Reframing

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Bag o’ grocery bags, waiting by the door

Every Sunday afternoon, we go grocery shopping. Every Sunday afternoon, I dread the time leading up to grocery shopping. We usually leave around 5:00 pm, give or take a few minutes, but Mother starts asking about it shortly after lunch.

“What time are we going to the grocery store?”

“I’m not sure, Mom; around 5:00, probably.

“Well, I’ll be ready!”

“I know you will.” (said under my breath for no apparent reason, as Mom can’t hear me unless I face her and yell.)

Around 2:30, Mom gets up and heads toward her room. I realize it’s time for me to prompt her to change her Depends. I move to the door of the office, and she looks up and says, “I’m going to change my Depends.” Wow. Good job, Mom!

After her trip to the bathroom, she heads into the bedroom, gets dressed, goes back to the bathroom to put on her lipstick, and moves back to the couch to wait until it’s time to go the the store. “I’m ready to go to the store when you are!” she calls out. It is a full two hours before the time I told her we’d be leaving. Every half-hour or so, she calls out, “Are we about ready to go?” No, Mom. This half of we is not.

I finally get my weekly meal plan and grocery list pulled together, and we head out the door. I grab the bag o’ grocery bags, and open the car doors for Mom to get in and for me to put her walker in. I try to hand her her purse with one hand while I wrangle the walker with the other.

“Just put in on the floor, here.”

“JUST TAKE IT!”

I get her walker into the back, get in the car, and start the ignition.

“Did you put my walker in the back?”

I nod. I wish I could say ‘I always put your walker in the back’, but in a distracted moment, about 4 years ago, I forgot and almost drove off without it. Now she asks every time.

I don’t want to be annoyed by our shopping trip every week, but it seems I always am by the time we get going. On the short drive to Publix, I’m thinking about how the circumstances aren’t going to change, so I need to somehow change how I look at the circumstances. Mom really enjoys going to the grocery store and seeing the people there. She looks forward to it all weekend. Except for the PACE Center, it’s her only outing. Her weekly outing.

That’s it! I won’t be going grocery shopping on Sundays anymore. Instead, I will be taking Mom on her much-anticipated Weekly Outing, at which time I will also have the opportunity to buy our groceries. I’ll let y’all know how that goes….

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Refused

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Last week, when my daughter and granddaughters were visiting, Linda, The Bath Lady, arrived at her appointed time on Wednesday evening, and Mom refused her shower. Mom has never refused bathing since we started having bath ladies come in. She has attempted to refuse at times, but I’ve always been able to convince her of their importance and necessity. Not this time.

So, mustering my best negotiating skills, I had a mini-meltdown panic tantrum, yelling and threatening, and eventually turning off the TV and putting away the remote in an effort to compel her compliance. She wasn’t having it. Linda’s lower-key attempts were useless once I had set the stage for a show-down, and Linda ended up finishing out her hour by doing ad-hoc therapy with me as I catastrophized about how Mother might never shower again and how if she refuses to shower, maybe she’ll refuse to go to the day center, and if she refuses to go to the day center, how will I go to work? It wasn’t pretty.

After Linda left, my daughter suggested that perhaps Mom didn’t want to “be showered” with all the extra people in the house. I rejected that idea because I don’t think Mom has any real modesty left. My daughter stepped in for more ad-hoc therapy off and on all evening.

The next day, I called Christina, Mom’s Social Worker at the day center, and left a somewhat coherent message, as I was a little calmer by then. She called back and assured me that bath refusal was not an uncommon part of the dementia disease progression, and that if Mom refused more than a couple of times running, then the team would make a treatment plan for her to have her baths when she was at the day center. I was very relieved by this conversation.

When Mom got home that afternoon, I asked her if she promised to have her shower with Linda on schedule on Saturday. She assured me she would. I gave her back the remote. One more crisis averted.

Medications

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Our medication strategy

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When Mom first moved in with me almost 10 years ago, she didn’t have any meds. She also hadn’t been to the doctor in who knows how long. Even after I got her in and had some health concerns addressed, she only took 3-4 pills per day, and one of those was a multi-vitamin. We initially had her pill bottles on the breakfast table, but when I realized that she wasn’t taking them properly, I got a weekly med minder set up for her.

This worked pretty well until after her heart attack last year. After she came home from the hospital and rehab, she just never could get back into the rhythm of taking them herself. That’s also when her number of prescriptions increased. And she was more disoriented. After she woke up from an afternoon nap, thought it was 5 am instead of 5 pm, and took a her morning meds for the second time that day, the med minder moved from the bathroom counter to the kitchen counter so I could set them out for her each morning at breakfast and each evening at dinner.

With the increase in her number of medications, it became a little overwhelming even to me, and I had to set up a key and number the bottles to be sure I filled the weekly minder properly. I can’t even imagine how elderly people living alone keep track of all their meds on their own.

Bingo Prizes (and dogs)

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Gracie and Sophie wait for a chance to knock pillows onto the floor.

Mom loves when they play Bingo at the Senior Center, and she especially loves when she wins.

The monkey on the table to the right is a bingo prize from several years ago, one of many Beanie Babies we at one point had artfully arranged around the living and her room. Most of them are up in the top of her closet now, packed up when we moved.

Lately, she’s been winning and bringing home small hand-sewn items – pillows, lap-quilts, totebags. I try to arrange them artfully around the living room, on the couch, mostly, but the rambunctious dogs usually make sure they end up scattered, not artfully at all, across the living room floor.

My granddaughters will be visiting this week for Spring break. I’m hoping Mom will let them each choose a pillow to take home.

Daily Word

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Sometime after Mom and I moved into our duplex in Kerrville, I got up on a Sunday morning and took myself to church. Mother hadn’t been a regular church-goer since well before I was born, and wasn’t interested in going then, either. Ellen, my friend from work, and I met that Sunday morning at Unity Church of the Hill Country. I never actually joined the church and only attended a few times, but I did pick up a copy of Unity’s monthly devotional magazine, Daily WordI subscribed a short time later, and now have gift subscriptions going to my daughter, a good friend, and soon to my son and his wife. (Surprise, Josh and Sarah!)

I decided to go through my desk this weekend to try to clear out clutter, etc., and thought that my 7+ year stash of Daily Word could finally go to the library donation store. But first, I would go through and make a list of the daily affirmations that still resonated. I’m up to November 2010, and have 18 pages so far. Double-spaced, but still. Even time-travelling back to where I’ve been, almost every devotional and affirmation speaks to me.

The May 2009 issue is how this clearing-out became a blog post. Esther Koch‘s short essay, Creating Moments of Joy, talks about her gratitude in caring for her mother for the last 10 years of her mother’s life. One passage jumped out at me:

Although cognitive ability might decline with age, one’s capacity to feel does not. Even severe dementia is interspersed with moments of clarity. Knowing this, I never felt I could say “I love you” too often to Mother. My favorite response from her was “I know you do.” She always said it with full clarity and emotion.

And that’s where we are. Mom sometimes forgets the names of things or how to say exactly what she’s needing help with. And sometime we argue about socks. But she knows that I love her and that she loves me.

Mystical Fortune

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Me: Mom, why aren’t you wearing socks with your shoes?

Mom: I don’t have any socks.

Me: You have a drawer full of socks!

Mom: Can you bring me some?

***

Last night, after dinner and as Linda, the Bath Lady, arrived, I drive three blocks down our street to attend the last half-hour of Grand Opening Day at Mystical Moon, a new metaphysical store in Palm Harbor. There were lots of bright-and-shiny objects (one of which is now mine), and comfy, artsy clothing (one of which is now mine), and books and all kinds of other things.

They had a basket for entering a drawing, and a tray of little fortune scrolls. I entered the drawing, and took my fortune scroll (see above) which I read and put into my pocket. When one of the ladies asked me about it, I pulled it out, showed it to her, and told her I thought I must have gotten someone else’s, as I am the least angry person I know. They asked if I wanted to try a different one, but I declined and kept this one.

This morning, after Mom and I had the above conversation, I was pretty frustrated at our on-going back-and-forth about socks. I remembered my fortune scroll and dug it out of the bottom of my purse. Turns out folly means foolishness.  So, if we change this up a little bit:

Frustration leading to Anger begins with foolishness (say, the foolishness of getting upset about socks), and ends with regret.

Well, maybe this fortune scroll was meant for me, after all.