Alzheimer’s Weekly Top 10

The Pros and Cons of Going Back To Work

Today I went on a job interview.  Professional clothing, make-up, hair down and a printed resume at the ready!  It’s a part time job.  It’s perfect hours for a mom with kids in school.  It pays well and it lines up nicely with my skill set.

But I have mom.

My husband is home many of the days and times I would be at work.  I have a neighbor who has offered to help on the rare day when neither of us would be home.  And did I mention, it pays?!

But I have mom.

Family is more important than competitive dance…unless you are a 12-year-old girl who LOVES to dance with every tapping, pointing, leaping fiber of her being.  Family is more important than select baseball…unless you are a 15-year-old boy who would rather put on a pair of cleats and catcher’s gear and squat behind home plate in 105 degree weather than anything else you could imagine.  Family is more important than being cool at night and having meat on the menu and going to the dentist an extra time each year….

Money is tight when you give up working to care for someone.  And there are only so many corners you can cut.  And no matter how many e-mails you send to find some at-home writing work, these days it’s all about who you know to even get a response!

And I have mom.

There were 25 wonderful women who applied for this position.  This part-time position.  And I would be so arrogant to think I would be selected out of the 25.  But what if I am?

Which leads me to today’s Alzheimer’s Top 10:  The Pros & Cons of Going Back To Work

PROs

  1. A much-needed weekly paycheck
  2. Interaction with fully functioning adults on a daily basis
  3. Maintaining my professional skills so I can re-enter the work force once caregiving ends
  4. Getting out of the house 5 days a week
  5. Being able to ‘splurge’ a little again
  6. Not having to dip into savings for car/home/mom unexpected expenses
  7. Having 5 more traditional/normal/non-caregiving hours in my day
  8. It’s a good employer to work for
  9. Other than working from home – these are the best hours I could hope for
  10. Sharing the caregiving work load with my family (they want to help me)

CONs

  1. Mom’s anxiety when I am not around
  2. My anxiety and worry when I am not around
  3. Trying to accomplish everything on top of working outside the home for 25 hours/week
  4. Inability to be able to respond at the drop of a hat to kid and mom emergencies
  5. Dressing up every single day again (I do NOT miss that!)
  6. Having to possibly hire someone to watch mom 2 days per week (since my neighbor is kind, but not crazy!)
  7. Taking the job and finding out I can’t manage it
  8. The unpredictability of my husband’s schedule
  9. The worry that no one will be as patient with mom as I am
  10. Sharing the caregiving workload with my family (will they resent me…and mom)

And there it is…I’ve typed it and I didn’t learn anything new from either list.  I know the pros and the cons.  I know why I should and why I shouldn’t…I’ve spent time in prayer.  I feel certain the answer will present itself or at least a sign to point me in the right direction… I sure hope so!

Any advice out there???

Did Someone Say Kibble?

Another Saturday with our rescue beast, Sophie.

Sophie is pretty easy to get along with.  She will lay anywhere.  She lets us pet her and pick her up and brush her and will even let my daughter dress her up occasionally.

But she is a picky eater…as picky as a dog can be, I guess!  She bores easily with her food.  She will completely ignore a full bowl of food once she’s decided she would rather have something else.  We humor her.  We buy different kinds of kibble and mix them or alternate them or put a bit of scrambled eggs in them.  But sometimes she is stubborn!

Not this week!  We got her a new brand – the Purina One Lamb and Rice Formula and she can’t get enough of it!  This morning my mom was eating breakfast sausage and Sophie didn’t even bother sitting at her feet in hopes of mom dropping a crumb – she went straight to her bowl and wolfed it down.

Now it’s nearing dinner time…and I’d say Sophie is READY for more!

She’s trying really hard to “cute” her way into an extra meal, don’t you think????

SWS08.09.14

Five Minute Friday – Reach

You don’t know this, but my day is upside down!  Every Friday, for many, many Fridays, I have looked forward to the 5 (or sometimes 6) minutes where I join in with lots of other writers for Five Minute Friday over at Kate Motaung’s.  I get my kids up and started, I get my mom up and started, I get my kids to school, I get my mom breakfast, clean up, make a giant mug of coffee and turn on my computer….

But not today.  The entire day is almost gone.  Mom is eating her evening bowl of coffee ice cream and things are settling down for a quiet evening at home.  But I just couldn’t settle in without turning on my computer and taking this 5 minutes just for me.

REACH….

mother daughter hands

Have you ever seen a familiar face at the market or at a school event or at the gym?  Or heard the faint notes of an old song that you somehow know you used to love?  Or wanted to tell your husband about something you read on the internet?

And you reached back into your memory to find the name or title and artist or interesting fact.  Some names are easier to remember.  Sometimes I have to find a bit of the song and start singing to get to the title, but I usually get there.

Not when you suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s buries things.  EVERY thing.  So far back in your brain that you can’t possibly reach it.  Arms aren’t long enough.  Patience isn’t enough.  Clues no longer jar the memory enough.  And still she tries.

She reaches for words – simple names of simple items. Toothbrush gets stuck right on the tip of her tongue.  While she’s holding it in her hand.  Wondering what she is supposed to do with it.

She reaches for purpose and rhythm and routine.  That toothbrush becomes the enemy.  Because somewhere in the ALZ brain she knows it is familiar.  She knows it has a purpose.  She knows she should be able to figure this out.  But she can’t reach it.

She reaches for names.  Names of people she’s known forever.  Faces she’s seen in photographs – many of them photos she took on film she drove to the drug store and paid to have developed.  Photos she sorted through in those yellow envelopes and chose specifically for this photo album and that.

And I watch her.  And I try and help her.  Help her with clues and sounds and hints and hand holding.  And she looks at me and knows somehow I am safe…but she has no idea why.  She can’t remember.  More and more things.  More and more names.  More and more people.

I’m no longer her daughter, but I am still safety and comfort and love.  But it’s getting harder for her to reach.  And I’m afraid.  Afraid of the day when I can longer reach her….when we can no longer reach each other…

 

From Goldilocks to Camel…the progression of Alzhiemer’s in my house

Last year – almost to the week – I wrote a post about how if I had to give my mom a nickname it would be Goldilocks.  Everything was “too” – too hot, too cold, too sweet, too spicy…you know what I mean – nothing was just right!

Well, today I had to go hide in the laundry room (and actually got a bunch of socks matched, so it wasn’t a total waste!) because my mom was on a bit of a roll.  It didn’t matter what the subject, the question, the event – she had something to say about it!  If I’m being honest, a LOT of somethings to say about it!

And as I was fetching socks out of my dryer, all I could think of was the old “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” slogan and then I giggled – because really, I had just walked 50 feet, in a sense, because of a Camel.  The new unfiltered mom, just like the old unfiltered Camel cigarettes.  I’ve never been a smoker, but that slogan, that trait, just stuck with me…no idea why.  But hiding in my laundry room to avoid her unfiltered commentary, it cracked me up.

Somewhere in these past 8 years, mom has lost her filter.  She says whatever she wants to.  Whenever she wants to.  I’m sure it was more natural for my mom to abandon that filter than perhaps for others – she has always prided herself for “speaking her mind”.   Today, however, I’m not sure it has anything to do with pride and I am certain it has very little to do with the traditional mind.

Today she was down-right mad about the 1, 2, 3, 4, FIVE cars parked outside our home – 1 in my driveway, 2 in the neighbor’s driveway, 1 in front of their house and 1 just down the street.  She thought that was ridiculous.  And then somewhere in her Alzheimer’s mind – she got caught up in the their colors and what that meant about the people who owned them (I’ve never been sorrier to own a red car!) and 4 minutes in, she went on a rage about why she isn’t allowed to have a car anymore!

It got heated!  At first I tried to interject pleasantries and explanations and then to change the subject.  NOPE.  Not having any of that.  No thank you!

So far, she’s been fired up about food and how little she gets to eat (surprised she could get the words out with her mouth full of Oreos!), the cars, a teacher she had who snapped the waistband of her skirt while she was teaching, why everyone went away and left her here with “HERRRRR” – that’s me!   And that was it…

I broke the cardinal rule and took it personally and jumped in to defend myself and to “reason” with her….HA!  I know better!  I lasted 3 minutes in the ring with my little 86-year-old mother.  I tapped out.  I knew this wasn’t real world stuff.  It was ugly Alzheimer’s stuff.  And it would do far more damage than good to argue or even to sit and listen anymore.  It was then that I had to make my getaway to the sock-folding sanctuary known as my laundry room.  Mom can’t get into my laundry room.  The path is too narrow for her walker….aren’t I mean?

But I had to go.  Because now that she is all-the-way gone memory wise, she not only says whatever she wants…she says whatever she is feeling.  And let’s just say, she is not a big fan of anyone who “works in this place” (that’s me and my family) right now.

I know she is still adjusting to the whole Back-To-School thing, but there are just some things you never, ever want to hear your mom say.   Ever!

So in just under a year, mom has gone from being “Goldilocks” to “Joe Camel”…not exactly a Smooth Character, but definitely unfiltered!

I suppose it’s wrong to trivialize it or make light of it or to share our dirty laundry in a public forum like this…BUT…that’s why I blog.  To get it out.  To put it in perspective.  To realize I am surrounded by others who have or are going through similar things.

So I typed it.  And now I have a way to get through the next unfiltered tirade with a smile!  That and maybe a quick trip to fold socks in my laundry room!

One Word Wednesday – WILLING

Another week in the life of this caregiver.  A tough week, but a special week as well.  My kids went back to school on Monday and there is a giant hole in my day.  Right now it’s being filled with mom’s anxiety over the change she doesn’t understand.  But soon enough, it will be empty.  No lazy, sleepy mornings waking them up after mom is all settled in for her day.  No more teamwork projects to finish laundry or grocery shopping or yard work.  No hysterical laughter from the other room and a “Mom!  Momma?!  You gotta come see this!” over a funny YouTube video of puppies or babies or sporting events.

And another Wednesday.  I had the kids pull this as soon as they got home from school.  We are “planning” a family evening (last week’s word was PLAN – you can read my take on it here.) so, I’m getting all my ducks in a row in hopes of actually eating a sit-down meal and having this decadent dessert a friend of mine told me about!

So this week, Peanut reached her hand into the jar and pulled out WILLING.

“Ready, eager or prepared to do something.”  That’s how it’s defined.  And that’s what you have to be if you want to survive being a caregiver (in my opinion).

But I have days where I doubt my WILLINGness.  Days where I wonder if I’m becoming less WILLING and therefore less capable.  Days where the details of the caring cloud the overriding objective of my choices and our new life with Alzheimer’s.

Daddy used to say “Good things come to those who wait.  Great things come to those who are WILLING to get up and do it themselves!”  And I am seeing that play out every day.

There are difficult days, like yesterday, when I have to do things that I’d rather not do.  When I have to clean up things I’d rather not clean up.  And when that happens, my mom gets really defensive.  That means I have to deal with behavior that I’d rather not deal with.  And dodge statements and remarks I’d rather not hear.  It tests my WILL and my WILLINGNESS.

But I know that we are doing what is best for mom – so those are relatively ‘good’ days.

There are days when the sun is just the right amount of shiny and the snacks are just the right amount of sweet and the kids are just the right amount of quiet and the dog is just the right amount of fluffy and I am just the right amount of patient.  Those days are easy, I am more than WILLING and those days are ‘great’.

Then there are the ‘new normal’ days where I still have to be on duty as a caregiver 99% of the day.  The questions are endless and sometimes pointless (to me, not to mom).  The exhaustion is unmistakable.  The thanklessness is constant.  My patience is tested.  The disease is in my face.  And my certainty wobbles a little.  Those are the days when my WILLINGNESS decides ‘good’ or ‘great’.

Remembering that this is my choice.  Having faith that God has a plan for me.  Knowing that none of this is mom’s fault.  Celebrating our blessings instead of bemoaning my troubles.  All these things give me a more WILLING heart.  Make me a more WILLING caregiver.  Reminds me of the privilege of taking care of someone who genuinely needs me.   How can I not be WILLING to do whatever it takes?

What is the first thing that pops in your head when you see the word WILLING?  LInk up below and share your thoughts, stories or suggestions – I would love to hear from you!

 

Avoiding Alzheimer’s – Why yes! My Top 10

Another Tuesday and another Top 10 from my ALZ world.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – I think it’s because mom has taken another step down.  I watch the disease do things that seem impossible.  Unbelievable.  Right out of a sci-fi movie!

And I am scared.  Not completely overwhelmed or paralyzed by it, but scared.  Afraid every time I forget a name or misplace my keys.  Scared when I hear a story that I was a part of and don’t remember the details.  Scared that I am going to have Alzheimer’s and my beautiful children will be left to care for me…

So, every day I do things to try and fight the ALZ beast.  Here’s my Top 10:

  1. Swim laps and walk…rumor has it that moderate exercise is a great deterrent for ALZ
  2. Eat blueberries every day – they are included on most every “super-food” list, so I eat them!
  3. Play a memory game ever day or two.  I loved this game as a kid – you had all the card pairs turned down on a table and you had to find the matches.  I have that on my computer now!
  4. Memorize a quote or poem or Bible verse every week
  5. Try and learn a new name or two every week – at the Rec Center where I swim or at school or at my local market.  And then use them, store them in my brain and fire brain cells!
  6. Drink red wine or purple 100% juice.  I love the Welch’s Lite Concord grape juice…I give it to mom too, even though it’s probably too late!
  7. Take folic acid.  Not sure if anything is proven, but I figure until they tell me why I shouldn’t take it – I’m taking it!
  8. Eat some Omega-3- rich fish.  I don’t love it and I rarely cook it, but I try when I go out to have salmon or tuna … unless there is a cheeseburger with my name on it!
  9. Stay social.  It would be so easy to become a hermit as a caregiver to someone who is shut in, but I chat, text, IM, call my friends. I make time to catch up with neighbors and my fellow swimmers and the other parents at my kids’ schools
  10. Pray and pray

Not exactly the stuff of medical journals, but I don’t want to be passive about this.  I want my kids to see me doing all that I can to stay healthy for them, for myself and for our family.

That’s my Top 10 List to try and avoid Alzheimer’s…what kinds of things are you doing?

For the record…I am NOT a doctor.  I have ZERO medical training.  I read what and when I can.  I do what I feel is best for me, but would never dream of telling you what’s best for you.  Please don’t consider me an expert…I am just sharing because I think dialog and sharing are so important.  This is just my check list, because I have to do something!

 

Just Asking for Trouble…or am I Wicked Smart?

Today is the first day of school for my kids…and you know that means a big change for mom.  Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a big change for them, but they can prepare.  They can remember.  They can make a checklist.  They can even roll their eyes at MY checklist!

Not so much for mom.  She has no idea what is different.  But she was not happy about all the action last night and this morning.  The packing, checking, unpacking, repacking (all with very loud commentary by my borderline ocd daughter) made her pace and mumble.  The lunch/snack assembly line brought out mom’s nasty, deficit-mentality side.

Some of you have read that she is crazy-snacky these days.  Eats all the time.  Can’t gain a pound, but eats all the time.  Well, add to that a kitchen island full of meats and cheeses and pickles and cookies and grapes and carrots and strawberries and chips…that’s a recipe for nasty right there!  She must have walked by 15 times in the 30 minutes we were assembling, portioning and packing.  We gave her grapes, a cookie, a piece of cheese and another cookie (she wanted no part of the carrots or radishes!), but she continued to walk by, stopping to lament the fact that there was all this good food and none for her….poor her…

Then this morning – there were lunches to finish packing (have to quietly take the cold things and ice packs out to finish the lunches without waking mom.  Not to worry – she was up and soaked through again (3rd time this week…I am losing my mind!)  So, at least that took the pressure off being super-quiet.  But it did confuse her.  All summer long, it’s been just mom and me in the morning.

Needless to say, she is a humming, muttering, pacing, napping, but not really napping hot mess.  So, I might as well have her new hospital bed delivered today, right?

The giant empty space is almost more than she can handle.  She can’t even finish the question that she has asked 10+ times.  I keep trying to bring it up in conversation when I catch her looking over there.  And I kept reminding her as my husband and I were taking the old bed to the garage and as I was sweeping the floors….but it’s just too much.  She cannot remember.  I can’t say it enough times.  I can write it down – she won’t read the note.  The signs I have tried to hang up, are ignored.

And I’ll be honest.  I thought about this two ways…would adding the hospital bed be way too much to pile onto the first day of school?…. OR …  would it be best to get it all out of the way on one day and begin the healing process asap?

I like to think I was wicked smart about this – two birds with one stone and all.  But man, I feel so bad for her right now.  She has gone into her “have we had lunch, I’d better put on more lipstick” place.  Maybe once the bed is here and made up and the kids are home we will be able to find some peace….maybe!  Until then….dee-dee-dee, dah-dah-dah…have we had lunch yet?…dah-dee-dee…

Fast forward 6 hours.  The bed is in, but it looks different.  The kids are home, but they are different.  They are talking over each other about their days.  There are papers all over the place asking for my contact info and signature and we have class rules/guidelines/syllabuses (syllabi) for every subject known to man.

Poor mom.  She did not enjoy her dinner…too much kids!  She has been trying to go to bed since 5:00pm, but every time she folds down a sheet or fluffs a pillow, she has to come ask me about the difference or what’s “wrong”.  Even after dinner while we tried to watch some television, she couldn’t take her eyes off the bed.  She knows, somewhere down deep, that something is not quite right.

I am hopeful that it will stop bothering her.  I don’t think she’ll ever get completely used to it.  She asks at least once a week if “that is my bed” or “how do I get back to my room” (while she is sitting in the middle of it.

At least things are winding down…so maybe I’m not exactly ‘wicked smart’, but I think we made the right decision to get it all done in one day.  At least I hope so!

 

Lazy Day, Lazy Dog

It’s here…the last Saturday of summer vacation…and I am feeling a bit sad about that.  We are ready…as ready as we’re going to be unless I hit the lotto today!  My daughter is busting at the seams to go back…my son – not so much.

Football, his favorite subject, has already started.  He finished up his football fundraiser last night and I am so proud of him.  They had their first scrimmage yesterday and they played well.  So, he’s already seen the people he cares most about and is up to his elbows in what he considers the best reason to go to public school…athletics!

So, he’s determined to have a lazy day.  He is helping me water the lawn and then finding time to chill between sprinkler moves (I could just scream at the people who “saved” $1500 by not installing sprinklers when this house was built!)

Sophie was only too happy to join him…

Not a bad way to spend the am, for a boy or a Sophie!  Happy Saturday everyone (woof!)

SWS08.09.14

1 2 3 29