Licking my Wounds

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Day 2 of mom’s adventures in her new care home. Last night was such a good time with mom laying happily in bed, looking at the quilt with our baby photos on them and commenting on them over and over again. Clearly they brought her joy, love and peace.

Today, however, was another story. I felt like I ran from there as fast as I could but not without wounds that will likely turn into scars that only forgiveness and love can heal. Right now I am still nursing and licking my wounds. I have retreated into protection mode but messaging with my sisters, who know me and what we are all going through, has helped me. But it will take a little time before the wounds will heal and fade away.

What has caused such a retreat and images of wounds and scars?

My mother was not the same woman whom I spent time with last night. This woman was caustic, argumentative, paranoid and convinced men were coming to take the children including her baby, a doll. She didn’t seem to comprehend that I was her daughter and acted as if I was of no consequence to her. I found her in another man’s room trying to put his shirt on over her own. She tried to cover him with various items but he didn’t respond at all. When she wheeled towards his bathroom, I decided the charade was up and wheeled her out and directed her wheelchair down the hallway. She wanted to go into every room, even if the door was shut, and I patiently pointed out the pictures at each door to show whose room it was and reminded her she couldn’t go in there. It was like she heard me, but deliberately ignored me, and I would have to wheel her back or keep the door shut with my hand and she would be angry and argue with me.

Then, suddenly, she turns to me and says “shut up stupid bitch!” I whirled backward as if slapped and the tears came moments later. I tried to keep them in but she saw them but didn’t say anything and tried to wheel over my foot. My mother has called me a bitch one other time during my teenage years that stung like a slap as well. This felt worse. I guess because I had been spending all this time and experiencing much emotional angst for her well-being only to be treated with contempt.

In my brain I know that this is not how my “normal” mother would act and that it was the Alzheimer’s forever altering her brain. But my heart is not so willing to let go of the tight clench after every beat.

After talking to the nurse and aides, I decided to just go home. There is no helping her when she is in this state and I should have known that. Really – it is my own fault. I’ve seen signs of this behaviour before but I haven’t learned to retreat fast enough. My bruised heart reminds me that next time I will. She can’t learn to adapt her behaviour, but I can.

Such thoughts seem logical and reasonable, but my heart hasn’t allowed them to penetrate yet and tears continue to fall quickly down my cheeks.

Thank you, God, for sisters who know. Sisters who care for the same woman changing and fading before our eyes. Sisters who let me vent and share the agony even though it must hurt them, too. It is not only MY mother that has changed, but theirs, too. I wonder if their heart aches, too. I wonder if they try to protect their hearts from the pain of this maddening, incurable disease called Alzheimer’s?

Expelled at 77

John and I are in the depths of raising teenagers. We expect rebellion, arguments, tantrums and possible expulsion from school. Heaven forbid the last one! However, it is not our teens that we are dealing with on difficult issues. My mother, with her daily experience living with Alzheimer’s, has been more of a challenge than I expected. In fact, she was “kicked out,” “expelled,” or “given her walking papers” from her care home. My historically gentle, kind and undemanding mother (albeit with red hair and  occasional fiery temper) has become aggressive towards her care givers, other residents and sometimes family members, and her home was unable, unwilling, unequipped to deal with her and too impatient to figure out a solution.

My patient father was getting phone calls upon phone calls of incidents she was involved in and he was getting stressed. He was exhausted and having to “guard” her for 8 days has made me exhausted as well. The care home had no extra staff to be on stand by with her in the evenings so that fell to us, the family. Thankfully, we have some family in the city and each is able to do what they can. Interestingly, I have not seen any acts of aggression myself and she was very calm each evening I was there.

During the intake at her new home, the RN did a thorough assessment. When we spoke about her unusual behaviours she said that something as simple as an infection or illness can cause a change in behaviour. She did have 2 bladder infections in the past 6 months so that could be a strong possibility as a cause for atypical behaviours.

If you think that having a child expelled from something would be frustrating and embarrassing, try having your 77 year old mother expelled!! I almost felt like I was trying to sneak in to visit her as I was embarrassed by her. I felt terribly apologetic to her nurses and aides and felt like I was there to protect them from this wheel chair bound woman and her shocking displays of hitting, scratching, pushing or, my personal favourite – hair pulling.

Over the week I have come to think of it in a slightly different way. After 10 days with no negative reports, I was starting to wonder if her care home had jumped the gun. I started to remember whose side I was on and that the staff didn’t need my support, my mom did. “Honour your Father and your Mother.” Exodus 20:12a came to mind. I began to walk in with my head held high and a cheery greeting to the other residents sitting nearby. As I left her home, I actually felt sad that I would miss all the special characters there, but after spending several hours at her new home today, I am sure there will be many characters to get to know here, too.

After much preparation and worry over the transition to her new home, she seemed happy and easily settled. We rolled through the halls again and again (it’s always new to an Alzheimer’s patient!) until she was ready to settle for the night. I’m on first name basis with one resident already as she came into mom’s room 5 times tonight. lol  I am certain mom will repay her and many others with surprise visits. Can you blame her? Most of the rooms are very similar with only the bed facing alternate ways and a chair or two added in.

I have wanted to write this entry for 8 days now and it isn’t coming out as descriptive or theatrical as I had thought. I think it is the emotional and physical weariness that has sapped my energy and eliminated any wit or humour I usually have. I will have to tell the story of the lunch room fight another night.

If you visit an elderly person or pass by one in a store, say “Hello” and give them a cheery smile. They may or may not respond, but to many it is a drop of fresh water on a dry and lonely soul. I am certain that many of mom’s fellow residents at her first home thought that I was coming to visit them and they were ready with a smile or a greeting. I’m sure they didn’t remember me each time, but I was a friendly face who took time to speak with them. Don’t ask questions as they may be confused and embarrassed if they can’t answer them. You really have no idea how a friendly face  can be like a breeze under their soul, lifting them closer to God and closer to the person they once were. Isn’t that what we would all like to be? Closer to our best self whether that is today, in days gone by, in a hope for the future or when rejoicing in heaven with a healthy body, strong mind and joy-filled spirit!.

~ Tracy.

 

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Have no fear.

Wise insights, Camilla. You have a wonderful way with words.

figs grow on trees

Terrorism has one goal: to produce widespread fear, or to spread terror. Last night was an upsetting night for many. Many people became victims to the terrorist attacks in Paris. However, the victims were not only the ones who were in Paris at the time but those of us who read what had happened and became fearful.

Fear is a gift from God. Fear is our bodies’ survival mechanism, it can help us discern dangerous situations and protect us from putting ourselves in an unsafe position. But at the same time our fear can be abused and then used to control us.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

The gift of fear is a physical response, but as the verse states, God did not give us…

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Jail Birds

“Quick! Let’s go!” my mom says moments after I arrive. Oh no, I thought. She wants to go home. How will I dissuade her this time?

“Mom, we’re not going anywhere. I am here to visit with you.”

The care worker attempts to get my mom settled back in her chair. “See, Evelyn, your daughter is here to see you.”

“I’m the daughter!!” she says indignantly. We share a chuckle over her head as we settle her into another chair.

“Yes, you are a daughter, but I am your daughter.” I remind her.

Clearly agitated, she gets back up and out of her chair and begins to walk around. I coax her back to her chair so we can visit. She begins to talk non-stop punctuated by agitated movements. This continues for quite some time.

The conversation (or monologue, I should say) goes something like this:

“Are there babies under that, uh, um, bbddtubbb ______ on the bed? The dog – on the fridge, uh, has to go for walk – where uh, ggubdd – man with the  uhhhhh – gbder – Let’s go! We gotta get out of here or they – the uh uhm  nnurge will be mad. Cream in the car babies are crying.”

I break in and ask “who will be mad?”

“The van is behind the hospital. Go get it. I hope you don’t go to jail, too. They’re not g4gjrjeiw be happy.”

Me: “Why will they be mad, mom?”

“I took the cart, I stole it. We gotta go.” She gets up again. Again I ask her where she’s going and that we weren’t going to leave. This is her home.

After watching her move about the room, moving things and replacing them, I suggest we go down to the dining room.

“Oh no! We can’t go down there! Those people will put me in jail.”

I reassure her that no-one is going to put her in jail, that it is supper time and I will walk down with her. After much laboured walking and her typical holding onto the walker too far ahead of herself and nearly falling several times, we almost make it down the hall. Just when I see her spot at the table and think we are nearly home free and surprise, surprise, no-one has put her in jail, she says:

“Do they need these boards?” pointing to the floor boards. “We could pull them up and go underneath the dining room before they put us in jail!”

Oh, please. If only I could.

 

Flap, flap, flap

The Care Home my mom is living in is very quiet and peaceful for the most part. While sitting in my mom’s room, you really don’t hear much at all. You may occasionally hear voices or the clunk clunk of walkers, but you don’t hear the typical hospital sounds such as the incessant beeping of monitors, clatter of meal trays, nurses, doctors and aides talking as they walk down the hall.

But there is definitely one sound you do hear. Flap, flap, flap of soft soled slippers treading up and down the hall. One thing that Alzheimer’s patients do is shuffle their feet. They rarely take large steps, firm and steady. Their steps are more tentative and quaky. You can’t get away from the shuffle of the slippers. My mom’s next door neighbour, Nick, is a constant walker. He is searching for someone or some place he cannot find, a memory of a different time or a loved one he has lost. He seems destined to wander indefinitely because one thing that Alzheimer’s patient’s have in common is they don’t remember when wanted. Memories may pop up surprisingly vivid, but lost again the next minute. I often wonder – how is it they remember to search for something they can’t find? Is there an ingrained knowledge or knowing that compels them to keep looking or to keep asking the same thing over and over? Is there an importance or a fear attached to the need to find the person or thing? It can’t be importance, because then they would remember their loved ones. Perhaps fear is more compelling than love? I wonder.

Alas, I am off topic and my lighter dialogue went deeper than intended.

Back to the flop, flop, flop of slippers. In the quiet stillness I hear Nick walking around, and being the curious sort I am, I went to sit outside my mom’s room in the “sun room” to watch where he was going. He began walking down the hallway towards his room, went inside and did several laps of his room. Then he came out, hand on the handrail and walked to the next doorway where he stopped and turned to face the wall. Then he continued walking in the same spot for at least 4 minutes. So weird and just a little freaky. Then he turns back, walks into his room again. I quickly got up and went back into my mom’s room as I continued to hear the flap, flap, flap of his slippers circling his room.

Mom was thirsty so I said I would go and get her a drink. I wasn’t really sure if I was supposed to help myself to a glass of juice for her and no aide or nurse was around to ask so I went ahead and poured herself a glass of apple juice. But I felt a little guilty and turned to see several pairs of eyes watching me warily. (I now know I can turn a head – at least in a senior’s home lol.) I smiled and said hello to each of them and then beat it back to mom’s room. As I am nervously making my way down the hall, I pass a doorway and see a woman standing there just watching me approach and walk past. I say “Hello” but she doesn’t even respond. Her head swivels as I go by and her eyes are kind of vacant. A shiver goes down my back. Then I hear flap, flap, flap. It’s only Nick I tell myself. But the flap, flap, flaps pick up pace and my heart beat begins to match it. I can’t look behind me – I’m frozen in my forward motion. The apple juice sloshed over my hand as I jolt a little and pick up my pace even more. The flop, flop, flop has begun moving even faster. I reach the end of the hall before I turn left to my mom’s room. I have to know – do I have to lock the door once I get there? I’m starting to breathe heavier, whether it’s the fast pace for this unfit body or the fear of finding any number of horrors behind me, I don’t know. I begin to turn the corner and cast a quick look over my left shoulder and there was Nick. At the far end of the hall. He is walking intently, his slippers flap, flap, flapping quickly as he makes no progress at all. Sigh. I should have known, but there’s sometimes something a little creepy about this place filled with old souls all lost and searching and unhappy, locked in this world they don’t understand and don’t feel safe in.

Breathing more easily I enter my mom’s room and hand her the glass of juice. She takes a sip and quickly spits it back in her glass. “It’s poisoned!” she says with distrust. Inwardly I sigh. I just solved the mystery of the flapping slippers – now poisoned juice? There is seldom a dull moment when visiting my mom.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes — A Scientific Critique

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” told the story of a researcher who, while looking for the cure to Alzheimer’s, inadvertently created an army of highly intelligent primates (whoops) by developing a virus that allowed brain tissue to heal itself. The scientist, played by James Franco, had personal reasons for developing the cure; his father, living with him at home, was visibly suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Throughout the film, many of the details involving the miracle virus are vaguely expressed, but the film does adequately show a difference in how the chimpanzees and humans are differentially affected by the virus when infected. Thus, this film is a fine representation of the difficulties of applying animal model research in the lab. Moreover, this film uses topical knowledge of the pathogenicity of Alzheimer’s combined with the more widespread knowledge of the visible, debilitating effects of the disease to develop a dramatic science-fiction…

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