Recovering from grief…or do we?

I’ve been away from posting for a long time. I take this as a positive sign of my recovery from grieving. But, do we ever fully recover?

Sure, I know grief is personal and subjective and everyone handles it differently; there is no right or wrong way. Everyone has their own timetable and needs to find their new normal.

But now and then those triggers pop up. Just when you think you have things under control – BOOM! – you see or read something that sets you back. This has happened to me a couple of times post-recovery. I try to avoid articles on dementia and Alzheimer’s because an uneasiness comes over me but at the same time, they draw me in; they’re so compelling. So, I’ll scan over them. Some are upsetting to me because I find myself second-guessing my care, reflecting on “should I have done this or that”, “why was I impatient at times….she couldn’t help it”, and the like.

Such an article, and a beautiful one, written by Dan Gasby set off that trigger recently. He is the husband and care partner to supermodel, restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle expert  B. Smith, who has younger-onset Alzheimer’s,

The loss of my mother is still relatively new. In February it will be four years. I was depressed for the first 2 1/2 of those years during which I had a daughter and a son get married and welcomed two beautiful grandsons into our family; I now have a third due in a couple of months. Most days are good. When I think of my mother now I think of happy and fun times. I’m not bogged down by those deepest feelings of loss. That is a sign of recovery. I believe I have found my new normal.

Still, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her or miss her.


Stumbling and Recovery

Something very strange happened to me last month. Or maybe it’s not so strange. For all the positive steps moving forward in grieving the loss of a loved one, you can stumble. And that happened to me last month.

I still get the shakes when I see the word “Alzheimer’s” in a heading or within text. Still, I read a review of “Still Alice” in The New York Times last month. But it was the readers’ comments that hit me hard.

As I read some of them, I started crying. They brought me back to my care-giving experiences. Not only did I share many of the readers’ experiences but it caused me, again, to question my care: Did I do everything I could? I knew mom had dementia but did my denial of Alzheimer’s hamper my care-giving? Should I have quit my job to be with her all the time? I still see her big smile and eyes light up when I would stop by for breakfast on my way to work. Could I or should I have done things differently? My friends and brother will give an emphatic “No!”

I think care-givers always have these doubts, especially after losing their loved one. But these comments hit such a nerve in me and set a trigger off so much so that I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association to look into a support group. And as I’m on the phone with the rep, I just started bawling. My emotions were just so raw – something not experienced for a long time as I was doing so well.

Well, after calling the group’s facilitator and finding out she was no longer there, I guess I got over “it” because I chose not to follow through and lost interest. I’m still thinking of contacting them to find a group. In the grieving process one thing I have found, at least for me, is the need to talk. I’m sure it’s the same for most.

PS I have not yet seen the film … but I will.

PSS Gratefully and thankfully my daugher is fine. Her brain lesion is gone, and one month after her second MRI in December, she went on to run the Houston Marathon and a PR – 4:20:07!

Yes? No? Maybe? Yes!

First it was yesterday. Then maybe Wednesday. Then Friday. Now Wednesday.

I’m talking about mom’s discharge from rehab. I think I have had some lapses lately in my judgment about an understanding on my part of what mom is capable of remembering about decisions she has made. Essentially, I have to coax her on some decisions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, mom seemed a little hesitant about her discharge and about wanting to go back to her apartment in Assisted Living. I do believe that she confused the two places and her desire to return to her apartment came out as her wanting to stay in rehab.

However, when M., Assisted Living’s director spoke with mom yesterday, she again voiced some hesitation. When M. asked what her concerns were, mom said she didn’t have any friends there. This is not true. She knows several people there and has seen them on and off from visits to her apartment downstairs and some programs they’ve had.

I don’t think I’m covering up for mom when I say that in a short period she has gone through several changes and with her condition it can certainly cause confusion. She was in Assisted Living for only two days when she had her fall. A four-day hospital stay was followed by a two-month stint in rehab. Even though rehab was in the same senior living complex where she lives and is one floor above her apartment, it is still a lot change.

So, I just got off the phone with mom, talked about her discharge tomorrow and she is ready, willing and able.

Here’s to tomorrow then!

Today’s Three C’s: Caring, Compassion and Craigslist

Souper Bowl of Caring

Image via Wikipedia

It goes without saying that caring and compassionate health care professionals are so important in patient care. But unfortunately, there are patients who don’t receive it and health care professionals who don’t give it.

I’ve already written about how wonderful Dr. K. is. Mom also has a wonderful and caring speech therapist, C. Her concern and care of my mom is priceless and I’m so grateful for her.

Today was kind of a break-through. Mom was upset at today’s session. C. inquired and mom burst into tears. She verbalized that she realizes she is getting worse. Without going into details, C. calmed her down and explained how important it that she is aware of this. When mom asked C. what can she do, C. said it’s so important for her to be stimulated and get involved in activities. Hence, the real time importance of her being in Assisted Living, because this isn’t going to happen on her own.

Yes, we’re going to have that conversation this weekend. While mom is aware of the deterioration of her cognitive/reasoning abilities, she hasn’t talked to me about it. I get it. I know she doesn’t want me to worry. Too late! We’re going to have to have that conversation, too. She still talked to me tonight about not wanting aides coming up anymore for pill management. Here we go again.

On top of this, it took me all of one hour to sell my daughter’s couch and loveseat on Craigslist.

Anyone need a dining table and chairs?



Intuition (TNT album)

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If you have a gut feeling, a sixth sense about something, go with it. I’ve experienced this several times and so glad I acted upon each one. Wednesday night was one of them.

I’m getting ready to go out of town for a couple of days and had some last minute errands to run after work yesterday. I planned on going by my mother’s place on Thursday but was in the area Wednesday night so I went up not too long after she got back from dinner, close to 7.

I asked if she took her evening pills, if someone had come up yet. She answered yes. I commented with surprise at how early they came. I go in the kitchen to check the pill box and sure enough, Wednesday evening’s pill were gone. Great! An issue-free evening.

Five minutes later the doorbell rings. It’s the aide/companion to give mom her pills. Confusion ensues.
I again ask her if someone already came up and if she took her pills. She said no. The aide called her supervisor to relay what’s going on and I refuse to sign papers that my mother had taken her pills as well as not paying for that visit.

The only thing I could think of that happened is that when my mother didn’t want to take her pills earlier in the morning when the aide was there, that perhaps she took both sets later in the afternoon when I told her to take her morning pills. This was about 12:30. My mother said she did not take both sets of pills at that time. So, that’s that.

At least the message about my frustration of not being called by the aides if a problem arises was addressed. Taped on the counter by her pill boxes in the kitchen was a note to the aides directing them to call me if my mother refuses to take her meds, signed by the department’s assistant director. Again, I ask you, shouldn’t this be a part of their training? Shouldn’t common sense dictate that a call be made to a supervisor or a family member if a problem comes up?

Well, thankfully, finally, Thursday was an issue-free day. No problem in the morning although the aide came later than she should have, and the evening went without a hitch.

Rocky Mountains, here I come!


Finding my Zen

Today I got the phone call I’ve been waiting for…a large apartment in Assisted Living will be ready most likely by mid-September, possibly at the end of month. They have to do a re-model first. So why are feelings of doubt re-entering my mind?

Probably because mom is doing so much better than that disastrous day last Wednesday. This happens to me all the time. On not so great days I’m all for AL. On days and weeks that are incident-free, I question that move. And now that her pill management issue seems to be under control…

What I do know is that this condition will progress (I don’t like to call it a disease – my hang up) and she will not get better. And I don’t know at what rate it will progress. That is the unknown.

Her health care team emphasizes that for someone with her condition, structure in her day is so important. It helps give order to things. Intellectually, I agree and understand. It’s the emotional side of me that I’m in constant battle with. I want reassurance that she will be happy and accepting in her new living environment.

Now, to let her know.

What a difference a few hours can make. I posted my initial thoughts early this morning. It’s now early afternoon.

I didn’t get a chance to call mom until about 12:30. The sound of her voice told me she was still in bed. I was right. She said she was tired. The aide came up but my mother told her she didn’t want to take her pills then. Here we go again! What the @#$%%^&* is wrong with these people! How many times and how many ways do I need to say if a problem or issue comes in administering her pills to call me?

So, at 12:30, my mother still hadn’t eaten and hadn’t taken her pills. Plus, she had a hair appointment at 2:30 p.m.

I called back about 45 minutes later. She said she took her pills, ate something and was getting dressed but seemed a little confused about what she needed to do in finishing getting ready. I asked if she had her underwear on – check; blouse – check. Still needed to put her pants and shoes and make-up on. I told her to finish that.

I called back another 30 minutes later. She was getting ready to eat some more. I told her to first get completely dressed, make-up, etc., then go eat.

In the meantime, I’m playing phone tag with the director of therapy and can’t get a hold of anyone in Personalized Living. I’ve left two messages since this morning to see what the heck is going on. I am doing everything I can…trying to find my Zen and remain calm.

Back now at 4 p.m. Therapy issues resolved. Medicare is confusing but boy do I love its benefits. I’m not going to get started in the partisan politics of it. All I know is that it is working for me and I’m glad it’s around. Mom is being released from home health care next week and and will be back in outpatient therapy.

The pill management issue? Well, the department assistant got an earful from me. I just had to vent since this is the third or fourth time that I’m complaining about the same issue. At this point I’m really not interested excuses. As far as I’m concerned excuses should be non-existant. This should not only be in their training, it’s common sense — phone the on-call manager or call a family member if a problem arises!

At least my mother had a good visit at the hairdresser. Om…