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

Archive for the ‘mother’ Category

The Great Napkin Dustup

I like cloth napkins. I like having a substantial bit of cloth to completely cover my lap, catch crumbs, and absorb spills. I can launder them and reuse them over a matter of years and both my pocketbook and my conscience are satisfied with not having to buy consumable paper products. My husband prefers paper napkins. He says that once he’s used a bit of the cloth napkin, he’s never sure where a clean spot is for the next swipe of his mouth. In the spirit of marital harmony and choosing my battles, our household uses paper napkins.

I also like using generic products when they are of equal quality to name brands, but we’ve found that Bounty napkins are really better than generics or any other name brands. So, we have really good paper napkins. So good that Mom saves hers to reuse until she feels they are truly used up – which never actually seems to happen. I end up throwing away the used napkin stack every few days to keep it from taking over the table.

Mom's seat

Mom’s seat at the table

Since she is at home during the day, the napkin holder is right by her seat at the table so she can easily reach it at lunch time. At dinner time, since I sit in the middle of the table, I take napkins from the holder and pass them to my husband. A few weeks ago, I handed him napkins from the napkin holder and he immediately protested that they were dirty, and so they were. I asked Mom if she was putting dirty napkins back in the holder, but she said she wasn’t.  We finally decided that the cleaning ladies, who come every other week, must not realize that the stack of napkins are used and had put them back in with the clean napkins in the holder. I started trying to remember to throw them away more often.

My husband also keeps a short stack of paper napkins on the dining table near his lunchbox, so he’ll remember to take them each day. Last week he came home from work and told me that he had found that the napkins in his lunchbox had been used ones. That night at dinner, when he asked me to pass him a napkin from the napkin holder, I cringed a little, and carefully examined the paper napkins before handing them off. I couldn’t take it any more.

Napkin Solution

Napkin Solution

Fortunately, there’s a Target on my way home from work. We now have two napkin holders for the table. And I’ve asked Mother to start throwing her paper napkins away after every meal, but as these photos were taken this morning, you can see just how well that is working.

Mother and the Dementia Paradigm Shift

(Please note: this is a lecture slide, not Mom’s scan.)

This past Tuesday, Mother and I headed over to USF for her first-ever MRI.  She did wonderfully, and they got very good images, which they then handed to us on a CD to carry to our later appointment at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute. After a nice lunch at Panera, we were able to make our noon appointment with Dr. Fargher with 10 minutes to spare.

While I waited in the lobby, Dr. Fargher escorted Mother back for an MMSE and evaluation. Afterward, it was my turn in the doctor’s office to talk about the results. Mother scored higher on the MMSE this time than she did when we visited two years ago. This does not usually happen. What made the biggest difference was one item that last time Mother didn’t even try, saying “I can’t”, that this time she attempted and got 4 out of 5 points for. I told Dr. Fargher that when we had visited before, Mother had only just started going to the Neighborly Care Network senior center, and for the past 1.5 years or so, she has been attending three days per week.

With the report Dr. Fargher had received from the imaging lab, and the CD I had in hand, we looked at the brain images together which showed some overall shrinkage (not uncommon given Mom’s age), very little shrinkage in the areas of the brain normally connected with Alzheimer’s, and a couple of spots indicating small strokes (ischemic incidents, for you medically-oriented family members). This indicates that most of Mother’s dementia is actually vascular in origin.

We also talked about Mom’s hearing loss, and the doctor mentioned that she had to resort to using a pen and paper to clarify some of the questions, and Mother was able to easily understand and answer, even doing fairly well on remembering a set of three words, after they were written down. The doctor suggested we keep a whiteboard handy at home for times when Steve or I didn’t feel like we were getting an idea across. We decided that Mother’s current meds were all good, and that there was no reason to set up regular appointments, but to call if any additional problems arose.

This really changes everything! 

The length of time from diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to death is usually 3-7 years, depending on what stage the person is when evaluated. Since Mom’s initial diagnosis for Alzheimer’s-type Dementia back in 2007 (no MRI done at that time), I’ve been worrying about how I would handle her inevitable decline, starting with having to work part-time so I’d be home with her anytime she wasn’t at the senior center, and of not being able to leave her alone even for short periods of time. I’ve been waiting for the horrible eventuality of Mom deteriorating into some mere shell of herself, not remembering anything or recognizing anyone.  

For vascular dementia, if the stroke risk is addressed, then relatively normal functioning can be maintained indefinitely. All this time, I just thought that her meds were working really well, as the decline we’ve seen is really minimal, and the memory loss patchy and not interfering that much with her daily functioning. (You don’t really need to remember what a hush puppy is in order to fix yourself a sandwich for lunch.)

With the realization that a lot of Mom’s seeming inability to grasp what we’re telling her is probably directly linked to her hearing loss, my falling-off-to-sleep self wondered last night about the possibility of us all learning some basic sign language. I already know how to sign “thank you” and “good morning” – maybe Mom and I will start working on that today.


Art by Mother

Three mornings per week, a van or car comes to our house and picks Mother up to take her to the Dunedin Day Center. They sing songs, read the paper, play Bingo (sometimes Mother brings me the packages of cookies she’s won), and lots of other activities, including breakfast, lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack before she comes back home in the afternoon.

Sometimes she brings home artwork that she’s done. Some projects are more impressive than others. Below is one of the first things she brought home and taped to the living room wall.

Soon after, this appeared below it.

Later, this painting appeared, and I was actually quite impressed.

Then came Christmas arts and crafts. (She won the candy jar by being the most accurate guesser of the number of candy canes it held.)

Several more paintings came home, and I was getting quite excited about Mother’s previously hidden artistic talent until she told me that the canvases had pencil drawings they then painted.  Still, she seemed to have a good sense of color and blending, and I’ve purchased inexpensive frames to showcase the growing art collection. When they’re all framed, I’ll be able to replace the Easter basket she’s taped up in the dining room.

Gradual Rewind

A few mornings ago, I walked into the kitchen for my second cup of coffee.  Mother was sitting on the couch in the living room, saw me walk in and hollered “peep-eye!”  Since then, she’s said it a few more times as she’s come around the corner to see me in the office, or when she’s sitting in the living room or den and I walk into her view.  I mentioned it to Steve, and then had to explain to him that this is a southern or maybe just a family version of “peek-a-boo”.

Mother has always had a great sense of playfulness and whimsy.  This new exclamation could stem from nothing more than thinking that it was a funny thing to say at the time, and continuing because our reactions are amusing.  Or it could be another indication of the Alzheimer’s Rewind.

Steve asked me when she was last evaluated.  It’s only been a few months.  I told him that unless she begins starting fires or wandering the neighborhood, we’d stay with the annual neuro work ups.

It’s weird watching your mother grow younger as she grows older.


Mom: You said yesterday that today is your twentieth wedding anniversary?

Me: No, Mom.  Steve and I got married a year ago.  We’ve only been married for one year.  Remember we had the wedding last year?

Mom:  So, it’s not your anniversary?

Me: Yes, today is our anniversary, but our one-year anniversary.

Mom:  Oh, okay.  Happy anniversary!

T-Shirt Contretemps

Mother has a t-shirt from her old job.  A comfy, tan, heavy cotton t-shirt with a slogan from some past customer service-oriented advertising campaign.  She likes it .  She likes to wear it.  She likes to wear it often.  She likes to wear it repeatedly.  She does not, however, like to do laundry.  So, her favorite comfy shirt gets worn several times before I realize that I’ve seen it many more times than I’ve seen her do laundry (more on that later), and I feel compelled to comment.

“Mom, you’ve worn that shirt four or five times already.  It needs to be washed,” I point out.

“It’s fine,” she replies.

“Mom, you’ve worn it the last three times you’ve gone to the senior center.  They’ll think you don’t have any other clothes. Also, you need to wash it before you wear it again.”  I stop short of ordering her to go change.  She wouldn’t anyway, not without what I anticipate would be a really big battle – I’m not sure because I haven’t pushed that hard yet.

“Okay,” she says, in that voice and tone that I recognize immediately as meaning, ‘I’m agreeing with you so you will stop talking at me about this.’  So that’s where I get it.  Hmmm.

Yesterday morning was at least the third time we’ve had this conversation.  My husband overhears and says I should make her change, or tell her the shirt will go away, but I’m not ready to be that much of an authoritarian for anyone, especially not my mother.  I do have to agree with him on his point that it is not only a matter of esthetics, but also a health issue.  *sigh*

So, I phone the senior center and have a chat with the social worker.  She says to take the shirt and put it in the laundry, telling Mother it is no longer available as it needs washing and is in the laundry.  Great plan – except that that still makes me the de facto laundress because Mother doesn’t do laundry unless/until I go into her closet and pull out all the clothing that she has already worn and rehung and announce that it is Mom’s Laundry Day.  I don’t want to do this.  I am still trying to figure out how to get out of doing my own laundry.  (No luck so far on that one, either.)  *sigh*

I do have a Plan B, though.  It won’t get me out of my laundry duties, but it might reduce their frequency a little.  I call Mom’s old job.  I speak to the manager.  I explain to him a little bit of the situation, and how I attribute her fondness for the shirt to a combination of its inherent comfiness and the fond memories Mom has of working there for twenty-plus years.  Is there any way, I ask him, I can get a couple more employee t-shirts for her.  He transfers me back to the office manager, instructing me to tell her what size and how many I want.  Hooray!  The office manager also remembers Mom, and in addition to the three new t-shirts – one yellow, one orange, and one green – she will be including notes from current employees who also remember Mom from her time there.  She starts to address the package to me, but I suggest addressing it directly to Mom so she will open it immediately and have a nice surprise.

I hope it arrives today.

Bathtime Blues

I got Mom’s shower all set up. My boss came to the house and installed the new shower head. I got the shower curtain and liner up, the non-slip stickers in the bottom of the tub, the new shower chair and the bolt-on handle to assist with stepping into and out of the tub also installed. Tuesday evening I get home and ask Mom if she wants to go give it a try.

“No, I don’t. I don’t want my hair to be wet when I go to bed.”

“Mom, your hair will have plenty of time to dry in the three hours before bedtime.”

“Well, I just don’t want to.”

“When will you want to?”


“Soon is not a time, Mom. If you’re going to shower before our company arrives this weekend, and you don’t want to do it tonight, it will have to be either Wednesday or Thursday.”

“Ok. Thursday, then.”

Wednesday morning before her doctor’s appointment, I try to show her how to use the handheld shower head, thinking she might try a shower before going to the doctor.

“I’m not going to use it without you here!”

“Do you want me to come home from work a little early so I’ll be here for you to shower before your appointment?”

“No. I’d really prefer a tub bath.”

“If you prefer a tub bath, why have you not taken one since we moved in here last July?”

“I don’t know.”

“If we don’t do this in the next few days, I’m going to be bringing someone in the help you in the bath.”

“Oh, Ok”, Mom laughingly replies.

“I’m serious, Mom.”


Now my brain hurts.

I walked with Leslie Sansone again this morning. Mother shuffled a few steps, did a couple of sidesteps, and then sat down. I told her that was better than she did a couple of days ago, and that she’d build up to doing more if she kept at it. She seemed doubtful.

At dinner, I brought the Dietert Center schedule to the dining table for us to choose what day we wanted to go to lunch. She couldn’t decide which one sounded most appealing, so I chose Tuesday’s “Crabby Cakes” for our lunch out.

I talked to her a little bit about the Take Five Club, which is actually a caregivers’ respite program. It runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes lunch brought into the activity room because some of the people are less ambulatory than others. It also costs $35 per day attended, which Mother would NEVER agree to, but they could send the monthly statement to my work. I am thinking this might be the best way to introduce her to the center, as she seems absolutely uninterested in attending any of the activities.

“Mom, when I picked up the menu last week, I talked to one of the ladies about the Playing with Paint class. She said it’s watercolor and pretty fun.”


“Is that something you’d be interested in trying?”

“I’m not interested in any of that stuff.”

“But Mom, I’m concerned about you just sitting at home all day and not doing anything but watching TV.”

“Well, when you’re 80 years old, you’re not interested in doing that much.”

“You’re not 80, you’re only 78, and Papaw walked until he was 92. And you had friends in Wills Point, and now you don’t talk to anybody except me all day, and when I can’t come home for lunch, then you’re here the whole day alone.”

“That’s OK.”

“No, Mom, it’s not OK.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

“And I can call people on the phone.”

“Who do you call?”

(Thinks a minute.) “Whoever.”

“Whoever is not a person. Give me a name.”

“I don’t know.”

“I know you’ve called Charlie. Anyone else?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’d really like you to try this Take Five Club. It’s more of a social group than an activity group. They talk and have coffee and have lunch. I can go with you the first couple of times.”

No answer.

“Anyway, Mom, we’ll go to the center for lunch on Tuesday.”



I dunno. Maybe I’m rushing things. Maybe I’m not pushing her enough. I have no idea how to treat an adult who is functioning on various levels, all of them below where she was even one year ago. Especially when that adult also happens to be my mother.

Mixed Success

I just walked a mile in my living room in 18 minutes!

Mother walked about 2 minutes, then said she was tired and sat back down.


Renewed Hope for the Dietert Center

Every morning, as we sit having coffee and reading the morning paper, Mother will say, “You have your regular schedule today? You’ll be home at regular time? And you’ll come home at lunchtime?”

I used to say, “Yes.” Now, because my duties at work are evolving, I say, “I hope so.”

Yesterday, shortly after this exchange, I said, “I think you ought to try going to the senior center and meet some people. I bet you could find a nice friend there.” And, instead of the automatic “No, no, I don’t want to” that I expected, she said “Do you think so?”

“Yes! I do!” I was suddenly filled with some hopes of her actually trying to do something besides sit on the couch and watch TV all day, with me her only source of social contact. I was able to come home for lunch, have a ‘delicious sandwich’, as we do every day, and then, on the back to work, I took the long way around to stop by the Dietert Center and pick up their monthly menu and activity schedule.

I stopped in to talk with my friend, Dawn, who told me that in addition to the regular activities, staff was working on having a “coffee social” time in the morning, but they weren’t sure when that would happen.

I don’t know if Mother’s total disinterest in any of the activities has been due to some level of depression from my sister’s passing and the move from east Texas, or if she is concerned about trying something new that will shed unwanted attention on growing cognitive deficits. I am now hoping that it was more the former. While I doubt that she will ever sign up for Table Tennis or Western Philosophy, perhaps Playing with Paint or Quilter’s Co-op will strike her fancy. I really believe that if she will just go there enough times to meet a couple of people, I’ll be taking her on a regular basis.

And, this morning, since I woke up at 5:30 and have what I hope to be PLENTY of time, I’m going to see if I can get her to agree to “Walking with Leslie Sansone” (which my niece, Vickie, highly recommended and I bought several months ago, but haven’t been motivated enough to try) before the television is tuned to the morning news. (I know you were wondering when I would get to why in the world that picture was there, especially on MY blog – hahahaha!)

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