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

Posts tagged ‘Mom’

Happy Easter

 

easterbunny_1

Mom, on Good Friday: Tomorrow’s Easter!

Steve: No, tomorrow is Saturday; Easter is on Sunday

 

Mom, on Saturday: Happy Easter!

Steve: No, today is Saturday, Easter is tomorrow, on Sunday.

 

Mom, on Easter Sunday: Merry Christmas!

Steve: —

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Raisins

Raisins 1

Me: Mom, don’t you like raisins?

Mom: Yes, I like raisins.

Me: Then why did you take all the raisins out of your cookies?

Mom: Those aren’t raisins.

Me: Yes, you have oatmeal raisin cookies. Those are the raisins.

Mom: Oh. I thought they were just junk.

Me: Why would they put junk in your cookies? They’re raisins!

Mom: Okay.

Raisins 2

Me: Mom! Why are you still taking the raisins out of your cookies?

Mom: What? I can’t hear you.

Me: WHY ARE YOU STILL TAKING THE RAISINS OUT OF YOUR COOKIES?

Mom: Because I don’t want them.

Me: Do you want me to buy you different cookies that don’t have raisins?

Mom: Do you want them?

Me: No, I want you to have cookies you like. Do you want me to buy different cookies?

Mom: No, these are fine.

Hungry Dog

As we packed to leave for our monthly weekend camping trip, I worried, as I always do, about how Mother would fare while were gone. She’s got lunch fixings and TV dinners and ice cream bars, her walker, her pillow, and the western channel, and the emergency button necklace that is essentially a cell phone with one giant button that only dials the emergency service we pay for on a monthly basis. She is at home by herself on the weekdays she doesn’t go to the Senior Center, and does just fine, but I still worry, even though the PT who worked with her last year said she has clients less “with it” than Mom who still manage to live on their own.

This time, since we had an event planned with friends for early Saturday, we decided to leave on Friday evening, and also decided to leave the dogs so they wouldn’t be cooped up in their kennels while we were gone a good portion of the day on Saturday. They could also to keep Mother company, as her biggest complaint when we take our camping weekends is how much she misses us and how lonely it is without anyone at home with her. We did something similar in May, when we went to Disney, and it worked out well with one of our friends checking in on her and also making sure the dogs were being fed.

In May, Steve made up little bags with the dogs’ names on them for their breakfast and dinner, but Mom didn’t feed them breakfast. She doesn’t normally see them being fed breakfast, and I wasn’t sure she had been able to read the baggies Steve had fixed up. This time, I made sure he used labels, and then showed Mom the bags and explained how the dogs ate twice per day and how each dog had separate breakfast and dinner baggies for each day.

She didn’t call all weekend and since we were so busy, I didn’t think to call until after she would have gone to sleep. I told myself everything was fine, but I was still worried a little, and all kinds of outrageous scenarios played through my mind. We’d get home and find her fallen, with the dogs sitting beside her, keeping watch. Or we’d get home to find the dogs locked in the garage, having barked themselves hoarse because she couldn’t hear them. Or she would have become incapacitated and missed feeding the dogs and they would decide she would make a fine meal substitute.

Fortunately, none of those uglier things came to pass, but little Sophie, who really doesn’t need to miss a meal, didn’t get to eat all weekend. While I thought  I had been very clear on how to feed the dogs, and Mother made yes-I-understand noises, she really didn’t get it.

Dog food bags 2014-08-17 17.53.52

Gracie gets dog food from the supermarket, which comes in good-sized crunchy bites. Sophie, with her little, tiny mouth and delicate tiny dog teeth, gets food from the pet store that resembles cat food, because it is the only food she can chew. Instead of feeding each dog from the marked packets, Mom split Gracie’s food bag between the two dog’s bowls (the only reason one of Sophie’s bags above is empty is because I used it to feed her right after we got home – she was really hungry!). When we got home, she told us that The Little Dog (she has a hard time remembering Sophie’s name) hadn’t eaten hardly anything while we were gone. I tried to explain to her that Sophie couldn’t eat the big pieces of dog food and how we had specifically marked the bags. Mom kept nodding and agreeing with me as if we were saying the same thing and  just kept saying how she tried to feed The Little Dog but she wouldn’t eat anything.

How often do you think dog-sitters are hired to come in and feed dogs when someone is still at home?

Lunch With Mom

 

 

 

Me: Okay, Mom! We’re through with our Saturday errands. What do you want to have for lunch? Mexican? Chinese? A sandwich?

Mom: I’ll just decided when I look at the menu.

Me: But if we want Mexican or Chinese we have to decide to go to that restaurant.

Mom: I don’t care. Anything’s fine.

(After our arrival at Daddy’s Grill)

Me: Oh, good – we can choose between the breakfast or lunch menus. I think I’m going to have breakfast. What about you?

Mom: Do they have Mexican food?

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.

 

 

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?

Sophie!

Sophie 1.10.13

 

We recently added a new family member to our household. She is 5 years old, retiring from a breeder after having her requisite (for this breeder) three litters. She has never been anywhere but the breeder’s house and yard, so she’s taking a little while to get used to us, to her doggie-sibling, Gracie, and to the entire concept of harnesses and leashes.

Before we went to pick her up, I told Mother about her, and that her name was Fiona. Since Mother mostly reads lips, and she evidently has never heard this name before, she looked at me funny and said “Veeoga?” After I wrote it down, she said it correctly, but still looked quite puzzled. By the time we had had Fiona a couple of days, Mother had asked her name several times and mispronounced it in several unique ways. At one point, I looked down at the little dog, and the name “Sophie” popped in my head. Doggie telepathy, maybe? Anyway, it seemed closed enough to “Fiona” to not be too confusing for her, and perhaps a name Mother could better remember. When I told Mom the dog’s name was now going to be Sophie, she said, “Well, that’s better than Fie-ona.” And so it is. A couple of days later, Steve was scanning our bill of sale and noticed that the breeder spelled “Fiona” as “Phonia”. She said her daughters named the dogs after Disney princesses. I guess Mom wasn’t the only one to have never encountered that name in real life.

So, now, Sophie has been fixed (the breeder refunded us almost half her cost upon proof of spaying), had her teeth cleaned, got a few bad teeth pulled, got her jingle jewelry (county registration/rabies tag), and is almost fully recuperated. After being pushed in and out through the doggie door several times, she has managed to let herself into the house through it, but hasn’t felt a strong enough desire to use it to go out, so I’m still trying to monitor her closely enough to save myself from having to clean up tiny doggie messes.

Gracie has gotten over her severe jealousy and now is only playing the normal version of “don’t pet her, pet me”, rather than the spastic, shed-all-my-hair-and-drool-on-you version. She has also tried to get Sophie to play a few times, but Sophie is still very skittish with all of us. She follows me around, but won’t come to me. The best she’ll do is stop a few feet away, and then not immediately run away as I approach her. And that’s not consistent. The breeder said she was a cuddler, so I’m hoping it won’t take her too much longer to get used to us and actually try to get us to hold and pet her. I’m ready for my new lap dog to actually want to sit in my lap.

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