November 12, 2012
Dear Missionary Ladies:
Just thought I’d share with you some of the journaling I have done this past year in regards to caring for my in-laws who have severe dementia. Being a caregiver is sometimes a difficult job but perspective can make all the difference. I hope some of the following posts will be an encouragement to you in whatever difficult circumstance you find yourself in as you walk this road of life. ** My mom in law has dementia. I would say most of the time she doesn't know who I am but she knows I am friend and not foe. Last night after I tucked her in bed and gave her a hug, I went in the living room but could hear her talking. When I went to check on her she was praying out loud calling her family and her children before the Lord. It was a precious moment that her mind still remembers our God.
**I help mom take a shower every day because of her broken hip. Can I just say, it's not the same when she offers to help me. NOTE TO SELF: Employ the lock mechanism located on the bathroom door when taking a shower. MORE NOTES TO SELF: Never ask alz father in law to watch alz mom in law while showering.
** With ALZ, you can have the same conversation over and over and over again--And often only mere minutes have passed since the last time you had that conversation. What I call "The Quest for Missing Hearing Aids" is an everyday event. We never know where mom hides her hearing aids and we spend quite a bit of time looking for those pesky things. Mom's explanation is always the same...."I lay them right here every time (pats whatever table is closest) but those kids always come along and pick 'em up and then they're gone. They're always messing with my stuff!" The other night, mom changed it up a bit. When I asked her where her hearing aids were, she stated, "I probably put them up and forgot where I put them. I do that sometimes." Dad, sitting in his recliner, leaned back, slung his leg over the arm of the chair and with a twinkle in his eye and a sly grin on his face, casually stated, "Nope! It was those fool kids come over and pick them up! That's what happened!" Well Mom was off and running with that one! NOTE TO SELF: Dad still has his sense of humor! Thank you for the chuckle!
** Rich (my husband) and I spent about an hour tonight searching for mom's hearing aids and bottom dentures (because after all, "those kids come in here and just pick up my hearing aids and off they go with them"). Well - I'll just let you guess where we found them...... Give up? When I said "check your pants pocket, I forgot the "ies" on the pant. Apparently there are places to store things in THOSE pockets.
**Recently, Rich and I took his Mom to a dr. appt. Of course there were 50 gazillion pieces of paperwork to fill out. Mom can't do it - just doesn't even know her birth date. Dad didn't want to do it coz' he's barely moving himself. So Rich was elected. I was sitting beside him supervising his astute ability to complete all the necessary medical history (you know, being a good wife).... Thyroid Disease - No; Heart Disease - No; Lung Disease - No; Sexually Active - No; Pregnant - No. WAIT A MINUTE! Sexually Active - No? I asked my husband "How do you know this information?" He replied (just a little indignantly), "I just know!" "Well," I says, "Perhaps you should ask them, they're sitting right here." "That's not funny, Lori!" he said in a restrained voice. NOTE TO SELF: To keep from inheriting all the paperwork, sit quietly and enjoy the AARP magazine.
** After a recent one night stay in rehab, we had to bring mom home (that's another story for another day). Dad had to stay with us because of the unexpected return of mom to the house and our work schedules. After several stressful hours, I was finally able to get mom settled down and into bed for the night. It took another 30 minutes or so before dad was ready to go to bed. As he got ready to climb into bed with mom, this is what we heard from mom: "Excuse me! EXCUUUSSEE me! What is your room number? This is Room 229. You don't belong in here! HEELLLLLOOOOO!!! I ordered a single room! Can somebody please help me. I ordered a single room and that is what I want!" NOTE TO SELF: Always turn on light and introduce husband to wife before putting them in bed together.
**In the 6 years Rich and I have been married and during our dating period, my mom in law has never called me by my name. You wouldn't think that would be such a big deal, but I have to admit, it would be nice to hear her call me Lori. She called me Gloria once early in our getting to know each other but now just refers to me as "that nice lady". Today we went on a walk together and just visited as we looked at flowers, trees, and bashed the neighbor with the overgrown yard. When we got back to the house, she sat down in a chair and looked at me and said, "I sure enjoyed going outside today. Thank you for taking me on a walk............Lori!" Well, Gloria be! I needed a towel paper after that to wipe my sweaty eyes coz' that just blessed my soul! NOTE TO SELF: Today - She called me Lori!
** ALZ Insights: Some evenings can be pleasant and some can be filled with tears and yelling (not by me). I'd rather have the pleasant ones that go without a hitch, where going to bed is not a fight, taking meds is not a fight, even just one evening without the everlasting search for the hearing aids. But still I remind myself, loving your aging parents should be a devotion and not a duty. NOTE TO SELF: When yelling and crying will be your evening, Hugs always speaks louder than words!
** A recent trip to the Dr. that included a long office wait time did not do anything to help mom who cannot handle crowds or waiting. She bucked up on me in the parking lot and was putting up quite a fight with her wheelchair after she decided she was not going home with me. To spare you the details, just know that 3 different people came up to me in the parking lot to see if I needed assistance. After a hug and a kiss, I assured Mom that she was getting in my vehicle either the hard way or the easy way. She then looked at me and stated "Well, do I at least get a milkshake out of the deal?" We went straight to Sonic! NOTE TO SELF: When encountering difficult public situations, a milkshake bribe is perfectly OK!
**Our daughter-in-law, Amy, recently attended church with us during a family visit. 18 month old Allie was not very happy about sitting in church and is at that stage where she isn't too keen about being put in a church nursery. Amy stood out in the foyer with Allie during the service so she wouldn't be a distraction to others. I told Amy I was sorry that she wasn't able to be in the service that day and she stated, "That's alright, it's just our season of life right now. It will pass." It made me think about Rich's parents and what we are doing to care for them. It is incredibly frustrating dealing with memory loss, stubborn attitudes, uncooperative spirits, unpredictable angry outbursts, and actions that can create an unsafe living environment. Sometimes I feel like I'm out walking the hallways with them and missing out on all the services. But Amy reminded me that this is just our season of life. It will pass. We'll be deeply grieved when our help is no longer required. Until then, we'll continue caring for them, loving them, protecting them, and helping them to have the best quality of life they can. Wouldn't you want your children to do the same? NOTE TO SELF: Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
**Mom is convinced that she still does all the housework at her house. She normally yells at me if I vacuum, do the laundry, wash dishes, etc., telling me that she does that work and for me to leave it alone. About 6 weeks ago, we added a new medication to her regimen that helps with her "uncooperative outbursts". The other day I went over to clean the house. As I went in to change the sheets on the bed, she followed me and started yelling at me to leave it alone, don't touch anything in the bedroom, yadda yadda yadda. I just calmly told her I change the sheets all the time. I'm the only one that does it. She stopped, looked at me quizzically, and said "Does Richard (Dad) let you do this?" "Yes," I said, "whenever it needs done." "Ok then. But if he gets mad, it's on you." Then she went and sat down and she didn't say anything more about the rest of the housecleaning. Really? That is all I get? Just 30 seconds of resistance? NOTE TO SELF: Sometimes it is OK to love drugs!.
** Sometimes it is difficult to write about the daily struggles of caring for someone with ALZ. Most of our days are dark and dreary and not very upbeat or fun. Mom has been medication free for approximately 7 weeks now. Not because that is our care plan for her or even that it is the best thing for her – quite the opposite. She refuses to take her meds now or even let us check her sugar levels. She throws the pills at us if we get them close to her. Her doctor is aware and simply states “if she doesn’t want to take them, you can’t force her.” It’s funny that she can’t remember one day to the next but she can remember that she doesn’t want to take her meds anymore. Now I’m trying to juggle caring for the parents and caring for my husband who was hurt in work accident. Which one do I leave to care for themselves while I care for the other? On the way home from my husband’s hospital stay, I swung by the parents to give Dad his meds and make sure they ate something that day. Also, Dad was very upset about Rich being hurt and I thought it would be good for him to see him in person. For the first time in about 2 months Mom was in a great mood and welcomed me with a hug and seemed happy to see me. The last time she spoke to me was 5 weeks ago (remember I see her every day), and she called me a piece of trash and ordered me out of the house. Dad and Mom both came out to the car to see Rich. Mom didn’t know who Rich was but told him he looked good! It was comical watching Mom. Dad went into the house to get Rich a cane to use for walking while at home. They have two – a black one and a brown one. Mom doesn’t use a cane but Dad does. Dad brought out the black one. Mom grabbed it from Rich and said “Oh no, that’s mine. I use it ALL the time.” Dad took it back into the house and brought out the brown one. Mom grabbed that one and said “Oh no, that’s mine. I use it ALL the time.” I go in the house and bring the black one out again and ask Mom to pick her favorite. She looks at me and says, “Those aren’t mine, he can take them both.” Oh brother! Dad was frustrated, Rich was saying that’s OK, I’ll get my own, and I am laughing (of course). Before we left, Mom grabbed me and gave me another big hug and told me and Rich to come back anytime and not to stay away so long. I assured her I’d come back and visit reeaaalll soon! And so it goes….NOTE TO SELF: Sometimes you don’t realize how bad you need a hug until God uses the most unlikely source. Keep singing that song that is stuck in your head “when the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Saviour cares”!
** Rich's Dad is just one the sweetest guys you'll ever meet. Dad also has ALZ but his deficits and struggles are different than Mom's. He has terrible short term memory but he stills knows how to drive to: church, our house, and the store. His shopping list at the store is always 1/2 gallon of milk, bananas, carton of ice cream, package of cookies, and bag of chips. He might vary the cookies for a pie and will buy bologna - because he LOVES bologna sandwiches. One day while cleaning his house, I sent him to the store (with a list), to get milk, laundry soap, and clorox bleach. He came back with milk, bananas, ice cream, cookies, and chips. Oh well.... Since neither parent cooks anymore, I work diligently to prepare healthy, balanced meals everyday for them. Here's this week's menu so far: Sunday: Lasagna and all the fixins' (thank you SWBC); Monday: Chef Salad; Tuesday: Baked Flounder, Rice, Peas; Wednesday: Chicken Breast, Mash Potatoes/Gravy, Green Beans, Biscuit; Thursday: Ham/Cheese Omelette, Oatmeal, Toast, and Fruit. So yesterday morning when I went to check on them and give Dad his meds and deliver the meal of the day, I checked the fridge and the Lasagna, Fish, Chef Salad, and Chicken dinners were still in the fridge. There was also a new apple pie and 3 cartons of ice cream in the freezer. Today when I delivered the "breakfast for lunch" meal, the others meals were still there but the apple pie and two cartons of ice cream were gone, along with a bag of chips. And the bologna is slowly disappearing. (Should I wonder why they have been too full to eat the meals???) They do sometimes eat the meals we bring everyday or at least Mom will eat hers but when you ask Dad what he had for lunch, he always says, "I ate a sandwich." We'll keep fixing food and have it available for them to eat whenever they get hungry. It's just another one of the areas we constantly deal with and struggle to find a balance of helping them with their daily care. NOTE TO SELF: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Menu for Friday: Bologna Sandwiches, Chips, Fruit, Chocolate Pudding! Bon Appetit!!!
**I have to say, the last few weeks have been extra special to me. My mom-in-law has been very kind and sweet when I go over to her house. She has been thankful for the lunches, her clean clothes, for all that I do to help her, and she continually tells me that I look like I'm losing weight. How great is that!!!! (BTW, I'm not losing weight but I strike a pose for her anyway!). One morning was particularly touching to me. As I walked into her house, she grabbed my hands in hers and dolefully asked, "You aren't going away, are you?" Wow! It was a heart-melt moment for me. I hugged her right good and assured her that I was there for the long haul. When Rich went over a couple of days ago, she asked him where his sidekick, Loretta, was. Loretta??? Ok -close enough -- Loretta it is. Today she told me that she is having a hard time remembering things, that something isn't right in her head, and that the trouble started about two weeks ago. Man, those two weeks seem like two years to me! It's been a bit weird to see her understand that something isn't right. Don't get me wrong - she is still putting my father-in-law through the wringer and turning the house upside down packing and hoarding away the strangest things. But for the moment, I think I'll cherish the sweetness. NOTE TO SELF: I Thess 5:18 tells us "In everything, give thanks." It is because of ALZ that I have been able to develop a close relationship with my mom-in-law: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love her and I know she loves me - and for that, I am thankful!!!
I could share so many stories with you but space will not allow it. I do hope that you have a thankful heart and a rejoicing spirit in all that God brings your way. May you continue to be faithful in your walk and “in everything, give thanks.”