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 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.   :)