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!