Operation Reconnect

When I was finally able to have limited, PPE-clad visits with Mom, after so many months apart, she didn’t seem to really realize that it was me. I think she understood the words, and knew, in a kind of abstract dementia way, that it was me and that I was her daughter. But I think she had forgotten the feel of me and could not muster an emotional reaction or connection.

She essentially dozed through my first three visits, and since she didn’t seem to be getting anything out of it, and I was just getting depressed, I told the director I was going to take a break from visiting until Mom’s birthday, which was about a month away.

In the lead up to the birthday party, it occurred to me that after all the time we couldn’t visit, I needed to figure out some way for us to bond again, to build up some positive new memories for Mom related to interacting with me. And so was born Operation Reconnect.

Mom has a healthy appetite and is pretty snack-oriented, so an easy way to make our visit memorable was to bring food! I put together a bag with all the stuff I thought might contribute to a pleasant visit: pudding and spoons, cranapple drink and a cup, a damp washcloth in a bag for after snacks, nice flower-scented hand lotion, tissues, paper towels, and a plastic bag for trash. After I took this picture, I added fruit-flavored lip balm, and a soft-bristle hairbrush. I was ready to go!

When I arrived, the staff person told me that Mom had been happy to hear I would be visiting. When they brought Mom into the visitation room, she was alert and happy to see me, when she realized who I was. Yay!

She can’t really see very well, but she still enjoys flipping through a magazine. And the pudding was a great hit, too. I put lotion on her hands and brushed her hair just for the doing of it. She asked when I would be visiting again, and I told her I would be back in a few days, I just wasn’t sure which day. She said, “Well, I’ll be here!”

All in all, a successful visit that made both of us happy.

Long Overdue Updates

My last post here was just over three years ago. Wow.

November and December of 2017 were very difficult. So much so that, even with my niece staying with us and helping, Mom’s needs increased to the point that we made the decision to move her to a memory care facility in January of 2018. I guess those 2-3 months were so very hard that I was too traumatized to revisit it, even to write about it. But today, she turned 91, and I feel like I need to start sharing our story again.

Her 88th birthday was celebrated at the Day Center at Suncoast PACE program. Her 89th birthday was at her cottage at the memory care facility. Her 90th birthday was at the same facility, and her dishevelment in that photo was indicative of the decline in care that spurred us to move her to a different facility a few weeks later, at the beginning of March. March of 2020, that is. Three days before all the care facilities were locked down due to COVID. We moved her on a Tuesday, and that Friday was the last time I was able to visit with her until last month.

I won’t name the old place, but her current home is at Angels Senior Living of Dunedin, and they are wonderful. It is only three miles from our home, so I am able to check on her regularly. Since she can’t see faces (no central vision) and she’s VERY hard of hearing, all those Zoom and through-the-window visits that many were able to make work, just didn’t work for us. I am so grateful that a few weeks ago I was able to sign up and be trained as one of their compassionate caregivers and can finally visit with Mom, again–at least on a limited basis.

And that’s how I was able to be there for cupcakes and party hats this afternoon. Yay! Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

Morning Meds and Breakfast Cookies

Cookies & Meds 2017-10-20 07.10.42

This past Monday morning, as I’m getting our cups of coffee, I hear the “click” of a pill hitting the floor. Did I miss seeing her drop one in her lap? I turn to find the dog nosing a yellow aspirin tablet and quickly move to pick it up. It’s damp. I guess the dog didn’t want it after all.

I put it on the table and start to get a replacement, but Mom waves me away.

“I don’t want that. It’s hard.”

The light bulb comes on. It’s not wet from the dog; it’s wet because she took it out of her mouth and threw it on the floor.

She had gotten up early, before our alarms, and had already been eating her breakfast cookie by the time I got her meds ready. She didn’t bother to finish chewing her cookie before taking her meds, I didn’t think about it, and the aspirin got cheeked with cookie bits, then mistaken for something hard in the cookie.


This morning, she’s up before our alarms again, and already tucking into her breakfast cookie. I move it out of her reach and tell her to finish what’s in her mouth before I put her meds down on the napkin.

“Okay, I’m finished.”

“You’re still chewing.”

She fishes a bothersome raisin out of her mouth and puts it on one of the four paper napkins spread out in front of her across the tablecloth. That’s one less for this morning’s paper napkin on the end table, I guess.

I lay her meds out on the cloth napkin. She takes all of them. The dogs start barking and I hurry to let them in, since it’s 6:15 am and many of our neighbors are retired.

The dogs run ahead of me, back into the kitchen.

“Are you going to give me my cookie back?”

I move the paper napkin holding the broken cookie back in front of her and take the three steps back to the kitchen counter. I pull her small coffee cup and my giant mug from the cabinet. I fill hers one-third full (the other one-third will be cream), hover the coffee pot above mine, just about to pour and…

“Are you going to get me my coffee?”



Counting Pumpkins

New Halloween Tablecloth 2017-10-18 07.07.49

Our current tablecloth is an impressionistic melange of harvest colors suggesting autumn leaves. As Mother is unable to count an impressionistic melange, she has taken to repeating counting rhymes from her childhood.

This morning, during coffee, counting along the fingers of each hand:

“One, two, three, four, five – I caught a hare alive. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten – I let him go again!” And then a big smile, pleased with herself for remembering, and also just happy to be alive and enjoying her morning coffee.

It made me smile, too. I am also happy to be alive and that we can enjoy our morning coffee together.

Shortly, I’ll be putting out the new Halloween tablecloth, and she will have something new to count at dinner.


Grocery Freedom, But Not For Steve

Grocery bags 2017-10-11 07.48.28
Getting ready for grocery shopping

On Sunday, Mom was anticipating our grocery trip.

Mom (to Vickie): Today’s our grocery shopping day.

Vickie: Yes, it is.

Mom: But Kay’s not going to let me go. She says I’m too slow.

Vickie: You are, and it’s dangerous in the grocery parking lot. If you practice, you can get faster. Do you want to walk to the mailbox with me?

Mom: No, I don’t want to. You can go.


Vickie and I tell Mom ‘bye and head out, but before we can get to the car, Vickie says, “She calling for Steve.”

We go back into the house.

“Grandma, what do you need?”

“I don’t need anything.”

“Why are you calling for Steve?”

“Because I want to tell him not to go outside until y’all get back.”

“Mom, Steve can go outside if he wants to.”

“But what if the phone rings?”



Bad Medicine

DC meds 10.2.17 2017-10-12 07.56.14

Mom had her semi-annual (or is it quarterly, now?) check-up at the PACE center last week. The doctor discontinued two of her meds, lisinopril and atorvostatin, both of which were prescribed immediately after her heart attack a couple of years ago. He also changed her cetirizine from daily to PRN. It seems that the thing all three of these meds have in common is the possibility of causing drowsiness, fatigue and confusion.

For the past two years, I thought her heart attack had been the cause of her significant step-down in cognitive capacity. Given how very much she has perked up in the last 10 days, though, I realize that a lot of it was the post-heart-attack cocktail of meds that were prescribed in knee-jerk fashion, and that I was too distressed to objectively research and question.

She’s more alert, more energetic, and is walking better, with a bit better balance. And she’s got the whole household hopping! Welcome back, Mom!

Grocery Freedom

Grocery bags 2017-10-11 07.48.28
Getting ready for grocery shopping

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got up the nerve to tell Mom that she wouldn’t be going grocery shopping with us anymore.

“Mom, you’re not going to the store with us anymore.”

“You’re not taking me?”

“No, Mom. It’s too hard for me when you go.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“It doesn’t matter if you believe it, you still won’t be going.”

“Well, thanks for nothing.”

“You’re welcome.”


This past Sunday, as she was having her lunch, she asked about grocery shopping.

“Y’all are going to the grocery store this afternoon?”

“Yes, we are.”

“But you’re not going to let me go with you, are you?”

“No, we’re not.”

“You’re mean.”

“Yes, I am.”


Later, when it was time to go:

“Mom, Vickie and I are going to the grocery, now.”

“You and Vickie?! No, take Steve and leave Vickie here. When Steve is here, he won’t stay in the house. He keeps going in and out the door, into the yard.”

“Vickie is going with me, Mom. You’ll be fine.”

“Well, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”


It was the most relaxing Sunday I’ve had in the past two years.





Unstuck in Time

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Mom’s alarm clock-cum-cash register display

We live in one of the areas of Florida most gently affected by Hurricane Irma, but were still left without power for the past five days. Between Mom’s day center closing in the days leading up to the hurricane, and it remaining closed until its power came back a couple of days before ours, Mom has been bored, sitting on the couch, being waited on because we didn’t want her trying to eat in our very dark dining room. We weren’t thinking about it at the time, but her inactivity for the past week was not the best thing.

When we told her Wednesday evening that she would be going back to the center on Thursday, she was happy, but then started worrying about how she’d get up in time while we were still without power and her alarm wouldn’t work. I told her to not worry, that I would wake her up. She woke me up at 1:30 am, calling me to her room to find out the time and if it was time to get up. I was grumpy and told her to go back to sleep. She wake me again around 6 am (half-an-hour before my alarm was set to go off), not calling out for me but asking imaginary people if they were paying with cash or charge. When I got to her room, she was sitting up, moving her hand along the slats of her headboard, and told me that she couldn’t get the card reader to work.

I tried to reorient her, but never really succeeded. Somehow, in the night, the worry about getting up in time to go to the center had morphed into being worried about getting to her cashiering job on time, the job she retired from a decade ago.

Yesterday morning, for her first day back at the center, it took both me and my niece helping her to get her dressed and ready. After she was dressed, she moved to sit down on the couch and missed it completely, plopping down on the floor on her bottom. Although she didn’t fall any farther, didn’t hit her head or anything, Vickie said it seemed to jar her quite a bit. We helped her up and she seemed okay. “I didn’t hit my head, just my butt!”

I called the center to let them know that she had missed her bath the night before, due to our power still being out, and asked if they might work a bath into her schedule that day. I also mentioned her fall and her heightened confusion. The nursing staff called back later to get the details of her fall, and they mentioned that she was still talking about working at the grocery store “one town over” and were going to assess her for a possible UTI, which can cause extreme confusion in the elderly.

Last night at dinner (in the A/C, with the lights on – Hooray!), Mom was very animated and talkative, telling us all about all the people who came through the line at the grocery and her interactions with the customers and her store managers. We thought settling her down for a good night’s rest would make all the difference, but instead, over the next 3-4 hours, she would periodically call out the time on her alarm clock as the minutes changed over, thinking it was her cash register display, and talk to the customers she thought she was ringing up. She would quieten down for a few minutes, and we’d think she had fallen asleep when it would start up again.

When I got up this morning, Mom’s alarm didn’t go off. I went to check and it was unplugged–my niece’s solution since I guess Mom continued even after I went to bed. When I tried to get Mom up, she woke up just enough to tell me she was going to sleep some more and wasn’t going to get up to go anywhere, and said something about her customers. I guess she’s still unstuck in time. And so it goes.

I hope we get her back soon.



Feeling Better

Get Dressed 2017-08-15 07.05.14
Not only did I not have to wake Mom up to get dressed this morning, she actually got dressed 10 minutes earlier than usual.

After my call last week to Mom’s nurse/case manager, the doctor agreed to prescribe an antibiotic to treat Mom’s (strongly) suspected UTI without subjecting her to a quick cath procedure, which would have been no fun for all involved. Less than 24 hours later, she was less confused, more alert, more energetic and somehow able to hear a little better. She is nodding off less while sitting up watching TV, and she’s moving around more, getting herself up to go the bathroom, etc.

She got Vickie to call my brother, but got his voicemail. She got me to call again later, and had a nice conversation with him after I switched the phone over to the ear that she hears better with. (Now that I know her right ear works a little better than her left, I’ll have to watch for that when she makes a call.)

Of course, now that she is awake and alert, she is also more aware and interested in what’s going on around her. She realized that Vickie and I went to the grocery store without her. She wanted to know how much we spent at the grocery and was appalled by the total. Over the next couple of days, she asked both of us several times just what we bought at the grocery that cost so much. Vickie finally got her to understand that groceries are expensive, especially now that we’re feeding four people.

I’m glad she’s feeling better, and it is translating into less laundry for Vickie. But it also means that all her questions and requests are really keeping us hopping.


Difficult Shoe Days

Shoes 2017-08-24 07.30.40.jpg

Every morning at 7:05 am (I have my phone alarm set so I don’t forget, either), I wake Mom from dozing on the couch so she can get dressed before her ride to the ADC arrives. Also every morning, I find her saved socks from the day before, show them to her, and tell her, “GET CLEAN SOCKS!” before I put them in her hamper.

Yesterday morning, she grabbed them as I did and wrestled with me a moment over the socks. She was playing by the end of our tussle, but I’m not sure she was playing at the beginning. Just before her ride arrived, I noticed that the tongue on her left shoe was partially shoved to the side, so I took the shoe off to find her sock only partway on, with half of it hanging off the end of her foot. When I pointed it out, she tried for a second or two to right it, but then gave up and said, “I can’t get it on.”

Sometimes she forgets to bring clean socks with her from the bedroom, and asks me to get them for her. This morning,  I noticed that she had fallen asleep without putting on her shoes, usually a sign that she has forgotten her socks. Before waking her, I got a pair from her drawer, but she already had a pair–she had just fallen asleep. I woke her up to put her shoes and socks on, took the extra pair back to her room, and got back to the living room to find her trying to put a shoe on her bare foot. I took the shoe, set it to one side, and handed her the socks, saying, “PUT YOUR SOCKS ON FIRST!”

She smiled and shook her head at her own forgetfulness, and started putting her socks on. I guess I set her shoe aside to the wrong side, because when I checked back, she had her socks and shoes on, but on the wrong feet, and couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t close properly.

Increased confusion can sometimes indicate a UTI (urinary tract infection) is brewing. Guess I’ll be making a call to her doctor in a few minutes.