Sonic Boom

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Sonic Boom alarm clock – VERY LOUD!

When we moved to Florida and I got Mom going to the Neighborly Care Network, she wanted to wake up at 6:00 am so she’d have plenty of time for coffee and getting ready. Since she is very hard of hearing, that meant I had to set my alarm for 6:00 am in order to get up to wake her up. I am not, by nature, a morning person.

My wonderful husband went online to find an alarm clock that Mom could use and found the Sonic Alert Sonic Boom. Not only is it EXTREMELY LOUD, but it also has a vibrating paddle that is placed under the mattress for added wake-up power. The display is large and easy to read, plus most of the controls are in the back and can be locked after setting, so the only button Mom touches is the Set/Off switch on the side. It is a wonderful thing and allowed me to have extra sleeping time for several years.

Nowadays, it’s set for 6:30 am, as is my own alarm, so I hear hers after I turn mine off. I get nervous when it seems like she takes too long to turn it off. A couple of times, she’s actually managed to sleep through it for a minute or two, and I’ve gotten Steve to go check on her, because I was afraid of why it was still sounding. This morning, she was a little slow to turn it off and I realized I was holding my breath, waiting to see….

I don’t know what I’m going to do that morning the alarm keeps going.

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Time

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This is the giant digital clock my brother gave Mom several years ago. She monitors it very closely, often calling out the hour, for no reason other than she wants to help everyone keep track of what time it is. I guess. I really don’t know why she does it.

After her morning coffee, she goes back to the couch for a few minutes, sitting there until 7:00 am before getting dressed to go to the center. Sometimes she falls asleep, and I have to watch my own clock in the studio to make sure I hear her going to her room at that time.

Lately, whenever I’ve checked with her at 7:00, she’s told me, “I’ll get ready in a couple of minutes.” And she literally means two minutes, getting up from the couch at 7:02. This morning, I check on her to find her eyes closed, dozing a little bit.

“Mom.”

I touch her arm. She opens her eyes.

“Mom, it’s time to get ready.”

She looks at me and then at the clock, which reads 7:03.

“I will. I’m just waiting one more minute.”

“Why?”

“I’m just waiting until 7:04.”

 

Dementia Rescue

When Mother first talked about moving in with me, I really thought I would be getting a roommate. It quickly became obvious that this was not the case. Having lived less than a year in Kerrville, I knew few people and had few supports outside one niece and the people I knew from work. Fortunately, I came across the Yahoo group dementiarescue.

Dementia Rescue is an online message board for those who are seeking support for dealing with various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Pick’s Disease and Frontal Temporal Lobe Disease. This is a site that welcomes any and all who are seeking to educate themselves about dementia, whether it be the individual with dementia, or family members.

It currently has 834 members, and while I don’t actively monitor posts anymore, the mutual support of others who found themselves in situations similar to mine helped me keep my sanity through that first 18 months, as I adjusted to my new situation and the lethargic, apathetic person that my savvy, energetic mother had somehow morphed into.

Here is my message to the group from January 20, 2008:

     I put in a walking exercise DVD Thursday morning, in the hopes that she would do it with me – do SOMETHING besides sit on the couch staring at the television.
     She did little shuffling steps (at my insistence) for maybe 2 minutes, then said she was tired and sat down.  And when I say sit on the couch, most of the time, it’s lie down on the couch.
     This is the woman that worked 20 hours per week at the grocery store up until last March!  And up until about a year before that, she worked 35 hours per week!
     It’s like watching her slide down a hill that she doesn’t seem to realize or care that she’s on and having no way to stop her.
Nine years later and she’s still on that downhill slide, but I like to think that I at least slowed her down a little bit.

The Long Goodbye*

*Originally posted 9/26/07 here, shortly after Mom moved in with me in Kerrville.

Every morning, Mother sees me to the garage door with a quick kiss and hug. I open the garage door, get in the car, and back out into the driveway, to find Mother waiting at the end of the sidewalk beside the garage so she can wave goodbye to me. I wave back.

She then moves out of sight, going back to the front door. I back down the driveway, back into the street, and then begin driving away, as she stands in the open front doorway, waving goodbye some more. I wave some more.

Satisfied that she has seen me safely on my way, she finally closes the front door and goes back to watching television. Until I come home mid-day. Then when lunch is over, and I have to leave again to go back to work, we do it all over again.

 

 

Dietert Center

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The Dietert Center in Kerrville, Texas

Mother moved in with me in the summer of 2007. After the move, she wouldn’t drive anymore because she was afraid she might get lost. In Kerrville, Texas. It was probably a good thing that she was off the road.

This left me as her only social connection, outside of infrequent visits from my niece. Mother wanted me to come home for lunch every day, and would call my cell phone if I was more than 10 minutes later coming home that she thought I ought to be. To say I felt smothered is an understatement.

Fortunately, Kerrville has The Dietert Center. They have lots of programs for retired people, but the one that was a lifesaver for me was The Take 5 Club, which offered adult day services to provide respite for caregivers. She wasn’t having any of it. The Program Director was kind enough to visit our home in an effort to convince her to give it a try. I finally had to bully her into going the first day, promising that I would stay nearby and that she need only try it, not commit to it.

Below is the e-mail I sent to the Dementia Rescue Yahoo group (more on that in a future post) after that first visit.

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When we got there, we were the first ones, and when people began arriving, Mother was pleasant, but her body language was definitely “closed”.  I hung around in an adjoining room for about an hour, then peeked and she seemed much more at ease and the look on her face indicated she was enjoying herself.
So, I told her that I was going to run a couple of errands, and she confirmed I would be back, but did not seem alarmed at all that I was leaving.  I went on back to work, and picked her up at 2 p.m, which is when the group ended, and she seemed to have had a good time.
When the coordinator said, “See you next week!”, Mom said, “OK”, and when she got into the car, she didn’t say anything about being glad that was over and she didn’t have to go back.  I asked her about lunch, which she had enjoyed, and about the rabbit that the pet therapy guy had brought – ‘Bennie, the Bunny’ – and she talked about that, too.
I was afraid to ask about her going next week.  I think I’ll wait until the weekend to mention it again.
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Mom at the Dietert Center – 2/18/08
She attended three days a week for almost a year, before we moved to Florida that fall. Not only was it a great program and a great relief for me that she had other people to interact with, but it also made convincing her to go to the program I eventually found in Florida a little easier.
Thank you, Dietert Center!

Mom Journal

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I’ve been keeping a morning journal for years, and after filling up ones that ranged in price from $10 to $20 each, I started buying the inexpensive composition books that can be had for as little as 50¢ during Back To School sales, and making collages on the covers.

I started this one, specifically about Mom, in April 2015, so I could note any changes in behavior or physical capacity and have an accurate record  for discussing with her medical team at her check-ups.

Here’s one of the first entries:

4/4/15

Saturday evening before Easter, at dinner, Mom says, “Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Now, is that Jesus’ birthday?”

“No, Mom. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Easter is when he rose from his tomb.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

It was really quite strange for me, as I have become more agnostic/Buddhist, heathen, even, to explain a basic Christian belief to the mother who never took me to church.

 

At that time, this conversation seemed remarkable, but now, it would be just another day.

 

Laundry Day

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Actually, I don’t have a single laundry day. Any day, and sometimes, it seems like, every day, is laundry day at our house.

As Mom’s difficulties with incontinence increased (well, actually, it’s my difficulties with Mom’s incontinence – she really doesn’t seem to care one way or the other), I had to find solutions to odor control. I tried borax, vinegar, pet odor control stuff. Bleach probably would have worked, but it would also have steadily destroyed all Mom’s clothes.

What actually works is the original Lysol liquid concentrate. It does have a very disinfectant smell, which my husband doesn’t care for, but it is oh, so preferable to the alternatives. I always had to search for it on the top shelf in the laundry section, and our local grocery eventually stopped stocking it altogether. Now, I order it by the 6-bottle case from Amazon. In 2015, I ordered a case in January and again in May. In 2016, I bought cases in January, May, September, and December. Looks like I’m up to a couple of bottles per month.

Lots of laundry at our house.

Birthday Bash

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Mom turned 87 at the end of December. The day before her birthday, I ordered seven dozen mixed cupcakes from Publix, to share with the other attendees and staff at her adult day center.

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They passed them out after lunch and led everyone in a pretty rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

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Mom enjoyed the serenade, and was too quick blowing out her candle for me to catch it on film.

A good time was had by all, especially Mom, who pushed aside her lunch and skipped straight to her cupcake.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Grocery Shopping Pickle

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We like our local Publix. This is not it, but it looks a lot like it.

We do our weekly grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, usually around 4:00 or 4:30. Today, as I was finalizing this week’s menu and the shopping list, Steve asked me what time we would be leaving and I started feeling anxious and agitated. I didn’t know just what was going on, until I saw Mom had gotten dressed for the shopping trip, and we began the too-familiar script.

“Mom, did you change your Depends?” I ask.

“Yes, I did.”

“When?”

“Just a little while ago, before I got dressed.”

Mom heads for the couch to put her shoes on and Steve reminds me about the hidden socks. I lean over the back of the couch to get the socks from behind the pillow, and I smell urine.

“Mom, I think your pants might not be clean.”

“My pants are fine.”

“I smell something. It smells like pee.”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“You can’t smell anything.”

“Can you get me some clean socks?”

I get the whiteboard off the fridge. I write: Something smells bad. I think it’s your pants. You need to change them.

She reads what I’ve written and tells me that she does not want to change her pants.

Then I write: If you don’t change your pants, you will not go to the store with us.

“Fine. I’ll change my pants.”

And as she stands up, I see that the back of her pants are wet from the saturated Depends that she didn’t actually change.

“And you have to change your Depends!”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, your pants are wet because you didn’t change like you told me you did.”

“Okay, I’ll change my Depends, too.”

***

All this, every week, so she can ride to the store, push her walker from the handicapped space to the bench in the front of supermarket, sit and wait while we shop, and then push her walker (slowly, oh, so slowly) back to the car.

I’d been thinking lately that I must be getting the Sunday Night Blues, which didn’t make much sense to me because I really like my job and the company I work for. Today it dawned on me that I have my very own version. Maybe I’ll call it the Sunday Shopping Blues.

 

 

Bath Lady

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The Bath Lady comes every Saturday morning and again every Wednesday evening. Our current Bath Lady is Linda. We are very happy that Linda comes twice weekly to help Mom with her shower.

When Mom first moved in with me, in the summer of 2007, it took me awhile to realize that she wasn’t bathing. I had no idea how to even bring up this subject with my own mother. I thought she might be worried about falling in the shower, so I got a shower bench, hand-held shower head, and attached a grab bar to the side of the tub.

When I got it all fixed up, she looked at it and said, “I really prefer taking a tub bath.”

“Then why haven’t you taken a bath in the past six months, since we moved here?”

“I don’t know.”

It took me awhile longer to realize that she just wasn’t going to, maybe didn’t even remember how to, bathe on her own. When I would try to get her into the shower, she would always have some excuse as to why it wasn’t a good time. With her resistance and my reluctance, baths just weren’t happening as often as they needed to.

I finally called an agency and asked for them to send a bath aide on a weekly basis. The first few times, Mom tried to refuse, but I pointed out that since the bath lady was there, she was getting paid whether Mom took a bath or not, and that was $28 of her money being wasted. Being a child of The Great Depression, Mom could not stand to waste anything, especially money.

Mom has since come to appreciate her regular bath schedule, as have we all.