A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Archive for February, 2014

Tony Hillerman, Psychics, and Dementia

Tony Hillerman wrote wonderful mystery novels set in and around the Navajo reservations. I remember discovering them around the same time I discovered Native American flute music, and listening to it while reading Hillerman put me right there inside the book. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in spirituality and spirits and ghosts and all things unseen and unknowable. I was particularly interested in Hillerman’s account of the Navajo attitude regarding death, ghosts or spirits, and the afterlife. What I remember most is that when someone dies, family or friends knock a hole in the back of that person’s home in order to let the bad spirit(s) out. They believe that at death all that is good in that person travels forward to the desired afterlife, shedding all the bad parts and leaving them behind. If one encounters a loved one’s ghost, it can only bring harm, because it is made up of all the unpleasant or even nasty parts of that person’s personality that were left behind.

I occasionally visit local psychics, card readers, intuitives – whatever they might call themselves – for readings. (Not the ones at dedicated storefronts with big neon hands on display – those are generally the ones that try to convince you of a curse and sell you an egg to put under your pillow to draw away the evil or somesuch – but that’s another blog post entirely.) I take my notebook and write everything down. The few times that I remember actual predictions having been made or hinted at, nothing has come to pass, but they’ve still been entertaining. Most often, the readings are more empathic, emotional insight kinda stuff, a sort of oral, mental Rörschach that I use to gauge my mental/emotional/spiritual inner status.

In December, I visited Madelyn, a reader/medium at Celestial Circle in Palm Harbor, and while we touched on several things, the one most related to this post was about Mom. She talked about Mom spending a lot of time in the spirit world, drawing strength for a new journey. Now, Mom sleeps a lot. She goes to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 every night. If she’s going to the Senior Center, she sets her alarm to get up at 6:00 am, but if not, she is likely to sleep in until, oh, 8:30 or 9:00 – a solid twelve hours’ sleep. Plus she naps on and off throughout the day when she’s at home. That’s a lot of sleeping.

Talking with Madelyn got me thinking about the stories I’ve read from other caregivers who talk about how their loved one’s personality changes, generally for the worst, the farther the slide into dementia. Kind, loving people become hateful and mean to those who are closest to them, the caregivers trying to make them comfortable and happy. And that got me thinking about Tony Hillerman’s stories and how the Diné view death and spirits. And that got me wondering if people with dementia are maybe already spending a lot of their time “on the other side” in a very long transition process, since their synaptic connections are deteriorating more quickly than the rest of their bodies. And maybe when they’re visiting, all that’s left behind to interact on the physical plane are the yucky parts that will eventually be left completely behind.

With Mom, even if she may be visiting the other side while she’s sleeping, when she’s awake, she’s still all here, because she is still the sweetest, most loving person I’ve ever known. But I think it’s a very interesting idea. Maybe I’ll ask her to tell me about some of her dreams sometime.



Gracie and Sophie Update

Gracie & Sophie share a bed 1.31.14

Although we still don’t trust them to behave when they’re alone in the house, Gracie and Sophie are on their way to becoming fast friends. Sophie has adapted quite well to the doggie door, using it for her own purposes, but she does not yet have any idea of what MY purposes for the doggie door are, and I continue to clean up small messes, even having bought a low-end Swiffer (just the stick, no attached spray bottle) to make the clean-ups a little easier. If she were a Great Dane, I’m sure we would be more motivated to watch the Potty Training video we got from Petsmart, but last night we watched Ender’s Game instead.

Sophie Loves The Mama 2.1.14

Sophie loves The Mama and doesn’t seem to mind her new short haircut, but she really didn’t like the t-shirt. It came off shortly after her modeling session.

Sophie's hernia 2.14.14

A couple of days ago, we noticed a small bulge on her lower abdomen. Yesterday morning, the vet confirmed that she has an inguinal hernia. It is not an emergency situation, but it is something that needs to be addressed before it develops into one. We have scheduled her surgery for Monday morning. It is a relatively minor surgery and her recovery time should be no more, and perhaps even a little less, than when she was spayed.

I guess it’s not just the free dogs that turn out to be the expensive ones.

Shopping Hazards

cotton bag resized

As part of my on-going effort to learn more about tarot, I draw a single card every morning after my journaling session as my “card of the day.” The deck I’m currently using is the Gilded Tarot, and I noticed on our last trip that the zipper on the small bag I have been using to house it had broken. Yesterday, I got out of work a little early, so I headed over to Serenity Now in Palm Harbor to get a replacement bag similar to the one above (one of many available on-line from this vendor).

If you’ve never been to Serenity Now, it’s a wonderful little shop on Tampa Rd, near U.S.19, and a great place to buy much more than you had originally intended when you walked through the door. I give as proof, the following additional purchases, each absolutely necessary for me to have at that particular place and time.

sandalwood mala

I have a small mala I keep in small bag (much like the one at the top of the page, but blue) that mostly lives in my purse. I have been wanting one to keep on my nightstand. I found this one made of sandalwood beads. It feels and smells really nice.

motivation candle

During my morning writing, I sometimes like to burn scented candles as an aid to concentration. Serenity Now sells these “Reiki energy charged” candles in different colors, scents, and energy charges. This one purports to be charged with the energy of Motivation. It also smells very nice with its noted blend of sunflowers, myrrh, and frankincense.

Seeds of Light Prosperity earrings

These “Prosperity and Abundance” earrings from Seeds of Light (I also have one of their very nice selenite pendants) are made with emerald, citrine, peridot, amythyst, and Austrian Crystal beads. According to the card they were mounted on, “Emerald and Citrine complement each other by attracting prosperity and abundance in all things. Peridot opens up new doors of opportunity and Amethyst awakens our psychic ability and intuition allowing the prosperity to flow in.” All that in a little pair of bright and shiny earrings I’d wear anyway just ’cause they’re so pretty!

I’d checked Louise Hay’s classic You Can Heal Your Life from the library sometime last year and after reading it, decided I wanted a copy of my own. Yesterday was the day for it, too.

Guardian Angel spray

And last, but not least, Guardian Angel Spray from The Crystal Garden, Inc., a spray scented with essential oils to help us remember that guardian “Angels of Love and Light” are always surrounding us. The bottle I purchased actually had an extra label noting that it was additionally infused with the energy of Archangel Chamuel, of whom I had never heard until that moment. The shop’s owner, Brooke, directed me to an article by Doreen Virtue in the current freebie mag at the front of the store, that talked of Chamuel being the angel who helped people find that things they need to find. Since “lost in my house” is a term well-known to all my friends, I decided to continue with my Fiesta of Suspension of Disbelief and go with this, too.

This morning in the bright light of day, I do not have buyer’s remorse for any of these wonderful things. I haven’t balanced my checkbook, yet, though…..

When Do You Know It’s Time?

Photo from longtermhomecare flickr

Photo from longtermhomecare flickr

My mother’s mother passed away when Mom was only 11. My mother’s father and my father’s mother passed away within months of each other when I was 4. Dad’s dad lived into his 90’s, but under the care of Dad’s oldest sister, hundreds of miles away from where we lived. I vaguely remember visiting Mom’s Grandma Pepper in a nursing home in Louisiana when I was 4 or 5, and maybe a couple of years later, too. She lived well into her 90’s as well, and at one point one of her sons went to live at the same nursing home.

I don’t have any model or template for what I’m supposed to do or when I’m supposed to do it. When I volunteered with hospice, I did respite visits with a woman with Alzheimer’s who had a live-in caregiver, paid for out of the reserved funds she and her husband had accumulated over their lifetimes. Her grown sons lived in the area, but they visited infrequently, having had a somewhat strained relationship with her their entire lives. They were more than happy to give her care over to a paid caregiver and felt their responsibility was adequately discharged through their management of her assets for her care.

Mom doesn’t have any assets. The small amount of savings she had was wiped out with her hospitalization and rehab care last spring. She receives her Social Security check every month, which covers her medicines, the home health aide bath visits, and the Adult Daycare tuition, part of which is covered by the center’s scholarship fund. There are no monies for a live-in care giver, or even for the bath lady to come more often. The really nice assisted living/nursing homes are upwards of $3000 per month, and they don’t accept Medicaid, which Mother doesn’t even qualify for unless/until she actually enters a nursing home.

Sophie, our newest addition to the household, continues to pee in the kitchen, in a very specific area. Mother does not, and has not for the past 3+ years, followed my request that she visit the bathroom BEFORE she goes into the kitchen to take her medicine. The area where Sophie pees is the pathway Mother takes from the dining table to the bathroom after taking her meds. This morning, there was a puddle MUCH larger than Sophie would ever be capable of making. Sometimes Mother realizes that she’s had an accident and I find a tortured hand towel thrown in the corner in her bathroom. This morning, evidently, she didn’t realize that she had done so, and then proceeded to walk through it more than once. Sophie managed to pee outside all day yesterday, but before I could get Mom’s puddle cleaned up this morning, Sophie had added one of her own. I know she’s just trying to fit into the pack, peeing where everyone else pees. It’s really hard to get mad at her when that area of the kitchen floor evidently smells exactly like a doggie urinal.

Yet again, I asked Mom to PLEASE go to the bathroom BEFORE she takes her medicine. And again, she agreed. She always agrees. And then she always walks right past the bathroom to the dining room to take her morning meds, often leaving a tell-tale trail that I don’t even notice by the time that I get home because she’s either wiped it up (e.g. smeared it around) or been totally oblivious to it and it has just dried on its own through the course of the day. But while I may not realize it’s there, Sophie totally does.

My cousins, Mom’s sister’s daughters, placed my aunt in a nursing facility when they realized she had stopped bathing. Mom hasn’t bathed herself in over 7 years (I don’t know how much longer than that it has been, because she only came to live with me 7 years ago and she hadn’t been bathing for awhile by then). When she would never agree to shower time with me, I finally hired someone to come in, and Mom has adjusted to that routine. But my aunt also had a lot of other health issues, including being on oxygen for advanced emphysema/COPD. Mom, on the other hand, is very healthy for her age, her only issues really being her balance (she uses a walker now, mostly), moderate dementia, incontinence, and regular episodes of enuresis.

I read about people caring for their loved ones in advanced stages of illness, spoon-feeding them, toileting them or even changing their diapers, giving them sponge baths, and generally providing intensive long-term care in the home. But I haven’t had that kind of model and I’m not sure just where my turning point is. We’ve made adjustments for bedwetting, with extra pads and underpads and several sets of sheets, but if I don’t check, she won’t tell me. She just leaves the covers turned back so the bed will dry out before she goes back to sleep in it the next night. It’s evidently not a problem for her. And the big puddles on the floor are not a problem for her. And her falling sometimes because she doesn’t always use her walker the way she should are not a problem for her. But these are all adding up to a problem for me. Does anyone ever know which straw is the last one before its added on top?

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