Monday, November 25, 2019 – mid-morning
I am fortunate that things continue to be stable now that Mom has been a resident in the Woods Central neighborhood of Lenoir Woods for a little over one year.
“Stable” means that she continues to get around with a walker plus assistance from a staff person or me….that she feeds herself, understands what’s on the menus and chooses what she wants, brushes her teeth and washes her face, still likes her pony tail, continues to eavesdrop on conversations and makes comments, can still flirt, loves any type of music, knows me, can get testy (ok, “mean”) with others, easily shows affection and appreciation when others do something nice for her…and she is eating quite well. More than she remembers.
“Breakfast? What Breakfast?”
When I arrive on my visiting days, I often ask, “Did you have a good breakfast?” Her typical answer is, “No, I didn’t have any breakfast.”
In recent weeks, I’ve learned that if she’s been up a while before I arrive, she has had breakfast. She just doesn’t remember. And sometimes it’s not “breakfast.” It’s “BREAKFAST!”
“Boy, did your mom have a good breakfast this morning!” one of the kitchen staff said to me a week or so ago. I glanced at Mom because she had just said she hadn’t had any breakfast and I was thinking, “Gee, she’ll eat a big lunch then.”
“Yeah,” the staff member continued. “She had a nice portion of biscuits and gravy, and then she asked for a second helping! On top of that she had cinnamon rolls–four of them!”
I slowly turned my head to look at Mom. “Well, looks like you did have breakfast this morning, Mom. A trucker’s special!”
“Well, I don’t remember it. In fact, I’m hungry right now.”
“No problem, Mom. They’ll be serving lunch in about 15 minutes.”
Truth be told, there are many times I feel like the character Dorothy on the old “Golden Girls” TV sitcom, and Mom is like Sophia.
Some Sweet Conversations Lately
With this being Thanksgiving week, I am quite thankful that Mom and I have had our close relationship with me being her care manager for a bit over two years now.
A lot has changed because her brain has changed. With her memory way out of wack, she pretty much just lives in the moment, be it good or bad.
A particularly sweet moment for which I am grateful happened last week. I think I was helping her get dressed or something. I know we were alone, so we were probably in her room when she looked directly at me and asked, “Are you happy where you are now in life?”
Her question almost took my breath away and I quickly assured her that I was…my health is good, I love my little nest of a duplex with the woods in back and good neighbors all around, I have friends…but most important, I have her here in Columbia living near me.
Then I asked her, “And are you happy here?”
“Oh yes, it’s nice here. I’m comfortable.”
“Here” is an interesting word. Mom is confused often enough to think we live in the same place, that she does some of the cooking and will make sloppy joes for me anytime I want, and that if she wants, she can just get up and walk around the mall for hours.
I have spent most of the past several weeks just being in the moment with her, wherever she is in whatever role she takes. I enjoy our talks, our joking with each other, our changing soiled disposable underwear and cleaning up together, our Tuesday and Thursday music exercise time together with a sweet facilitator named Honey, our lunch discussions with friends Paul, Robin, Peggy and Tom.
I try not to spend too much time thinking about the reality of what is happening to Mom’s brain. I am very much aware of it, but I choose to put it aside most of the time and focus on what is positive for us at this point in her journey with dementia.
And Those Hairdos!
To best manager Mom’s hair, we just let it grow. She wants it long, and because it is long we usually put in into a pony tail. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a “do” Mom loves.
I do okay putting it into a pony tail at the nape of her neck, but we have talented staff who manage to get the pony tail up high and that looks really cute.
Then there are the hair specialists, staff like Shamyra, who can do French braids and even an upside down braid creation like the one Mom was sporting the other day.
Pretty cool, huh?
Thank you, Shamyra! You are one of the many staff at Woods Central who give so much of yourself attending to Mom and her neighbors.
A side note to those of us who may grow elderly and develop dementia or to those who are or will be caretakers of loved ones with dementia:
For the ladies, letting their hair grow and keeping it in a pony tail is very low maintenance and means no bills from a hair stylist. This may be something they agree to on their own, or it can wait until they are no longer able to make decisions about their hairstyles. Just a thought.
And about that Trip to New Mexico…
It actually happened.
While Mom was in good health, had good care from staff, and received loving visits from a special angel friend, Mary Kaye, I spend six days with gal pals on a road trip to New Mexico.
It was the first real vacation I had had in many, many years. I surprised myself and enjoyed it without dealing with much guilt.
One evening, however, we were at a restaurant and a young lady was playing a variety of songs on her guitar as she sang. She was terrific. At one point she sang an older song, one I knew my Mom had probably enjoyed when she was a young woman just beginning to experience romance and a life in full bloom. I cried. The reminder of what advanced aging with dementia can do to a person was a bit too much for me to deal with for a few minutes. When I have moments like that, I remind myself of what Mom has so often told me in recent years: “I want you to be happy.”
So here are some photos from the trip. I look forward to going back again so I can spend more time with my friend Elly who lives there and learn more about the area from her.
Proof it was a road trip…with Susan at the wheel of her Toyota truck that had a nice back cab area.
Our Airbnb rental house in Eldorado NM.
Susan, me and Lynette…happy hour on the patio of the Airbnb rental.
View from a highway scenic stop
Selfie taken near White Rock
Susan, Lynette, me and Bonnie
(Note the hats. Susan and I became fast friends with wide rimmed fedoras…a popular accessory in that area. A bit of style and some sun protection.)