom Birthday 01 2017

 

Birthday bouquet from cousin Carol arrived:

Mom Birthday 02 2017

 

Mom and staff caretaker friend, Shonna:

Mom Birthday 03 2017

 

Administrator Eric stopped by:

Mom Birthday 04 2017

 

Hair stylist Nancy, Mom and friends Esther and Joyce with little Gracia.

 

Mom Birthday 05 2017

 

Coordinator Mary Kaye and Mom with Mom’s requested lunch:  sloppy Joe sandwich and french fries:

Mom Birthday 08 2017

 

Contemplating that first piece of birthday pie:Mom Birthday 06 2017

Overall, a nice celebration and Mom had a great time.

I did, too.

 

 

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Parental Journal 91 from Planet Elderly – Is It Time for Adult Pull-ups? Well, That Depends.

Saturday, August 12, 2017 – mid-afternoon

As it turns out, yes.  It was time and Mom didn’t balk at all.  In fact, she seemed to be a kind relieved to know that if she didn’t quite make it to the bathroom to pee in time, the garment could be disposed of and easily replaced.

Next week she’ll be 91.  She’s one of the most able bodied at her community.  She is, however, hampered by a prolapsed uterus and bladder.  No pain; no bleeding.  Just a lot of peeing.  We’ll be spending a lot on Depends.  Investors might want to think about putting some bucks into the companies that make adult pull-ups.  There will be millions more of us using them as more Boomers enter the Age of Incontinence.

About That Job…

Mom said she wanted a job, so she was given one:  helping with noon meal table clean up.  At first she was delighted.  A few weeks into the job, she’s not so sure.  First, she often doesn’t remember she has the job.  Second, she thinks it’s not very interesting.  Third, she gets paid $5 every Friday.  The Activities Coordinator makes sure Mom gets out and spends her cash.  No more money hoarding for this gal.  Chocolate custard cone at Andy’s, anyone?

About That Car…

Mom asks about her car at nearly every visit…which is every day for now.  She knows my son is using the car and that we recently had it serviced with a major tune up and some internal repairs.

“I was just thinking I needed to go somewhere the other day, but then I remembered that Adam has the car and I can’t use it.  You know, there are times when I’d like to use it.”

“I know, Mom.  Having your car to use is really helpful to Adam.  He’s taking good care of it.  But we can’t find your license…and it will expire this month.  You can’t drive without a license.”

“Well, we’ll just have to go get one,” she said this morning.

I said nothing.  I had visions of Mom insisting on taking Missouri’s written driver’s test over and over and over…something I want to avoid.  I’m not an authority she will listen to most of the time.  I wonder if I could slip a police officer a dinner gift certificate to the popular CC Broiler and have him visit Mom and tell/lie to her in person:  “Sorry, Ma’am.  In Missouri we don’t allow anyone over age 90 to drive.  From now on, you get driven.  Have a nice day.”   Then he would quickly exit.  If any readers in Columbia, Missouri have a candidate for this gig, let me know.  I’m serious.
Mom and friend July 31 2017  Mom and Friend, Elaine

About That Swearing…

I arrived for a visit one day recently and said to the caretaker on hand, “How are you doing?
“Listening to your mother swear,” she said.  “But it’s cool.  I just let her have her say and try to redirect her.”

Yes, she still has episodes of anger and frustration.  She is not as free as she want to be and I understand that.  On the other hand, she has friends like Eunice, Elaine, Joyce living in her building.  Her friend, Esther, is right next door and sometimes staff arrange for them to visit or play bingo together.

“I’m not happy.  I don’t want people telling me what to do.  I have to figure out what I want to do with my life and I need to look for my own little apartment somewhere where I can be by myself.  I wish I were dead.  I’d rather be with Dad.”

When this monologue starts, I just listen for a while until I think she has run out of some steam.  She is often tearful and sometimes I cry with her.  Then I try to do some active listening.  “I know this is sometimes difficult for you.  You’ve lost a lot in the past year.  This has been hard.”

“Yes it has!” she quickly replies.

Then I gently try to explain that because we are both older; we have done what many other families have had to do:  live in the same town.  I remind her of the friends she has made and that I hear she does a terrific job cleaning the tables after lunch.

“Oh, that!  It’s boring.”

“Sure, but it helps the community and the staff.”

In general, Mom is fairly calm, relaxed and engaged when I visit each morning for coffee/chat time with her and others.  I am not witness to the difficult agitated times when she swears, cries, and/or yells.  Lately there were enough notable incidents that there is now a doctor approved medication available to be give as needed.

As far as I know, she has elected to go to her room to calm down rather than take the half pill approved by the doctor.  And that’s a good thing.  She’s dealing with her situation in her own way.  I also hear she enjoys baths in the spa tub.  It relaxes her and she goes to sleep afterwards.  She always was a tub lover.  Glad the staff found that to be of comfort to her.

 About That Short-Term Memory Loss…

Mom’s inability to remember that she has a job, that I visit each day when in Columbia, whether or not she had breakfast, that she created a flower arrangement yesterday, where some of her clothing and personal belongings have “disappeared to”… this is what’s most difficult for me.  I’ve read about and seen pictures of brains affected by Alzheimer’s.  When Mom occasionally says, “I feel like I’m losing my mind,” I cry a bit on my drive back home because I know she is losing her mind.

I’m fearful and very concerned about the future, but I try not to focus on it.  For now, I continue to have some great conversations with Mom.  We remember the flooded basements in Skokie, Illinois, trips taken to the Bahamas, London, Mexico, Quebec and the time Dad took Mom to Hawaii; we gossip about old and new neighbors and my gal pals; we giggle talking about how we both like chocolate ice cream, cheeseburgers and root beer floats; we sit outside and marvel at how quiet it is, how nice the birds sound, and how lovely the landscape is.  We kid each other about being so independent.  “You get that from me!” she proclaims.  I kid her about not liking watermelon and she insists cantaloupe is better.  We find words and laughter to share every day.  I marvel at the times she is so “with it” and lucid.  Then I cringe as I watch her flounder, needing to find a bathroom, but unsure of where to go.

Mom and Pax July 2017

Great Grandson, Pax, and Mom enjoying bakery goods.  July 2017

About Those Scavenger Hunts…

Things get lost/misplaced all the time.  On occasion we’ll go on scavenger hunts to see if we can find Mom’s TV remote.  When I look in her room, I often find a telephone handset that belongs to the facility, one or two TV remotes that belong to the main TV, and lots of cloth napkins tucked here and there in her drawers.  I leave the napkins.  She thinks they belong to her.

Today we hunted for her TV remote – again.  I found one for a Samsung, but it’s not the one that belongs to her TV.  We’ll use it for a bit.  I had her practice turning the TV on and off.  Only one channel is available with that remote, so it’s not really programmed to her TV.

While searching for the remote, we found her purse on the shelf of Carl’s closet.  One time two pairs of her shoes were residing in Carl’s room.  I called her on it.  “Your shoes were found in Carl’s room.  You want to tell me what’s going on?”  She just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders.  We had a good laugh.

We’re still trying to find the pair of pull-on jeans I bought her a couple months ago.  Good thing I bought her some more for her birthday.

Observations…

Mom weighs about 122 lbs now.  She weighed about 107 when she arrived at the end of March.  No more going up and down the three levels of her old townhouse.

She enjoys when I give her a manicure.

Her general health is quite good.

She has great hearing.

Her walking gait is halted and a bit slow.

She enjoys outings away from the community.

Staff often uses the “Pearl’s Visitors” book to remind her I was there earlier.  I write an entry prior to leaving each time I visit.

We Keep On Keeping On…

We have a routine now with me visiting every day.  Sometimes I bring a friend or a grandchild.  Sometimes my son stops by.  I no longer hear tirades about “wanting to go home.”  I occasionally hear how “unhappy” she is because she misses the Chicagoland area.

When we use my phone to call one of her friends or a relative, she is always upbeat and tells them “everything is fine.”

There are days when I join in on the group’s morning walk…or for a bit of group exercise.

I’ll also bring goodies a couple times a week…cookies, brownies, packets of Smart Pop popcorn…maybe some cut up cantaloupe that Mom shares.

And on my drive home almost every day I ask myself, “Is this me in 10…15…20 years?”

Mom at Teller's 01 080717

Took Mom out to lunch at Teller’s after a doctor’s appointment.  July 2017

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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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