Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Another care conference

I had a quarterly care conference with staff members at the Alz center last week. Mom lost 13 pounds over the last three months. Isn’t that amazing? She walks so much, but she apparently is also eating only between 50 percent and 75 percent of her meals. I guess her restlessness makes it difficult for her to concentrate on sitting still for meals. But she enjoys 100 percent of her snacks, which I think is funny. She can be mobile and enjoy a snack, which is often also sweet – a cookie, a jelly sandwich, sometimes a peanut butter sandwich. On Fridays, when ice cream is served after lunch, pretty much 100 percent of the residents enjoy the snack for the day, Mom among them.

Mom also occasionally participates in activities. She recently even sat in on a crafting session, which took the activities director by surprise, because Mom hasn’t done that much lately. Part of Mom’s problem is she doesn’t necessarily know how to perform the task at hand – painting, or coloring, or assembling puzzle pieces, or whatever it might be. And she doesn’t take well to being given instructions, either. She is well-known for that character trait.

She still spends a lot of time with Mr. R. Interestingly, though, he is making rounds to other women – something that I thought had stopped. I certainly don’t mind this, and apparently Mom doesn’t mind, either. They find each other and hang out a lot, but they also spend time apart. One staffer told me Mom will sometimes hold hands with a female companion, as well. She likes companionship of all kinds, and I am glad she is able to find that wherever and whenever she needs it. It’s really so sweet to think about residents just enjoying the comfort of holding another’s hand and resting on a couch, or taking a little stroll.

Mom apparently is having trouble finding her words – not new, but apparently she shows some frustration about it. If something is troubling her, she might describe a problem using words and phrases that are very hard to decipher. But if someone on the staff responds with kind attention and offers some comfort, Mom responds well to that, too. I was glad to hear that. For the most part, she is super pleasant. “She’s a joy,” the nurse said.

The nurse also went through the list of Mom’s medications and I learned for the first time that she is taking a blood pressure medication. I had never heard this. Typically, in care conferences, we discuss meds related to the disease and mood. But the nurse was going through every detail on this day, she said, just because. She looked through Mom’s chart and it appeared that Mom’s previous facility started her on this drug without telling me, probably when her behavior was really disruptive for those two weeks between assisted living and the move to the Alz center. I said I didn’t really see the need for her to be on that – I had never heard that her blood pressure is high. So they are looking into it. By now, I would imagine her BP is normal, considering how completely content Mom is. Call me crazy, or mean or, I don’t know, LOGICAL, but I don’t see any point to controlling the blood pressure of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

I visited Mom after the care conference, and found her with Mr. R in the program area. She had her leg hoisted on the arm of his chair, which cracked me up.

A relaxed Bonnie. She also had her sleeve pushed up because her skin was itchy.

I visited briefly with her. She said a few interesting things, including: “Where are the three little girls?” Could that possibly be a reference to her three children? And, “I was waiting for Emily. She was sweeping the floor.” I later looked behind me to find a housekeeper mopping a floor in a distant room. This reinforces my theory that at least sometimes, the things Mom says are observations of the world around her. The best thing she said, though, was upon my departure. I said, “I should leave now; I have to get back to work.” And she said, “Did you brush your teeth?” For someone who misses having a mom, that was a delicious little reminder of days gone by.

Wedding anniversary

On this day 16 years ago, Patrick and I got married. Back then, we lived in Athens, about 70 miles away from Columbus, where Mom lived. We visited Columbus often, and slept at her apartment if we stayed overnight. My dad and his family were in Columbus, too. Two years after our wedding, we moved to Columbus and we have happily lived here ever since. My sister was in New York at that time, and my brother was in Seattle. Several years ago, they switched coasts, with Jeff in New York City now and Laura in the San Francisco area. So for a long time, I was the only kid of Mom’s around, and we were close. Here she is with Patrick and me after our ceremony.

Mom with Patrick and me on our wedding day, March 25, 1995. We got married at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio.

Our wedding was pretty informal. Our complete families surrounded us and made up our wedding party, essentially. Jeff sang. Laura read a poem. Patrick’s oldest brother spoke and did a reading. His middle brother gave a toast. Our mothers were our ring bearers. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day – a lucky thing in Ohio at this time of year.

I have a funny memory of wedding preparation that involved Mom. Even though we kept much of the planning pretty simple, we ended up inviting a lot of people. At one point, while we were talking on the phone, Mom said she’d like to help me with the wedding planning. I told her what I really needed help with was addressing invitations. If she came to Athens, we could do it together and get that job done. “Well, I’m not going to drive down there to do that,” she said. At the time, I was mad. But it lives on as sort of a classic Bonnie thing. I know she loved me and her offer to help was genuine. But she was not an energetic person. So I was asking too much. I admit that I have similar tendencies – sometimes, something fairly simple will appear to me to be a daunting task. This episode remains a standing joke between Patrick and me: “Do you need help with that?” “Yes, if you could hold this flashlight for a few minutes, I could get this done more quickly.” “Well, I’m not going to do THAT.” It’s all in fun. We both miss Mom.

No more blogging about support group

I hurt a person I blogged about in my previous entry, by blogging about something she said at support group. She regrets it. I regret writing about it. She meant no harm. I should have known that blogging about it might cause harm. I also should have known I was not under attack, so why did I use this forum to give her a hard time? We are at support group for each other. We all are hurting in one way or another, or we wouldn’t be there.

This blog is supposed to be about a lot of things: an outlet for me, an homage to Mom, possibly helpful to others who might learn a thing or two about expecting the unexpected. It is not about being a bitch to other caregivers (or at least from here on out, that is my declaration).

I do allow myself to complain about the financial difficulties that I occasionally still encounter and I certainly felt free to complain about the administration of Mom’s previous facility when she was kicked out.

I also strive to maintain others’ privacy. But I failed on that point, too. I think I felt safe about writing about that particular support group session because there were only three family members there, and the rest of the attendees were nursing students. Well, I am busted instead. So support group is off limits, unless I want to blog about what I say at support group. Feel free to call me out if I break this new rule of mine.

And to my fellow caregiving daughter: I am sorry.

Part of the entertainment

I went to visit Mom shortly before lunch today. It’s been a little more than two weeks since I last visited (sounds like confession, right?) – the bad visit with Laura, when Mr. R was so grumpy. It’s funny, at support group the other night, I talked about how much I resent this turn of events with Mr. R. I don’t want to change it. I know it’s good for Mom to have a companion. She is happy most of the time. She is not lonely. But I am on borrowed time with her, so I do harbor this resentment about the relationship interfering with the time I get to spend with her. At least sometimes. At least for now. And when I mentioned during the support group meeting that I hadn’t been to visit Mom for about two weeks, a woman asked me if I was punishing Mom. Um, no. I was sort of surprised by this question. I hadn’t given any indication that I resent MOM. I resent the situation and sometimes I resent Mr. R. I get along fine with this woman, whose mother also lives at the Alz center. But I give off an odd vibe, I think. I can feel very sad about Mom. Sometimes I cry when I think about this long process of losing her. But I don’t cry at support group. Or not much. What can make me cry is hearing of others’ serious pain in the early stages of dealing with the disease, or upon a loved one’s death. But when I talk about Mom, I sometimes laugh because her behavior can be funny, or I indicate I’m angry or frustrated or whatever. Not with her, ever. Sometimes with myself. So maybe I’m not a particularly sympathetic character there. I don’t know.

But anyhow, I had a good visit today. In the program area, residents were sitting in a circle for a bowling activity. Mr. R was standing behind Mom’s chair. I went over and waved hello to him and then put my face in Mom’s line of vision and said hello. She put her hand out and we sort of shook hands and she said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Very true. I don’t know if she was responding to someone she considered familiar or just someone who was clearly directing friendliness to her. I took a seat behind her and offered Mr. R a chair, but he continued to stand. I talked into Mom’s ear a little bit, asking how she is doing. She would nod agreeably but not exactly answer. I rested my hand on her shoulder or scratched her back a little bit. We watched a few residents bowl. And then Meg, the activities director, asked Mom if she wanted to bowl. Mom said to her, “I’ve seen you before.” Meg took Mom’s hand and stood her up. She gave Mom the plastic bowling ball and encouraged Mom to throw it toward the plastic pins. A volunteer who took care of the pins was clapping her hands and trying to attract Mom’s attention: “Over here, Bonnie.” Mom started walking off to one side. Meg gently pulled her toward the middle of the circle so she could line up a bowling shot, but Mom resisted. I could see she was mad because she was being told what to do, albeit very gently, and for fun – to this day, though, Mom does not like that, and she expresses her disdain for anyone giving her instructions. Meg told me Mom said, “You can leave me alone now.” And then she plopped her butt into an empty chair across the room from where I was sitting. Another resident stood up to bowl.

I went to Mom’s new chair and scratched her back a little more. She thanked me. I just wanted to keep giving her some positive attention. The bowling activity was running out of steam, so Meg and another activities staff member, Vertie (sp?), decided to do some line dancing in the middle of the circle, with hopes that they would attract additional dancers from the resident crowd. They recruited me for this effort. So there we were, all by ourselves, doing the Electric Slide, the Cupid Shuffle (which I just had to Google, though I had heard the song before in a kickboxing class), and the Cha Cha Slide. During one song I went up to Mom and asked her to dance with me. She stood up right next to her chair and we held hands and just danced in place to the sounds of the Cupid Shuffle for a little while, until she decided to sit down. Meg and Vertie got Mr. R to dance with them a little bit. But that was it. Mostly, it was just the three of us. Who knew when I walked into the center today that I’d be entertaining the residents with a short dance performance.

When it was over, I told Mom I had to go back to work. “Oh, OK,” she said. Staff members were rounding up the residents for lunch, and I didn’t want to be a distraction. I hugged Mom as she continued to sit in her chair. “We’ll see you sometime,” she said. I said, “In a few days.” Mr. R seemed interested in a little embrace, too, so I took his hand and wrapped one arm around his shoulder to give him a small hug goodbye. When he is in a good mood, he is harmless like this. So I am less wrapped up in my resentment of him. Which makes me glad I visited today.

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