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Archive for July, 2011

After work today my husband and I were running errands when we decided to stop and get a little Mexican food at a local restaurant.  It was early evening and my oldest daughter was with Uncle C so we had a little time to spare.  Not something we have a lot of these days.  Sitting in the parking lot my husband says, “Do you want to call your mom and dad to join us?”  What a sweetheart!  It had not even occurred to me to ask.  I called dad and after some hesitation he checked with mom.  She readily accepted.  My husband and I ordered margaritas and sat back waiting for them to arrive.  About 20 minutes later in come my parents, mom tottering along with dad holding her hand to steady her.  They looked so cute!  Mom had that little smile she now displays, no teeth showing, but one that expresses much contentment.  “I’m so happy you called,” mom said, “It got us out of the house.”  They were so active just one short year ago, going, going, going – out to eat, to the casino, camping, visiting friends – and now they mostly just stay home alone.  Most of their friends seem to have abandoned them and dad (with good reason) refuses to take mom to the casino.  Mom had been doing so well and then the pendulum slowly swung back, leaving her with little to say.  This downturn though has not nearly been as severe as previous ones.  Granted she is not talking much, but her eyes are still pretty clear and alert, not the dementia eyes that haunted her a few weeks ago.

They sat, each ordered a beer with mom, as usual, only taking a sip or two, before we all placed our orders.  I’m not sure mom knew exactly what she was getting as she just pointed to something on the menu when the waiter took her order, but she seemed happy and content when her meal arrived.  We chatted about know nothing things, ate and then my husband, over my dad’s objections picked up the tab.  Again before leaving mom told us how happy she was that we had called.  Such a little thing caused so much joy.  Thank you Lord for my wonderful husband who is always willing to include my parents in our activities.

I’m still praying for that miracle, still giving mom the coconut oil and just enjoying the good times with the both of them.

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About a year ago a dark, ominous cloud descended over my life.  Everywhere I turned, every step I took, there is was, looming over me.  I constantly felt like I was fighting to remain standing while in the middle of a hurricane as it whipped me and threw me to and fro.  Try as I might I could not shake the dark cloud, could not escape the storm.  It rocked my world.  Call me lucky, call me blessed, but bad things just don’t happen to me.  And quite honestly, when it started there were many, many times that I did not handle it gracefully.  I cried, I whined, I sunk into depression so deep that I struggled to scratch and claw my way out.  Thank God for family.  Thank God for good friends.  Thank God for his goodness because the cloud appears to be lifting.

My mother is doing well.  She is not her old self, I don’t think we will ever see that again, but at least for now her mental decline has ceased and for the last three weeks we have seen improvement. And then there’s Uncle C.  His physical health has improved as he is no longer suffering terribly with his back and his mental state has improved as well.  Naturally, he still has bad days thinking of and missing his beloved wife of 71 years, but he does seem to be enjoying life again, enjoying our family.  He is still as kind and sweet as ever.  What’s not to love about ole’ Uncle C.  For now he is still living with us, but that will change shortly which I think will be a good thing.  He continues to feel like a burden, a guest in our house despite our attempts to make him feel welcome and at home.  He will soon move across the street from us into a rent house that we own and I think he is quite excited about it.  And honestly, I am looking forward to a little privacy.  It’s been months since I’ve had any me time, any time when I can come home with no one there and just relax.

It may just be that I am currently standing in the eye of the hurricane where it is calm and still and the storm will soon begin to beat me up again.  But for now, life is good and I am happy to stand here in the eye and enjoy life.

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I have never seen my father cry before tonight.  I have been with him through the death of his father and the death of his mother and yet never saw him shed a tear.  But tonight as my mother sat oblivious to my father’s pain, he called me to our outdoor kitchen to talk about mom. Yes, she is doing much better than she was a mere month ago, but the hallucinations have returned and my father is really struggling with them.  Tears welled up in his eyes as he told me that on the day I was out-of-town and unable to visit, mom saw me repeatedly.  His voice cracked, his face showed the anguish in his heart and he could no longer speak.  I reassured him, I held his hand.  I felt his pain – I’ve been there many times.  He kept apologizing for his human weakness and I assured him that I understood.  He does not know how to handle the hallucinations.  He doesn’t understand.  He can’t bring himself to simply ignore them and go about his business.  Dad has stayed positive through this entire ordeal, but the hallucinations have him perplexed.  And as he attempted to express his concern about the return of mom’s hallucinations he became overwhelmed with emotion.  I am just thankful that I was there to comfort him.  I love you dad, with all my heart.  I promise to be with you every step of the way.

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I wish I had written down the date we started mom on coconut oil, but being my life is pretty darn crazy I didn’t think to do that.  I do know that mom had been on it for at least two weeks before her last appointment with Dr. L which would make it sometime around the first of April.  What I’ve seen is this.  Initially I noticed no improvement in mom’s condition.  In fact, her mental state continued to deteriorate up until her appointment with Dr. L.  Mom was noticeably confused and lost at her appointment and I think Dr. L was even a bit alarmed at mom’s appearance.  At that time she decided to take mom off of the medication for the hallucinations since this particular medication does tend to cause a person to be lethargic.  We were warned that the hallucinations could return, but as long as they were not causing problems or anxiety, we would just have to live with them.  Dr. L then increased the Aricept, which is the medication for dementia.  She did again stress to us that the Aricept would not reverse the damage done by dementia, but hopefully it would slow the disease that was eating away at her brain.  I believe that taking mom off of the medication for hallucinations was the right decision as she no longer sleeps day and night and has slowly become more alert.  Just recently mom has had a few hallucinations, but nothing alarming.  After a couple of months we noticed that although mom’s mental condition was not improving, it no longer seemed to be deteriorating.  Okay, that’s a good thing and I’ll give credit to the increase in Aricept.

Then something amazing happened.  About a week and a half ago, we began to notice that mom looked much more alert, her eyes were clear and although she would not initiate conversation, she would participate more.  I initially didn’t get too excited because I have been disappointed far too many times.  She generally would have a couple of very good days and then the pendulum would swing back and her mind would return to that far away place none of us could touch.  But this time seems different.  She continues to improve.  Every day she looks better than the day before.  

One day last week when I arrived for my daily visit dad was mowing the grass and mom was sitting on the patio waiting for me.  When I sat down she began to talk, actually initiating conversation.  We sat and chatted like old times.  I mean a real conversation, back and forth, talking about things other than the weather.  At one point I excused myself and went to the restroom.  The word “Wow” just kept coming out of my mouth over and over.  I was startled.  Once dad joined us mom became less talkative, but then readily joined in the conversation and laughed out loud at herself when dad told a story about mom taking out a flip-flop display at Wal-Mart with one of the motorized buggies, sending flip-flops flying and then just kept on going.  What a change!

Last Friday I went crabbing and shrimping with my son and his girlfriend and we caught enough to cook for friends and relatives.  Even though mom is allergic to shellfish I invited them to join us at my son’s house, not really expecting them to accept.  Mom jumped at the opportunity.  “It’s something to get us out of the house,” she said.  They were the first to arrive and mom did great.  She looked around the house commenting on how nice it looked, then sat outside with everyone chatting.  You would never have guessed that her mind was hiding a deep, dark secret.  Friends continued to comment to me on how great mom looked, how she was conversing, laughing, enjoying herself.  After everyone finished eating dad asked if mom was ready to go.  Normally mom gets very anxious and wants to leave early.  She refused, saying she was enjoying herself.  They stayed until after 10:00 o’clock.  And when I arrived the next day for my daily visit, mom was clear-eyed and talkative.  Her dementia eyes were gone.

I’ve also noticed improvements in her coordination and strength.  A couple of months ago we brought back Aunt C’s three wheel bike for mom to ride.  Initially she could not even remember how to peddle and even after she was able to ride she never could steer.  Dad would walk along side as she rode the bike, pulling on the handle bars to keep it straight or to help her turn.  Now, they ride side by side.  How wonderful and cute, an 82-year-old and 78-year-old riding bikes together.    She is also now able to get up from a chair without aid.

Dad continues to give mom her two tablespoons of coconut oil a day and I truly believe that it is the coconut oil working to improve and heal my mother’s mind.  I’ll give credit to the other medication for stopping the deterioration, but it is much more than that.  I believe she is actually, truly improving and I’m not the only one noticing.  I am not naive enough to belive that my mother’s mind will completely heal.  I’m not blind enough to think that there won’t be more difficult times, but at this point the dreaded dementia pendulum has not begun to swing back the other way and I am grateful for that.

 So, do I believe and have faith in coconut oil?  You bet I do!

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I mentioned to my parents last Thursday that I had a mixed doubles tennis match that night and I would be playing with my son.  “Why don’t you come and watch?” I asked.  My parents have never seen me play tennis even though I have been playing for about 25 years.  It’s really not a big deal since I’m just a social player and my game is merely average.  I knew the draw would be my son.  “I’d love to”, mom said.  She has been remarkably alert lately and a bit more talkative.  Dad asked what time and where and they both seemed genuinely excited about going.  Still I really wasn’t sure if they’d actually show up since mom tends to get anxious about things and changes her mind easily.  As I arrived my eyes scanned the parking lot looking for their car and yep, there it was.  When I walked into the pro shop and saw mom and dad sitting there casually chatting with my son my heart filled with joy.  I positioned them on the balcony near the court where we would be playing and away I went to play my match.  Looking up I saw mom with her cute little sunglasses alertly watching and dad right beside her.  Neither she nor my dad know anything about tennis – no idea how to keep score or even if we were winning or losing, yet they never moved, they stayed until the end.  What a miracle!

When the match ended (yes, we won), I looked up to see dad helping mom down from the stool and holding her hand as they slowly walked down the pro shop ramp.  I quickly gathered up my things and started after them.  I must have had a huge grin on my face because as I ran by one of the members he shouted, “You sure look happy, you must have won.”  As I pointed to my parents I responded, “That’s my mom and dad, I’m trying to catch up with them.”  And as an after thought, “Yes, I did win.”  But the joyfulness was not because of the win of a silly tennis game, it was about seeing my parents enjoying a little bit of normal life again.

 Enjoy the clear-eyed days.

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