Mom Is Happy and Well

Mom the day before her move.

My mom’s 10 Day Care Conference, which was really 12 days, went well.  They love her there.  Mom is upbeat and happy and she still hugs everyone.   She enjoys helping with chores and is able to remain focused long enough to finish small jobs.  Mom is sleeping and eating well and enjoys spending time with the other ladies.

Mom needs help bathing, dressing, grooming, and oral hygiene.  She needs direction with pajamas and getting to bed.  While mom is sleeping, the clothes she just wore are taken to the laundry or she’ll wear them again.  Someone needs to show her where the bathroom is — every day.

Mom uses her maiden name now and identifies as her younger self.  (If you’re thinking about sending mail, addressing it to Ruth Hall would make more sense to mom.)  Mom hasn’t asked about going home.  And she didn’t acknowledge my father when he was there today.

It’s amazing how quickly and easily she let go of her previous life and settled into her new home —  which tells me she is much further along than any of us realized.

She is happy and settled which is such a relief.

Mom is only 74, but she is home.

I asked for a sexy pose.

 

Social Workers Make a Difference!

My mom's Senior Day Care at the Southwest Senior Center lead to . . . .

My mom’s new home has a “10 Day Care Conference” scheduled for today.  When we admitted mom into this Residential Facility, we told them all about mom and where she’s at in terms of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  Now, after 10 days, Richfield Senior Suites will tell us what they think.  This is standard procedure and it’s a welcome meeting because it means they’ve been observing my mom enough to make a Care Plan for her.

I’m not sure what the plan will include, but I’m looking forward to hearing what professional caregivers with years of experience recommend for my mom.   Included at this meeting will be the Director, my dad, my sister, myself and a trusted Social Worker from my mom’s Senior Day Care, who has been a God-send to our family.  My sister and I will “attend” the meeting on a conference call which is why I’m so grateful my mom’s Social Worker will be there with her experienced eyes and educated questions.

. . . a terrific Senior Social Worker. Which lead to . . . .

Linda Walker, LSW from the Southwest Senior Center has been an advocate for my mom from day one.  She is the person who recommended we look into a Residential Home for mom rather than a traditional multi-room facility.  Linda showed me a list of Homes near my parents, and it’s from this list that my mom’s new home was found.  In addition to attending the meeting today, she’ll call me when it’s over to share her insights and offer suggestions.

Linda is also helping us navigate the tricky business of activating my mom’s Long-Term Care Policy and the dreaded and required Asset Assessment.   Wow.  How do we ever thank her?  Needless to say, I don’t know what we would have done without Linda — without her, my mother might not be in the lovely home that she’s in now.

. . . my mom's fabulous new HOME!

Need someone on your side?  Find a Social Worker!
Southwest Senior Center Information  (If you live in South Mpls.)
CLICK HERE for advice on finding a Senior Social Worker.
Don’t forget — you can always contact your Local Dept. of Social Services.

PS.  I’ll tell you about the meeting and my mom’s new Care Plan tomorrow.  : )

 

 

We Are a Family of Five

I’ve been talking a lot about my mom lately.  That’s just where my head is at.  But you should know that I’m not the only one concerned about my mom.  I have an older sister and a younger brother who have been right here with me all the way.

We are a family of five.

My brother John lives in Minneapolis near my parents.  He has the task of “being there” since my sister and I live far away.  So my brother has been helping with things like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow.  Groceries, laundry and even doing the floors have also been on his to-do list since my dad is on crutches.  But the biggest help John has been is just knowing he’s nearby in case my parent’s need assistance on short notice.   It’s a lot of pressure being the only one there — but my sister and I are so grateful for his presence and eagerness to help when needed.

Joanne pulling John, 1967

My sister Marilyn lives in Texas but has been generous with her time and so helpful with her expertise in the medical field.  While I manage my mom’s medications and medical issues, my sister manages my dad’s.  The sharing of these two responsibilities has been invaluable as both parents have health issues.  You know our mom has Alzheimer’s disease, but our dad was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation.   (There’s prostate issues too, but my dad is pretending they don’t exist).  And with his recent ankle surgery, my dad’s a walking pharmacy.  So my sister is on top of his medical and medication management.  Thank God!

Marilyn and Joanne, 1965

The three of us also helped clean out my parents house in 2011.  I haven’t mentioned this before, but my mom became a bit of a hoarder in her later years and trust me when I say it took the three of us an entire week to clean out the house.  That’s another story.

What I’m saying is I am not alone.  I have my sister and brother.

The three of us pulling together and perhaps becoming closer has been a beautiful blessing during this difficult time.   They have my love, admiration and respect.  Always.

Finding Joy in Little White Lies

There’s a book I want to tell you about.

It’s called “Creating Moments of Joy” by Jolene Brackey and it has completely changed the way I communicate with my mom.

I love this book so much, I think it should be required reading for anyone who interacts with an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

It’s a book about meeting the person with Alzheimer’s WHERE THEY ARE AT in order to avoid emotional pain and confusion.

It’s also an instruction book on how to tell little white lies.

For example, when my mom asks “When is Gary coming to get me?”  A not so good answer might be, “He isn’t coming to get you because you live here now.”  This answer is frightening and confusing.  The better answer might be, “Won’t you stay for dinner and Gary can get you later? I just love spending time with you!”

This works better because THERE IS NO SHORT TERM MEMORY!  Zero!  Zip!   So the only goal of the caregiver is to help the person with Alzheimer’s feel comfortable and safe — IN THAT MOMENT.

It’s okay to lie when it’s the kindest thing to do.

My mom will eventually think she is three years old and will start asking for her mom — which breaks my heart : (   But can you imagine my mom’s reaction if a caregiver replies, “Ruth, your mom died a long time ago.”  What if my mom asks this question every day?  Or ten times a day?!  A better answer might be, “Your mom is at the grocery store and she’ll be back soon.”  Comforting relief in that moment!

While this may seem almost cruel.  IT’S NOT.  We are joining them in their reality and coming up with feasible explanations in order to avoid emotional stress.  It’s a moment in time that will be gone in 20 seconds, and all that will be left is the feelings that were created.  Do we want good feelings or bad?  Comfort or fear?

The author covers many other topics to help create moments of joy for the Alzheimer’s sufferer, including giving compliments.    Saying you’re so smart, creative, or strong for example, are wonderful boosts.  My mom beamed when I told her how beautiful she was.

And she loved hearing me say, “So many people love you!”  Now, that was the truth.

Look at her! So sweet and innocent waiting for her piece of cake. I hope nobody ever makes her feel sad or scared. Just comfort and love please. Along with a fib or two.

Go to Creating Moments of Joy to order this book and learn more about communicating with your loved one and how to “discover their greatness.”

 

 

Learn the Numbers. Spread Awareness.


5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

Learn the numbers.  Spread awareness.

Read about the new National Alzheimer’s Plan.

Click Here to consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

Mindfulness for Caregiver Relief

B R E A T H E

I’ve often said that being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is the hardest job there is because it’s a 24/7 thankless, monotonous, mind numbing job.

It’s similar to taking care of a child.  Except this child has zero short-term memory, limited common sense and problem solving skills and a quickly diminishing capacity to communicate.  Combined with mood swings and an obstinate disposition, (which my mother so far — knock wood — doesn’t have), and you have someone who will, over time, suck the life right out of you.

My mother told us again and again last week how we needed to move a large radio from one room to another.  She was passionate in her plea to convince us why this needed to happen — and none of it made sense.  I heard her say this over and over again.  Now imagine hearing it a hundred times for a year.  It’s mental torture.  And very stressful!

Getting my mom dressed and undressed, bathing her, getting her to take her medication and even buckling her seat belt became jobs far bigger than they needed to be.  Many things are difficult and confusing for my mom, which means nothing is easy for the caregiver.

Patience with clenched teeth becomes the norm.

In a recent Huffington Post article titled “How to Best Help Alzheimer’s Caregivers? Teach Them Mindfulness,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marguerite Manteau-Rao expands on the difficulty of being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and recommends practicing mindfulness as a way to combat the stress.  Mindfulness is described as the practice of  “the cultivation of intentional moment-to-moment awareness, without judgment”, and has been found to produce significant results in terms of stress reduction.

Manteau-Rao says,

Mindfulness practice is especially relevant to the predicament of dementia caregiving. It can give caregivers the inner resources to sustain themselves emotionally and physically over the long haul and is a tool they can always fall back on moment to moment, regardless of the intensity of the care relationship. Mindfulness can also help guard against the occurrence of depression.

Being mindful and in the moment with my mom was a blessing for me.  But this was fairly simple because I was with her for a short time.  I can imagine the difficulty in remaining mindful day after day, year after year.

Go to “How to Best Help Alzheimer’s Caregivers? Teach Them Mindfulness” to learn more about combating stress with mindfulness.  And for those of you who live in the Shenandoah Valley and are interested in reducing stress in your everyday life, check out MindfulValley.com for information on conscious living.

She Came Out of Her Room With Spirit

Visiting with mom after her first night at her new home. I just needed to see her one more time before I left.

When I decided to write a blog, my intention was to write about what I’m doing to get healthy and hopefully prevent Alzheimer’s disease in myself.  I didn’t want to write too much about my mom who has Alzheimer’s for a couple of reasons —  first, there are already “caregiver” and “long goodbye” blogs out there, and writing about my mom was just too close and personal for me.

But, as you know, close and personal is where I’ve been lately.

Moving my mom into a residential home and then leaving the next day was one of the most difficult things I’ve done.  I’ve wanted to run back every day since then to hug her one more time and tell her everything will be okay.   It feels like I dropped my child off at a babysitters never to pick her up again. Like she is watching out the window, waiting to go home and wondering why no one is coming.

Friday night was mom’s first night sleeping in her new home and I went over Saturday morning before my flight to check on her.  I was told that she came out of her room “with spirit” and fully dressed to include her favorite pink baseball cap that says Winchester, VA.  My mom then hugged the woman in charge and promptly sat down with a bowl of oatmeal and raisins.

Mom looked rested and she seemed to be alright as I visited with her.  She didn’t ask me anything about going home or when we were leaving and she seemed content and at ease like she had always been there at that table with the newspaper in front of her.  Although, I’ve heard she’s been asking lately when she’s going home.

As I was getting ready to leave I asked, “Do you like it here?”

Mom said, “Oh my yes!”  “It’s like . . .  it’s like . . . . it’s just like THIS” as she wrapped her arms around to give herself a big hug.

While my mom’s new home feels like a big hug, I’m sure there is a sense that it is not her home.  I hope it starts feeling like home real soon — for mom’s comfort and our peace of mind.  I hope.

 

 

 

 

A Circle of Friends Say Good-bye

Circle of Friends

It was a quick decision to place my mother in a Residential Home.  The idea was discussed on Monday, it was finalized on Wednesday and she moved into her new home on Friday.   But we couldn’t just let my mom vanish from the neighborhood without a good bye.  She’s lived in the same house for 47 years, (I grew up in this house), and the neighbors have become dear friends.  So we had a small gathering around a fire in my parents backyard.

My mom was happy to see people and have a party, but the send off was for the neighbors benefit as well.  Nobody said good bye and the move wasn’t mentioned because it would have just confused and concerned her.  So she drank her root beer and had a great time and we all watched her knowing that her life was about to change.

We had fun.   But I felt like such a sneak.

Not the best shot of my parents, but you can see my dad being a good patient by putting his foot up.

My mom moved into her new home today and she isn’t here tonight.  We’re here, but my mom is not.  So strange.  I don’t like how this feels..  I hope my mom is okay.  I hope my dad is okay too.  I hope mom went to bed alright.  And I hope to write more about this experience someday.  But I can’t just yet.  I’m so tired I could sleep for days.  Good night friends.  Good night mom.