Archive for June, 2012

Orange Beach was nice.  Not like last year nice, but nice just the same.  I had two relaxing days enjoying time with just my husband.  That was a long time coming.  I had one day just to myself, an even longer time coming.  Then my family began arriving, first my daughter and granddaughter on Tuesday evening – that’s always fun and lively.  Next came my parents on Wednesday evening and they appeared quite excited to be there.  On Thursday evening my younger daughter arrived, she is full of life and a joy to have around.  The weather was lovely, cooler than normal and very windy and we were all looking forward to spending some time on the beach together on Friday.  Mom was especially excited about going out to the beach – until Friday morning.

The morning started as most do for dad, struggling to wake mom up and get her out of bed.  One look at her face and I knew it was not going to be a good day.  The dementia eyes were glaring at me.  Mom went from the bed to the balcony and fell back asleep.  No amount of coaxing got her up.  Everyone except for mom and dad went out to the beach and had a wonderful time.  When I returned to fix sandwiches for lunch mom had moved from the balcony to the sofa, but was still asleep.  No movement still.  Dad sat dutifully by her side, unable to enjoy the day with the rest of us.  I offered for him to go out and meet everyone at the beach but he declined.

Once everyone was back in the condo, dad left with my husband for a trip to the grocery store.  Mom continued to sleep.  While out, dad talked to my husband about how difficult things had become, how poor mom’s memory was now, how she repeats herself constantly, asks the same question over and over and over, never remembering that it has been asked and answered numerous times.  Then he spoke the words I dread the most, “If things continue the way they are going, within a year she won’t know who any of us are.”  Those words are like a knife to my heart.  I know he feels it too, he lives it.

I guess I had not realized just how much this dreaded disease had progressed since I see mom daily.  I know she has good days and bad days, but reality hit me hard this trip.  A mere year ago mom was so much more alert so this trip to the beach was an eye opener.  Last year mom wasn’t in a hurry to go home when the time came.  This year by Saturday morning mom was anxious, sitting at the door, rushing dad as he packed up and prepared to go.

I guess I should have expected it, but I didn’t.  This trip may have been the last time we all go to the beach together so I’m glad we were able to do it again.  I’ll always treasure my time with mom, no matter where it is…or how much she remembers of it.


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I’m sitting in a lovely condo in Orange Beach and I’m alone.  My husband and I have been here together for the past two days and it’s been wonderful.  We needed this.  We needed time to reconnect.  The last couple of years has been so hectic, so filled with caring for others that we haven’t had much time for us.  It’s great to realize that we still enjoy each other, we still love spending time together, just the two of us.  But today he had to drive 5 hours back to our home town for a meeting.  He’ll be back late tonight.  So for most of this day I’m alone.  And I’m excited.  I have no plans for the day, no agenda.  I’m just going to do what moves me.  I feel so happy, so peaceful.

Family will start arriving this evening, our kids are coming and so are my parents and that’s good.  But for now, I am enjoying me.

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My dad is frustrated.  I see it in his face.  I hear it in his voice.  I can’t blame him.  He snaps at my mom.  He snaps at her in front of people so I know he does it when they are alone.  In fact, a few days ago I heard him.  He thought I was gone, but I heard.  “Bullshit!  I’m tired of this shit!”  It was storming out yet my mother was asking to go to the casino, like she does everyday. Repeatedly.  Dad hates it.  Mom loves it.  Or at least she did before…  It’s in her blood.  Her father was a gambler, her uncles were gamblers.  And so is she.  And every day mom asks to go, over and over and over until dad blows.

His life has become like the movie “Groundhog Day”.  He wakes up every day to the same scenario.  He fights to wake mom up of which he is usually successful sometime around 11:00, he listens to her daily request to get beignets which they can’t do daily because of mom’s diabetes, he tests her blood sugar, he feeds her breakfast, he attempts to get her medicine down and then mom naps in her chair until lunch when the process starts over again – waking her, feeding her, then napping until 3:00, about the time I arrive.  Once I’m gone it starts – her anxiety.  She wants to go somewhere.  She begins shaking, she needs to get out and begins asking to go to the casino.  Dad puts her in the car and drives.  He’s covered every back road around, he’ll drive anywhere just to avoid that damn casino.  But sometimes he gives in.  The only positive about her dementia and her anxiety is that she won’t stay there long.  She doesn’t stay anywhere long.

He wants to get her in Gambler’s Anonymous, but can that help someone with dementia?  Probably not, but I don’t have the heart to tell him that.  I wish I knew how to fix this problem, but I have no answers.  Reasoning with mom is fruitless.  She just shrugs her shoulders when you mention to her how much dad hates it, she doesn’t really care.  “I like it,” is her only response.  At this point she only cares about what is in her mind at that particular moment, there is no thought given to anything else.  The dementia has stolen her ability to be reasoned with.

I worry that the stimulation from the casino, the flashing lights, the bells and noises blaring at her as she sits hypnotically pressing that big red button on the slot machine is further harming her mind.  There is no thought process to it.  There is no exercise of the brain going on, just the same methodical pushing of a button.  I wonder if there has been any research done about the effects of casinos on the elderly, on someone with dementia.  Certainly it has to do more harm than good.

I wish I had an answer to dad’s problem.  I wish I could help with it, but honestly I’m not sure how to extract that gambling gene from mom.   If only gambling was something that was erased from her memory rather than things that are important.  But I can’t fix it, I can’t erase it from her memory.  So dad continues to get frustrated and I continue to feel helpless. And that sucks.

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Uncle C moved on Saturday to the house we own across the street.  My daughter who has been living there with her daughter has been waiting for months.  I didn’t really think it would ever actually happen, but it did – by the hardest.

Uncle C had chosen June 1st as moving day.  Of course, other moving days have come and gone, but he seemed serious this time.  I still wasn’t counting on it.  But when June 1st arrived he said tomorrow, which was Saturday.  Okay, close enough.  So on Saturday with him still agreeing to the move my husband and I started packing up the few personal belongings he has in anticipation of the big move.

We really had a great day with him.  Uncle C wanted to go shopping for some new clothes so off we went to J.C. Penny’s where he bought a few pairs of shorts, a pair of dress pants and a few shirts.  Our next stop was Target for items that he would need once he actually moved, bath mat, shower curtain, etc.  Uncle C actually seemed a little excited about the move.  He started talking about what he planned to do once he was living there.  On the top of the list was, of course, getting his driver’s license back and then going to Florida for a couple of weeks.  I only smiled.  We then had a nice lunch together.

Once home Uncle C went to rest and hubby and I took the opportunity to move over his personal belongings and go to Mass.  When 5:30 rolled around and Uncle C was still at our house and not budging, my husband asked if he was ready to go over to the other house.  “I think I’ll just sleep here and go over tomorrow,” replied Uncle C.  Well that’s fine, Uncle C, but all of your personal belongings are already at the other house.  “Why don’t we just walk over and take a look?” my hubby said.  Uncle C reluctantly agreed.

Once there, hubby sat with him for about an hour while my daughter ran back and forth between houses gathering the remainder of Uncle C’s items including several pictures of his wife and a beautiful portrait that my daughter had painted for Uncle C of Aunt J.  She prepared him a lovely dinner and then suggested that they all go to his room to “decorate”.  They hung the portrait of Aunt J and placed other pictures of her around the room.  Uncle C was a musician and played the trombone, paying his way through college many, many years ago.  I found his trombone in the back of a closet while cleaning out their home in Houston.  My daughter hung the trombone on the wall of Uncle C’s room to his delight.  At the end of the night, Uncle C gave my daughter a hug and told her that he was very happy.  He spent his first night in his new home that evening.

I don’t really expect him to stay.  We told him he could come back any time he wished.  But if we only have a week, maybe two weeks, alone it would be heaven.  It would refresh us, rejuvenate us.

So here I sit, alone on my patio for the first time in months.  Hubby should be home from work soon and I’ve prepared a lovely meal for just the two of us.  And I’m excited about spending time with just him.  Having a nice meal with just him.  Conversing with just him – it’s been over a year since we’ve been able to do that.  I hope he is as happy about it as I am.

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Today is my mother’s 79th birthday.   She still thinks she’s 65.  Personally I would have picked an age much younger than 65 to be stuck on, but that’s just me.  I asked her a few days ago how old she was going to be and she paused, looked a bit confused and then replied, “Too old.”  Mom can still make me laugh.

My parents came over for mom’s “birthday dinner” along with the rest of the family.  She appeared so happy, cheerfully singing along with the birthday songs we had to sing repeatedly at my granddaughter’s insistence.  I hope to celebrate many more birthdays with mom.  And I pray that if there are many more birthdays to celebrate that she can remember what we are celebrating.

I love you mom.  Happy birthday.

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