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 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 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). 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.



Carolee Sperry said...

Wow, I didn't realize you were going through so much this past week!

Your mother sure is strong-willed- moving that toilet back- oh my!

If you need to talk, you have my email & #


Lisa B Carter Designs said...

I know you told me this story over the phone already but reading it has really made understand more. Anita you are a awesome daughter and wonderful person. Your mom is so lucky to have such a loving daughter/friend making sure she is taken care of during this time. I wish you peace and love and may the Lord Bless you!

Anita G. Houser said...

Thanks ladies so much! Yes Mama is and has always been VERY strong-willed. Always the type to take things into her own hands. :) Carolee it's good to know you're around by phone to talk. So glad we're still in touch.

Lisa, thanks for your words and thanks for being there for me. It means so much.

Glynis said...

You are a very special lady and just as strong as your mother. Alzheimer's is not an easy disease to deal with. You tell the story beautifully and I am glad you can still keep your sense of humor.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Blogging Buddy

Lisa said...

I am a new Blogging Buddy, and I signed up to get your posts via email! I'm glad you've found a way (through blogging) to vent a little and write out your story. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you as you go along this journey.

Anita G. Houser said...

Thanks Glynis,
I appreciate your kindness and understanding. This experience has actually help me tap into my sense of humor quite a bit. It's a requirement for sanity! :)

Tanya M. said...

Hi Anita,
Thanks for your comment! I really admire you.
You are a strong,loving woman :) I'm sure your mama is very proud of you. Writing your feeling out is very important, whether they are ositive or negative! Big Hugs!! ant wait to read more & acompany you on this journey.