Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Well, I'm going to try to play catch up in this one post...so here we go. 
     First, I kind of have to mention that I was sick for a few weeks.  Yes, weeks!  It was not fun at all!  The quick version is I started feeling sick New Year's Eve (and it wasn't from "celebrating" too much).  The first week was terrible.  I was "coughing up a lung".  It was also a holiday and a holiday weekend...and we had new health insurance effective the first of the year, but my husband did not have the ID cards yet so even if I wanted to go to urgent care wasn't sure how that would work... 
     Week two I felt better, but it was not really going away.  Went to the doctor.  They thought I had pneumonia and gave me the antibiotics, etc. pending the radiologist's reading of the x-ray.  Turns out, no pneumonia.  Kind of a bummer because by then I kinda just wanted the antibiotics. 
     Didn't leave the house for a good ten days.  Only started feeling completely better last week.  Worse yet, I can't even count it as "the flu" as the doctor said it was just a bad virus.  I had not seen my mom since Christmas Day and certainly was not going to go over there sick as I was.  In fact, I went to the doctor the day before my mom's birthday in hopes of getting the "all clear" that I was ok, or getting antibiotics.  Well, I didn't get the "all clear" or the antibiotics.
     Not only did I have cabin fever, but I realized I couldn't even see my mom on her birthday.  The thought of her not even knowing for one minute that it was her birthday left me feeling a bit sad.  Also, my brother was working that day with plans to visit the next day.  I know...some would say it's ok because she doesn't realize it (but I do!!).
     In the end, my husband kindly offered to visit my mom on my behalf.  Unfortunately, it was a Friday and he and the kids were not able to get there until about 8 pm.  My mom was just getting settled into bed.  I told them to bring a birthday balloon and a smoothie -- which they did.  I was thankful for technology -- Jacob "Face Timed" me with his phone from my mom's room and I was able to see her and wish her a Happy Birthday.  I felt better!
     They even took a couple pictures for me.  It was cute to see her with the cupcake balloon all comfortable in bed.  To be honest, it also was not the "birthday picture" I was hoping for.  Here is my mom on her birthday two years ago -- we went to Olive Garden which you can read about here.  The "comparison" pictures of the last few Christmases or birthdays bring mixed emotions as the changes are evident.

     When I finally got over to see my mom it had been a good 2 1/2 weeks since I had been there.  She had just finished up a lunch she must have loved because her plate was clean!  I was told it was some kind of seafood fettuccine -- so no doubt she probably loved it!!  She had a new friend -- this little bulldog who seems to have different names.  I believe she called him "cutie pie" when I was there.  It appears my mom is getting comfortable without having "Muffin" with her 24/7.  I am taking this as a good sign that she also feels perhaps more "secure" with where and how she is living, but not quite sure.
     I helped her go through a few cards I found in her room that she had received for her birthday -- her 71st Birthday!!!  After all we have been through, I do not take her birthdays for granted.  That is probably why it bothered me to miss this one. 
     A few days later, I finally got out for lunch with a girlfriend.  We were not far from my mom's senior community, so I decided to take a chance and do a quick check on her.  It's funny, because although I try not to worry...but I still sometimes do.  Next time I'm worried, I am going to try to remember that this is how I found her on my most recent visit...  Having more fun than many of us!!

Mom...the Party Animal
      I was especially surprised by the little "shot" cup in her hand.  Mexican hat, music, little white cup....  I quickly then realized not everyone had a "shot" -- only my mom who had managed to get a quick "shot" of the flavored coffee cream that was on the table in the dining room.  If it's on the table, she's probably going to take it!!
     I believe it was "National Hat Day" and they were having a good time and even had cake!!!  I watched my mom eat every...single...bite...of a huge piece of cake that I thought for sure was going to end up on her shirt about ten times, yet somehow never did!!! 
     I had the chance to talk to the activities director and found out she had been very sick recently as well.  She also told me that when she talked to the residents on my mom's birthday she always tells them the date and on that day my mom said, "that's my birthday".   So, she did know afterall... 
    Sadly, I also learned of a couple of residents who have recently passed away.  Never easy to hear news like that.
    So, as I was talking to my mom and scanning the room looking at the other residents...  My eyes fell upon this guy -- and I did a double take...  Does anyone know why I did a double take????
Not..."the Don"
     Well, I think this guy has a striking resemblance to "the Don"...my mom's old friend from her assisted living community (take a look for yourself here).  I zoomed in and took a picture to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I realized it was not actually him, but for a quick moment wasn't so sure.
     In other more business type news, I have had two "care conferences" in the last two months.  One in the middle of December and one in the middle of this month.  This is where the nutritionist, social worker, activities director, and nursing staff give an update on my mom.  It is a short 15 minute meeting that I now have learned is automatically schedule "quarterly".  Although I am happy with the overall care my mom has received, there are still many loopholes in "the system" and I just have to continue to do my best to oversee things. 
     The nurses and staff also told me that recently my mom had been leaning down from her wheelchair trying to pick things up off the floor.  They wanted to put her in a little bit bigger wheelchair for comfort and to tilt the seat back a notch to hopefully deter her from getting hurt.  I agreed to it and I actually take her getting into "mischief" as a sign she is doing pretty good.  You may recall, that wheelchair she had was really only meant as a "transport" type wheelchair as a temporary aid to keep my mom from falling.  Now that she relies on it all the time, a more comfortable chair seems like a good idea.
     Thankfully, my mom seems to have been in a good place these last several weeks.  I continue to hear from staff how they love my mom's sense of humor and they usually have some funny stories to share.
     You may recall that when I was in the process of trying to move my mom into this nursing community I ran into a family friend who is the RN for the assisted living part of the community.  I recently got a text that she was taking some time to visit with my mom and she sent this picture.  It warms my heart to see this and I truly appreciate all she has done to help my mom.  She has known my mom for a long time and has shared in some good times with our family.

Tanya Making a Visit
     My brother and my niece also visited this past weekend and sent me the picture below. 
As for me, I will be making another visit very soon -- and using lots of the hand sanitizer they provide in her community. 
If you have your health -- you have everything!!!!
Nicole, Mom and Mike




Monday Memories WIth My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     I can't let the year go by without me and my mom wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!!  I know my mom would appreciate the support you have given me these last few years!!!

Merry Christmas from Mary's Christmas!!
     Truth be told, Christmas was nice and Christmas was difficult... I made some changes in an effort to take some of the pressure off of myself.  For one, I didn't send out cards for the first time -- probably ever.  The sad part is, I actually love sending cards!!!  However, I don't love trying to get three teenagers together for a picture, editing the pic, downloading, putting together and picking up the cards.  Also, although I love writing out cards and envelopes, it is time consuming ,and I can't bring myself to do computer address labels...trying to stay old school with some things!!  I also did not send out cards on my mom's behalf.  I've sent a picture card the last 4-5 years for her because my mom (and I) are "card people" or "Hallmark girls" from back in the day.  Gradually, I have stopped sending her friends cards and now have finally decided to not send Christmas cards.  Maybe I should be "relieved", but instead it just makes me sad -- with a dash of guilt mixed in!!  Ugh! 
     These days, I don't get my mom much in the way of Christmas presents.  That I do not feel guilty about as I know the best gift I can give is the time and efforts I give to keep her safe and healthy.  In that area, I am comfortable saying I do my best and give a lot.  However, I did see this canvas recently while shopping, and I just had to get it for my mom's room.  If there is one short but sweet message I could leave with her on a daily basis -- even when I am not there -- it would be for her to know that she is loved.  Really, it's all any of us wants and the simplest message I could convey...
You are loved....
     It also warms my heart to see a few touches of Christmas from school aged children -- cards and things.  There was also this sweet little Christmas pine cone on her nightstand.  Not sure if she made it or if it was given to her. 
     In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I received a few calls from friends of my moms.  Mostly former co-workers whom I never met.  It has come to my attention that many of the cards addressed to my mom's new nursing community get returned to the sender.  Apparently, there is some large glitch with the senior community address and the post office that causes the cards to be returned without ever reaching the community.  It seems to be hit or miss as she does receive some mail.  Of course, this causes concern for the people sending the cards and then they call me to see if my mom is ok.  How frustrating!  I am going to add that to my list of things to do -- speak with the post office.  (I will give them a break and wait until the holidays are over -- wink, wink!!)
     I'm sure I've mentioned this in previous years, but Christmas Eve has always been the "big day" for my mom's side of the family since I was a baby.  We used to celebrate at my grandparents house, then eventually my mom (a/k/a me) and uncles took it over on a rotating basis.  This was my sixth or seventh time hosting...  To say it is odd hosting a party for your mom's side of the family when your mom is nearby and yet can't safely be there is an understatement.  It hurts.  My mom loved our Christmas Eves and for many years loved to play "Santa", complete with Santa hat.  My brother and I would roll our eyes, and I believe one time we even tried to hide her hat.  There was no stopping her!!  She served as a liaison and organized a fairly complicated color coded system of gift giving so that we would all be included.  In my younger days, Santa came to the streets of Detroit and showed up at my grandparents with a bundle of gifts for all of us kids.  We would stare out the window waiting and waiting...  Lots of memories and good times.  My brother and I probably remember it most as we are the oldest of the grandkids.
     So, if I'm being honest, this Christmas Eve was particularly bittersweet...  Trying to do my part to keep the family and our traditions together.  A role my mom used to be a big part of that sometimes seem to have fallen on me.  There are people missing from this picture including my grandparents and, most importantly, my mom. 
     Yet, despite the circumstances of who goes where and when and why, I can assure you my mom would choose to be there no matter what.  She would have embraced our "Ugly Sweater" theme this year and would have definitely been a contender for the "Grand Prize".  So it is with her spirit and mine that we do our best to carry on the tradition and hopefully spread some joy along the way!!!  There is no stopping the fun and lots of laughs!!!!
Christmas Eve - Tradition Style!!
      Then, on Christmas Day my brother made a visit to my mom's complete with an icee drink and our family's traditional German springerle cookies -- made by my brother!!!!  Talk about Christmas miracles!!!  My brother got my grandma's recipe and rolling pin from me and made a big batch of the cookies -- and they were very good!!  I am impressed!!!
      A bit later on Christmas Day my husband, kids and I all headed over to visit with my mom.  We brought one small gift and took her to the cafĂ© area of the building for a change of scenery.  We found a nice quiet table by the window, talked with grandma and gave her the gift.  On this day, she was not able to come up with any of our names, except mine. 
     It was a challenge to get my mom to open her gift.  I think she was a bit overwhelmed with all of us visiting at the same time.  However, after lots of coaxing and help, my mom finally was able to open her gift .
     In the end, I think she was glad she prevailed.  A box of Sanders (made in Detroit) caramel chocolates awaited.  She enjoyed all three of the chocolates she had during our visit.  A reminder that it's the little things. 
     I continue to learn and be reminded that Christmas is about His love.  We show our love for Him by selflessly and peacefully continuing to spread His joy!!!
May Peace and Joy Be With You,
Joy Can Be Spread in Many Ways...Big and Small





Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease  

     Well, after feeling a bit uneasy on my last post, I went for a visit with my mom a few days ago.  Soon after I arrived, I realized my timing was good!!  The elevator ride up to my mom's floor had a posting of the activities calendar, and I noticed a sign declaring it National Cookie Day!! 

Looks Like I Came on the Right Day!

      I was greeted by my mom and one of the CNAs, Colleen.  The staff was busy keeping the residents out of the way of some heating and cooling workers who were doing some updates throughout the building.  Colleen told me "the old Mary is back" and that she is her old "sassy" self (my mom gave her a look when she said that) and eating and feeding herself.  That was good to hear.  I was glad to see my mom was awake!  We talked a bit, watched some TV, and looked at the Christmas decorations.  When I asked my mom if she still likes living there, she said yes but I was surprised that she seemed to indicate that it was hard for her to make friends there.  At least, that is what I gathered from our conversation.  I can definitely see where it would be hard to make a connection with someone on a memory care floor such as the one where my mom lives.  Now that my mom has lived there for five months, I will try to see what I can do to help her make some connections.  I will also talk to the staff for some insight.  The good thing is, there are always people around.  At her assisted living community, she spent a lot of time alone in her apartment, especially the last several months.
Hanging Out Watching TV
     I also asked my mom what she wants for Christmas.  She said "no more wars".  Then, I asked her if she could think of anything she wanted for herself.  She said a "pinkie ring" and pointed to her finger.  I feel bad because I've noticed that my mom no longer has any of her jewelry on.  We were down to the silicone bracelets and a watch, but I've noticed the staff stopped putting them on.  I am sure with her daily showers, it is difficult to keep up with the jewelry off and on so I'm willing to let it go.  I do think she misses "fussing" with the jewelry more than anything.  If you're used to wearing jewelry and then suddenly don't, you feel like something is missing.  There have been so many changes these last few years. Things have become so simplified.  So few personal belongings with her.  Too many changes to list.  Big things and little things...so many things have changed.
     A bit later, it was time to go the second floor for Happy Hour and the National Cookie Day Celebration.  I don't think I have been to a Happy Hour since the day my mom moved in on July 3rd.  I love that they have a Happy Hour every Thursday.  Only five residents from my mom's floor were escorted down to the second floor for Happy Hour.  I am glad my mom is in the group that still seems to enjoy the social activities.  I talked to Tim, a resident who I learned is there for rehab.  I believe he had a recent pacemaker and defibrillator surgery.  He is a talker and very interesting.  He gives me some insights into the residents and seems mentally aware.  For the record, my mom called Tim a "cookie monster". 
     There was Christmas entertainment, a singer/musician and cookies!!  I don't think my mom has ever met a cookie she didn't like.  The hard part is for her to pick one.  (She wants them all!)  I had to leave soon after the fun began.  It is always nice to leave knowing my mom is being looked after and entertained.
Patiently Waiting for the Entertainment
Things are Looking Up!! 

The Gang

     Behind the scenes, I had telephoned my mom's on-site social worker who confirmed with me that my mom did see a dentist and podiatrist in November (after I had inquired about it at our "care meeting").  Apparently, a dentist visit will be made once/year and podiatrist once/three months.  This is what I was told is covered by insurance.  It used to be more than that, but I don't know if things change because my mom is now in skilled nursing.  I will add that to my list of things to look into.
      I also have a list of items to discuss with my mom's doctor.  Over these last few months, I have learned that I no longer have an Area Agency on Aging care manager.  They used to check in with me on my mom's behalf at least once/month to see how my mom was doing and report any needs or changes.  Everyone is helpful, but they definitely don't spell things out for you when you first move in.  It appears that many of my old responsibilities are now handled by the nursing community staff.  However, I still need to remain vigilant and proactive in overseeing things.  I am still learning my way around the staff and how things work, who handles what, and who is best for my mom, etc...  That last hospital visit was kind of a reminder that I have to be careful not to get too complacent.



It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...