Friday, August 31, 2007


Olivia seems to enjoy the kitty walk. This afternoon she stayed in it for about half an hour (supervised by me and Mom of course). She loves to eat grass and watch the birds fly by. Lily enjoys having Olivia out of her hair for a while.

Mom's diarrhea is back, thanks to the augmentin. I called her doctor today and she said that she would really like to keep Mom on it since she feels that the urinalysis results, because of the high white blood cell count, point to an infection rather than contamination from the surrounding skin. She suggested buying Activia yogurt and something called Lactotex (sp?). So tomorrow we will go pick up some more Activia yogurt. Luckily Mom likes it. Her appetite also seems to be back, anyway she will now eat several small meals a day without too much of a fuss. She still cries at night and doesn't want to sleep alone.

I had a phone interview today for a job that is closer to home. It sounds interesting. Shall see if I get a call back.

Weather has been beautiful here. Clear, blue skies sunny and 80s.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My friend Linda sent me this:

U grad composes tribute song

Two days after the I-35W bridge collapsed, U grad Phil Thompson made a trip to the Mississippi River for a view of the scene. That evening, the acclaimed pianist composed "Final Ride Home," a compelling tribute to the victims of the tragedy, their families,and volunteers. Phil Thompson's I-35W Bridge Collapse Tribute

It's a hauntingly beautiful song and the video is poignant. If you purchase the song on iTunes, the proceeds go to the Red Cross Bridge fund for victims.

Mom was sleeping when I arrived home a little after 5 tonight. I had ordered a Kitty Walk tunnel for Olivia so that she can enjoy some time outside. At first she was hesitant about it but after a while she started to relax and enjoy it. I had Mom come out on the patio so she could see her kitty in the new toy. Mom's face lit up when she saw her. She really does love that little cat and for that I am grateful to Miss Olivia. She dotes on Mom and is a great comfort to her. Our neighbors Jae, Katherine and George came over to see it. Turns out Katherine is a cat lover and she found Olivia quite enchanting (but who wouldn't?). Lily observed the proceedings from the safety of the house.

My good friend Allen sent me a link to an article in the Duluth News Tribune about a home invasion that occurred blocks from our houses (we grew up in the same neighborhood and I and my sister used to babysit for Allen and his younger brother). It was very scary. A mother and her children were tied up and robbed at gunpoint. The house was on 1st street between 34th and 35th avenues east.
I found this on the Science Daily newsfeed. Sounds interesting to me. Brain Implants Relieve Alzheimer's Damage This makes me hope for something that will one day not only reverse but also cure the disease. I only wish it would occur soon enough to help Mom.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mom's UTI has not cleared up so the doctor is prescribing Augmentin for 3 times/day for 10 days. If it still doesn't clear up then we need to make an appointment with a urologist. I hope it clears up. Am debating about whether to start up the home health care aide. Allyson thinks Mom will resist it after having witnessed Mom's reaction to the mere suggestion. She thinks a better idea is to call a woman who works as a companion. She might be right. It's sure nice to be able to use Allyson as a sounding board and for advice. It makes me feel less alone in this.

UPDATE: I talked to Mom's case manager/RN at Homewatch and she said that clean catch urine specs are hard to get no matter how careful you are with the elderly. She basically said that Mom might not have a UTI, it might just be contamination from the area. Hmmm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tonight we took Olivia to get her 'manicure'. They trimmed her claws and put on the plastic caps called Soft Claws. This helps to stop her from clawing up our rugs and Grandma Ilse's chair. We got home, got out of the car and Mom had an accident. It was like she wasn't even wearing her Depends (she was, but they were soaked). She was humiliated to say the least. Got her in the house and cleaned her up and she was happy as a clam again.

Overnight we had more heavy rain and high winds. My umbrella blew over as did some other things on the patio. However, this time we did not lose power. 50,000 others did though. Last night I found a fascinating entry in Wikipedia about the I-35 bridge collapse. It even has the surveillance video which showed the actual collapse as it happened.
Mom has asked me a few times what happened to her car. I remind her that we traded it for our new car and she says 'oh yes, that's right'. She is still very with it, comparatively. Almost like her old self. Almost. She still cries for Dad a lot. Especially when she sees a couple together either on TV or in real life. And she expresses her jealousy that her sister still has a husband. My mom's sister married my dad's brother.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Yesterday, after much research and hesitation, and gentle prodding from both Mom and Allyson, we finally traded in my car and Mom's car and bought a new car. It's a new VW Passat and it's great. I was hesitant to trade in my Jetta, I loved it, but now the temptation to drive for Mom is gone hopefully. Plus, the new Passat has a push button key so she may not be able to figure out how to start the new car.

Yesterday when we were out cruising in the new car, we drove by my old townhome and Mom said, there's your old house, let's drive by it. The trees have gotten huge in 12 years. The person who bought my house had a trailer parked in the driveway, I feel sorry for my old neighbor. There were lot's of houses for sale too. Must be a sign of the times.

We picked up some Mongolian Chicken from LeeAnn Chin's. Mom tried it and ate several pieces. I was surprised. Her appetite has been better since we treated her UTI. I have also put her on a multivitamin. Why do they have to make multivitamins so big? They are hard to swallow.

Mom has been working the knots out of my back for me. She's a really good masseuse. Plus it makes her feel like she is contributing (which she is).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mom has this weird habit of turning the glass over when she has finished drinking something. This just started recently. For a while she would use a spoon whenever she ate something, even if a fork was the better utensil choice. Every once in a while she will chew her meds or put them in the water glass so I have to be vigilant to make sure that she puts them in her mouth and swallows them with water. Boy this ALZ is weird!

My fibromyalgia flare up continues. I don't know what caused it. I took my muscle relaxant last night and slept well, but I'm still in pain today and quite a bit groggy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This is an interesting article on diagnosing neurological conditions like Alzheimer's from the Minneapolis paper. Brain test could help make earlier diagnoses
Tonight I went to our townhome association meeting. After an hour I had to leave to get home to Mom. I don't like leaving her for very long since I am away all day. She was fine. She has almost finished one of her coloring books, one of the big, thick ones. She loves coloring, it seems to be very therapeutic for her. I learned that two of our neighbors are in the healthcare professionals. June is an EMT and Cindy is a nurse. One other neighbor asked where Mom was and how Mom liked her new raised platform on the patio. She said it looks like it makes life easier for Mom. Then she asked if Mom had had a stroke. I explained that it was Alzheimers and she said she had a friend who was retired from the police force who now worked as a companion for seniors. She would give me her card. It would be nice to have someone like that IF and that's a big if, Mom would accept that.

Had a flare up today and was really achy. Took a nap at lunch and that seemed to help. It's hard to sit and concentrate when I ache like that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We did not get delayed by the President, YAY! In fact we made it home a few minutes early. What a relief. There were state troopers and local police all over the freeway at the entrance ramps gearing up for closing the highway.

Mom's neuro and I decided she should not resume taking the Aricept. She is also finished with the Cipro so now I need to get another specimen from her for testing (eww). She remembers that she had a haircut but she cannot remember the actual event. Very strange. I mentioned some of these weird things to the neuro and she said that sometimes Aricept makes patients more confused.

My niece is doing better on day 2 of college. Whew.
A funny video of Mom being goofy. And Olivia, post escape.
Last night when Mom and I came home from her hair appointment, that little devil Olivia escaped into the garage while Mom was coming into the house. I was not in the mood to deal with Mom who was tearful about her haircut and her kitty escaping and Olivia would not cooperate and get back into the house so I grabbed the broom and used the handle to get her out from underneath the car. I probably whacked her too hard with the broom handle but eventually I chased her out from under the car and back into the house. Lily was observing all of this from her safe place on the sofa. I have to be more gentle with the broom I guess.

Once again it is rainy and cool here. It's getting monotonous. And the flooding in the southeast of the state is unbelievable. I feel for those people.

The President is going to visit Minneapolis today, supposedly around the evening rush hour which means that most of my evening commute could be delayed for who knows how long. Wish he would just stay in DC and clean up some of his mess there.
Sometimes this song is just perfect for how I feel.

"Bad Day"

Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on

You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces everytime
And I don't need no carryin' on

Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Well you need a blue sky holiday
The point is they laugh at what you say
And I don't need no carryin' on

You had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day

(Oh.. Holiday..)

Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I'm not wrong

So where is the passion when you need it the most
Oh you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost

Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
You've seen what you like
And how does it feel for one more time
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Had a bad day
Had a bad day
Had a bad day
Had a bad day
Had a bad day

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mom wanted to know how her son was doing so we gave them a call. He is doing good. His daughter, my niece, had a panic attack on her first day of college. I am so glad that she was only a 1/2 hour from home so that she could come home and get her bearings. She's back in the dorm tonight, getting ready for classes tomorrow.

It has been raining all weekend which means that the search and recovery efforts at the I-35W bridge had to be suspended. Meanwhile, more info has been coming out about the bridge and it's insufficiency. MN-DOT was trying to figure out a way to fix beams that were cracking. It's scary stuff and it sounds like there were several alarming issues that should have been addressed way earlier. Brakes put on Bridge Work

Mom has really been with it for the last week. It's uncanny and I can almost believe that nothing is wrong. She is confused, but not nearly as much as she has been in the past. It is a welcome relief for me. I know the pendulum can swing the other way though at a moment's notice.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It is rainy and cool today. Mom has been napping for most of the afternoon. When she naps, she seems restless; she will jerk around, move her feet and moan a lot. And her eyes will flicker. She also slept until nearly 10 am this morning. Very unlike her. Maybe her body is fighting off the infection making her more tired. She seems to have her appetite back as well which is a good thing. She took a shower this morning. The new shower head is very nice and she was able to get up out of the chair in the shower much easier thanks to the grab bar that Joe installed.

Mom says she feels 'itchy'. I asked her if her skin feels itchy and she said she feels like she needs to be doing something. She feels 'antsy'. She's been saying she's felt this way for a few days now. I wonder if upping the Seroquel did this? I will have to ask her neuro on Monday.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I have been working on a photo album with pictures from my sister's wedding using software from Creative Memories. I'm also going to make a traditional scrapbook for her, but I think I'm going to keep the storybook for Mom and me. It depends on how it turns out. It's really fun to work on though.

We have had one episode of diarrhea, this morning. Mom must have had an episode this morning before I got up because I needed to change the bed linens this morning. She really gets distressed about the accidents and I try to do everything I can to make her feel OK about it. She apologizes and I tell her it's not her fault and she has nothing to apologize for.

The lucidity continues. It's weird. Maybe the UTI was making her more squirrelly, I don't know. I'm not complaining.

I really have a desire to visit Lake Superior. It's been about 4 years since I have been back to Duluth. I love seeing the big lake with all of the seagulls and ships, how it glistens like diamonds in the sun.

Angie starts college today. She will be a freshman at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. I think she is going to like being in college.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hey fellow ALZ caregivers, check this out!

Training Helps Alzheimer's Caregivers

Sunday, August 12, 2007

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

The findings are stunning: Offering simple training to people struggling to care for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease not only eases their burden _ it even can keep patients out of nursing homes for an extra 1 1/2 years.

But the exciting research also runs headlong into a grim reality.

Alzheimer's caregivers seldom can make time in their daily grind to seek out that kind of help.

And when they do, they too often find waiting lists for services, or programs geared only toward people with advanced disease and not the larger pool in the purgatory that is dementia's decade-long middle ground between independence and helplessness.

That is one of Dolores Melnick's biggest frustrations.

Her husband refused to enroll in the "day care" for Alzheimer's patients near their Hainesport, N.J., home. It was hosting a singalong, and workers were setting up plastic bowling pins, too childish for Bob Melnick.

That meant no time for her to sneak off to a caregiver support group. On weekdays she worries about whether he'll be OK because he's home alone while she's at work.

"I feel bad sometimes because he's home. I feel bad that I have to leave in the mornings," Mrs. Melnick says, eyes brimming with tears. "I think he realizes he can't do much."

_____

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. It afflicts one in eight people 65 and older, and nearly one in two people over 85.

Worse, as the population ages, Alzheimer's is steadily rising. Sixteen million are forecast to have the mind-destroying illness by 2050, not counting other forms of dementia.

Those figures are cited repeatedly in the push for more research into better treatments. But a frightening parallel goes largely undiscussed: As Alzheimer's skyrockets, who will care for all these people?

And will the long-term stress of that care set up an entire population _ once-healthy spouses and children _ to suffer years of illness, even early death?

"I don't think society and policymakers have fully grasped the future magnitude of what we're up against, and how massive an operation we have to begin ... to deal with this," says Dr. Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging.

Already, an estimated 10 million people share the task of caring for a relative or friend with dementia, the Alzheimer's Association estimates. Nearly one in four provides care for 40 hours a week or more.

Handling the wandering, aggressive outbursts and incontinence _ plus eventual round-the-clock monitoring _ is very different than, for example, learning to lift someone who's physically impaired but won't fight the caregiver.

Those are skills that families must be taught, says Mary Mittelman of New York University's School of Medicine, who is leading a new movement to develop customized training programs for Alzheimer's care.

Today, most learn through trial and error.

_____

Louise Eckert sits her 85-year-old mother, Dorothy, in a chair backed against the wall and pushes a heavy table in front of her. It keeps her from tipping her chair backward like a schoolchild.

It's noon, but Dorothy roamed her Norristown, Pa., home for much of the night and just woke for breakfast. Louise spoon-feeds her mother: grapes and prunes mixed into cereal; toast cut into bites; Alzheimer's pills crushed into cottage cheese so she no longer can spit them out.

The conversation is, well, unconventional.

"I want to hit you," Dorothy whispers.

"You do not want to hit me," Louise calmly responds. Minutes later mother and daughter are grinning affectionately.

"She'll hit you and two minutes later, she loves you," says Dorothy's husband, John Eckert, 88.

Not too long ago, the Eckerts despaired of achieving this calm. Dorothy's mild-mannered Alzheimer's suddenly morphed into outright aggression. She climbed furniture, pulled the TV on herself, tried to climb out the window.

Area aging services offered little advice. The Eckerts finally found the right mix of medication and caregiver tricks. Take Dorothy's night roaming, a dementia trademark. Her husband installed bed rails; she crashed over them. He slept holding a belt tied to her waist; she slipped it off without waking him.

Now the couple sleeps on a mattress on the floor. Large wind chimes jangle when Dorothy's up.

"In the beginning there was pressure. Now we expect it's going to happen," her husband says of new symptoms. "You go along with the flow."

John Eckert brushes aside questions about the strain. He looks fit but has had prostate cancer, a small heart attack and mild stroke. Louise tried to hire a respite-care service so her dad could take a walk. But it requires a four-hour daily minimum, more than they need. Alzheimer's day care runs in the mornings, when Dorothy sleeps.

They manage because Louise, the couple's youngest daughter, lives with them and can rush home from her counseling job at a nearby school if needed.

They're determined to make Dorothy's days as lighthearted as possible.

"You could be mad about it, or constantly sad about the whole thing, but why? This is just who Mom is now," Louise explains.

So, they play Bobby Darin, and Dorothy dances around the dining room. Song done, she curls onto her husband's lap, head tucked under his chin. She can't recall his name, or the last name they've shared for 60 years. But she can cuddle.

"She knows I belong here, I guess," John says.

_____

NYU's Mittelman says customized training can help caregivers ease the chaos that the Eckerts battled through, and proved it with a one-of-a-kind experiment.

She tested 406 elderly New Yorkers caring for spouses with Alzheimer's. Half received training tailored to their family's unique needs. Half got today's standard: a list of Alzheimer's resources.

Mittelman tracked these families for up to 17 years. Custom-trained caregivers kept their loved ones out of a nursing home for an average of 1 1/2 years longer than their untrained counterparts.

With annual nursing home costs now averaging $60,000, that's a savings of $90,000 per patient, Mittelman reported last fall in the journal Neurology.

It didn't come at the spouse's expense as trained caregivers experienced less depression, and fewer physical health problems.

Importantly, the training was simple: Social workers met with caregivers once a week for six weeks, to assess each family's circumstances, discuss how Alzheimer's worsens, and teach coping skills. Caregivers were given phone numbers to call counselors for more advice whenever they wanted.

That ongoing tailored care is "a really crucial element," stresses Mittelman. Without it, when the patient "has a personality change and hits somebody for the first time in her life, you won't have anyone to turn to."

Mittelman has begun new studies targeting training to early- and middle-stage Alzheimer's.

And the National Institutes of Health is studying a similar program that mixes in-home and telephone training, sessions that include role-playing to let caregivers practice the coping skills they're learning.

The NIH study has tracked 640 dementia caregivers in five states for just six months so far. But initial results agree with Mittelman: Trained caregivers report improved quality of life, and feel they do a better job.

Together, the research represents a major shift in scientists' approach to Alzheimer's caregiving _ from an emphasis on just giving families a break through respite care, to the idea of empowering them to better handle the stress of the job.

The challenge is how to spread those findings.

_____

Have a short conversation with Bob Melnick, and it's not immediately clear that anything's wrong with the smiling 67-year-old. He'll reminisce over old fishing photos; proudly tell of his two grown children; ask socially correct questions:

"How are you today?" "Want to come along while I walk the dog?"

Then the phone rings, and this former accountant fumbles it, unsure how to answer. He can't close the sliding glass door in his kitchen. At lunch, he carefully sets his hoagie on his place mat, next to the empty paper plate.

This is the often-hidden middle stage of Alzheimer's disease, the stage where caregivers seem to struggle most.

"Many people have a stereotypical idea that Alzheimer's disease is what you see in a nursing home," Mittelman says. But, "in the middle stage, there are behavioral problems which are difficult to cope with."

Dolores Melnick has looked, in vain, for help.

As her husband was turning 60, Mrs. Melnick noticed he'd lose his wallet or keys a lot. Trouble with routine accounting work soon forced him to retire.

Worried, Mrs. Melnick sought long-term care insurance. She listened in as her husband was screened over the phone, aghast that he was failing simple memory tests. The insurer turned him down, and soon Alzheimer's was diagnosed.

To fill his days, Melnick got a job at a nearby convenience store, mopping floors and doing other easy tasks until he was fired for forgetting instructions.

Mrs. Melnick is 63, two years shy of Medicare and three years away from her normal retirement date. She loves her job, a statistician at a cancer center. But she considered quitting to care for her husband, only to learn that retaining health insurance for herself plus his Medicare expenses would cost a staggering $700 a month.

"It's kind of hard to retire," she says with a weary smile.

But what to do with Melnick while she's at work?

He can't remember a plot long enough to read or watch movies. He used to take pride in household chores, but now can't work the appliances. Even emptying the dishwasher ended when "dishes were all over and I couldn't find them!" Mrs. Melnick says with a laugh.

He refuses adult day care. Insurance won't pay the $17 to $22 an hour that local home-health agencies charge for a visiting aide, and Mrs. Melnick couldn't afford that.

So she cobbled together a compromise: She pays a friend about $30 a day to stop by around noon for three hours, to make lunch, help walk the dogs and provide some companionship. Melnick spends the mornings and late afternoons alone, outfitted with an electronic tracking bracelet provided by the sheriff's department in case he wanders outside and gets lost.

When she has an out-of-town business meeting, her 85-year-old mother-in-law comes to stay. Every few weekends, her daughter makes the three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., to help out.

And Mrs. Melnick races home from work at 5:15. If she's late, she'll find her husband pacing, wondering where she was. It's a hint of Alzheimer's classic "sundowning," where agitation increases with dusk.

_____

Some states are trying new ways to increase Alzheimer's services. In Colorado, for example, officials experimented with giving $1,000 stipends to help families hire monitoring for their loved ones so they could attend a six-session training program called the Savvy Caregiver.

That doesn't buy much respite, but it's a good investment, says Cheryl Dunaway of the Colorado Alzheimer's Association.

"The caregiver is the one who sets the stage for whether it's a good day or bad day, calm day or chaotic day, in how they respond to the way the person with dementia is behaving," she explains.

In Congress, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is pushing legislation that would provide a $3,000 federal income tax credit to offset some of the expenses and lost income incurred by caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's and other diseases.

NIH's Suzman says those costs increase as dementia worsens, from about $7,400 a year for moderate dementia to $17,700 for severe dementia

Back in New Jersey, Mrs. Melnick is anxiously hoping that tax credit will help. Within the year, she expects to have to hire someone to watch her husband all day while she works.

Trying to plan beyond that brings only fear.

"Do I have to think about a nursing home in a year, two years? ... It's not like cancer, where they say you have six months to live. They really can't say that with Alzheimer's."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

There was an accident on the way to work this morning which slowed down traffic making me 20 minutes late for work. However, as we crossed the I-35E bridge in St. Paul, I saw and bald eagle winging its way along the Mississippi river in St. Paul. It was an awesome sight as I had never seen a bald eagle in the wild.

Mom is still uncannily lucid. It's almost like she is back to normal. So far we have not had any bathroom accidents (fingers are still crossed). We talked to Allyson tonight to tell her that we were enjoying a glorious evening on the new 'deck'.

Work has been crazy as usual, today I had three calls from three different recruiters. Even though I like my job a lot, I do wish I worked closer to home. Mom gets so lonely and I'm not quite sure she is completely ready for the day program yet. I also would be able to come home for lunch once in while which would help break up the day for Mom. It would be a good thing I think.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Last night for the third night in a row, we had terrible severe thunderstorms. Neither of us heard the one from last night though. I'm told that parts of our city had 5 inch hail. YIKES! There were tree branches and actual trees in the roads on my way to my van pool. And my hibiscus plant was again blown over.

Tonight I picked up the antibiotic that the doctor prescribed for Mom and guess what? One of the side effects is diarrhea. Oh joy. Mom continues to seem better this week. Could it be that it is because she is off the Aricept or is this just an up week?

Tonight the neighbor's puppy was in the middle of the road when we came home from Target and she wouldn't move. So I got out of the car, picked her up and put her in the car. I was really concerned about running over her. She sat on Mom's lap while we drove into the garage, then I took her back to her house. Usually her owner watches her like a hawk but tonight the husband was in charge and his attention was lacking. Oh well.

Stopped by the farmer's market to pick up more blueberries but darn! they didn't have any, they are now out of season. The ones we picked up last week were so good. Mom asked me specifically for more.

Heard from my friend Monique. Her dog Spock had to be put down. He had a recurrence of his cancer, this time it was extremely aggressive and he was suffering. I'm so sad for her. Spock was a great dog.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I finally got the results of the urinalysis; in the doctor's words:
It doesn't look overwhelmingly like an infection but there is quite a bit of blood. I would suggest treating with Cipro 250 mg twice a day for a week and repeating the test to see if the blood is gone; if not we might need to talk about that.

I looked up causes of blood in urine. Guess we'll have to see how she does on the Cipro. Hopefully it will clear up with the antibiotic.

We have a boatload of trash this week and I just hauled it out to the street. Made a hair appointment for Mom. Looked up her last one and she is overdue. Hope she is in a good mood, lately she has cried at the hair stylist.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, cool and nice. Today it is humid and hot again. We had a little bit of rain, nothing too spectacular. We enjoyed the new raised deck. It's easy for Mom to just roll her walker over the door threshold and out onto the deck. She likes it and it's less worrisome for me.

Summer is slipping away far too fast for my liking. Fall is nice but even with the heat, I especially love summer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

They are enroute to PA and I feel like I've lost my life line. Mom even has said how happy she was to see them and how much she is going to miss them. We both hope they come back soon. Mom said she misses Allyson already. They did so much around here to help out and we are so grateful. It's hard not to be able to see them whenever we want. Mom knew who they were but her memories are slipping away fast. Who knows what she will be like the next time they visit. Matt seemed to handle seeing his grandmother like this pretty well. But then he probably remembers what his grandfather was like the last time they saw each other.

Mom is back to wanting to be outside one minute and inside the next. In and out. It's annoying for me. One of the things we talked about is how to decide when to put Mom in a memory care facility. I know it would make my life easier, but it's such a hard decision to make. Mom has lost so much of her dignity already, I think that this would be an awful blow for her. But I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this.

Matt and I were able to escape on Friday and go to the Science Museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. It was quite interesting. They had plaster casts of some of the victims; one could see the fear in their poses. It was amazing to see many of the frescoes and artifacts, they were in amazingly good shape.

Unfortunately Olivia has a new mission; to escape out onto the new deck. She took off this morning but got scared and ran back into the house. She had worked the screen out of the frame and had been sticking her paw out onto the deck. I fixed that though so she can't do that anymore.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Joe and Matt are building a deck platform to make it easier for Mom to get out onto the porch. She should be able to roll her walker out onto the new 'deck' without having to step down. This should help her out a lot and also this should prevent her from falling when she steps up into the house. Yesterday Matt and Joe put up shelves in the garage and the put a cabinet up over the washer and dryer. Joe wants to go see the collapsed I 35W bridge before they leave tomorrow. Hopefully time will allow this.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My sister is here! Mom was thrilled to see her. So am I. Today we meet with a social worker from a home health agency. That should be fun. Still no word on the results of Mom's urine sample. I called and am waiting to hear from the PA.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

National Geographic has a great graphic entitled "Who Gives Parents a Break?" which shows the countries throughout the world who have guaranteed leave for mothers and fathers as of 2006. There it is, the US, with no paid leave for mothers, let alone parents. Russia grants at least 52 weeks of leave, most countries in Europe grant at least 14 weeks with full wages or at least 52 weeks and at least 1/2 wages. 'The consensus is that bonding time with parents is good for a newborn's health and development.'

Seems like the richest nation in the world can do more to take care of it's citizens.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Today I called Mom's neuro to talk to her about her recommendation to half the Aricept in order to control Mom's diarrhea. I told her that it seemed somewhat better so she suggested that we try eliminating the Aricept. In two weeks she wants to hear how that goes. So we will try it. I asked her about Mom's diagnosis since no one has actually come right out and said the 'A' word. She said the 'A' word today. So there it is, the elephant in the room is no longer; it's out in the open. It's painful to hear it even though I've known that's what we are dealing with for at least 2 years.

I bought 2 Webkinz which are stuffed animals that are a cross between a beanie baby and a tamagotchi. Mom immediately claimed the Persian Cat as her own. She asked if she could sleep with it. Of course I said yes!

Gloomy weather again today. But it was humid too. Had my hair colored today.

Allyson comes tomorrow. I'm excited to see her. I hope she isn't too freaked out by Mom. I've tried to prepare her, but there is nothing that prepares you for seeing your Mom losing her mind. My nephew and brother-in-law will be here on Thursday. I worry about how my nephew will react to seeing his grandma like this. He watched my father, his grandfather, succumb to cancer. I still remember the last time they said goodbye to each other. My sister had cautioned Matt not to hug grandpa too hard. They hugged and my Dad's eyes filled with tears, realizing that this would be the last time he saw his beloved grandson. Afterward Matt said that it was Grandpa who had hugged tightly. God I miss my dad.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Nick Coleman: Public anger will follow our sorrow

Last update: August 03, 2007 – 2:54 PM

The cloud of dust above the Mississippi that rose after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Wednesday evening has dissipated. But there are other dark clouds still hanging over Minneapolis and Minnesota.

The fear of falling is a primal one, along with the fear of being trapped or of drowning.

Minneapolis suffered a perfect storm of nightmares Wednesday evening, as anyone who couldn't sleep last night can tell you. Including the parents who clench their jaws and tighten their hands on the wheel every time they drive a carload of strapped-in kids across a steep chasm or a rushing river. Don't panic, you tell yourself. The people in charge of this know what they are doing. They make sure that the bridges stay standing. And if there were a problem, they would tell us. Wouldn't they?

What if they didn't?

The death bridge was "structurally deficient," we now learn, and had a rating of just 50 percent, the threshold for replacement. But no one appears to have erred on the side of public safety. The errors were all the other way.

Would you drive your kids or let your spouse drive over a bridge that had a sign saying, "CAUTION: Fifty-Percent Bridge Ahead"?

No, you wouldn't. But there wasn't any warning on the Half Chance Bridge. There was nothing that told you that you might be sitting in your over-heated car, bumper to bumper, on a hot summer day, thinking of dinner with your wife or of going to see the Twins game or taking your kids for a walk to Dairy Queen later when, in a rumble and a roar, the world you knew would pancake into the river.

There isn't any bigger metaphor for a society in trouble than a bridge falling, its concrete lanes pointing brokenly at the sky, its crumpled cars pointing down at the deep waters where people disappeared.

Only this isn't a metaphor.

The focus at the moment is on the lives lost and injured and the heroic efforts of rescuers and first-responders - good Samaritans and uniformed public servants. Minnesotans can be proud of themselves, and of their emergency workers who answered the call. But when you have a tragedy on this scale, it isn't just concrete and steel that has failed us.

So far, we are told that it wasn't terrorists or tornados that brought the bridge down. But those assurances are not reassuring.

They are troubling.

If it wasn't an act of God or the hand of hate, and it proves not to be just a lousy accident - a girder mistakenly cut, a train that hit a support - then we are left to conclude that it was worse than any of those things, because it was more mundane and more insidious: This death and destruction was the result of incompetence or indifference.

In a word, it was avoidable.

That means it should never have happened. And that means that public anger will follow our sorrow as sure as night descended on the missing.

For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It's been popular with a lot of voters and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax increase - the first in 20 years - last spring and millions were lost that might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.

I'm not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It is general.

Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums while scrimping on the basics.

How ironic is it that tonight's scheduled groundbreaking for a new Twins ballpark has been postponed? Even the stadium barkers realize it is in poor taste to celebrate the spending of half a billion on ballparks when your bridges are falling down. Perhaps this is a sign of shame. If so, it is welcome. Shame is overdue.

At the federal level, the parsimony is worse, and so is the negligence. A trillion spent in Iraq, while schools crumble, there aren't enough cops on the street and bridges decay while our leaders cross their fingers and ignore the rising chances of disaster.

And now, one has fallen, to our great sorrow, and people died losing a gamble they didn't even know they had taken. They believed someone was guarding the bridge.

We need a new slogan and we needed it yesterday:

"No More Collapses."

After several days of dazzlingly beautiful weather, we finally received some much needed rain. It was overcast and cool all day. Mom's financial planner came to visit today. Mom really is good at pulling off lucidity, but all of that was shot to heck at the end of the visit when she became less herself. It's so sad to see this happen. My sister comes to visit on Tuesday, I'm looking forward to having someone else around even for a few days.

I really haven't kept up with the news about the bridge collapse. I did see a show on CNN today though that interviewed some of the responders and some of the survivors. It is amazing to see these people and to hear their stories. I'm sure that all cities have their heroes but for some reason it seems that Minnesota has the whole Minnesota nice thing going on. That's what makes this such a great place to live, regardless of the winters :)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Last night when I was talking to my brother it dawned on me that I cross the Mississippi River twice a day four times a week. I go over the I35 E bridge in St. Paul. That really hit home for me because it could just as easily been that bridge that collapsed, or any other bridge in the Twin Cities, or the rest of this country. It's finally sinking in; these were people who were going about their lives, driving home from work, going to a ball game, coming home from a lovely day at a waterpark. In just the blink of an eye it was catastrophe for them. I was heartened to see that the number of missing persons had diminished greatly as of this morning. Still, I am trying to avoid watching coverage of this event. It is just too awful to imagine that this happened right in our backyard.

Meanwhile, the weather continues to be clear, sunny and lovely. The music seems to be helping soothe Mom to sleep. We have a routine; we will watch 'Everybody Loves Raymond', then 'Murder She Wrote' then go to bed.

I FINALLY got a specimen from Mom. I hope it is acceptable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


It was a beautiful evening in Minneapolis tonight. Mom and I went out for dinner and then we stopped by our favorite lake and watched a father fishing with his two children. Around 6:30 we got into the car to head home. We were listening to MPR, the classical music radio station. The DJ announced that the 35W bridge across the Mississippi river had collapsed in that calm, quiet voice that classical music radio announcers have. It was surreal. I've traveled across that bridge hundreds, no probably thousands of times and I could not grasp this news. Mom didn't grasp it. When we got home I turned on the TV and there it was, completely collapsed, with cars strewn around like toys on a race track that some child had broken apart. It still hasn't sunk in. Suddenly Mom grasped what had happened and we sat riveted to the screen. My sister called and Mom answered the phone explaining that we were watching a bridge that had collapsed. The interstate 35W bridge is part of a major transportation artery not only in the Twin Cities but in the state of Minnesota. As of now, seven people have lost their lives. This is too terrible to even imagine let alone experience. My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and loved ones of those who either perished or were injured in this catastrophic event.