Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the good and the bad of it

The good side of Alzheimer's I have yet to see, but I am seeing plenty of the bad side. Mom no longer has any bowel control, and I don't say that as an insult because it's the Alzheimer's not Mom. She can't help it, of course. I think, "Maybe somebody reading this will have to go through this whole Alzheimer's experience, and they may as well know what they're in for. I'm not going to sugar-coat it." So,'s a bad deal, sure enough, and we're all doing things we have never done before and never really thought we could. It's kind of strange how you suddenly "can" do what you "must" do. It makes a person feel like they are stronger than they thought they ever were, somehow. Anyway, I was dealing with the issue last week and thinking, "Oh, Lord, this is SO bad! I really may die right here and now!!" Then I got to thinking. If Mom was in a nursing center and this happened, there would be no way that a nurse could possibly leave the attention of 20 other people and attend just to her. She would just be there needing help, and have to wait until no telling how long for someone to care for her. And suddenly I was so thankful. Mom needed care immediately and she got it immediately, no problem. That is just such a blessing to be able to care for my Mom in any way, at the very moment she needs me.

Right in the middle of this mess I'm so thankful and happy I could cry! So, maybe that's the "good" of it---not what the disease is doing to Mom, but what it is doing to all of us.

the funeral

Dad's brother, Norman, passed away just before Christmas and the kids, Mom and Dad, and I drove up to Adrian, MO for the memorial service. We had a real time keeping Mom down for the 30 minute service. The family was separate from the general population and the girls and I, (and my two nieces), kept charge of Mom while my Dad and brother sat on the front of the family section. Happily, we had enough space where no one could notice her getting up and down and up and down every couple minutes, and we also had a back door and took her out twice for a walk "downtown" while the service continued. She no longer follows simple commands very well at all. My "sit down" went largely unheeded, but she had to push herself out of the arm chair to stand, so I kind of pushed her off balance a little so she couldn't get up every 5 seconds, (and I mean every five seconds.) Once I got distracted and didn't get her off-balance fast enough and she was already standing before I even knew it. I held her at bay, but thought, "Oh, boy..." and whispered to her, "Now, don't want me to put you in one of my restraints I use at school do you?" She laughed. (I actually do work in a school where I sometimes have to use restraining moves.) Anyway, I had one arm and was wondering what I was going to do if she decided to walk up to the podium, when Christine grabbed Mom's other arm and in one smooth move, forced her to step back which made the chair hit her in the back of the knees, she lost balance and sat. Christine whispered, "Now that's how it's done." I stood amazed. That girl knows what she's doing. Anyway, we made it through the service. That afternoon at the internment, she wanted to walk all over the cemetery, but that was ok with us. Everybody kind of kept an eye open for her, (and I mean everyone)---the whole family was distracted making sure she didn't get away. I think Christine took her to see my brother's grave site, I'm not sure, and I don't know if she had a reaction or not. I don't even look towards that part of the cemetery. It gives me a headache.

Anyway, Dad will sure miss Norman. They talked to each other on the phone each and every day. Dad even said, "I don't know what I'm going to do with this cell phone now. I don't have anybody to call." That's so sad. Dad has lost four siblings thus far---two just this year.

Merry Christmas!

My kids would have it no other way than to spend the night at Mom and Dad's house to celebrate Christmas morning together. And they said there would be a tree. Of course, Dad said, "I'm not putting up no damned tree," and of course, he lost--kind of. Christmas Eve Eve Christine brought home a potted plant that looked quite like a Christmas tree, and the kids decked it out. Eric, Dev, and I packed our bags, (and our turkey, and our stuffing, and, and, and) like we were off for a big Christmas journey to visit our relatives. Forty minutes later we arrived.

We've pared down Christmas a lot in the last several years, mostly so Dad won't stress out over it. Gifts are completely optional and generally very practical. When Mom was doing things, Christmas-time was a major "to do," but not anymore. We still enjoy it, though.The kids gave Mom three of her favorite things....a new hat, chocolate pudding cups, and a card that sang, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas" every time she opened it. Dad got a corresponding gift of decorative cotton balls with bows on them, to wear in his ears when she opens the card 1,000 times/day. haha Also, Christine bought Dad a new watch. When he was trying to set his old watch for daylight savings time this fall, he broke the stem off and could not reset it. So, he took the new watch and put it on his right wrist, leaving the old one on his left. He said in the spring he'll look at his right arm and in the fall, he'll look left to tell the time. Snort! I bought him new socks and underwear---try to do this every twenty years or so. He said, "I've been thinking about buying some of those....." He's been thinking about it for over ten years, no doubt.

We all enjoyed watching the kids open their stockings with the little presents and candy packed in tight, and it was done---perfect. I fixed the standard fare of turkey, hot rolls, dressing, etc, and it was a warm, cozy, and easy-going day we shared.

Mom is having more trouble eating and we no longer take her out to eat because it gets pretty messy. The biggest problem is she eats with her hands and will not leave the food in her mouth. The food is in and out and in and out, and not for the faint of stomach. We can deal with it, but we save the general population the experience! But, on the bright side, she is not choking!

I don't know if this will be the last Christmas with Mom, but if it is, it was a very fine one and I wouldn't have changed anything. We laughed a lot and Mom let go of her dead-pan stare and laughed along with us for the moment. It's always so sweet when she does that.

Can you write my name?

That was the question Chad asked Mom last time he saw her. She nodded, then wrote clearly, "Chadwick" and laughed.