Life is Good (Especially on Vacation!) :)

Spring Break 2013 -- Part 1
     I will stop talking about how behind I am on blogging our "real lives" -- the part that doesn't involve taking care of my mom and my kids grandma and just get on with it!!
     As Spring/Easter Break from school was approaching, my husband ("Mr. Living") was talking more and more about renting a house down in Florida and driving down.  We had waited too long to get a decent airfare at such a peak time!!  I was not so sure this was a good idea as going away is never just a matter of putting everyone in the car with a suitcase.  The dog, my mom, the mail, the paper, the house, cleaning the car, digging out summer clothes, (pedicure, hair appointment), etc...  In the end, "Mr. Living" (Ha!) found what looked like a great house at a reasonable price in the Cape Coral, Florida area. 

Wait, Did You Say I'm Going
 to Canine College for TEN Days!!?????
    We left our house around 4 am on Good Friday and drove...and drove....and drove....  We spent the night in Georgia and got up by 7am to continue to our Florida destination.  Thankfully, the ride was relatively uneventful.  The kids are older and busy themselves with books, iPhones, movies, and things like this...


Thank the Lord, We Made It Safe and Sound and
We Did NOT Have Much Bad Weather on our Drive
     When we were only a couple of hours from our destination, a wildfire closed down a portion of Southbound I-75 forcing us to improvise a different route.  This part did not go totally smoothly, but we did make it to our destination in the early evening.  We were pleasantly surprised that our home away from home look as good or better than advertised.
     We checked the place out, unloaded the car and head to the "Lobster Lady" for dinner.  We were starving at it turned out to be a great place and walking distance from our house!  The next morning was Easter Sunday so we made a quick trip to the grocery store and were glad to settle into our place after dinner.
      More on how we spent Easter and the rest of our days tomorrow!!

This Sign Never Gets Old To Me...

Palm Trees Are a Nice Change From Pine Trees!!
Master Bedroom


Living Room

The Pool

Our Little Poolside Palm and Dolphin


Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Grab a cup of coffee and prepare to go on a little ride with me...
      As I mentioned in my last post, I took my mom to a doctor's appointment this past Friday.  They had called and noticed she was overdue for a dexa or "bone scan".  On Fridays, her doctor sees patients at an office much closer to my house and very close to where my mom used to live.  I prefer those appointments, but they are hard to get.  You basically have to call the Monday before, first thing in the morning, and hope for the best.
     As always, it does no good to try to prepare, put on a calendar, call, send smoke signals, make a sign, or anything else to tell my mom she has an appointment -- 99 percent of the time she will not be aware of it so I no longer bother. 
     Her appointment was 11 am.  It was about a 45 minute drive from her current apartment to the appointment.  I knew I should get to my mom's plenty early since she may not be in her apartment and I wanted to try to catch her before she headed to exercise class at 10 am.  When I got to her apartment, almost all of the lights were on, but she was not home!!  I peeked down at the exercise room -- people were gathering but she was not one of them.  I headed to "the Don's" room which is in the opposite wing and second floor of the building.  One of the Med Team staff saw me in the hallway and asked if I was looking for my mom.  I said I was and asked if she knew if my mom was in "Don's room".  She said she had just seen my mom in the hallway and pointed her back towards her apartment.  I attempted to cut my mom off at the pass by rushing to the elevator and heading back to the first floor...  Still couldn't find her.  It's a three story building with two wings and elevators all over.  I went to the Med Team office and asked if anyone could help me find her for a doctor's appointment.  They got on their walkie talkies and tried to help.  Meanwhile, I'm calling her apartment, trying to stay near her apartment in case she wanders back, etc...  I also called the receptionist (who happened to be the Executive Director today) and she called Don's room for me since I do not have his phone number.  He said she was not there.  After a good 30 minutes of these shenanigans, one of the staff walked her from Don's apartment towards me.  By then it was close to 10:30 am and I knew we would have to hurry to make our 11 am appointment.  Of course, "hurry" is not something my mom does any more.
If I walk next to her, she walks slower...If I walk behind her she waits for me...
so often I'm way in front encouraging her to keep walking!?
     I think we were to the reception desk at the doctor's office by 11:08 am or so.  But let's not jump ahead.  My mom was extreeeemely out of sorts.  Like, more than the usual out of sorts.  The whole drive was filled with, where are we going, what floor is he on, I'm in 147, 1st floor or lower level?, 147, Apartment 147, I'm in 147, first floor, 24847777064, right?what city am I in?  I was extra alarmed that she kept saying what floor is he on?  It was as if she thought we were in her building (but we were in a car).  Then, while in the waiting room she kept saying, what are we waiting for?where is he?what floor is he on?I'm in 147, right?first floor, right?same floor as me.same floor as me.147..............................  (Think Dustin Hoffman, Rainman...)
     We were called in about 5 minutes later (yay!), weight, blood pressure (a little higher than usual but ok), told the nurse I wanted him to look at my mom's knee(s) from the recent fall.  I warned both the nurse and doctor that she was having a bad day.  She also kept saying what do you want me to do now?now what do I do?...  She also repeated her apartment number and a confused version of her old phone number to him as if repetitively reciting her name, rank and serial number in the military.  Somehow.....in spite of being alarmed....I was staying calm and it wasn't bothering me as much as sometimes.  I think I was just really trying to get inside of her brain and figure out what was making her like that, today, worse than usual.  Did she not sleep?   Was she lost and confused in her building for a long period of time?  Was she nervous to be seeing the doctor?  Did she not have her pills today?  Etc...
     The doctor was a bit concerned about her knees, said there was a little fluid on them, he checked all of her range of movement which was good.  He had her walk down the hallway (without her walker).  In the end, there was no need to do anything at this point.  He took a decent amount of time with her and her repetitive chit chat.  He also acknowledged that he knew I preferred being seen in this office and that he would put me on a priority list of a couple of patients that he schedules for that office.  He was feeling my pain.  He commented that my mom "looks so good".  I said, it's deceiving, isn't it?  (Also, she didn't look all that great but considering there was no time to freshen her up before the appointment...)  We then waited a bit for the bone scan.  I tried to pass the time by showing my mom pictures on my cell phone of the kids, etc...  It is a good distraction, but most good distractions are just that -- momentary distractions until the next question or series of questions.  The tech who did her bone scan was very nice and patient with my mom.  To be honest, all I can think of when she gets tested for anything not related to neurology is....we already got waaaaay bigger problems than osteoporosis or cancer!!  Just being honest here.  And, of course, adding anything else to the list is NOT what we are looking or hoping for here!!  Yet, I understand their place and I try to keep her current.
The Bone Scan
     Let me break for a bit of good news -- it was a very nice day here in Michigan.  Around 60 degrees and the sun was shining.  This -- I can say -- makes all the difference in the world when it comes to escorting my mom around and driving long distances from my house to my mom's back to the doctor's, back to my moms.  So, in spite of a not so fun start, my day was pretty much cleared for my mom.  I thought I would take her to lunch, but then because she was having such a bad day, I thought it might be better to carry out some yummy carrot chicken soup and salad and bring it back to my house.  This seemed like an extra good idea since I knew there was a 7-11 (read Slurpee time for Mom!) in the same shopping plaza.  I parked close by in handicapped parking, fetched her a slurpee, fetched our lunch order, and headed back to my house.  Many many many questions persisted.  What road we were on?  What city we were in?  Where were we going?  What do we do now?  When I say repetitive I mean literally no break for answers, just constant repetition...
     As we neared my house, it was clear she had no idea where we were, even when we were on my street and in front of my house.  In fact, she kind of thought it was her house and said it was a bit "run down" (wait 'til my husband hears that!!).  We left the walker in the car and I helped her into the house and got her seated at the table before I let "Lucky" the dog out to see her.  (It happened to be Lucky's 3rd Birthday!!)  Originally, I thought we would go out on the deck, but with every passing moment it became clear that taking extra time to wipe down the table and get her set up outside wasn't going to be a good idea.  I had to have her focus on eating her soup many times.  The Slurpee was all but gone.  She told me many many times that I was her "BFF" and that she loved me and I was the best daughter.  (Let the record show....lol!!!)  I told her I thought her friend Jane was her BFF and she said she could have two BFFs...  (Awwww....) 
Lunch at my house...with "Lucky"

     It did not take long to figure out there was not going to be any "relaxing" together at my house.  I couldn't even get her to settle in front of the old standby tv...  She had to go to the bathroom, forgot to go, then had to go again, etc...  So, after guzzling my salad we headed back.  Oh, she was also verrrrrrrry nervous about where is Muffin (the dog)?  Where are my keys?  Where is my walker?  Even when they are right in front of her she asks those same questions so that's a losing battle, too.

Don't Judge -- But She was so wound up on the way back to her place I reclined her seat and even
suggested she take deep breaths to try to relax her.  None of it worked -- don't let the pictures fool you!
     Finally.....four hours later........we were back at my mom's apartment.  I was hoping she would settle down on the couch and maybe even fall asleep right away.  This was not to be.  I soon realized my best bet of getting her to settle down was to leave so she would not have anyone to repeat things to.  I wanted to stay until she fell asleep but that did not happen.

     While there, I noticed a small white pill in her white pill cup.  I took it out and after going in the sunlight read the small letters on it.  A bit later, I typed the pill code into my phone to check which pill it was.  I made the decision for her to take the pill right then with me.  It was her anti-seizure medication.  It is not to prevent what you may think of as a typical seizure...it is more to prevent her brain from getting "stuck" you might say.  Stuck...........like how it was ALL DAY LONG on the same things......!!!!  Later, I notified the medical staff by phone that they need to be vigilant about making sure my mom gets every pill when they are dispensing them.  Of course, by the time I notified them the staff had changed to a whole shift of people....who may or may not give the message to the appropriate person.....................................................

I also sent this email to her Doctor to let him know about the pill situation...his response
does not seem to support the possibility of one missed dose accounting for her "bad day"...


     I also think my mom became disoriented in her building and that is why she kept repeating her apartment number.  I think she came and left Don's room a few times in the process of trying to get back to her own apartment.  I think the reason my mom sometimes does not get to exercise class is because the staff cannot always find her right away either.
     My energy for doing errands on the way home................well that energy was long drained out of me!  Somehow, after a few short hours with my mom, I just wanted to go home and stare at the walls for a minute.  So, I did...after I took Megan to get a Slurpee because she has a sore throat...time to be a mom to my other three kids!
     And that is a few hours in the life and this week's edition of
Monday Memories With My Mom.............
(Anyone still with me?  Anyone?  Anyone?)



Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Another week has gone by and my mom's biggest concern seems to be getting more pop and orange creamsicles.  This is a good thing.  Hopefully I can fulfill that request soon, but I am quite sure they will disappear in a week's time and that cycle will not end.  Imagine what would happen if you ate ice cream every couple of hours because you had no recall of already having ice cream!!  Yep, it disappears quickly! 
     I visited my mom a couple of times this past week.  She seems pretty good lately (knock on wood, now)!!  On one of my visits I was going to take her outside, but they have not yet put out the outdoor furniture at her apartment complex.  In Michigan, it's very risky (weather wise) to do so until at least May -- often it still snows in April.  So, my mom and I went to the lobby and sat for a bit for a change of scenery.  The only problem with that is that there are several "regulars" who hang out in the lobby and people watch and chat for what seems like all day, every day.  So, space was at a premium, and I will never take a seat when a senior needs one even though some of them kindly offered me a seat!   

I spend a lot of time like this...
prodding my mom to keep moving...

     I then took her down to the dining room where we waited a bit.  My mom is not the conversational person she used to be.  She might ask several repetitive questions or tell you the same one or two sentence story over and over, but it is difficult to keep a real conversation going as she is easily distracted.  So, often she reads something while I am with her...or falls asleep.  Sometimes it is frustrating because I try to so hard to keep a conversation going, but eventually it ends up with the repetitive questions or statements.  The days of sharing things about my kids or a meaningful conversation about life are all but gone.  I am still learning to accept that sometimes our time together is just that...time together. 

I was happy to see this new giant monthly activity calendar by the dining room of my mom's
apartment building.  I think it would be even better if they put some kind of designation
 around "today's date" and I put that in their suggestion box...
     I also had a meeting with the office manager at my mom's place.  My mom receives low income housing assistance enabling her to live at this senior apartment.  There was a time when I would have been embarrassed to share that information.  Now, I am just grateful to have finally found the assistance she needs and to have her living in such a nice place.  It has been a long process, and although I really really dislike all of the paperwork and time it takes I am grateful for the help because the alternatives are not great!!
     We have a doctor's appointment on Friday.  Her doctor called and said my mom is due for a bone scan.  That's how we will spend our time on Friday, and I will report back on that little adventure on Monday!!
     Have a good week -- thanks for your support and following along....

"Muffin" the dog is never far away...



Flashback Friday

How cool were we????
Happy Spring!!!!!!

Guess what color I am in the comments...........


Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Testing 123, check check.  Back with more on the continuing story of our life...  As some of you who follow me on Instagram (@Cindy24Seven) may have pieced together, my family was lucky enough to make a fairly last minute decision to spend our Easter Spring Break in Florida this year...more on that to come. 
     Going away has always been a hard decision for me as I am pretty much the one and only who oversees my mom's care.  However, my brother said he would be in town and check in on my mom.  I tried to get her situated and stocked up on the items she typically asks for.  I also notified the staff in writing to use my brother's contact information as a first contact while I was gone.  I think I get extra anxious because:
     (1) The one and only time my mom "collapsed" at her Walmart greeter job and was taken to the hospital by ambulance was...the one and only time I spent the afternoon with my three kids at a friend's pool and realized I forgot my cell phone.  It was the last day of school and I rationalized that it would be ok since all my kids were with me.  This was also before my mom's issues were as apparent as they later became.
     (2) My mom's fall down her basement stairs (which was the beginning of her no longer living alone) was on the one day I didn't call her because I was getting ready to go to my best friend's daughter's wedding; and
     (3) The last time my mom needed to be hospitalized for a fall and cut on her head, I was up north two hours away with my family.
     Of course, we could also get into all the times I was there or the time I spent with her and/or she lived with me after those incidents, but you get the idea.  It makes me nervous!
      I have learned not to tell my mom when I am going to be "away".  There is always the possibility that it may make her anxious and that can lead to all sorts of problems.  Even though she may not "remember" that I am gone, it's not worth taking a chance.  Agitation is a bad thing and in the past has set off a series of phone calls and extra unusual behavior.  There were months and years where I did not travel anywhere far or had my plans disrupted by my mom's needs.  At least now, I know she is in a facility that checks on her several times a day and (normally) takes care of her.  Plus, I am always available by phone.
     Thankfully, my brother visited a couple of times and it appears everything was fine.  However, I did get a voicemail at 3:52 am Easter Sunday.  I did not pick up as my phone was silenced, but her message said to call her as soon as I get the message, she has some things she wants me to pick up.  I could hear the tv was on in the background and she said she would be home "all afternoon".  I called her later on and that is when she told me about the Easter Bunny coming to her building and that they had an Easter egg hunt. 
     When I returned home after being gone about ten days, there were several messages on my machine.  Mom needed creamsicles.  She needed chapstick.  She needed tissues.  She needed toilet paper.  She needed pop, etc.....  I visited the day after we returned.  We drove, so it was a looong trip.
Bringing Stuff to Mom

     As I suspected, the only things she was "out of" were the creamsicles and pop.  When I would try to remind her that I had recently bought her a lot of chapstick, she said she used it all.  After some searching, I found several tubes of it.  Sadly, what I soon realized, was that my mom had forgotten that the bottom of the chapstick turns to reveal more chapstick.  This caught me by surprise.  I never thought that would be the reason she was telling me she ran out of chapstick.  I showed her how to turn the bottom and she was happy.  Me, well, it made me sad.  Such a simple thing.
Many Times Our Visits Are Just Quiet...
or I teach things like how to get more chapstick from the tube
     I also confiscated several little cosmetic bags that had somehow accumulated in hopes of forcing her to keep everything in one bag and therefore keep better tabs on the few personal care items she does still have.

Catching Up WIth Mom
     My brother also pointed out, and I had been noticing it, too, that my mom is over filing her nails to the point where she barely has any nails left.  He took all of her nail files.  My brother doing this was actually exciting for me as it made me feel my baby brother is starting to "get" what my mom needs and was helping out.  He also told me that on one of his visits he went to....that's right..."the Don's" apartment and found my mom there.  That was the first time he did that and said he found Don in his recliner and my mom sitting on a kitchen chair next to him.  He noticed that they make quite a team because Don is very hard of hearing, so my mom helps him with that.  However, his memory is a bit better than my mom's so he helps her as well.
     Meanwhile, I am awaiting a return call from the Executive Director on what she learned about the fall my mom had that was not reported to me.  Unfortunately, I presented the problem to her right before we left on vacation, and I was not able to follow through sooner.
     I can feel things getting busier around my house and with Spring all but here, I know they will be.  I also know that  in the coming weeks and months I have been and will be presented with lots of paperwork and a few meetings to keep my mom enrolled in her low income housing program at her senior care facility and to keep her on Medicaid.  Her rent also increased by $40/month.  It's a lot to keep up with, but it has to be done.
Clutter Seems to Make Her Happy (drives me nuts!)
Hanging These Cards...Some of them a year or more old


     My mom has been at her current senior living apartment for a year and a half now.  There were days, months, and years that I never thought she would get the medical and financial assistance she needs.  She is content and if you ask her she will tell you how much she loves living there.  My goal is to keep her there as long as possible.


Came Across this picture...from about 11 years ago
The Grandkids
(left to right)
Jacob, Megan, Kristin, Matthew and Nicole



Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Thanks in part to the support of some of you, I pulled myself together and decided to call my mom's case manager from the Area Agency on Aging.  I recalled that she is to be notified by the senior facility and/or myself of any falls or hospitalizations.  The case manager checks in with me once a month and I knew I was due to be hearing from her around today, April 1st, anyways.
     I explained that nobody had contacted me regarding my mom's recent fall, but that she must have fallen fairly hard.  She encouraged me to let the Executive Director know and gave me a contact name for the supervisor of the medical staff.  While I was visiting last week, I spoke with the Executive Director.  It is the first time she has heard me express disappointment with my mom's care.  Normally, I sing the praises of the facility and am truly grateful for all they do.  Although she is not directly responsible for the medical staff there, I told her I just thought she should be aware of what had happened.  She was going to follow through with her housekeeping staff (who may have had knowledge of my mom's fall) and the medical staff, reminding them that families should be contacted, etc...  I consider the Executive Director one of my favorite people in the world.  She helped me soooo much at a time when I was soooo distraught and trying to get my mom into a place that could provide her with the care she needed.  She was instrumental.  It was difficult for me to bring this to her attention for that reason.  She was professional and understanding.  I will follow up with her again soon and then decide how to proceed with the medical staff supervisor.

     On a lighter note, I brought my mom a box of creamsicles on my last visit -- she was thrilled!!  I wish I could bring her "treats" more often, but you would be surprised how quickly she goes through these things!! 
     One kind of funny random side note.  Lately my mom likes to talk about Kwame Kilpatrick (former Mayor, City of Detroit).  She says, "Did you see them haul Kwame Kilpatrick's a** off to jail in handcuffs the other day?"  Then she told me how everyone at the senior facility clapped when it was on TV!!  If you lived in Metro Detroit, like us, you would know this has been loooonng overdue and many people are very happy he's finally getting what he deserves.  My mom is one of them and has been repeating that story quite a lot!!  That TV keeps her up on a lot of things, but some of them "stick" with her more than others. 
     You may recall I mentioned last week my mom had telephoned us around midnight because her light bulb was out...  Well, a couple nights ago she called my cell phone at 3:52 am to say she needed a "couple of things" and that she would be there "all afternoon"!!!  Interestingly, she rarely says what she "needs" on my voicemail.  This always leaves the very strong possibility of her "forgetting" what she was wanting by the time I am able to get back to her.  This time, my phone was on silent and I did not call her back until later that day.  As best I can figure, this 4am call was because she needed "capri pants".  I have many of her spring/summer clothes in another closet for her when the weather is more appropriate.  I think it is, again, safe to say my mom's sleep schedule and sense of time are very off!!**
     On another note, we never did find my mom's rings.  It does make me sad, but I am still hoping they fall out of some furniture or clothing somewhere some day!!??  What is really interesting is that my mom has never brought up her rings to me since the day she realized they were missing.  She loved those rings and we spent all kinds of time sizing them and discussing them.  I am thankful she has not asked about them as I know it would upset her to remember they are missing.  I do wonder if she remembers they are missing.
     I talked to my mom, but did not spend Easter Sunday with her this year.  However, I did put a couple of Easter touches around her apartment.  Thankfully, her senior facility keeps things fun around there and I hear the Easter Bunny came and hid some eggs with jelly beans in them!!!  My mom says she found some eggs and that they were "really easy to find - not hard"!!!   

**See Additional Reading
Alzheimer's Care Like Walking Backwards with a Blindfold On, Bob DeMarco