Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now; After 45 Years I Understand Why

In an earlier post I mentioned that my great aunt Hester scared me to death as a kid and I had no recollection why of why she really did. Well this weekend our granddaughter spent the night and mom scares the hell out of her.

So anyway, after taking her home yesterday Paula and I discussed why mom scares her so much. Well first thing is Mom can never rember her name. Every time Mom she sees her, Mom asks in her gravely-witch-like-voice "and who do we have here" What's your name?"

Now she's only five but she remembers who great Grandma is, so why can't great Grandma remember who she is? I'm sure that's her logic. She doesn't understand Alzheimer's plus about half the time mom has just crawled out of bed and her hair has gone completly native creating an even scarier image.

To finish this half of the story, we never did push our granddaughter toward Mom any more than her comfort level would allow. I'll also share this post with Kelsey so she understands what can happen. Mom doesn't scare Kel because she grew up with a grandma that taught her to bake cookies and fun stuff like that. It does bother her to watch Mom slipping away, but Mom doesn't scare her. If Kel were five she too may be affraid.

So after this conversation with Paula I started thinking about Hester. I know this seams like no big deal, but every time Mom mentions Laura the first thing that jumps into my head is the fear of Hester. After this many years that means it was a huge childhood imprint.

I can only remember three things about great aunt Hester. She was a large woman that wore funny socks (support hose) and she used a walker to get around the house. I don't remember, but knowing my mom she probably forced me to go give Hester a hug. I'm guessing that any type of close contact was traumatizing being only five or six years old.

I'm calling this one solved, after 45 years I think the answer is clear and this issue can be laid to rest!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The San Francisco Treat or I Must Be Wicked Because There Is No Rest.

In a recent post I mentioned Mom's fascination with her aunt Laura's house and deceased family members. Starting last week while Mom was eating breakfast, she camly looked up from her plate and said, "I've been wondering about my mom lately, how's she doing?"

Well several seconds later, after the shock wore off, reluctantly I explained that grandma had passed away nearly 20 years ago. Surprisingly she calmly replied, "I thought maybe she had."

That brief conversation seemed to have put her mind at ease and put the issue to rest. Which it did, but only for a couple days.

Cable Car
Over the next few days Mom would randomly ask about grandma and each time I would explain that she had passed away. Then, at dinner a couple nights ago, instead of asking about grandma she told us that she had met up with her yesterday and they had taken a ride together on something. The name of what they had ridden on escaped her. After naming several older modes of transportation I mentioned a cable car and she stated she thought that's what it was. So I asked if they had fun, without mentioning grandma was deceased, and she said they had. The only problem with that reply was that I had no idea when or where that may have taken place and if she wanted more details I would be stumped.

Then it happened. Last night during dinner, Mom told us that they day before she had met up with her mom and they had taken the casino bus to the casino. OK, now that's not a cable car but I can understand the confusion. I asked if they had a good time together and she thought they did. She also mentioned that it was nice spending time with her mom again.

I'm not sure if mom is dreaming all of this or regressing while she's awake, so I'll do some research and see what I can lean.

About the second half of the title, I no longer sleep much. I slept less than three hours last night, one hour at a time. I gave up at 4:00 AM and started this post around 5:00 lol

If you get a chance, check out DanGumm.com there are coffee and cigar reviews galore!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

There's Sausage In My Sandwich, Not In A Million Years

For the past couple of months now we've plating Mom's dinner for her, which includes cutting items up and applying the appropriate condiments. It's much easier on her and everyone else in the house if we do this way. We try giving Mom as much Independence as possible, while at the same time keeping her frustration factor to an acceptable level for her.

The past Thursday night we had breakfast for dinner. Well not really a full blown breakfast, we had link sausage, French toast and fruit. As I dished up Mom's plate, Paula asked if I wanted her to cut up the sausage and French toast. Being the smart ass I am, I told her that I was pretty sure Mom could take care of it since it was only sausage and toast.

In a million years I would have never guessed the outcome of sausage and French toast.

Right out of the gate dinner threw Mom for a loop. I'd told her it was dinner time and when she sat down at the table it was breakfast. And no, I wasn't intentionally trying to be mean or to confuse her. Every time she gets out of bed she thinks it's breakfast time and quite often she thinks it's the first time she has been out of bed for the day. I guess this means I should simply tell her it's time to eat and let her draw her own conclusions as to which meal it is.

Anyway, back to the story. There were two sausage links and one piece of toast on her plate, with the butter and syrup right in front of her. First she cut her toast in half, not so odd, she does that with bread quite often before she butters it. But today, instead of buttering her toast, she rolled up a sausage link in the half and ate it like a pig in a blanket. Just when I thought it couldn't get any stranger, for the second link, she cut her half slice of toast in half again and made a mini sandwich. As she tried to eat, the mini sandwich kept falling apart but she fought it until the very end.

It gets tough watching the daily decline and seeing Alzheimer's take away what my Mom once was, but hey, at least she's here living with dignity instead of just another person in some institution.

Until next time. . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Ten Miles. But It's Over Here, Just Around The Corner You Know

My Great aunt Laura lived and died here in Spokane. I was about 10 when she passed away, but I do have quite a few fond memories of her. She lived with her half-sister Hester, (who for some reason scared me to death as a kid and I have no recollection exactly why other than she used a walker), in a small house on Euclid street.

When mom was in the third grade grandpa and grandma were divorced which forced grandma to take a job as a live-in house keeper. Grandma being unable to keep mom and her brother with her, sent them to live with grandpa's sister, aunt Laura. At that time Laura and her brothers lived on Cedar street. Mom and my uncle Jack, mom's brother, lived there for over a year. By the time I was born, Laura had moved in with Hester on Euclid street and until Mom moved in with us I had no knowledge there was house on Cedar street.

Mom has talked about this house many times since moving to Spokane and one day we took her by so she could see the old house again. It had a fresh coat of paint and the landscaping had changed, but she did recognize her childhood home away from home.

OK, so by now I am sure you're wondering just where this story is going.

For the past three weeks, at least once per day, when mom gets up from a nap she tells me that she just got home from Laura's house and that since she no longer has a car (a stab at me for selling her car), she walked there and back again. When she told me this the first few times I tried explaining to her that she had been dreaming. I added, It was more than ten miles to aunt Laura's house and there is no way she could walk there and back. However, being Mom, she was quite persistent that she had been to Laura's and had a nice conversation with someone, but she couldn't remember just who it was. Plus, it wasn't ten miles away, it's over here, just around the corner you know.

After those first few times I changed my strategy by just agreeing with her and asking if she had a good time. She replies that she did and then gives a detailed account of the house layout and where everyone slept back in the day. Mom slept on a small cot at the top of the stairs because there was no one for her to share a room with.

I realized that it makes her happy reliving those childhood memories and talking to relatives that have long been deceased. Perhaps this is her defense mechanism and how she deals with life knowing that besides us kids, she and her brother are the last of their family generation.

I'll never know the real answer to that, but I'm learning, if it makes Mom happy, it makes me happy. . .

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Can The Cows Come Home To Play

Mom grew up on a 2000 acre ranch, which her two nephews still own and operate in Colville. They grow about 600 acres each of wheat and alfalfa, plus maintained about 100 cow-calf pairs each year.

About two weeks ago mom had a rough couple of days phasing in and out of reality with each passing moment. We had all sat down at the dinner table and were eating dinner when mom looked out the window and asked, "where are the cows"? I asked her what she meant and she explained, "we have room for eight cows in the back yard, we need to get some cows".

Our Back Yard
I politely told mom we would get some cows for the back yard. Being satisfied with that answer she went back to her dinner and hasn't broached the subject since. Actually our yard is just big enough to hold the six, grey squirrels, the four valley quail, one dog, an occasional escaped cat and a wandering raccoon that already live here.

To those that don't understand Alzheimer's it may appear that I'm making fun of my mom and in one aspect perhaps I am, but the main reason behind this blog is to relieve some of my daily stress brought on by watching my mom deteriorate a bit each and every day. Most of the family and most of mom's friends don't understand this disease and have labeled me a bad person for taking her out of her home. They think she is just forgetful and should be living alone.

My other idea behind this is perhaps this blog will help someone else understand this disease or help them find the occasional humor in being a care giver. It's a high stress, 24/7/365 job that doesn't stop, you just can't walk away and go home for the night.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now, just who the hell was that?

For one reason or another my brother, Steve, has been in a treatment facility for the past couple of months. About every other day mom asks where Steve is and if he is OK. Normally I skip the details and just tell her that he is fine and called a couple of weeks ago. Hearing this puts a grin on her face and seems to satisfy  her for the day.

Well, last week he called and said he was being let out for part of a day so he could come see mom near mothers day. Intentionally I didn't pass this on to mom until the day he was scheduled to show up. When she got up for lunch the only way to keep her up was to tell her Steve was coming to see her. Of course this opened up a two hour barrage of questions, "Why is he coming"? He is coming to see you for mothers day mom. "Where is he living"? He is staying here in Spokane. "Why is he living in Spokane?" etc. etc. Then five minutes later we would go through the same gamut of questions all over again.

Finally, 30 minutes late, he arrived with his wife. Mom had no idea who his wife was but gave her a hug and then gave Steve a hug. The first thing out of her mouth was, "you don't look like my boy."

To be honest there are days she tells me the same thing and she lives with us.

Well after about an hour Steve and his wife headed out. I walked them out to the car and bid them farewell. When I went back in the house, mom was looking out the window at them as they drove off. She turned around, looked me in the eye and asked, "now, just who the hell was that?" With a grin I told her that was her son Steve, my brother and he had just came for a visit. Her reply, "he doesn't look lie my boy." I chuckled a bit, gave her a hug and she headed back to bed.

We got her up for dinner about an hour later and she had no idea Steve had even came to visit.

I'ts sad to see my mom like this, but I know she is safe and well cared for. That makes it all worth it.

Well stay tuned for another story tomorrow!

And please, feel free to comment or share your stories!!

Hey, if you like cigars or coffee, check out my other web site DanGumm.com I have loads of cigar and coffee reviews and info posted there.

Oh boy, how quickly things can change.

This blog is about a journey that started almost two years ago, but last July my mother took a turn for the worse and to avoid nursing home care we moved her in to our house as part of the family.

I've been my mom's care giver for nearly a year now and there are many stories to share, some good, some bad, but they are all part of Alzheimer's life. I'll try posting here daily and will back story most of the last year as I go.

Thanks for reading.