Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Letter to My Mother

I was looking through the archives of my other blog and noticed this Mother's Day letter. Since it ties in with the post below, I thought I would share it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Miss Her

Deb mentioned something about not being able to turn to her mother for support anymore and this feeling is echoed in me. I have to give you some background in order to fully understand my relationship with my mother. I’m the youngest of four children – the first three were born in 1949 (November), 1952 (May) and 1953 (December) – mother had about 2 ½ years with my sister Cathie before my brother Howard was born, followed by David 19 months later, then there wasn’t any time for one on one with any of them. I came along in 1960 when David went off to school. Just mother and myself all day long during the school year until I started kindergarten in 1966. We established a bond that doesn’t exist with the others. Mother lavished the attention on me that she hadn’t had the luxury to do with the others. I was spoiled. She was my support, my strength through so much of my life. Add to that the fact that Cathie and Howard, personality wise, were more like my father and David and I are very much our mother’s children and you begin to get the idea. Mom was your typical housewife; it was her job as it was for much of her generation. Being a mother was how she was defined and she took her job seriously. Mother came to every event we were involved with, from Scouts, to Little League, Band performances, piano and voice recitals – she was there. My father wasn’t. He didn’t work all of the time, but fishing, hunting, etc. took precedent over us. I feel the loss of that support so badly that it’s almost physical. My best friend is gone, replaced by this stranger.

The hospital bed arrived today and she’s not happy with it – but did I think it would be different from anything else. She’s not happy about a lot of things.

I’m so behind on everything. I haven’t been blogging much because of internet problems and I’m also working on a project for my writing stuff. No actual writing right now, but that’s okay. I also have to get working on the webring letter that Michael wants us to write – I also need to email Michael and let him know that I will do this. I just can’t seem to catch up on stuff. Part of it is the heat – over 30 days of 100 plus temps and I’m wilting – brain fried. It’s so hot that even in the house with the A/C running, I’m miserable. I get renewed energy when the temps start falling – the complete opposite of those Winter Blues people.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More Mom's Humor

This is an entry from one of my old abandoned blogs, dated August 26, 2005. We were still having fun then.

Wondering if mother wanted to attend a family funeral we of course asked her. After a slight pause she replied "Oh I don't know, whatever Juanita wants to do." That's easy, as soon as we find out who Juanita is we'll know the answer.
For the following story you must remember 2 things: Our attic is one of those "tucked under the eaves" jobs that you have to pull a ladder down and climb up to, and my brother Howard had to move home for awhile after a divorce and his kids visited every other weekend. Simple, just remember this. I don't know how this came about, I wasn't there, but ... while talking to my sister-in-law one day, the subject of sleeping arrangements came up. "Well, we used to put Howard and the kids up in the attic." Funny, I thought that was where Juanita slept.
Once, when my mother was in the hospital, my sister went to visit her. Walking into the room she asked mom how her breakfast was.
"Do you know what they served me?" oh mom had her dander up.
"Well, no mom, if I did I wouldn't have asked you." This retort, of course, was wasted on good ol' mom.
"Cream of Tartar" mom was really indignant.
"Oh I don't think so," much older sister replied.
"Well, they did" now she'd done it, much, much older sister had questioned the gray-haired one. Cathie thought for a moment ...
"Do you mean Cream of Wheat?"
"That's what I said, Cream of Wheat."
Thankfully, much, much, much older sister didn't argue that point. "Well, did you eat it?" Mother gave her one of those looks mom's get when you've asked them something really stupid. "Of course not. I sent it back and asked for oatmeal."
"Did you eat the oatmeal" Cathie has always been a determined girl.
"No, I was full by then so I saved it."
Shouldn't have asked and definitely should not have gone for the follow-up. "Where is it?" Another one of those looks "In this drawer" she said, pointing to the bedstand. (It's really for Juanita later).

When informed that her sister from California (which is exactly what mom calls her) was coming to visit her, this was mom's first response. "Well, she's not sleeping with me." Nope, figure we'll put her in the attic with Howard and Juanita.

Mom calls her walker "Walker, Texas Ranger." Just thought I'd throw that one in.

I've been asked to give the full description of a recent trip to the doctor. I've told part of this, but there really was more - and yes, it's true. Mother rarely "acts out" in public so most people don't even realize there's anything mentally wrong with her, but on this day she was really "feeling her oats". And it wasn't Cream of Tartar. To make this easier, anything sung will be in bold print. It began as we walked down the hall back to the examining room. The nurse was in front, mom, with the Texas Ranger, in the middle and me bringing up the rear. Suddenly, ahead of me I hear her sing "Here I come to save the day." Okay, this is different - who's in trouble? Juanita? We've reached the room and mom gets in her gown. Sitting on the table she starts swinging her legs.
"Whatcha doing mom?"
Those Irish eyes get that impish glint to them and she smiles "I'm warming up so I can kick the doctor when he comes in."
Good, that should guarantee a 'no shot' day.
Tired, she leans back against the wall, which of course comes in contact with her back through the gowns much beloved opening. "Ooooh, that's cold ... In the cool, cool, cool of the evening" (for the uninformed, that's an old song she and Juanita used to sing).
The doctor comes in, and no, she didn't kick him (Juanita thought about it though) and he asked her "What's my name?"
One of those looks "What's the matter, can't you think of it?"
"I can think of it, I want to know if you know it." He's really patient.
"It's doctor" she said, smugly.
"That's correct, but what's my full name?" She told him.
"What's your name?" he then asked.
A sly look came across her face "Mary Catherine" she stated emphatically.
I looked at her, she looked at me "Well, it used to be."
I'm still looking at her.
"Mary Isabel, Isabel, is a bell."
You can say that again.
"Okay" he points at me "What's her name?"
Mother gave a huge sigh "I don't know, I just call her stupid." And I call her late to supper.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Laughter IS the Best Medicine

Readers Digest, September 2006 in an article by Dan Ferber, PhD entitled The Funny Factor, p. 102

But a growing body of research suggests that humor can tune our minds, help us learn, and keep us mentally loose, limber and creative.

In that case, my mind must be very finely tuned.

I found this interesting as my family has always faced adversity with laughter. It seems to be ingrained in our genetic makeup as the trait is shared by extended family members as well. I’ve often wondered if a sense of humor could be inherited, but I digress. It’s been known for a few years that laughter is healing, it relaxes the body, which in turn helps the body cope with stress related issues. For more on this research, follow this link.

So the decision to face AD with laughter was an easy one for my siblings and me. We chose to find the humor in each situation instead of wallowing in the self-pity basement. We never laugh at mother, but we do trade humorous stories with each other about the things that she does. I used to write about them on my other blog until I told a humorous story about a Fourth of July incident with my mother and her older sister. The responses were mixed, but mostly in the “I’m so sorry” “How sad” camp. I kept telling them that it wasn’t sad – it was funny, that I choose to laugh instead of cry. Then Deb commented (her introduction to me and the subsequent creation of this blog) and said that it was funny, that she understood, etc. The light bulb went on at that point. What is funny to us in this caregiver position would not necessarily be funny to “outsiders”. It’s one of those shared things.

Therefore, a little anecdote from this evening. First, mom is eating again. Not her old appetite but at least she’s finishing the small amount of food we’re giving her where before she would take only a couple of bites and decide she was finished. So tonight she finishes her meal, I get her tucked into bed for the evening of TV and head off to the kitchen with the supper dishes. I was gone long enough to scrape and rinse and then back to her room. I entered just as she was getting out of bed. “What are you doing mom?” She stopped and looked at me. “It’s time for breakfast”. (Um, no, not unless we just had the shortest night on record and if that’s the case, I didn’t get any sleep).

Monday, August 14, 2006

I'm Baaaaaack

Sorry I sort of dropped off the radar there, but I just needed some distance from AD for a few days and since I couldn't do it physically I just decided to pretend it didn't exist. With mom sleeping close to 18 hours a day it wasn't that hard to do. But now it's back to reality.

Went to see about the hospital bed on Friday. The woman seemed to think we would get it, so that's done. Mom's eating has improved a little - but even a little is better than before. She had a so-so day yesterday. One of my father's sisters dropped by for a short visit, which was good for her. Not too many people call or visit anymore - not even the grandchildren (but that's another rant).

And a word about mom's doctor. So he doesn't like me - I'll deal with it. I don't want to change doctors for two reasons - the least important one being my agoraphobia which sends me into panic attacks at the thought of going to a new place, etc; the number one reason is that this man has been my mother's doctor for close to 20 years - no other doctor will ever know her so well and he treats her like a queen. I just have to trust that he has his reasons for not wanting to put her on those drugs right now.

Didn't Michael do a great job with the new Webring whatever you call it (not enough coffee yet)? I think it's perfect.

That's it for today, more later - I'm still trying to wake up.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Decision

It's been a long week. The doctor's visit was a failure - I think I mentioned that he doesn't like me, but is good to mother. He doesn't listen to me, nor does he make time to talk to me without mother present and there's so much I can't talk about in front of her. Result? Maybe a hospital bed if Medicare will pay for it. Nothing else. I never even got to the social worker part - I'd given up by then. He said no anti-depressants until she starts getting angry - um, doctor, she yells and cusses and didn't I just get through telling you that she threw her medicine across the room the night before? No anti-psychotic medication until she starts getting delusional - well, I couldn't talk to him about the visits from Regis Philbin or anything in front of her. I mentioned that she was sleeping all of the time and the only thing he got from that was to say that the medications I suggested would make her drowsy and prone to falling and sleep all of the time - just what I was complaining about. Dear doctor - I wasn't complaining, I was telling you a symptom which can be a symptom of depression. Cripes. She has lost 23lbs since May. She didn't eat well today either. My sister-in-law picked up a couple of singles of Ensure - different flavors so we can experiment. At the emergency room they suggested a g-tube. We've spent the weekend talking about it (long distance to my brother and then on the phone too to my sister in a nursing home) and decided that we would never do that. If she quits eating entirely, she quits eating. We know what is in store for her - she's falling more and more into a world of paranoia and fears - the pain from her arthritis is getting bad too. She's crying most of the day when she isn't sleeping. This was a hard decision to make and I know that there will be many who won't agree with it - but in the end, it's our decision.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


A lot of things have happened in the last couple of days. Mom fell again Sunday night - a stupid accident that happens quite a bit with people who don't have AD. She has this bad habit of trying to pull up her Depends while walking, so of course she tripped over them. With her arthritis and immobile hip, she's no help in getting up. Plus this time we were afraid that she did hurt herself as her leg was caught underneath her and she screamed in pain when the paramedics tried to stand her up. So off to the hospital we went. Six hours later - no breaks, low sodium (which she's had before), dehydration (like we didn't know that with her eating habits lately) and a urinary tract infection. They gave her a huge dose of antibiotics and we started seeing a change in her that night. She's a little clearer now. We did have some fun moments there - she kept singing Rambling Rose for some odd reason, but it was funny. Her humor has been one of the wonderful and sanity saving things about all of this. She has an appointment with her primary care physician on Friday, where we'll discuss having a social worker or someone come in and help weed through all of the red tape about Medicare/Medicaid and her supplemental insurance; see about getting a hospital bed, etc. in here and whatever else we need. She's still not doing 100% great with the eating, but she's better. We're going to buy a lot of different supplements and see if we can find one she likes. She doesn't like Ensure butter pecan shake - which is strange since she loves butter pecan ice cream. Oh well. We'll find something. Anyway, this is why I haven't been around lately - took a lazy day yesterday, got a nap, etc. so I'm doing a bit better too.