Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     I know I keep saying it, but things sure are busy around my house lately!!  Our German exchange student has been with us two and a half weeks so far and on Friday the group will be heading back to Germany.  Having four teenagers has kept me busy, but I am grateful to be able to focus some of my time on them.  Having my mom settled into her new home has allowed me the freedom to do this, although it is still bittersweet.
     I am hoping this is my last "catch up" post, so it is a bit "picture heavy" as I wanted to include all of the visiting I have done since my mom was moved onto her "memory care" floor as I wrote about here.
     The quality of visits is much better now that there is actually more room to sit and visit with my mom.  She is rarely in her room as the staff seems to make certain that the residents are engaged and in the common areas of the floor where they can participate in activities, watch TV, sit with the cats, watch the birds or fish aquarium, or socialize with each  other. 

     On one visit I found my mom sitting here and watching TV in the commons area.  She also seems to like the table of "community" blankets that are there for the residents to use at will.  I often find some of them in her room.

On another recent visit I was surprised to find the residents gathered to learn and talk about baseball.  The area was decorated in a Detroit Tigers theme and there was actually an umpire standing there with the activity director and discussing various things about baseball...  They passed around equipment, discussed different baseball terms and then the umpire demonstrated some of the signals that go along with those calls.

It is this next part of the story that I should probably leave out -- but I will not because then I wouldn't be "keeping it real" as I try to do.  I should also mention that all three of my kids happened to be with me on this visit.  We quietly stood back and listened as we did not want to distract the residents from their activity -- and then it happened.  The umpire demonstrated his signal for "YOU'RE OUT" by raising his thumb and motioning back.  He then asked if anyone knew another hand signal for "YOU'RE OUT"!!??  It was then that my dear mother raised her middle finger and waved it in the air..............  Thankfully, it appeared only me, my kids, and the umpire noticed what she was doing.  The truth is, me and the kids were doubled over laughing and trying not to laugh at the same time.  That is my mom's sense of humor.  I was not one bit surprised and yet I was still mortified!!  Another moment me and the kids will probably never forget!!
On another evening, I was near my mom's place and I decided to make a nighttime stop to see what goes on at night.  I was wondering if my mom would be in bed and thinking she would be, but I just wanted to peek in and see if and when she sleeps.  I know it was after 8 pm when I got there, and I was surprised to find a group of the residents all gathered around the TV watching the Tigers game...  They did have their pajamas on, but there they were having their own little PJ party gathered around the TV.  It was pretty cute!!

I sat with my mom for awhile and we talked about the Tigers and she seemed glad I was there.  At one point, the staff also brought her a bedtime snack -- these cute little mini Teddy Grahams.  She was a happy camper, and I felt pretty good about what goes on there at night.  My mom has always been a "night owl" and she still is.
 On another visit I think we tried to watch Days of Our Lives together,
but there was a lot of this going on.....

They always post the activities in the residents rooms, and I keep a photo of the calendar on my cell phone for reference.  They do a great job from all that I have seen.

     Occasionally, my brother Mike sends me photos like this.  He took my mom out by the lake in the back of the senior community.  That way, my mom gets to visit with her "granddog" Steve.  I will have to do the same sometime soon with her other granddog "Lucky". 

I started hanging up the cards my mom has received, as I know how much she
has liked her cards over the years and I still hope seeing them makes her 
realize people are thinking of her.

When Kristin's busy schedule allows a visit, she still has a way with her Grandma and I know Grandma appreciates seeing her smiley face!!

All my kids also love the cats -- this one is "Sugar"!

More often than not when I arrive I find my mom sitting in an activity such as the one below.  I almost feel like I am interfering in her fun, and I definitely don't want to distract the others from their activities.  Linda, the activity director, always welcomes me and asks me to join in.  I usually do grab a chair and sit with my mom.  By joining in, I have learned that many of the residents are still very good with trivia, and nursery rhymes, and song lyrics, and naming state capitals, and completing old sayings!!!  On several visits, I have been pleasantly surprised at my mom shouting out correct answers as Linda soooo kindly, lovingly, patiently and enthusiastically leads the residents and helps them make those connections that are oh so important in keeping their minds going...

On another visit, I brought a family newsletter from my mom's cousin.  At this point, I think she mostly enjoys the photos, but she does try to read a bit of it, too.  She lives vicariously through their adventures and world travels!

Recently, I arrived to find the residents again gathered around this nice man who sang and played the accordion for the residents.  He would start playing some music and then wait to see if any of the residents recognized the tune.  Very often someone does, and then they join in and sing along.  Other times, he gave clues and more often than not several of the residents would know the songs as they tend to be from the "good ol' days".  While I was there, he told me my mom liked this song...and he played a song using my mom's name  "Mary" in it just for her.  I have learned to join in and help "prompt" my mom when I arrive during these activities, after all it's the least I can do.  If I can help my mom or one resident make a connection then all is well!!

What a relief to see that my mom engaging in the activities, and I know Linda, the activities director, has personally assured me that she makes sure my mom participates in everything she can.  I no longer have images of my mom sitting alone in her apartment with nothing to do and nobody to talk to.  This is all I can hope for and gives me some peace of mind.



Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     I have to say, this is the post I've been most anxious to get to...  I would like to call it "The Day Things Got a Whole Lot Better"!!!!!!
     The morning of Thursday, July 24th I was awakened by an early morning phone call.  It was a social worker from my mom's new home.  Of course, my heart stopped for a second as she quickly introduced herself and continued to say that they were noticing that my mom was not engaging socially and that they would like my permission to move her to the third floor which is their memory care floor.  There, they have more specialized care and activities which they believe would give my mom a better quality of life.  (Insert choir of angels singing - Hallelujah!!!)
     This was what I had been hoping for!!!  When I toured this nursing community, they told me their third floor had 20 beds and was their "serenity" "memory care" floor.  On one of my tours, I did ask to see the third floor.  I remembered it was very calm, quiet, and I just instinctively knew that was where my mom should be.  However, I don't think you can "request" to be there -- it is based on evaluation and availability.  The truth is, I hoped that if I stayed quiet and let them see my mom's needs that she would eventually be moved out of that dinky little room.  I also don't think it was a coincidence that I received this call three weeks to the day that my mom moved in. 
     After I got the lump out of my throat, I said, "Yes, that would be wonderful - I think that is where she belongs."  Although mostly happy, I'd be lying if I didn't say that it still hurts my heart when a health care professional validates what I already know, which is that my mom needs a higher level of care and that she is unable to engage socially on her own.
     They said, "great, then we will probably move her this morning or this afternoon".  They said I did not need to be there.  That was also good news, as I wasn't sure I could be there right away.  However, my mom's BFF, Jane, had also planned to visit that same day.  I let her know about the last minute move and she and her husband kept their plan to visit thinking their being there might also help my mom make this transition.  I was so relieved!!! 
    As you know, it was difficult but a big relief for me to move my mom into this skilled nursing community.  This news of a move to memory care was when I really started feeling better about everything!      
     Although I don't have pictures of my mom's visit with her BFF, I did hear it went very well.  They stayed with my mom for several hours and joined in on the activities and watched my mom's physical therapy.  They were impressed by the attentiveness that the staff gave and how residents were not just left sitting in their rooms, but were being engaged in activities.
     I was anxious to get over to visit and was able to do so later that evening.  Apparently, I had just missed my mom's friends, but I can tell you this was my best visit thus far!!!
     Her room was much larger and in a nice corner location with a window overlooking the main entrance. 

The picture below is taken standing in my mom's doorway.  A fish tank to the left and a tv/sitting area to the right just outside her door.

This (below) is my mom's roommate's area.  Her roommate's name is Joy.  She is extremely quiet and I don't think she sees well or speaks very much.  She looks like a nice lady, and I hope that one of these days I will learn more about her. 

Below is my mom's side of the room.  A nice bright window, a chair for us to visit and a much bigger space. 

Her tv area is similar to the other, although this room came with it's own flat
screen television (bonus!)

This is the view looking down the hall from my mom's doorway.  The television is right next to the plant.

One funny side note that I had totally forgotten about...  There are two cats that live on this floor.  The first day I was there they jumped on my mom's bed.  I had to laugh to myself because I am allergic to cats and have no idea whether my mom is as we have never owned cats.  The cat below is "exactly" like one of the cats my husband owned when I met him.  I loved that cat!  My allergies seem to only come into play if I pet them excessively or if they sleep on my blankets or bedding.  Thankfully, they have had no affect on me or my mom, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if a resident was allergic.  I can tell you it would have to be pretty serious before I would prevent my mom from living on this floor!! 

One of my next visits she had "wings" on her wheelchair -- I think they had some kind of wheelchair beautification day!?  Doesn't she even seem happier!?

Here a physical therapist is getting ready to work with her.  She used her walker and walked me to the elevator.  She did pretty good, but still needs the wheelchair.

I got my husband to make a visit with me.  I'm kind of glad he was with me because when I walked in my mom's room she was holding this "baby" and I swear from a distance and the way she was holding "her" it looked real.  Immediately I was kind of concerned because she was sitting near her roommate's bed and I thought it was probably her roommate's doll.  I thought perhaps my mom had gone through her things.  However, when a staff member came by and I asked about it she said that it was a community baby doll and that she was the one who had put my mom near her roommates bed because my mom wanted to put the baby to bed there.   (I guess "Muffin" might have some competition now with this baby!)

I am slowly adding some photos and trying to make this room look more like my mom's own.

Below is the beginning of my plan for the wall --but I haven't had a chance to
finish my wall d├ęcor yet!!

We watched the Tiger game as my mom tried to keep the pacifier in the baby's mouth... 

I love the light coming through my mom's window as the last room was often dark because there was only one shared window as her roommate was usually sleeping.

Never hurts to have a few angels around either. Things are looking up!!!!



Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
    Phew!!  Reliving all of that has been a lot (probably for you, too!) -- that's why I took a little time away to regroup a bit.  Moving my mom July 3rd and then leaving for the holiday weekend was a lot!!  Over the weekend, of course I was worried if my mom was sleeping or asking lots of questions about where she was.  Obviously, I was grateful that we were somehow able to move her in without upsetting her, but I still couldn't help but wonder if our good luck would continue.  I was relieved to know that regardless of how she was, there would be plenty of staff around to help her.
     As soon as the weekend was over, Kristin and I went over to see how Grandma was doing.  This is how we found her...sitting in her room in the wheelchair watching some tv.  I was relieved and remember thinking that she looked fairly well rested.  My only fear in anticipation of this "first visit" was whether she would ask me to "go home" or something like that.   

She Makes It Look Like No Big Deal...
     Kristin went across the hall and watched the birds with Grandma while I did some snooping and met some of the staff.  They needed me to inventory all of my mom's possessions and make sure all of her clothing was labeled with her full name.  Although I had hastily done some of this before the last minute move, I still had more to do. Even though there wasn't much, it was a bit tedious and I wished I had some iron on clothing labels. 

Grandma, Kristin and the Birds
      While in my mom's room, I noticed this note with my mom's things.  Obviously, my mom had asked where she was and one of the nurse's had taken the time to write her name and the name of my mom's new home.  This made my heart sink for a moment, but I was glad someone had taken the time to try to help my mom understand.  The change in her surroundings is significant enough that it would be more alarming if she did not ever question it.
A Nice Nurse Took the Time to Explain
     My sister-in-law and her mom also stopped by with Matt, my mom's grandson.  I know how important it is for my mom to see familiar faces while going through this transition, so I was very grateful they took the time to visit.
Always Nice to Know She Had Some Company!
     I still was a bit bothered by how very small my mom's room was, but I was encouraged that there seemed to be more attention from the staff and that everyone knew who "Muffin" was already!
I May Never Get Used to this Small Room
      I also kept thinking about my mom's chair and how she would do without it.  My mom's roommate was sleeping in her bed in the middle of the day.  I still had not actually seen her.

     Before we left, we wanted to make sure my mom would be occupied and when we checked the calendar we learned they were going to be giving hand massages.  We asked my mom if she wanted to go and she seemed uncertain as to what it was and whether or not she did.  Kristin and I assured her she would like it.  She said, "I would!?" and before long she was being pampered with lotion and a nice hand massage.  She liked it -- so we left while she was being treated like a queen!!!  What a relief!!!
Queen Mary was in Good "Hands"!!