Sunday, March 30, 2008

Last night there was nothing on TV that Mom was interested in watching so I put in her Barry Manilow DVD and she loved it. It even distracted her from her constant questions about her slipper and her hair. Today I even was able to get her to take a ride in the car with me! She really enjoyed it. I was able to wheel her down the ramp in the garage and then wheel her back up when we got home. And it didn't kill me. I'm glad that we had the ramp built. It helped that it was 52 degrees here today and sunny. Tonight we are supposed to get snow. Blech.

Hopefully the trip to the beauty salon will go as well tomorrow. And Mom will get her slipper back. It's amazing to me how something will stick in her craw and just continue to repeat like a needle stuck on a vinyl record. I guess that things that are important to her are what keep surfacing in her short-circuited mind. Alzheimer's sucks.

The new St. Anthony Bridge, which is the replacement for the 35W bridge that collapsed last summer, is progressing nicely. MNDot has a great website which shows renderings of the new bridge as well as information, as it becomes available, about the old bridge. I have been reading a magazine article about the collapse in Minnesota Monthly that is quite gripping. Click on the link if you'd like to read it. It's amazing to me that so many survived this tragedy. Many are still trying to get their lives back on track. The photo above was taken a mere few hours after the collapse according to the caption. Amazing

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sunrise

"When is my haircut? Where is my slipper"? When I leave the room I get paged, constantly. I'm sick of answering these questions. I know it's just the disease but it's annoying and stressful. And then she cries too. Missing her slippers causes such consternation. We both ate something that didn't agree with us last night. That didn't help things. I'm tired and exhausted. I don't have much strength left today. Here's hoping tomorrow is better.

I visited the memory care facility. The room is quite nice but because it's private it's also quite pricey. More than we've budgeted. I will let them know our decision on Monday. These are the times when I miss my mom and dad the most; they would know what to do. I can't even let Mom know about this because she will be so upset. I hate this disease.

I found this picture of the Aurora Borealis on the Duluth newspaper's website. I thought it was lovely.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I made an appointment to go and see the vacant suite on Saturday. I'm not sure if it's time yet, but I figure that it can't hurt to at least see the suite. Thank you my friends for your advice and support. You are all awesome and I thank God for all of you.

Today the physical therapist visited and brought along the orthotist. They put a lift in Mom's shoe and the PT said that it evened out Mom's alignment and Mom said that she felt less pain. The orthotist took Mom's shoe, I guess that's where they are going to put the lift. I took a good look at Mom today when she was walking and it does appear that one pants leg is shorter than the other. Interesting. If she can have less pain then I will be thrilled. Please let this help her.

Betsy posted information on her blog about an upcoming program on PBS about caring for parents. It looks interesting. Thanks for the tip Betsy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vacancy Dilemma

One of the memory care facilities called today. They have a private suite available. I tried to avoid calling them back for as long as possible. I finally did call them back and left a message. I will set up a time to visit and see the suite this weekend. I'm back on the see-saw; do I move Mom to a facility or do I keep her at home for a while longer? Will she receive more stimulation in a memory care setting or would she benefit from staying at home? Am I being selfish keeping her with me at home or am I being selfish moving her? She is on a plateau now, and that makes it harder to decide what to do. Throw in the fact that she is going to HATE this and you can understand my trepidation. Dilemmas.

Mom and I have been watching Dancing With The Stars. Mom loves any program with dancing, singing or comedy. She likes to comment on the men; and she tells me that she didn't know men 'did that' (danced). And then she comments on the fact that her husband never liked dancing. For those who didn't know my dad, he was a man's man through and through. And very opinionated. But he loved his kids and his family. I miss him.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I hope that the Easter bunny was good to you. It doesn't seem like spring here, it's snowing (as usual). Easter was early this year and everyone is wondering why. Easter is based on the first full moon of the spring season.

Here are some new links to helpful sites for caregivers:

http://www.caregivingforcaregivers.com/
http://www.workingcaregiver.blogspot.com/

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Additional Accumulations

We awoke to more snow this morning, at least another 2 inches. The headline in the news was that both Milwaukee and Madison had set records for the most snow recorded ever in a season; 100 inches. This makes me think back to the winters from a decade ago which were cold and snowy. I would have to say that this has been a typical winter for Minnesota with a mixture of both snow and cold. Even our iPod is in the spirit; I have it on shuffle and it is playing mostly Christmas songs. I went to the grocery store this morning. The roads were mostly wet, no ice or snow except in the neighborhood.

Mom continues to ask me when her hair appointment is and I continue to tell her that it's a week from Monday. I found this interesting string on how to handle the endless questions. She called her friend Edna today and thanked her for the card she had sent. I'm not completely sure that Mom remembers Edna, but that's OK. Edna always sends Mom cards which is so nice and thoughtful.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Over It

Nine inches of snow. That's how much we have gotten so far. It's a heavy, wet snow. If I could find my camera I'd post a picture.

Mom has asked me at least a dozen times so far when her hair appointment is. When I remind her that it's not for 10 days she accepts that only to ask again. She looks out the window and sees all of the snow and decides (wisely) that she's not going to go out. The plows have been through and the snow is completely melted on the streets and sidewalks. It won't be around for long.

I received my strawberry planters today! The strawberries will arrive sometime in May and then we can plant them. It will be fun. I hope I can avoid getting the cut worms that I usually have to contend with.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Family Photos

This is a photo of my paternal grandmother's family. She is the young girl in the photo. This was taken probably around 1905. I love this picture. Below is a picture of my grandmother as a young woman. On my mom's side of the family we have two family portraits. I love to look at them and see my grandmother as a young girl. I am fascinated by turn of the century photos. Back when my grandparents where children most people traveled by horse and wagon. In their lifetime though they saw a man walk on the moon, the invention of the computer so many other things. It must have been hard to reconcile one's self with all of that progress in the space of a century. It boggles my mind. More progress was made in the 20th century than in any other time in history. And it's still happening. In the information age we are being bombarded by so much that a normal human mind cannot process all of it.

Mom had a good day today. She had her hair shampood. I on the other hand am tired of politics at work. I need to become more teflon-like and just let this crap roll off my back. It's just work, as my project manager says.

There's a snowstorm on the way. ICK.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 19 - A Pisces

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. I didn't understand then why the Bush administration was so gung-ho about this war. I didn't see the Iraqi government as a threat to the US. They were not harboring terrorists. Not back then anyway. I felt that the Iraq war diverted our attention from our true mission which was to defend ourselves from terrorists. It was painful to see my country engaged in this war. Today I still feel the same way. I have a coworker who has friends who are fighting in Iraq. He says that his friends think that citizens in the US have forgotten about the troops who are fighting this war. I haven't forgotten about them. They have given up so much to fight this war and whether I agree with the war or not, I support the troops and I believe that it is our duty to remember the sacrifices that they make everyday for our country. It is also our duty to take care of them and their families when they return home from the war. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to transition from being in a war zone to being back at home with loved ones.

Tomorrow is also my sister's birthday. Happy Birthday Allyson! I love you.

We woke up to snow this morning. It was the heavy, wet kind; the kind they call heart attack snow (since many end up in the hospital with heart attacks while shoveling this snow). Luckily most of it has melted. It was beautiful this morning, stuck to the trees and glistening in the moonlight. But I'm over winter.

Mom had a good day. She spent the day with 2 of her favorite caregivers, Elizabeth and Nicole. She was being helped out of the bathroom by Nicole when I arrived home. She was telling me how much she likes Nicole. That makes me happy. I worry a lot less about Mom when she is with her caregivers. Tomorrow LaShay will be here most of the day. I hope things go well for both of them. The physical therapist is going to bring an orthotist on one of her visits and they will fit Mom for a lift for her shoe. I hope that this helps Mom feel less pain when she walks. Right now Mom and Olivia are cuddling together. Olivia likes to lie on Mom's chest and purr while Mom pets her. It's such a calming thing. Life is good.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Strawberries

My neighbor grew strawberries on her patio last summer. It looked like a fabulous idea so I am going to try it this summer. I ordered these. I hope it goes well. She also grew tomatoes in this same fashion and they also did well. I might try tomatoes too. And we always have lots of flowering containers around. Mom loved to garden and she loves plants and flowers. I enjoy planting them with her every year.

The sun is shining today and it's beautiful out. I am definitely ready for spring. I think that Mom is too. She needs a haircut so I'm going to make an appointment at the salon for her. It's hard for her to get there but we will give it a try. That's one thing about an ALF, they have all that stuff right on site. But then I don't want her to be trapped in the ALF for months either.

Friday, March 14, 2008

BFF

I started reading The Best Friend's Approach to Alzheimer's Care. The first chapter discusses the rights of the person with Alzheimer's. As their loved one's memory fades and the caregiver's role changes the approach that this book takes is that the caregiver becomes the best friend of the person with Alzheimer's disease. Everything should revolve around the person with Alzheimer's but the caregiver should also care for themselves.

Every person diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder deserves the following rights:

- To be informed of one's diagnosis
- To have appropriate, ongoing medical care
- To be productive in work and play for as long as possible
- To be treated like an adult, not like a child
- To have expressed feelings taken seriously
- To be free from psychotropic medications, if possible
- To live in a safe, structured, and predictable environment
- To enjoy meaningful activities that fill each day
- To be outdoors on a regular basis
- To have physical contact, including hugging, caressing, and hand-holding
- To be with individuals who know one's life story, including cultural and religious traditions
- To be cared for by individuals who are well trained in dementia care


A key point to being a Best Friend is that the caregiver becomes a memory aid to the person -- friends know each others' histories. Being reminded of past accomplishments, family connections, personal beliefs and traditions helps tremendously. It gets them involved in their own lives again.


Friends do many things: they share history, they do things together, they communicate, they build self-esteem, they laugh often, they work at the relationship, and they are equals. These carry over as key concepts in the Best Friends model. Bell and Troxel go into some detail about how to handle situations for the full-time caregiver, the volunteer, and for those who visit persons with Alzheimer's in care. Specific situations and general principles are presented in a clear, intelligible manner with great application potential.


Meanwhile back at the ranch...I found that Mom had used chewing gum to stick a picture onto her desk. I had to laugh as I know what her reaction would have been had one of us kids done that. I was patient and didn't raise my voice, I laughed about it in fact. Then I spent some time trying to get the gum unstuck from the desk. Mom helped and felt remorseful even though I told her it was no big deal.


Tomorrow I hope to motivate Mom to leave the house. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday - Hump Day!

Today we had our usual Wednesday caregiver. She wanted to give it another try and the person who was supposed to replace her was sick. Things went well she said. Mom had a few tearful moments but otherwise the caregiver calmed her down. For some reason though Mom seems to think she is a man! I'm not sure why that is. This caregiver is very professional and firm. Mom usually likes the caregivers who are more touchy-feely so I wonder if that is what sometimes bothers Mom? Or maybe she is just having typical Alzheimer's moments. One thing I like about this caregiver is that she is somehow able to get Mom to use the toilet. In my book, that's a plus.

Tonight at dinner Mom was very upset; calling herself stupid and asking me what is wrong with her, why can't she remember things? I never know what to say to this so I usually say that she just has a problem with her memory. I purchased a book called The Best Friend's Approach to Alzheimer's Care. It says that a person has the right to know that they have Alzheimer's, even if you don't explain it as Alzheimer's, instead you might say 'memory loss' or 'forgetfulness'. I've heard different ideas on this; some say to tell the person, some say don't. Anyway, the book looks interesting, I can't wait to read it.

We have had spring-like weather these last few days. Today it was sprinkling rain. And our snow is melting. No sign of daffodils except the ones being sold for the American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days. We won't see daffodils in Minnesota until May.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Roots and DST

Today Mom spent 45 minutes with Melissa, the physical therapist. Melissa called me afterward and said things went very well. I also had a note from Alisha which said the same. I asked Mom about it and she seemed to remember parts of it. It's not cheap so I hope it helps Mom. But then she's worth it, right? And we can probably use it as a tax deduction. I'll have to check on that.

Daylight Savings Time has given us dark mornings but on the flip side it was light until nearly 7:30 PM. That's a plus. It keeps Mom from wanting to go to bed right away after dinner and it gives us a little time together.

I found this article on Science Daily about Alzheimer's caregivers. It states that grief is the greatest burden for us. Basically, as we already know, we are grieving the loss of our loved ones on a daily basis as they slip further away from us. So true.

I have located several more distant relatives in my genealogy research. This is alway interesting to me. I dug out some old family photos including one of my great-great grandfather in his Civil War uniform (he fought for the Union). Thought you might all enjoy seeing it. This is John Van Kirk Seeley. I've traced the Seeleys all the back to England in the 1600s. They settled in Connecticut and then moved westward to New York, Ohio and finally Michigan. They were farmers. I love looking at census records and seeing who were their neighbors. My grandparent's generation is all gone so much of this information is lost. Luckily my cousin, dad and uncle gathered an awful lot of information and started to save it. My mom's side of the family is much harder to research because they emigrated from Germany in the late 1800s. I'm just now starting to dig back into German records, which unfortunately are scant and scattered due to the fact that Germany didn't unify until the 1900s. This gives me something to do though so I enjoy it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cabin Fever and the Alzheimer's Conference

I think cabin fever has finally gotten to Mom. She has asked several times what she can do to get out of the house. I offered to take her for a ride but she refused. I told her that she could go back to daycare though she wasn't quite sure what that was. On Monday the PT will be here after lunch for 45 minutes to work with her. I hope it goes well. She has been really stiff and sore so we need to get her moving. I've been thinking of trying a different day program, to see if Mom might be more accepting of a different location. I really love the people at Prairie though, they have been so incredibly helpful and supportive. And it's so close to our house. I have to do what is best for Mom though.

I finally got the recommendations from the lawyer. I need to call her to find out where to get original POAs. She said to have several on hand just in case. This is really complicated stuff, at least for me. She also said that I need to keep good records of any money that is spent. I track everything in Quicken; I need to ask if that is good enough. I've never been a very organized person. I take after my Dad. Mom was always the organized one.

Yesterday I talked to a women who runs several group home-type facilities in the Twin Cities for persons with Alzheimer's/dementia. She had some good ideas for me for activities for Mom, besides the ones I already have in the Joy Kit. She said she was amazed at all of the things that I have already done for Mom. I am intrigued by this concept of a group home for ALZ patients and intend to learn more about it. The homes pictured on their website look pretty fancy and the activities sound stimulating.

We talked to my sister and my nephew today. Mom always seems to remember Matt. She seems to always remember my sister and brother too. It was nice to talk to Matt. He's a good kid and we've always shared a close bond.

What have I done for myself lately? Nothing. I really need to do something in that area. I've been encouraged to attend the Meeting of the Minds Alzheimer's conference (I can't seem to get away from ALZ can I?). I've been trying to work on scrapbooks too. Mom never lets me get too far away from her though and she doesn't seem to be interested in helping me. I also bought some wooden block-type puzzles that she enjoys working. They are for 4 years old and up. I'd like to find some puzzles that are a little more complicated. All in all, things are the same for us, the rollercoaster appears to be on the straightaway....for now.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mental Health Parity is a Must

Mental illness is a cause that is important to me. Anyone who has suffered from a mood disorder knows how debilitating and yes, even life threatening it is. It is about time that mental illness loses it's stigma in our society and is recognized as a serious health condition. Too many lives have been lost to these diseases of the brain. Urge your senators and representatives to support the House version of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity bill.

Caregiving blah blah blah

The Wednesday caregiver voiced her concerns today about her presence being too stressful for Mom. This happened at the same time that I talked to Mom's case manager so we decided to try to find a new person for Wednesdays for Mom's sake. I feel badly about this, but I think it's for the best. She was a really patient and well-trained caregiver who did a very good job caring for Mom. Thanks everyone for your ideas, support and advice. I so greatly appreciate it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Caregiver Dilemma

Mom has the same caregiver every week on Wednesday afternoons . Each week I have received a call that Mom is angry at the caregiver, yelling and cursing. This poor caregiver! Mom gets along fine with her other caregivers but this one has only been coming for 3 weeks and each week it's the same thing. Each week after the caregiver leaves Mom says 'She was mad at you for not getting home earlier'. She also says 'I don't like her'. What should I make of this, if anything? As I posted yesterday, she gets along with everyone else. She seems very nice to me and she seemed genuinely concerned about Mom today. She seems to be very professional and competent. To top it off, I'm not always sure that Mom knows she's my mom and I'm her daughter. Most of the time I think she knows, but sometimes I think she's confused. Darn Alzheimer's.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I think Mom's finally comfortable with her caregivers. Today I left for work later than usual because I had a doctor's appointment. Mom told me I could leave, she had her friend with her. Actually, she said it rather snidely, because as she said, I'm never around anyway. OK then. It's good thing. Meanwhile I took the bus to downtown Minneapolis and then transferred to a St. Paul bus. Amazingly it only took an hour to commute.

The kitties have been hanging out together much more lately. Yesterday when I called home Terri told me that they were both in Mom's room; one was on the bed and one was by the window. This is amazing considering that Lily spent the first 18 months after we adopted Olivia in my bedroom. Olivia is trying to be a friend but Lily is still a little hesitant. They play together though. The other day I saw Lily chasing Olivia across the house at a playful gallop.