Tuesday, November 30, 2010

sisters and brothers

I am the only girl in my family. No sisters for me. I finally got my sisters when family marriages provided me with a bunch of great sister-in-laws.

Monday, I had a pretty good visit with Mom. She didn't yell or grouch at me. I think our visits are better when we leave her apartment and spend our time in the common areas of the assisted living residence. There is a nice sun porch, a homey kitchen with coffee and snacks, a library, and a cozy living room with fireplace and comfy chairs.

Of course being in these public areas, we are in the public areas. People wave, say hi, or stop by and chat; residents and staff alike.
"Are you coming to the holiday party?"
"Did you try those cookies?"
"We found her hamper, it was with her laundry."
"That jigsaw puzzle is hard."
"The man who painted these pictures lives here too."
"Did your Mom get her mail yet?"

As I was leaving, one of the staff told me some more about how Mom is adapting. The positive points and the areas where she is still not participating.

Right then I felt like I had acquired a dozen sisters and brothers.
I have these thoughtful people who are helping me to take care of my Mother.
Someone to cook for her. Someone to do her laundry. Someone to check that she showered this week. Someone to help her move her furniture. Someone to sand the icy walk. Someone to see she takes her meds. And someone to say "Hey, how are you today?"

I felt some of the weight rise off my shoulders and fly away.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I couldn't have said it better

Hello readers, I just wanted to share the links to two stories with you. Sandy says it all so well!



Monday, November 22, 2010

the party next door

My Mother now lives in an assisted living residence. She has her own room, with a private bath, and I think more closet space than I have in my house!
Mom never lived in a dorm, as she walked to college from her parents' home. She hasn't lived in an apartment since she was a small child and lived in a triple-decker-walk-up-cold-water-flat. My point is that she hasn't had to deal with wall-sharing neighbors in a long, long time.

At Mom's residence, guests are asked to sign in and out, so that they'll know who is in the building. Just like college! Last week when I went to visit her, I noticed a lot of visitors had signed in to visit this one particular person, MrS. I'm thinking, maybe it's MrS's 80th birthday and he's going to have a very large birthday party today!

In the hall, I had to excuse myself to get through a cluster of well dressed people, to get to Mom's room. They were standing outside of an empty room, surveying it, as if doing an inspection, I thought.

As I was about to leave to go home, Mom complained about her neighbor.
"Last night they kept me awake, they were having a big party, drinking and singing all night."

This is not a college dorm, people do not have drinking and singing parties all night long. Do they? What can she be talking about?

The apartment next door is empty, there is a trash can full of paper cups, a platter of left over sandwiches and cookies next to it, and a lonely oxygen tank against the wall.

MrS was not having a birthday party, he was having a deathday party. His loving family was with him all night, singing, telling stories, and holding vigil. Keeping him, holding him, until he had to leave.
What kind of songs were they singing?

What kind of songs will I sing to my Mother? What kinds of songs will my sons sing for me?

Friday, November 19, 2010

shrub therapy

Yesterday was a day for shrub therapy. Destructive constructive work. There is a lilac hedge about thirty feet long beside my Mother's house. It hasn't been trimmed in maybe 12 or 14 years. It's taller than the house, it rubs against the house, it's growing into the porch, it's way too ugly. Many of the branches are dead or broken from winter storms.

Every few months I would ask Mom if I could prune her lilacs.
"No, it doesn't need it."
"No, I'll do it."
Sometimes I can snip out a few dead branches before she stops me.
"You're cutting too much."
"You're ruining it."
"It will never grow back."

Yesterday I spent four hours trimming the lilacs. Everything larger than my wrist got cut out.
Everything taller than six feet got pruned. Everything rubbing against the house was removed.

The lilacs look great. I can't wait for spring. You can finally see the house, and see who is coming up the driveway from the living room.
And it was one tiny step in making the house look less neglected.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the newspaper story

On Tuesday, during my extremely long one hour visit with Mom, she told me three times that she had arranged to have her local paper delivered to her, that it comes everyday to her mailbox, and how nice it was to keep up with the news back home.

On Wednesday her girlfriend called to let me know about their visit together.
She passed along a list of things that Mom said she really needed: the new winter coat she bought last fall and never wore, more cat food, and more of her history books.

This friend also said Mom was adamant that she wanted to get the newspaper. I burst out laughing. Mom's friend was confused.
"I guess you didn't see the pile of newspapers on her table then?" I laughed. "She won't let me throw out any of the old ones."

This girlfriend also asked Mom if she had seen me recently.
"No, she hasn't been here in a while, we're not on good speaking terms anymore."

That's right Mom, we're not on good speaking terms: you yell and I listen. You nag, grouch, and complain and I listen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

today I made her happy

I got a call today from the director of the assisted living where Mom lives. She said that today, for the first time, Mom was happy and smiled a real smile.

I am glad that Mom has "put on" her manners and has been civil and polite to the people who work and live there. She has not been screaming or aggressive or violent. I am so thankful for this behavior, as it is not how she behaves towards me. She is still not happy that she is there or fully cooperative but at least she is civil.

But today, something I did, made her happy. She doesn't know I'm the responsible one, but I do.
What is the cause of this happiness? Mom received her hometown newspaper in her mailbox. She is getting the newspaper mailed to her, a few days late, but it will come. It will still be new news to her.

Sure! I'll take a one year subscription. Who knows if she'll still be able to read in one year; or understand what is written. Today, for a few minutes, I was able to make my Mom happy. It was worth it.

Friday, November 12, 2010


How can I write about moving my Mother into assisted living. It would be like bleeding all over this blog. My heart is crushed.

People keep telling me "it's not your Mom, it's the disease." I know that, I understand that. But she is still my Mom. If she wasn't my Mom, I wouldn't be involved in this nightmare. The things she says and does cut me like a knife.

She has gone from a friendly, outgoing, loving person, to this mean, self absorbed, angry, illogical, dirty, irrational, repetitive, nasty person.

This dementia has stomped all over me and left me ragged.
Dementia is a Dementor. (For you who have not read the Harry Potter books, a Dementor is a creature that feeds on happiness, it absorbs all the happiness from it's environment, it leaves you feeling as if you'd never be happy again, and then it sucks out your soul.)

I have sent out about 60 letters and emails to friends and family letting them know of Mom's new address. Telling them that she had to move because it was not safe for her to live alone. Now I'm hearing from these folks; friends and relations who live far away, who talk to Mom often on the phone. What I'm hearing from them is "Really? She seemed to be doing fine."
We believed what she told us, why wouldn't we. Mom can talk a good story. Think back, when was the last time she called you? She hasn't been the one to call, in a long time. Yes, the dementia has made fools of us all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

moving (1)

We moved Mom into the assisted living residence on Monday, five days ago.

After our lunch visit at the assisted living residence in October, Mom became extremely despondent, even talking of suicide. I was going to ruin her life, she could not understand why I would do such a thing to her. The wrath and hatred that exuded from her was immense. She would not look at me or talk to me for three days.

I could not leave her alone. I stayed with her in her house, distracting her with our "usual routine", the "normal" day to day stuff that we did together. We went to the grocery store, we went out for lunch, to the transfer station, and the book store. We had a "pajama party" and watched old movies and ate cookies in her bed. And once again, we did not speak of the elephant in the room, we did not talk about moving or living alone.

My brother, EJ, finally got there. He lives across the country and had planned to be here to help Mom with this transition. I relinquished Mom to his care. He lived a thousand hours with her in those three days. He got to hear her stories over and over and over. He drove her all over, brought her to church, visited with old friends and family, and kept her busy and exhausted. Also not talking about the big elephant called "moving."

I was surprised that she wasn't surprised or scared to find my brother there in her house in the morning when she woke up.

Monday morning Mom and EJ went to visit some old friends. These co-conspirators knew of our agenda for Mom and why we needed her out of the house. As soon as they were gone the rest of us descended on her house. My husband, our kids, and the rental truck. In 3.5 hours we had her furniture, clothes, and belongings installed in her new apartment; books and dvd's neatly lined up on shelves, towels and clothes folded in the closet. My d-i-l wrote Mom's name on all her things. Smaller displays of her collectibles were hung to decorate her new apartment and make it her own.

to be continued