Mom Update: July 2012

Joanne ~ Mom ~ Marilyn

Visiting with my mom is always an adventure.  I never know what she’s going to say or do and it’s fascinating to watch and participate in her crazy shenanigans.  My goal was to keep her laughing.  As long as she was doing that, then I figured we were okay.  Or maybe that just made it easier for me.

My sister and I needed mom to try on a “picture outfit” for family photos we had done.  When we removed her clothing we noticed she had a wash cloth stuck down her bra and in her pocket.  We said “someone’s been folding towels today” and then proceeded to laugh hysterically.  Mom will stuff any and everything in her pockets to the point of them looking like chipmunk cheeks.  But a wash cloth in the bra was a first.

Okay, I’ll just say it.  Mom acts like a young adolescent and she’s in a, shall we say, sexual stage right now.  I don’t know how many times she lifted her shirt to show us her bra.  She was either pulling on her shirt pretending she had large pointy breasts or she was lifting her shirt and flashing us.  This activity was always followed with laughter that reminded me of a young girl at a slumber party.  Once, when we were in the car, she found a compact umbrella and well, with the size and shape of it, and with her young mind in the gutter . . .  one thing led to another and let’s just say I never imagined my mom ever doing that with an umbrella!   And she laughed and laughed like a school girl with a mischievous look in her eyes.  Okay, it was a little funny — but mostly we were just shocked.  This was so out of character for mom.

Marilyn and Mom on the back deck of Mom's new home.

I can’t count how many times we hugged.  I’m talking about the best hugs.  Mom could charge money for those hugs.  Warm, embracing, long, loving, everything is going to be okay hugs.  (sigh)

She called me by name a couple of times, but there were a few times that I was standing right next to her and she said to me, “I think that’s Joanne over there!”  I’d say, yes that kind of looks like Joanne, but I don’t think it’s her.  It felt wrong to say “I’m right here” — I didn’t want her to feel bad.   Every single day, Mom asked when I was going to cut my hair.  And every day my answer was the same — tomorrow.

We bought her new bedding, hung some more pictures and made sure her name was in all her clothing.  We danced, laughed and sang songs.  We took a hundred new photos and looked at old black and whites together.

Mom and I being silly.

Mom mentioned a couple of times that she’s ready to go home.  One time she asked where her mom was.  I wondered when that was coming, but it still surprised me.  I told her, “she’ll be here soon.”  I’m pretty sure the home she’s talking about isn’t the one she’s lived in for the last 45 years, but rather her childhood home in Wadena, MN.

Little 14 year old Ruthie Hall wants to go home.  Oh how I’d like to make her wish come true.

Mom ~ loving, funny, happy and in her 7th year with Alzheimer's.


Three Reasons I’m Struggling to Write

My intention for writing this blog is primarily to share what I’m learning and doing to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  Health and wellness, both inside and out, is something I’m passionate about and could talk about all day long — which is why it’s disheartening that I’m struggling to write about it.

After a lot of reflection, I’ve come up with three main reasons I’m struggling to write:

First, I have so much to learn, how could I possibly pass along information that is new to me, that I am still trying to understand myself?  I’m reading science articles that are quite often over my head, so I’m skimming over why drinking coffee is good for you, for example, and jumping to just drink the darn coffee!  What I’m saying is, I am no authority. I know as much as you do, except I’m trying to write about it.

Second, this might sound strange, but I really don’t want this blog to be about me.  I’m reluctant to write a post about what I’m doing to stay healthy and out in front of Alzheimer’s because I don’t want it to come across as “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing!”  This couldn’t be further from my intention.  I don’t like the spotlight on me.  I just want to share my experience because I know I’m not the only person who is trying to prevent Alzheimer’s.  And I’m certainly not alone in experiencing a loved one going through this.

Finally,why would you care to read what I write?  If you’re like me, you’re being bombarded with social media from all angles.  I’m guessing you barely have time to read your own email, let alone someones elses blog.   I hate to add to your burden.

There you have it, a few of the biggies that have been rumbling around in my head.  I feel better already, but what am I going to do about it?

  1. It’s okay that I’m not an authority on Alzheimer’s disease, or health, nutrition or fitness — as long as you know I’m not an expert, then we’re okay.   Okay?
  2. There’s no way I can get around it — this blog is mostly about me.  I just need to get used to it.  I’ve tried writing in the 2nd and 3rd person and it just doesn’t work.  This is a personal blog.  While it’s about me and my experiences — it’s not all about me — it’s about you too. It’s about all of us because we’re in this together.  That’s how I see it.
  3. I will stop assuming you don’t have time to read this. I’ll write because I want to write.  And if you want to take the time to read what I write — then I thank you.  If not, that’s okay too.  Really.

Okay.  To recap, my writing will be more what than why, it will be about me and you and all of us, and you’ll read it if you want to.  Or not.  Deal?  Deal.

Back to Minneapolis: July 2012

We moved my mom into an Assisted Living Home on May 18th, 2012 without planning for it and with only two days notice.  We barely had time to move her in and make her room feel like home before I flew out the next day.  It sort of felt like I dropped my mom off at a daycare and then never picked her up.  Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it just felt wrong.  One of the biggest events in my mom’s life was rushed, because I was rushed.

It’s been two months since mom’s been in her new home and I hear she’s doing great.   But, I’m thrilled to be going back this week so I can see for myself.  I also feel like this is a chance to take things slow and do some of the things I wanted to do in May.

Public Service Announcement: Mom is a champion back scratcher and this is her signal indicating she is open for business. I'm not kidding.

Some things I’m looking forward to are:

  • Going for walks in the new neighborhood mom lives in.
  • Dining with mom and her new friends.
  • Washing dishes with mom.
  • Decorating her bedroom with old family photos and girlie stuff.
  • Maybe getting new bedding for her twin bed.
  • Taking mom to the beauty salon for a haircut.
  • Just being with my mom, and being fully present, with nothing but time on my hands.

My sister from Texas will also be there, and so with the Nelson family of five all together, we have a photo session scheduled at Lake Nokomis.  We haven’t had a professional family photo taken in about 35 years, so this will be it — most likely the last shot of all of us together.  You know the family pictures people take when someone has terminal cancer?  That’s what this feels like.  Except mom won’t look sick, she just won’t know what’s going on as she smiles innocently at the camera.  I’ve given the photographer a heads up telling him, “my mom will think you’re an old friend, and she’ll be so happy to see you that she’ll probably hug you.”  The photographer said that’s okay, his grandfather had Alzheimer’s and he’s very familiar with “going with the flow.”  This disease touches us all.

This will be my first visit to see my parents in years when I haven’t had a major to-do list.  I am so looking forward to just chilling and spending quality time with my family.  Plus I have a date with Lake Harriet I need to attend to, (see Bucket List).  There’s nothing like Minneapolis in July!


Prevent Alzheimer’s + Free Bonus Gift!

I’ve often thought that when I’m “Racing Alzheimer’s,” I’m getting an added bonus of (hopefully) preventing other diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even obesity.  I mean, my brain is the ultimate target of my efforts, but since my head IS attached to my body, well, my body benefits too.

That’s why I love this article titled “Having It All” by David Katz, MD.  In it he says, “No organ is an island; every organ is a piece of the organism, a part of the body. The health of each depends on the health of all.”  Dr. Katz also goes on to say there’s not ONE thing any of us can do to keep this beautiful organism healthy.  Rather, it’s a concerted effort of many things — clean and healthy eating, exercise, mental stimulation as well as mental calm like meditation.   Also, getting enough sleep.  And having social connections and loving relationships.  And not smoking.  And . . . you know the drill.

What disease runs in your family that you would like to prevent?  Focus on that, and chances are you’ll be protecting yourself from the other guys too.