Have a Knee Replacement in the Middle of a Pandemic? Oh, Hell. Why Not?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

I Could Have Blamed Chubby Checker

…but because it happened so long ago, I won’t.  I was a young teenager, home alone after school, listening to the radio, and all of a sudden I heard the song lyrics, “Let’s twist again like we did last summer.”

So I did.  Joyfully…skillfully…and with great enthusiasm.  I was totally in the moment when I lifted my left leg, had all my weight on my right leg, and made a big twist.

That’s when I heard what sounded like a giant knuckle crack.  That’s also when my knee began to swell to the size of a basketball.

At the ER, the fluid was drained from the knee (without anything to reduce the pain of that procedure, I might add).  I was given a brace, some crutches, instructions, and a doctor’s requirement for “modified PE” for several months.

And so I limped along toward recovery when I injured the knee again within the year.  Chubby Checker was not involved this time.  I think I just abruptly turned when most of my weight was supported by my right knee, and it was instant replay after that.

Six Decades Later

My severely arthritic right knee had a heart to heart talk with me this spring.

“Look.  I’ve had it.  I’ve kept you going through the disco era, decades of gardening, chasing after and frolicking at water parks with grand kids, a few minor tumbles down stairways, and near misses as you exited off ladders.  I’m done.  I need to retire and be replaced.  Get that appointment with Dr. Hockman.  I’m sure he’ll agree with me.  It’s time.”

So I did and Dr. Hockman agreed.  He will perform the total knee replacement tomorrow.


I’m actually pretty pumped about it.  I have read through all the materials the Columbia Orthopedic Group gave me, watched YouTube videos with explanations from surgeons and physical therapists, and I have a couple gal pals who have been through it.  In addition, I have a great team of pals in place to assist once I get home, which I hope will be Saturday at the latest.

Of course, I wish it could be simpler.

"Knee replacement? Can I have it replaced with chocolate?"

I’m glad I didn’t have to wait months.  With the pandemic going on, my goal is to be back at home before the current outbreak might worsen here in mid-Missouri (we’ve been lucky so far), and certainly before any possible “second wave” that might develop later.

Plus it’s not like my social calendar is filled with anything interesting these days.  A weekly yard gathering with gal pals, socially distanced and with favorite beverages in hand is it. We chat, laugh, and lament about world events.  It’s group therapy.  Free.

Ready and Optimistic

During a phone conversation several weeks ago, my son told me, “Mom, you won’t regret getting it done.”  Then my pen pal in New Mexico made the same comment a few weeks later.  My two gal pal knee replacement veterans have “no regrets,” and I’m convinced I won’t either.

I have an excellent surgeon lined up, a wonderful hospital, and I’m sure the whole team who tends to me in the days ahead will be great.


And those Pain Meds…

Three or four, I think.  Already at home, along with an elevated toilet seat, a reaching tool, and an ice pack wrap thingy.

A couple days ago I was reading instructions for the pain meds.  Take one…or two…every four hours.   Take one…or two…every six hours.  Take once a day.  Hmmm. Now that I’m not always of the sharpest mind, I decided to make a spreadsheet.  That way I’ll write down when I take what.  Thank you, Excel.

And…just as I was finishing up this post, the hospital called.  I’m to arrive there at 10 a.m. to check in.  (Yay! not at the crack of dawn.) Surgery will be at about noon and will take about 2-2 1/2 hours.

Then the hard work of recovery and rehab will begin.








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Parental Journal 110 from Planet Elderly: New Chatterbox Visit Setup with Mom

June 10, 2020 late morning


Chatterbox Setup

When I visited Mom Monday at 11, Lenoir Woods had a new setup for visiting called Chatterbox.  I don’t know if this is something circulating in care homes or if this is something that originated at Lenoir, but it was much nicer than visiting with mom through a screened window.

This is what it looks like:


20200608_104731 (1)

Visitors are screened with a survey and temperatures are taken.  We have a walkie-talkie thing we press when we speak and release when we want to hear the loved one speak.

I thought it was terrific and was delighted to see Mom recognize me when she was first brought to the area.  She said something about “my daughter” and “Jeanette,” and she smiled.

We had 15 minutes to visit and I did most of the talking.  She is quite good at responding to a conversation with little phrases, but her ability to form complete sentences is quite diminished.  She looked around at the surroundings and at one point started talking about her daughter.  I waved and she refocused.

When asked, she claims she is eating well, still sometimes stays up until 2 or 3 a.m. as the resident night owl, and appreciates the staff who work in her community.  “It’s really nice.”



I’ll have another chatterbox visit with her next Monday, but then won’t be able to visit for a few weeks because I’ll be recovering from knee replacement surgery.  I mentioned that to her and she said it was no problem.  Two minutes later she had no memory of my mentioning knee replacement surgery.  That’s fine.  Mom lives in the moment now…minute by minute…meal by meal…bite by bite.

When it was time to leave she told me it was nice of me to stop by.  We told each other, “I love you,” and I left with tears in my eyes.

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Parental Journal 109 from Planet Elderly: Pandemic Window Visit with Mom

Now I See You!

I was thrilled to receive an email from Lenoir Woods, Mom’s long term care community, inviting me to have a window visit with her.  We had had a Zoom visit, but this would be a wonderful opportunity to see her in person…or close enough.

I met Sam, the Assistant Director of Nursing, and she led me to a courtyard area where I could stand outside a window and Mom could be inside a conference room.  Mom’s week day CNA, Ken, was with her and held the phone for her.

Mom and Ken window visit 051720

Photo taken through screened window  1 p.m. May 17, 2020

It was wonderful to see her…and interesting.  She looked at me, smiled, responded a bit to some of my questions, told me she loved me when I told her I loved her, but for the most part she focused on Sam’s nursing attire.  Sam was dressed in a colorful top animated with flowers and other figures.  Mom lit up when she saw it.

I also think she recognized Sam more than she recognized me, but that’s okay.

After admiring Sam’s top, she saw mine and she smiled.  I wore a navy blue tee shirt I know Mom wants to steal from me.  It has a dandelion scattering seeds that are actually hearts.

051720 T shirt pattern mom likes

It was an online purchase and I haven’t seen it offered since.  I was hoping to order one for Mom.  I’m still keeping an eye out for it.

Mom has always loved that design and I was delighted to see that she recognized it.



Mom looked content, and when I asked if she enjoyed lunch she said “this is a good place.”

Her verbal responses are less fluent than they were a couple months ago.  She had more difficulty than I remember creating sentences.  That said, she still tried to be responsive to everything and even laughed a few times.

It was more difficult than I expected not to be able to hug her.


Kudos to the wonderful CNA’s, nurses, dining staff, cooks, housekeeping staff, activities staff, coordinators and administrators at Lenoir Woods.  Their dedication to providing the best care to residents, despite ongoing inconveniences they experience every day, is the reason why Lenoir Woods has such a wonderful reputation here in Columbia, Missouri.

I miss my extended family members in Mom’s neighborhood of Woods Central…the laughter, the teasing, the helpfulness, the concern, the food, the chair exercise classes, the visits from musicians and musical groups…and the hugs.

Hello, World!

The demographics of who has stopped by to check out this simple bog include what countries visitors come from.  How delightful to see that over the years I have had visitors from China, France, Spain, England, Sweden, South Korea and others.

To all I say, thank you for stopping by.  I hope you and your loved ones stay well during this challenging time of the Covid pandemic.  It wonderful to know that scientists from around the world are working to find vaccines and treatments that will work.  It is wonderful to remember that we are all related…one human race that will survive despite some of the idiots who lead some our nations.

And guess who has the dumbest idiot leader?  ME!!

Join hearts, everyone.








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Parental Journal 108 from Planet Elderly: First Zoom Session with Mom

Monday, May 5, 2020   early afternoon


“Your Teeth Are So White”

I am very grateful for some Zoom time with Mom a while back.  It was arranged by the Director of Activities. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was eager to see her.

Once I was connected, I heard the director say to Mom, “Pearl…guess who’s here?” as she placed the laptop in front of Mom.

Mom looked around as if an in-person visitor had arrived, and then she was shown the screen.

“Hi, Mom!” I waved.  “I have missed seeing you!”

She looked at the screen and then went into visitor mode.  “Oh, I’ve missed seeing you, too.”

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, okay.  I’ve been busy doing stuff around here.”  She gestured to the rug as if she had been vacuuming as usual.

“Are you eating okay?”

“There’s plenty to eat here…and it’s good.”

She looked around a bit because there were a lot of people in the area preparing to assist getting residents to the dining area.  Mom loves to observe others and listen in on their conversations.  Kitchen pans clanked in the background.  People were talking loudly and there was laughter.

I got her attention again when I tried explaining why I hadn’t visited.  I talked about the virus, rules about not having visitors, and how people around the world had to deal with this “pandemic.”


She looked amazed.  “Really?” as if she had not been told anything by staff, but of course she had and just could not remember.

“Yeah, no kidding.  This is quite historic.  People just have to stay home unless they need to get food or medical care.”

“Boy, your teeth are white,” she said peering closer to the screen.

“Oh, yeah?  Do they look nice and bright?”

“Yes they do.  Your teeth look really white.”

“Must be the new toothpaste I’m trying,” I said.

I noticed her nails were painted a bright pink color.  They matched her jacket.  When the director mentioned showing her nails to me, Mom smiled and said, “Oh, my daughter did my nails.” She held them up in front of her to admire.

No, the daughter didn’t do her nails, but I wasn’t about to correct her thinking.  I miss doing her nails though  because we chat and laugh a lot when I do.

Her attention turned to other activities for a minute, and then she said, “Well, it was good to see you.  You take care now.”  That’s her typical sign-off when visiting with other people.  Not me.

“Are you finished with your visit, Pearl?” the director asked.  “Ready to go to lunch?”

“Yes I am,” Mom said.  She gestured toward the laptop and told the director, “That’s my friend.”

And I am.  I am delighted and honored to be her friend.




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Parental Journal 107 from Planet Elderly: Visits No Longer Allowed

Sunday, March 15, 2020   late afternoon


Like many who are no longer permitted to visit loved ones in nursing homes, I’m concerned about my mom feeling alone.  However, I trust that staff have tried to explain the coronavirus situation to those residents who are still able to have a conversation.  Not that Mom will remember, but I’m confident staff will inform her any time she wonders where her daughter is.

Visitors or no visitors, I know Mom will be eavesdropping on any conversations within range, a favorite hobby of hers.  She has always been fascinated with people coming and going, staff having conversations, and suspenseful movies and TV shows.


Below:  Mom enjoying one of the birthday cupcakes friend Susan made for me.

Mom and Jenny's birthday cupcake

Disney Movie

A week ago, a Disney movie was being played.  I don’t remember which one, but I do remember that Mom was quite absorbed in what she was seeing.

There was a young female character trying to find another character, and she had to enter a dark forest.  Mom spoke up.  “Don’t go,” she told the young lady.  “Don’t go!” she said again.  “I told you not to go!”

Seeing her so absorbed, I naturally reminded her that it was a Disney movie and not real.  Hearing me interrupt her reality once again, she looked at me and said, “I know!” as if I were nuts.

Slowing Down

In recent weeks there have been more and more times when I see Mom sleeping or holding her head.  It’s not unusual for her to get sleepy after a meal, and I think she is still their champion night owl.

Once she recovered from her winter cold, she was back to using a walker with assistance from a staff member.  The weekend staff, however, usually have her in her wheelchair.  She doesn’t seem to mind either way.

Following directions as in left or right…as in putting a hand in a sweater sleeve…as in recognizing what items are on her served lunch plate, that is all getting worse.

Sometimes she will pour a bit of coffee on food items, reach for a used Kleenex with her fork, offer her food to others at the table, and use her fingers to eat pieces of meat or sliced buttered carrots.  I interrupt if I see her doing the Kleenex routine, but other than that, I try not to tell her what to do with the food on her plate.  Usually she is quite content and I just watch while chatting with others near us.

The last time I left her she was starting to nod off after lunch.  I told her I needed to stop at Walmart to pick up some things.  She nodded that she understood.  I gave her a kiss on her forehead, put on my coat, and as I was leaving her neighborhood, I realized that I forgot to say, “I love you,” as I usually do.

That was the last time I saw her.   I miss her and think of her throughout each day.


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Parental Journal 106 from Planet Elderly: “You look familiar.”

Sunday  February 16, 2020 – afternoon

When I stopped in to see Mom today, she was sitting in a chair in the TV area.  I walked up to her and said, “Hi, Mom.  How ya doin’?”

She smiled, looked at me and said, “You look familiar.”

“Well, that’s good.  I’m your daughter.”   Then she laughed.

Mental note to self read:  Is this the beginning of her getting to the point of not knowing who I am?  Maybe…but it may be a while.

Our Vacation Time with Flu, Bronchitis, Laryngitis, and a Bad Cold

I was first.  A couple days after Christmas I was coughing a lot and felt achy.  It was a Saturday, so I went to Urgent Care and was diagnosed with Influenza B like many others who had had the flu shot this year.

I took the Tamiflu, drank plenty of water, used inhalers as needed, and spooned out Robitussin regularly.

By January 6 I was voiceless.  Laryngitis big time and still coughing.

On January 11, again a Saturday, I went back to Urgent Care suspecting a bad case of bronchitis.  Confirmed.  More meds and rest.

I stayed home, away from people.  Didn’t visit Mom.  Did bundle up one day when I probably was not contagious but was coughing like crazy. Put on a surgical mask, a down jacket, a hat, gloves, and a scarf, and made a dash into Walmart for necessities. Then back home to my nest.

By January 27 I was much better, but I still had laryngitis.  I visited with my primary care doctor and brought her up to date about the flu and bronchitis.  She listened to my lungs and prescribed a second dose of Prednisone.  Then, upon my request, she referred me to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and had me get a chest x-ray so we could get a reading of the lungs.

Mom was second.  Toward the end of my flu/bronchitis adventure I went to see Mom. She had developed a bad cough…very loose and raspy…and she was very tired.  I did not stay long because I did not want to get what she had.

Staff kept close tabs on her. She had a fever for a little while, but that went away and she was given some Robitussin, Tylenol, and oxygen. She spent about three days in bed and wasn’t interested in much food.

I visited her on one day and she was in a pretty good mood.  Her TV was on, and at times she seemed more interested in singing along to familiar TV commercials than chatting with me. She also seemed genuinely concerned about some conflicts happening on the old TV show “Gunsmoke” that day.  But we had a nice visit and I coaxed her into drinking some orange juice.

Mom bad cold Feb 2020

And yes, she still loves the cat.  It is something she can talk to and care for.  It needs new batteries.


Both of us are back to feeling pretty good.  Mom is busy watching people, listening to other people’s conversations, and loving the cat.  Her appetite is not great.  She is 112 lbs, down from 119 lbs a week or so ago.

My voice is not back to normal.  It’s raspy and deep.  The ENT doctor diagnosed me with “Laryngopharyngeal Reflux,” sort of a cousin to GERD.  Nickname:  “Silent Reflux.”

Here we go, I said after visiting the ENT doctor.  I’m at the age where I’m starting to collect specialists and learn of “conditions” that will require some lifestyle changes.

For this one, I’ll be avoiding some foods, caffeine and alcohol for the most part.  That said, when at a Mexican restaurant with gal pals, I will treat myself to a margarita on occasion. I will also be researching some recipes for “mocktails.”  Those are becoming a thing now in trendy bars, per NY Times. Anyone coming over to my place will have to bring their own.  My fridge and cabinets are empty of wine, beer, vodka, and tequila.  Okay by me.  Will be saving $$$ and calories.

Main meal of the day is between 1 and 4-ish, but that’s a routine I already had.  Nothing to eat three hours before bedtime.  Lots of water, which I love. Also, I am now the owner of a foam wedge bed pillow that will keep my upper body elevated a few inches.  I’ve used it three nights now. It’s comfortable and my nighttime coughing is drastically reduced. A personal thank you to the over 800 folks who bothered to write a review of this product on Amazon.

And that Chest X-Ray..

Turns out the lungs look okay.  However, the radiologist noted some “mild” conditions developing in my heart.  Not a huge surprise since my biological father had his first heart attack at age 39 and died at age 47…plus maternal grandmother and aunt had heart issues.  Mom has had no heart issues.

So here I go…another specialist to meet this coming week.  I bet he’ll be delighted to know of the lifestyle changes already under way.  I also bet I’m in for some interesting tests.





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Parental Journal 105 from Planet Elderly: Christmastime 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

It’s Sad

Looking back on the past week or so, it’s sad to know that Mom isn’t remembering any of it.  Not the area Christmas party with gifts, snacks ,and music…not the Christmas dinner we enjoyed yesterday.

She still remembers me, though, because I tick her off, annoy her, and seem to be a bother until I get ready to leave.  Then she gets huffy.

“Don’t forget that I’m here,” she said last Sunday.  Guilt trip, guilt trip, guilt trip.

New Pal

A few weeks ago, staff introduced Mom to “the cat.”  It’s a life size toy cat that can purr, blink its eyes, meow, and raise its paw.  The family of another resident left it here after their mom passed away.  Such mechanical cats and dogs are quite popular with people living with dementia.  And Mom loves, “My baby.”

Mom and cat dec 2019


It’s been effective in lessening her anxiety in the evenings.  She pets it, talks to it, and sometimes takes it to bed with her.  It also keeps her company when she falls asleep on the love seat.



Here’s the irony.  The entire time I was growing up, I was never allowed to have a cat or a dog.  One time I tried to bring in a caterpillar for whom I created a home inside a glass jar and poked holes in the lid so it would get air.  Nope.  Never made it past the front door.

I made up for not having pets, though.  I’ve had dogs and cats my whole adult life, so  now I’m delighted that Mom is enjoying and benefiting from the comfort of a creature with four paws.


Holiday Party

Lenoir Woods brings together folks from a few neighborhoods and hosts a lovely holiday party.  There is plenty of food, music, and a small gift for everyone brought by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Lenoir Xmas 03 2019


Lenoir Xmas 02 2019

Princess, the neighborhood Queen of Sweetness


Lenoir Xmas 04 2019


Lenoir Xmas 05 2019


This year’s party was just as festive as last year’s.  Mom only lasted about thirty minutes, though.  She ate a cookie and had some water.  Then she received her present, which came in a small, square box decorated with lovely wrapping paper.

That’s when I did a huge “NO-NO.”

Mom got the wrapping paper off easily, but when it came to opening the box, she tried to open it from the bottom.  My no-no:  turning the box over so she could open it “the right way.”

What I should have done was just let her fiddle with the box and open it in her own way.  She would never ask for help and was highly insulted by my gesture.  I don’t blame her.

She pushed the box away and wore her my-daughter-treats-me-like-a-child face.

I apologized, but she ignored me.

She finally opened the box and found a cute pair of socks but did not recognize them as socks because of the fluffy material and the style.

Looking around the room, she announced that she was going to leave, and she started pushing herself away from the table.  She was in a wheelchair which we use when she attends activities outside her neighborhood.

The area was packed with people in wheelchairs, so I asked her if she really wanted to go back, and she said yes.  Then she let me drive her back and was happy to see the cat waiting for her.

She was still pissed off with me, so I just sat next to her for a while and watched TV.

Christmas Dinner

Well, it was served at lunch time, but it was delicious: pot roast, roasted tiny potatoes of different colors, asparagus, and a yeast roll.  Everyone was given two desserts…a slim piece of sweet custard pie and a dish of strawberry pretzel jello.

As usual, we were a lively group with staff wearing various Christmas hats, earrings, socks, etc.   A chorus from Peace Works popped in and sang some carols.  A few spouses of former residents came by to wish the staff a Merry Christmas.

It was delightful with people talking, joking, laughing, and enjoying a delicious meal served by some terrific angels who are always so attentive and kind to everyone.



Lenoir Xmas 01 2019

Christmas Tree wall art made from cut out hands of residents and staff.  Thank you, Wendy!


When I arrived at 10:40 Mom was sound asleep, snoring with her mouth open.

I sat in the recliner she and Dad used for years and read some CNN news articles on my phone.  She woke up about 11:10.

When it was time for me to assist her in getting up and dressed, she was fine until she stood up and tried to walk.  She talked about having pain on the top of both feet.  I gave her the option to use the wheelchair to go to lunch, but she soldiered on with the walker and my guiding her.

She didn’t each much…a small slice of pork tenderloin, two cups of coffee, and a few mouthfuls of bread pudding.

After lunch, it was back to the love seat where she enjoyed time with her cat, I read the newspaper, and we both tried to figure out what the science fiction movie on TV was all about.


*She complains more about various pains when she gets up in the morning…legs, arms, feet, the side of her head.

*She is up quite late…often not agreeing to going to bed until 2 a.m. or later.  If she naps in the afternoon or early evening, it’s her nature to be up late, and I’ve shared that with staff.

*She cannot see things at a distance clearly but seems to do okay with the TV.

*She is using her hands more to eat the noon meal.  Fine for tater tots, but she’ll pick up carrot slices with her fingers, yet tries to use a fork to eat her dinner roll (and I’ve learned not to correct her).  Today, she used her hands to eat a few bites of bread pudding.

*When she sleeps in, she doesn’t have breakfast, but usually eats a good lunch.

*Her hands, arms, and legs are extremely thin.

*Taking pills is more of an issue these days.  She tends to keep them in her mouth and sometimes takes them out.  Hers are tiny, but she’s beginning to dislike taking them and often makes a face. Sometimes she says “No.” The staff have a variety of techniques to assist with that.

*She still loves to have her hair put into a ponytail.  “Everybody likes my ponytail,” she beams.  Yep, we do.  It’s easy maintenance for me when I assist her.

*She never mentions Dad…her condo in Grayslake, Illinois…driving…friends or relatives…anything about the past or the future.  Her world is very narrow…just what is happening now.

*She always compliments me on what I’m wearing.  She was a great shopper and enjoyed the thrill of bargain hunting. That appreciation for nice clothes on sale carries on.

*She likes using lipstick.  I brought her a tube of mine that is a nice, neutral color, and when I ask if she wants to put some lipstick on, 90 percent of the time she is delighted to do so.  She can’t find it on the bathroom sink, so I hand it to her.

*She continues to become more and more unsteady with the walker.  She is never allowed to use it by herself. These days she is not able to get up off a chair by herself, so it’s unlikely she’d be found using a walker by herself. In her mind, though, she believes she walks a lot, cleans the floors, needs to pick up after others, and that I make terrific coffee.

Sure, I do.

coffee cup


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Drifting Toward Planet Elderly – Poem: Crumble of Jello Cake

December 13, 2019 – evening

Last week Jello cake was served for dessert.  Mom said she was full and didn’t want any, but when she saw the small piece given to me, she changed her mind.

It was fun to see her totally consumed with the pleasure of eating that piece of cake.  When she was almost finished, she said something that became the seed for this poem.


Crumble of Jello Cake

I slipped off her fork

just as the bite I was baked with

approached her open mouth.


It wasn’t a rough landing onto

the beige Formica tabletop–

just a gentle plop behind her cup of tea.


From where I landed

I could see her appetite energized by

the sweetness of red jello blended with

made-from-scratch yellow cake

and topped with a thin white blanket of fluff.


She loved it.

I could tell.

She chewed quickly,

her blue eyes wide with

the anticipation of each bite.


“This is really good,” she said,

stabbing the air with her fork

pointed at the remains on the plate.


But I wasn’t on the plate.

I sat hidden behind her cup

of tea until she reached for it

and took a sip.


Then she saw me.


“Oh, there you are!” she smiled,

tapping me with her fingertip

and sliding me onto her cream coated tongue.


And there I went,

joining my confectionery counterparts

as I slipped my way toward her

delight of what was sweet and soft

and made her smile.




JJ Mummert ©December 2019


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Parental Journal 104 from Planet Elderly: Breakfast? What Breakfast?

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.

Mom and coffee nov 23 2019

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.

Mom and braid Nov 23 2019

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.

Mom and Shamyra Nov 23 2019


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.

A. Susan driving into NM Oct 18 2019

Proof it was a road trip…with Susan at the wheel of her Toyota truck that had a nice back cab area.


03 backyard of Eldorado NM house (2)

Our Airbnb rental house in Eldorado NM.


cocktail time Eldorado NM house 0ct 2019

Susan, me and Lynette…happy hour on the patio of the Airbnb rental.


01 Jenny landscape NM Oct 2019

View from a highway  scenic stop


02 Bandelier National Monument Oct 2019

More scenery


Selfie White Rock NM Susan Lynette Jenny Bonnie 102219

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.)

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Parental Journal 103 from Planet Elderly: Part Mom Part Child

October 13, 2019 late afternoon

Adult children who become caretakers or care managers of their elderly parents with dementia know that the reversal of roles can be quite challenging, especially when the parent has no clue of his/her limitations.

Sweet Times

Looking back on the past several weeks, I can say I’m quite surprised that Mom and I continue to have lots of what I call “sweet times.”  The only change I notice during my visits is what seems to be an immediate loss of memory.  Something can be said, and five minutes later it’s gone from her memory.  Other than that, she is in pretty good health.

Our sweet times consist of the following:

*Her delight in seeing me sitting next to her on days when she sleeps in

*Her appreciation for my assistance in getting her up, dressed, and cleaned up from toileting.  “I don’t know what I would do without you,” she often says.  I tell her I’m happy to help and remind her that on days when I’m not there, she gets wonderful assistance from the staff.  “Yes, they are nice.”

*Her ability to wash her face and brush her teeth.  It may seem trivial, but so few of her neighbors can do those simple tasks anymore.  Honestly, she is much more diligent about getting those teeth clean than her great-grandchildren are.  She brushes with vigor and doesn’t skimp on time.  She loves the feeling of clean teeth but cannot remember to brush them.  I’m now the parent who does the reminding, but I always put it as a question and let her decide.  “How about if you brush your teeth, Mom?”  Ninety percent of the time she agrees.  I stand back and just smile…taking in this time that will some day go away and be just a memory.

*Her love of eavesdropping.  Unless she is napping, Mom is very aware of the sights and sounds around her.  Snippets of conversations, phones ringing, staff laughing, a neighbor shouting, commercials for a product that will help with memory loss, a neighbor whispering in a tiny child voice that she needs to go to the bathroom, all kinds of things.  She is curious. She is concerned if she thinks someone is suffering or needs help.  And she wants to make sure nobody’s talking about her.

*Her pouting face.  This can easily make me feel guilty, but it’s still sweet. If I talk about going to a movie with some pals, she sometimes asks if she can go, too.  If I mention the need to do errands or work in the garden, she wants to know if she can help.  My responses need to be worded carefully, but when she hears she is not going to be included “this time,” I get the pouting face.

*Her mischievous smiling face when a man (resident or staff) talks to her or touches her on the shoulder.  She thinks they “want something” from her, i.e., romance. Or when a man speaks to me.  She leans forward as if to tell me a secret, and with a smile warns me, “he probably wants something from you.”

*Her active participation in chair exercise time.  She sits there waving her feet around, swinging her arms, and singing along.  I’m usually participating right along with her and I love to see her smile and make funny faces when she is encouraged by the staff person leading the exercise time.

*Her love of music.  It can be a commercial, a visiting duo, songs from a “The King and I,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music,” or the theme songs from TV shows like “The Golden Girls,” “Gunsmoke,” or “The Brady Bunch”…Mom sings along.  Like so many people living with dementia, music is recognized.  It is responded to with voice, tapping hands or feet, bobbing heads, and smiles.  I had no idea she knew the words to so many hymns.

*Her ponytail.  She still likes it and she loves the compliments that come with it.  The sweet time is when I get to slowly comb her hair and gently maneuver the small band to create a ponytail.

Mom ponytail 092919

But Legally Blind?

A while ago a visiting optometrist checked her eyes.  He said she was legally blind, and we could get her some “readers” for seeing up close.

Legally blind?  But she can watch TV and read words in the commercials.  She watches her neighbors and all the goings on every day.  At every visit, she comments on what I wear, or how my hair looks, or if I look rested and energetic or tired.

Mom had very bad eyesight as a young person and until she got contact lenses in the 60s. In her 70s or 80s she had cataract surgery in both eyes.  She saw perfectly for distance and used glasses for reading or sewing on a button.

I googled “legally blind” and the explanation made sense.  I bought her a cute pair of reading glasses and an eyeglass chain so she can have the glasses handy when she needs them.  Problem:  she doesn’t know when she needs them.  She will wear the reading glasses all day, claiming to see everything fine.

If I’m there I’ll gently ask her to do me a favor.  “Look at the TV with your glasses on, Mom.”  She does.  “Okay, take them off and look that the TV.”  She does.  “Can you see the TV better without the glasses?”   “Yes.”

Bottom line:  Her brain doesn’t can’t help her recognize when she needs to wear the reading glass and when she doesn’t.  If someone gives them to her, she is perfectly happy to wear them all day.  They feel comfortable and she looks cute in them.

Road Trip to New Mexico

The road trip with three other gal pals will be taking place, meaning I am going along.  Mom is not having any serious health issues; she eats well, has good care, and a friend of ours, Mary, will visit her now and then while I’m gone.

Mary knows Mom well.  She is the activities coordinator where Mom lived before and she knows exactly how to make time with Mom fun and meaningful.  Mary visited with us Saturday, and Mom recognized her from her voice.  We had a fun time.

I get to go on my first real vacation in over 10 years.  It will be a needed break from care management and an opportunity to explore “The Land of Enchantment” with good pals.

New Mexico

I made it a point to mention the road trip to Mom and said that I was invited.  We talked about it a couple times in the past week, and although she said she thought it was a great idea, I knew she would not remember our conversation.  Mary was with us the last time the trip was mentioned, and out of the blue Mom asked the question I was dreading:  “Am I going, too?”

But before I could respond, Mary leaned in and convinced Mom that the two of them would have a lot more fun “partying” here. Mom beamed with her mischievous smile.

Note to Mary:  Thank you, Sis.




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