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Archive for March, 2012

“You can change the path of your life from dark to light or from negative to positive.  Every single time you focus on the positive you are bringing more light into your life, and you know that light removes all darkness.  Gratitude, love, kind thoughts, words, and actions bring light and eliminate the darkness.

Fill your life with the light of positivity!”

The quote above is typed on a small piece of paper and taped to my computer monitor at work.  I don’t know who wrote it, I don’t remember where I found it, but apparently at some point in my life I thought it profound enough to type it and tape it to my monitor.  Although these are words that I NEED to hear every day, I continue to overlook this small scrap of paper.  I probably have not looked at it in months.  Yet today it caught my eye.  Today I needed to read it – again.  I needed those words to remind me to change this negative path I have been following.  Change my negative attitude about what my life has become.  Look at the positive in my life – and there is plenty.  Perhaps this is a start.

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For Christmas our youngest daughter bought tickets to the theatrical performance of the Lion King for my husband, herself and me. The performance was to be held in New Orleans where our daughter lives which is a couple of hours from our home. Since the musical was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. it called for an entire night away from home. For the last few weeks I have been hovering somewhere between depression and insanity so the timing of this event was perfect and we decided to make a weekend out of it. Arrangements were made for Uncle C, good-byes said to my parents and off we went.

We arrived in New Orleans around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, checked into our hotel and then walked around the Quarter grabbing a glass of wine or two until our daughter could meet us. We had a lovely dinner at my favorite local restaurant before heading to the theater. The production was wonderful, the costumes were fabulous and we all enjoyed it tremendously. The black cloud that had been hovering over me for the last few weeks began to dissipate.

On Saturday our daughter recruited us to help with a project at the inner city school at which she teaches. She had requested permission from the principal to start a community garden and the principal had readily agreed. Our daughter applied for a grant, but had not yet received a response, so my husband and I hit up a few of our friends for donations to assist with the garden. Saturday morning, armed with our garden tools and about $250.00 in donations we headed for her school. After renting a tiller we began working the 20 x 20 foot area that was to be the community garden, just my hubby, my daughter, me and the principal. As hubby tilled the earth the rest of us cleared the debris that remained after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the school that previously occupied the property. We then began to form eight very neat rows where the students were to plant the tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplants, strawberries and various herbs that we bought. Few, if any, of these third graders have ever seen a garden, have ever seen vegetables growing. In fact, one student asked if they were going to grow pizzas. “No,” my daughter responded, “but we will grow the tomatoes that go into the sauce on your pizza.”

I must say that there is nothing quite like working with the earth and getting a little sweaty and dirty to clear one’s head. I felt so much better, so much happier just being there, with my hands in the dirt, doing something that will make so many children happy – that maybe, just maybe will enhance their lives. We all left tired and dirty, but very satisfied.

Another evening in New Orleans was just what we needed before heading home refreshed. No, things at home have not changed. Yes, Uncle C is still living at my home and yes, my mother still has dementia, but at least for a short time I feel like I can handle it again.

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After my Pilates class I ran home to change for work and was on my way out the door when our caregiver, without looking up from her Bible says, “If you looking for those two checks that was on your counter Uncle C took ‘um.  I don’t want you to think it was me.”  I was confused as to why he would have picked up those two checks.  They were rent for one of our rental properties.  “He been digging in all kind of stuff and taking things to his room.  If you have stuff missing you need to check his room.  But you better ask him about the checks now before he forgets where he put ‘um.  He been real forgetful lately,”  she informed me.

Walking into the living room where Uncle C sat watching the stock market go up and down I pretended to be searching for something before asking Uncle C if he had seen the two checks on the counter.  I didn’t want to accuse him, so I just made it look like they had been misplaced.  He immediately reached into the front of his shirt and whipped them out.  “Oh, I thought they were mine,” he said.  Now really, why in the world would somebody be sending Uncle C two checks out of the blue?  It’s not like he has a job.  He doesn’t have rental property.  His social security and pension are automatically deposited into his account.  But there he sat with our two checks down the front of his shirt.  In all likelihood if the caregiver had not mentioned it the two checks would have been washed.  I’m pretty certain Uncle C would not have remembered they were down his shirt.

When I returned home later that afternoon Uncle C approached me saying, “Sorry about those checks.  My eyes aren’t too good and I couldn’t read them.  I didn’t know what they were.”  Hum, so then why would he pick them up and put them down his shirt?  He doesn’t need the money.  And God knows I don’t need someone else with dementia to care for.  That would be a nasty little trick to pull. 

When hubby returned home from work I told him about the events of the day.  He was just as confused as me.  Actually, once you stop to think about it, it’s pretty darn funny.  We’ve been laughing about our little 93-year old klepto ever since.

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I received a phone call from the Home Health nurse saying that Uncle C was being released as a patient.  “Why?” I inquired.  “Who are you”? was the response.  Okay, well she is calling my house at 6:30 in the evening, pretty sure I’m the person he lives with.  “He lives with me and my husband.  We both have Power of Attorney.  So why is he being released?” I asked again.  Her response, “He said he doesn’t need us anymore.”  We weren’t aware of that.   I asked our caregiver about it this morning and she confirmed that he had been released and that when the Home Health nurse asked if he still needed them he said no.  They then asked him the basic questions – can you bathe yourself?  No.  Can you dress yourself?  No.  Can you get all of your medications together yourself?  No.  Can you get yourself to your doctor’s appointments?  No.  Do you take your medication as prescribed?  No.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want to pee all the time so he only takes the fluid pill when he can’t breathe anymore.  And they’re taking the word of a 93-year-old without even talking to us about it.  So you, Mr. Taxpayer, can thank the Home Health company for saving you money since it was paid for by Medicare.  Honestly, they just didn’t do that much anyway.

On the other hand, if everyone takes the word of Uncle C he will soon have his driver’s license back.  Yes, it’s true, he is still talking about getting his driver’s license back.  He had hubby schedule him another appointment with the eye doctor for next week.  He thinks because he has been massaging his eye sockets and taking I-Caps that his eyes are getting better and if the doctor “just tweaks my glasses a bit” he’ll be able to pass the eye test at the DMV.   Well miracles do happen.  (Start praying now that he doesn’t pass!)  My husband doesn’t want to break his spirit so won’t say, “Look, Uncle C, you’re never gonna drive again.  It’s not safe.  Even if you can pass the eye test would you be able to fold up your walker, put it in the trunk alone and get yourself in the car?  Would you be able to stop in time if a child runs out into the street?”  

Legally the DMV cannot deny him a driver’s license just because he’s 93 years old and is now shaped like a C.  That would be age discrimination.  Is there no common sense left in the world?  Nobody wants to be told that they cannot drive any longer because they’re just too old, but there is a safety issue here.  My father-in-law still drives yet he cannot get out of a chair without help and shuffles with a walker, feet never leaving the ground, just to walk.  Is that safe?  Yet no one wants to say, hey buddy, you just need to let it go.  (Sorry about the rant)

 I really thought we were finished with that driver’s license issue with him, but apparently not.  He wants to have his license back before moving out of our home into the house across the street with my daughter who is now living there and ready to be his caregiver.  The way it is looking I’m pretty sure he’ll be with us forever.

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My parents drove up just as my husband was commenting about how our family night had gone from a lively, fun evening filled with our kids and their friends happily sharing a meal to a geriatric night.   My four-year old granddaughter, playing in our backyard noticed their arrival.  “Granny and Bamps are here!  Whoo-hoo!”  She came tearing through the kitchen and out the carport door to greet them.  “Hi Granny!  Hi Bamps!” she said excitedly giving them each a kiss.  “Gramps” became “Bamps” when she was much younger and it just stuck.  She ushered my mother and father into the house and then very tenderly grabbed hold of my mother’s hand, carefully escorting her out the back door onto the patio.  Once out there she announced, “Look everyone, Granny is here!” as if introducing the Queen of England to the crowd gathered.  My mother sat proudly the rest of the evening, not saying much, not really talking, but very happy to be introduced in such a special way by this special child who has so much love to offer.

If only we could all see things through the eyes of a child the world would be a much better place.  There we were, hubby and I, lamenting about the demise of our family night as this child whooped and hollered with excitement about the arrival of  these two elderly people who we all hold dear.  I want to feel the excitement that a child feels.  I want to feel joyful again at the smallest things.  How do you get that back?  Can you?  Does life itself rob you of this childish excitement and joy?  Oh, I can still feel happiness.  I can still feel love and contentment, but that pure joy of innocence can only be felt by a child.  It’s such a shame.  And it makes me want to keep her young forever. 

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I had no idea when I was thrown into this life of caregiving just how difficult it would be and how many aspects of my life it would affect.  The initial shock of what was happening to my mother’s mind was difficult to overcome.  I have finally accepted the fact that my mother will never be the same mother I knew from my childhood.  She’s still mom and I still love her dearly, but our relationship has changed and there’s no turning it back.  I have become the mother and she the child.  I’m not sure she is aware of  it, but I am.  And about the time I was coming to the realization that my mother had dementia, Uncle C came to live with us.  That change was huge.  My husband and I went from empty nest and loving it, to caregivers of a kind, but very stubborn 93-year-old.  Once our children were grown and on their own I thought I was finished with some of the more tedious aspects of parenthood – the feedings, the cleaning up after, the doctor’s appointments, trying to force them to take their medicine, having to find sitters, etc.  Now I’m back to doing these things that I disliked most – and it’s not even for a child of mine.  In fact, it is not even for a relative.  It’s exhausting.  There’s the constant worry about both mom and Uncle C.  They are just always right on that proverbial edge, and I am always just waiting for one of them to fall off – again.

My hubby and I were always spur of the moment kind of people.  We’d take off at the drop of a hat.  Started supper already and friends call to go out?  No problem.   Supper goes in the fridge and away we go.  Now plans have to be made ahead.  Do we have a sitter for Uncle C?  No, well sorry, we can’t go.  Sucks really.  It changes our relationship with friends and family.   But the biggest change I have found is between hubby and me.  We rarely have time for ourselves, we rarely talk.  Our evenings sitting on the patio alone, enjoying the end of our busy day is gone.  It was my favorite part of the day.  Now there is hubby, Uncle C and maybe me – if I am finished cooking supper, doing laundry, picking up, etc., etc.  But even if I do make it out there it’s not the same.  I’ve become sort of the third wheel.  Hubby and Uncle C talking about things I’ve heard a thousand times as I sit there thinking about what I could be doing to get finished with the day.  And then there’s my parents who often show up to join us on our patio when mom gets anxious.

But the worst part is conversation just doesn’t flow easily between hubby and me anymore.  I guess when the majority of our day is work and caregiving, there just isn’t that much left to talk about or we are just too exhausted to put out the effort.

So…do I sound like I’m whining about my situation?  Yes.  Can I change the situation?  No.  Do I have anyone I can talk to about it?  Not really.  Pretty sure friends and family are tired of hearing about what my life has become.  So I blog.  I get it out and then I feel better.  At least for a short period of time.  Thanks for listening.

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At the last minute my husband and I decided to get tickets to the musical production of My Fair Lady that was playing in our city.  I dashed out around 5:00 p.m. to purchase the tickets and was very excited at the aspect of doing something a little different.  Our life has become rather routine and drab.  We sometimes joke about our home becoming the “geriatric hang out”.  Hubby and I prepared supper for Uncle C and were getting ready to depart for the theater when my phone rang.  It was dad – not a good sign at that time of the evening.  “Your mother fell and I can’t get her up.  Can you come?”  “I’ll be right there dad.”  I know it sounds awful, but my first thought was “Oh God, I hope mom is alright.”  But the thought following close behind was, “Crap, we’re gonna miss My Fair Lady.”

My husband and I darted out, arriving at my parents house within minutes.  I found mom, sitting in the doorway between their bedroom and the bathroom with dad by her side.  She had fallen coming out of the shower and dad, being in the front of the house, could not hear her calling.  Sometime between the fall and dad finding her, mom had vomited all over the bathroom.  A quick observation of mom’s condition showed very badly bruised knees, but nothing else appeared to be injured.  Mom sat  there in a daze.  I couldn’t decide if she was unaware of what was going on around her or just embarrassed.  I know in years past the emotion would have been embarrassment.  Now, I’m not quite sure.  It took the three of us to get mom up and drag her the short distance to the bed.

Was mom’s fall merely her tripping as she stepped out of the shower or was it the continuous progression of the dreaded Lewy Body Dementia that her doctor believes she is suffering from?  We have no way of knowing.  Mom simply said that she started feeling weak and then fell.  She has been complaining of dizziness recently as well.  Research indicates that a loss of balance and falling are symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia.  So is the trembling I have noticed more often in mom lately.  A fall for any elderly person is always bad, but for mom it could be detrimental since she  has had both hips replaced.  A fall could cause a break in the surrounding bones of the artificial hip.  If that were to happen, the metal prosthesis would fail and another surgery would be required which is a significantly more complex procedure than the initial surgery.  I am just not sure mom could make it through another hip replacement surgery, neither physically or mentally.

For now all is well.  Mom appears to be no worse for the wear and we made it to My Fair Lady with five minutes to spare, just enough time for hubby to buy me a glass of wine.  Another tragedy averted and the Lady was indeed Fair.  We enjoyed it tremendously.

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