Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Time Keeps On Moving, Change is Constant

It's been a while since my last post.  I'm finding that yes, life is full.   Still it has been easier to NOT write.  Perhaps it's easier to NOT share all the changes I see happening with Mama.  Still I know it is healthy to share some of it.  It's definitely healthy for me to express myself.  

I'm still very grateful.  She's still here with us.  All things considered she is doing fine.

I like to look at it like this:

The dis-ease is doing what it's doing.   And then Mama with her indomitable spirit is doing what she's doing. And the Spirit of God so fully present in her is doing its work in and through her.

So let's see:

Mama was moved to the Memory Care wing of the facility to provide the best care for her at this stage  (and indicated that she was overdue for this change).  Mama was exit seeking (putting her own safety at risk trying to follow others as they left the facility), taking other resident's mail, and other belongings. 

It took a minute, but she's adjusted overall to her new room and wing. 

I think she got upset at some point around the time of changing rooms/wings and trashed her upper dentures, or perhaps unknowingly.   Regardless, they are no where to be found!   The RAs (Resident Assistants) and I have searched high and low for them.    Our dentist recommended to leave it be and not replace them, as this would likely happen again.  And while they certainly enhance her appearance, she can still eat just fine without them (still has a great appetite).   So it's simply not worth replacing due to the high chance of them getting lost or trashed again.

I believe that her increasing behavior is due to the progression of the dis-ease.  But on a positive note, her brain is being stimulated by a new product (superfoods blend) she's taking called NatraBurst.  It's basically giving her body some wonderful raw materials to work with.  Michael (my husband) and I see how it's definitely been stimulating her brain, perhaps opening some pathways, and enhancing her speech.   Her doctor approved her usage of this product and wrote a doctor's order, and the nurses at Augusta Gardens have been giving it to her each day. 

Mama can be stubborn and sometimes resists the color of her her tea being turned a little green  :) (NatraBurst has over 30+ superfoods, including many green vegetables - so it has lots of chlorophyll, very good for the body).  So the nurses are spreading out a scoop of the product over the course of the day, getting it into her body when and as they can each day.    I know it is making a difference, and I trust it will continue to.   
Here's why (7-12-11 Anita G. Houser sharing her personal Natraburst testimonial and her mother Mildred's definite developments/improvements using the product with an Alzheimer's diagnosis)

I feel that ANYTHING this product can do for her is worth it, because Mama is worth it.

I am comforted in knowing that even though she's been in rare form these days, that the change of rooms was truly warranted. It's not because of the NatraBurst that she's only been taking a few weeks. The director actually apologized on behalf of the assisted living. He explained that they overextended her stay on the assisted living side (something I questioned the staff about periodically about for a few month, but was told she was a ways off from being placed in the Memory Care unit). But now that they have proper leadership at the helm, better assessments and decisions are being made. Everything is better there.

Mama has had to even stop attending church recently, due to her behavior disrupting the service. She was in rare form one Sunday in particular. (Everyone, please understand that my finding the humor in life with Mama is a necessity for my sanity and perspective. Otherwise, the stress of it all, would really do me in.) At church, Mama jumped up and went to the front, got hold of a tambourine and let's just say, ...she had her own personal rhythm section going on, loud and strong (and very different different from what I was playing on keyboards!!! - I'm the music director at my church).

She continued playing and when she finished, walked over to the laptop set up to run the powerpoint slides and starting pounding on the laptop keyboard! Ahhh.... I didn't even see her at the laptop, but my body could feel the tension of it all. Imagine for me, as Music Director, trying to focus on doing my job in the midst of Mama making her presence known. And that's really what it comes to....it's like more of her is trying to come through. So it's actually a blessing in disguise. But just not appropriate behavior in a church setting. :)

I'm hoping that she can return to church at some point in the near future. I really won't know for sure how it will go until I actually take her again. We will see.

In the meantime, I pick her up after church on Sundays and bring her home with us for a few hours. She loves being with the family of course. We learned the hard way to NOT leave important belongings out in plain view, because she will swipe them in heartbeat if something catches her eye! (She took off with Michael's wedding ring that was left on the dresser in our bedroom. He noticed it later after I returned from taking her back to Augusta Gardens. Now, God only knows where that ring is now or where it will end up. Urghh! But Michael being so grounded, reassured me that he's attached to ME and NOT the ring. :) (Still maybe if we're lucky she'll wear it on display on her suit jacket, which has become like a 'show and tell' canvass for everything from name tags from church, earrings she fastens, etc.)

It's all good.

Mama's still here...keeping us all on our toes (our family and the staff at Augusta Gardens). :)


Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Read 'Generation Alzheimer's' study and Get Involved !!!

It's been quite a while since my last entry.   Seems that life has been on fast forward these past few weeks, with so much going on, and so much to juggle.   Still I see the importance of coming back to journaling about the journey.   It really does help to keep things in perspective, and in some way bless others.  It is my intention to somehow make the time atleast once per week to sit down and share here.

I was contacted recently by a rep from the Alzheimer's Association and asked to do my part on this site to bring awareness about a recently released a groundbreaking study called Generation Alzheimer's: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers.   I've read it myself and appreciate the important information and awareness about the disease and how we're at the tipping point for a cure. 

They want to make sure the public understands what can be done to conquer this devastating disease.  There is hope, but we must act now and do our part.

"Unless we find a treatment or a cure, Alzheimer’s
will become the defining disease of the Baby Boom
Generation. They will be Generation Alzheimer’s."

"For the first time in history, there is real hope
in emerging science that we can overcome
Alzheimer’s disease and that the day is near when
Alzheimer’s does not need to be a death sentence."

I encourage everyone to take the time TODAY to get and read this brief, but very important and informative report (18 pgs):


1.   Give your financial support for research to the Alzheimer's Association:  Donate online now

2.   Watch this video and click here to fill out a questionaire to find clinical trials to participate in (They need more participants involved to find a cure...whether you are person with the disease, caregiver, physician, researcher, or healthy volunteer).

3.  Share this blog post with your friends on FB, Twitter, by email.   Help spread the word. 

4.  Stay in the loop with the Alzheimer's Association through:

Thanks in advance for your support.

Anita G. Houser
daughter and caregiver to Mildred B. Gilliard

Friday, March 4, 2011

Joy of Family, Music, and Life

I've been away from this site over the past few weeks, with so much going on in my personal life.  Still, all is well.

Something I'm really grateful for these past few weeks is having some family visiting briefly on two separate occasions.

Mama's sister-in-law Jackie (my aunt) and Mama's nephew Curt (my cousin) came a few weeks ago from NC and spent a few hours one Saturday with us.  

Jackie was married to my mother's beloved brother, Curtis, who passed away a few years ago.   Curtis Jr. (Curt) looks so much like his father!   

It was wonderful seeing them again!!  

                                                            Aunt Jackie and Me

    Mama (showing off her grass skirt from a 
               past Hawaiian luau at her assisted living community) and Aunt Jackie 

Mama busy playing Pat Sajak's Lucky Letters...not into posing at the moment.

 Now she's ready......

 Me and my cousin Curt (I told him I still remember his BIG afro from back in the day!)

They felt strongly that Mama did not recognize them, though that did not stop Mama from enjoying their company.  I was surprised though that she did not recognize them.  

Mama pulled out her portable accordian photo album to show.   

When she came to a picture they all took together years ago at a family reunion (Uncle Curtis, Aunt Jackie, Mama, and Curt), Mama only referenced her brother, saying "He died from time to time."    

Even when Aunt Jackie pointed out to Mama that they were also in the picture and now right there in person, we could tell that Mama simply didn't get it.  Oh well.  It's okay.

It was a very sweet visit that did us all good.  Before I knew it, it was time for them to leave.  I really appreciate them coming.

And this week, my sister Andrea came to visit from TN for a couple a days.

Mama didn't recognize Andrea initially, but made the connection a little later fortunately.  That is good to know that she still recognizes her own daughter, though in time it is likely that she will not recognize either one of us.  

But for now, we are grateful that she does. 

Getting our names correct is a different story...she's swapped our names it seems.   But hey, that's not much different than many mothers without Alzheimer's, right?!  

Michael (my husband), Andrea, and I laughed together at some of the adventures this week with Mama...

.... like my mother going behind the counter at the laundromat/dry cleaners and taking a handful of sales receipts and slipping them in her purse the moment we turned our heads (we were there to wash some comforters).   

We didn't find out until AFTER we got back home.

Andrea return the receipts and said the lady working there was very understanding, though relieved that she wasn't losing her mind not being able to find the receipts! 

We had picked Mama up earlier that day after lunch to come spend the afternoon with us at my house.  Mama loves to be on the go.    It was great to all be there together. 

Of course, we had to continue watching Mama like a hawk.  

She poured herself some juice and tried to chase it with olive oil only to be stopped initially by Andrea.....and then later pour a second concoction when I had my back turned to her.   She was about to drink it when I noticed the oil in the juice. 

Mama was NOT a happy camper after that, and stormed off when I took the glass from her.   But like a child, her anger is intense, but brief....it passes and then she's back to being happy/content. 

Mama even helped out in the kitchen a bit by stirring the homemade cornbread batter as we enjoyed listening to some old Motown hits playing in the background. 

I feel that Mama really enjoyed herself overall that day with her family.   And I appreciated Andrea being there and helping out.  I know Mama appreciated it too.  

So all in all, another happy experience overall and happy memory for Mama even if she recalls it only briefly.    :)     I'd like to think that good feelings do have some mileage though.   :)

Here's to Mama, Family, Music, and Life.

Speaking of music....   
Mama's in a great picture that was featured in the Augusta Chronicle a few weeks ago. 

They had a local news crew out there too filming... so Mama was also seen on the local news!!  
She can't help being a star everywhere she goes!

                            Guest musicians come to perform at the Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer's Care.    
I'm sure you see Mama there dancing with such gusto!
(and you see how Mama already started writing on newspaper clipping to give it to my family...how sweet)

I LOVE YOU TOO MAMA!!!!     :)

Peace and Blessings,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Adventures in Alzheimer's with a Type A Personality

While I know we are much more than our personalities, it's clear that each person's personality is undeniable.   And even with Alzheimer's, I notice Mama's Type A personality shining through inspite of the disease.  

If anything, she pushes even more to be herself, be heard, have her way, and be the giver she's always been.  It makes me smile sometimes.  Other times, I just have to sigh.    And breathe.  This past week, in particular, there were several opportunities to do BOTH.   :)

Let's see....

Mama, being the giver she is, has been taking everyone's mail from their cubbyholes at her assisted living community.  

She repurposes their mail, writing "I love you" on the envelopes (and anything else she can write on) and adding more trinkets like:  jam & sweetener packets from the dinning hall, napkins, and anything else she can get her hands (like business cards, brochures, and such from the front desk).

She takes pride in preparing and giving her little packets of love to me, my husband, our sons, and our minister on Sunday.  It's really sweet on one hand.   On the other, I notice that my mind kicks in with "this is more work for me to do, sorting through the clutter...um her gifts". 

Not to mention she's taking other people's mail (which of course, is NOT a good thing).  

I think we've got the mail part handled now, since the Community Relations Director and I had a small "intervention" with Mama, if you will, in front of the mail area.   

We spoke to her, giving eye contact and physical ques, distinguishing between her mail box and others...telling her to NOT touch others' mail anymore and only get hers.   We even put Mama's name on her mail box, hoping that as her eye goes straight to her box, she'll be less inclined to go into other's mail boxes.   Seems to be working, thank goodness!

Next this past week, the toilet overflowed and leaked to the room below hers, as well as backing up her neighbor's toilet too.    

For some reason in her mind, the toilet has become another waste basket, even though she has a wastebasket, both in her bathroom AND kitchenette area.  (the maintenance guy found all sorts of items from banana peels, to bread, sweeteners, jam packets from the dining hall, to you name it....all packed down through the toilet line...so this has been going on for a while, until it finally got completely backed up).

Now the amazing thing is this:   the maintenance guy removed the entire ceramic toilet attempting to fix the problem, and placed it in the shower temporarily.   When he left the room a few minutes, my mother picked up the entire toilet from the shower and put it back in place!!!    When the maintenance guy returned a few minutes later, he couldn't believe his eyes.   Oh my goodness!!   See, Type A personality.....  talk about strong personality and PHYSICALLY strong too!   She probably thought to herself:   "The toilet doesn't belong in the shower.   WHAT in the world is the guy doing with my toilet???!!"     :)     FUNNY. 

Well, unfortunately, the maintenance guy wasn't able to fix the toilet on his own, so he had to call an outside plumber to the tune of $210.00.     Oh well.   And since Mama was technically responsible for the damage, I had to pay the bill on her behalf.  Swell.   Yet, it IS what it is......

So now to make sure this doesn't happen again (and I pray to God it doesn't), Mama's now on 1 hour room checks  instead of every 2 hours.

Tomorrow, I take Mama to see her general doctor, and on the request of the assisted living director, Mama's at the point where she needs medication now on a regular basis to help balance out her episodes of agitations.  

She was prescribed something 2 1/2 years ago when she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it only had to be used on rare occasion.     

But these days, Mama is being more and more agitated and this necessitates a change her medication protocol.  Without a statement from the assisted living director, Mama's doctor would just have to take my word for it....cause I'm sure Mama will show up cool as a cucumber for the doctor (unless something didn't go her way).   

So...it came to me to be fully prepared by asking the director to prepare a letter for the doctor documenting Mama's behavior.   Mama is as cool as a cucumber and a real delight to be around when everything's going her way.  And other times, well, she gets very headstrong and will retaliate verbally and even physically if she feels threatened (like if she doesn't want to shower or refuses to go to the Alzheimer's Center because she has it in her mind that I'm coming to pick her up, etc.)  

It's challenging to see Mama like this, or even hearing about it from the staff.    It does, however, simply come with the territory of Alzheimer's.

I marvel at how sharing here on this blog really helps me to get these stories and feelings out.  I have to be a clear vessel for my mother when I'm with her.  I have to be present to best serve her, and all of her affairs, as well as be able enjoy the time we do have together.  So it's essential that I deal with my own emotions around her condition.   

And I think it's important that people hear what it's really like for people with the disease and their families.  And it lets others going through the same thing know that they are NOT alone.  It is my hope that the stigma is lessened around this disease, and that people become more comfortable with talking.   Keeping things bottled inside is a recipe for burnout and depression.

These are our loved ones.   Alzheimer's is NOT who they are.   Alzheimer's, however, is a relentless disease that DOES dictate alot about their lives, irrepairably damaging their brains, stealing life as they once knew it, and affecting everyone around them.    

I pray for a cure one day.  In the meantime, I'm in the trenches being and doing the best I can.  And I know Mama certainly is being and doing her best too.   It's humbling.   She really inspires me.

Thanks for listening.   Feel free to share your thoughts.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Even Though Christmas Is Past, These Are Too Precious to NOT Share

I was decluttering in my office and ran across these photos set at the end of December from the Jud C Hickey Alzheimer's Center that Mama attends twice per week.

These are precious....

                                            "Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...."

                                                        "I've still got it.  Let me show you how it's done."

 Mama, always the educator, showing Mrs. Claus a thing or two about her cell phone! 


    "That's right.   Pay attention Mrs. Claus, 
there might be a pop quiz on this soon."

                                               Never too busy to pose for the camera.  

Mama's Feeling Better and Back in Action

This time last week, Mama was a couple of days into having a stomach virus, and was not a happy camper.  Even though it seemed that her immune system was pretty strong all things considered, she and about 16 other residents at her assisted living community came down, one by one, with the stomach virus.

I must it admit I was initially a bit concerned about getting sick too, being in such close proximity when going to check on her.  But with the help of the staff, Lysol, affirmative prayer, and me wearing a facial mask, and latex gloves (as I cleaned her bathroom), I did NOT succumb to the stomach virus too.   I adapted a phrase from my friend Carolyn who says  "I don't get sick."    Works for me!! (Thanks Carolyn!)

I simply choose to be well and stay well.  And even though I'm still working through a couple of health issues, I truly believe it is temporary and health and wholeness is mine.   Plus, it's really essential that I be well so I can live and enjoy and a great life, and also since I am responsible for being there for my mother and family of course. 

And I digress a moment and go down memory lane, remember something Mama told me years ago regarding my boys, who are now 12 and 15.   They were around 1 and 4 years old at the time...very active and into everything, and she said:  "Make sure you take VERY good care of yourself!!!"   In other words, I needed to be there for my boys in general (and so she would NEVER have to care for them full-time on my behalf)  LOL   She loved them (and still does), but she knew they were too much of a handful for her, a woman who's child rearing days were long gone.  And she'd say: "The Lord sure knew what He was doing by giving ya kids when ya young."  :)

And now the irony is, in many ways, Mama is like my child these days.   So in a strange way, it's almost like I'm the mother of three children now.   I still know she's my mother.  I still have the same love and respect for her, yet she looks to me for a sense of safety, support, care, and guidance the way a child looks to a parent.   It's very humbling.

So last Sunday, Mama had to remain at Augusta Gardens instead of going to church with us.  This was her first Sunday NOT attending church in almost a year.

And almost a year ago she only missed going to church then because she was on the road, traveling back from Florida visiting my uncle (her brother-in-law) with her niece (my cousin Tina).   At the time of the visit, Uncle Everett was so concerned and upset by seeing the obvious changes in Mama (her challenges with communicating and understanding others.)  Little did we know that Uncle Everett's life would come to an end only a few months later,  after many years of battling some physical health challenges.  He was a wonderful spirit, a kind and good-hearted man..a wonderful human being. 

And Mama's still standing.  Even with all she's personal lost in her life and with Alzheimer's, she is still so blessed.  And so are we, to still have her in our lives.

And even though Mama called me SEVERAL times last Sunday and sounded quite upset (even DURING the church service, though I remembered to put my phone on vibrate fortunately!), she got through Sunday without going to church just fine.    

Before long she was feeling well enough to pack up ALL and I do mean ALL of her belongs, wanting to come back home with me!!   So I KNEW she was feeling better.   The packing must have tired her out, because was napping when I checked on her after church.   I quietly unpacked her belongings for a good 2 1/2 hours while she took a rather long nap.

When she woke up and realized it was me, she began to rant about how she didn't love this place anymore.   I just listened to her and told her "I'm so sorry."       And later when it was time for me to leave she insisted that she leave with me, even after I attempted to explain that she needed to stay.  I ended up having to quickly leave, taking the stairs, instead of the elevator, to slip outside without her.  I used to get upset if I had to resort to this, but now I realize that it's necessary sometimes.  One thing you DON'T do with someone with Alzheimer's is argue with them.  You just listen, agree, and then do what you must that best serves them and the situation.

It can be quite emotionally draining going to visit with her and interacting with her.   It's quite a lesson in acceptance and nonresistance.   Some days it's easier than others.   I try to only visit the past or future in my mind briefly.  Presence is the key to sanity and peace.  I did have a good cry looking through an old photo album while I unpacked her belongs.   It was actually cleansing. though it does hurt initially since it brings up so many feelings.  I felt a mixture of  pride and sadness looking at all the memories of past years.   The picture of her and Daddy really got to me as I saw them back in the day, so much younger and in love.  

So now, with Mama completely over the stomach virus, feeling better and being back in action, it helps me do the same for my own life.  I know that in the midst of visiting her and helping to take care of her and her affairs, I must still live my own life the best way I can.  My family and I deserve the best of me too.   I'm also sure that's what Mama would want for me too.

And now with tomorrow being yet another Sunday, I'm sure Mama will be dressed to the NINES from head to toe, ready to go when I come to pick her up in the morning for church.   :)

And the journey continues.....


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Like Old Times in the KItchen...Sorta

Mama came over today after church to spend the day with us.

Sundays have turned into an all day affair with her these days. 

I had sort of a deja vu in the kitchen with her.   There we were again, working in the kitchen together...  me at the stove and Mama cutting vegetables.   It felt good.  

She still has great motor skills and can slice & dice like a pro.   She just needs to be prompted as to what to do.  I usually demonstrate first what I'd like her to do, talking with my hands while making eye contact and speaking to her.   And usually she gets it.   And I have to make sure she washes her hands thoroughly before starting out.  

This really took me back to my childhood with us being in the kitchen together.   Only now, the roles are in reverse.   Back then Mama, lead and I followed.   These days, it's the reverse.   Back then there was lots of talking, including her telling ME what to do!  "Hand me the butter or milk from the fridge", she'd tell me.   These days, there are far fewer words and many more smiles.   So it's all good. 

 I also make sure there's always some great and familiar music playing in the background.  Today it was some of the old Motown classics, like Gladys Knight and the Pip's "Midnight Train to Georgia".   So there we were together in the kitchen cooking and grooving to the music... together. 

I wonder sometimes what she's thinking.   She seems to talk alot with her eyes.  While other times her mind must be pretty quiet.  Overall she is in the moment.   

I'm grateful that overall she seems happy and content.   All things considered, she's doing well, and happier than she's been in YEARS.    Alzheimer's is doing its thing, yet Mama continues doing HER thing...living her life the best way she knows...with a whole lotta love and joy.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mama Had Her OWN Agenda

Yesterday, Mama refused to let the staff member at Augusta Gardens (assisted living) take her to the Jud C Hickey Alzheimer's adult care program.   She usually goes twice per week, which is a nice supplement to the activities at Augusta Gardens.  

Instead, she declared that I was coming to take her to the doctor!  Where did she get this notion?!  Mama kept calling me asking if me when I was coming to get her.  A call to my cell phone, then to the house phone, and back again to the cell !  I didn't initially answer because to do that would only reinforce in her mind that I would be coming to get her. 

But finally the staff member called me explaining that Mama was resistant to going with her.  She put Mama on the phone to me, and as I suspected she really couldn't/wouldn't hear or understand what I was saying. 

Later I called Nancy, the director at Alzheimer's Center who reminded me that this is a delusional episode as a result of the disease.  She suggested that the staff member try 'therapeutic lying' and tell Mama that she would take her to see her daughter (me).   Maybe I'll suggest this to Dot next time. 

I have a sneaking suspicion that this most likely will NOT work.  Mama really can't be fooled.  Never really could be, and she's just as strong-willed as she ever was!

Yes, this was initially quite emotional for me....because it's yet another reminder of how the disease is continuing to progress.  

But after a good cry to release these emotions, I was able to put things in perspective, and  just let it be what it is, and even find the humor in it.  It's like Mama was saying:  "You think you have plans for me?  Well I'll SHOW YOU!!"   :)

So we must go with the flow.  So yes yesterday, Mama refused to go and I guess she figured out later, that I would not be coming. 

Like a record player needle stuck on a groove of a record, Mama's mind was stuck on the thought of me coming to take her to the doctor.   That was her story, and she was sticking to it!  

I'm sure after awhile, she went on about her day engaging with the people and activities where she lives....spreading her joy (and jam and sweetener packets from the dinner table) to everyone she encounters!  Even now she's still a giver and loves people.   :)