Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wow

I actually ran into something that astounded me.

I mentioned at work that I could not work late. My caregivers left at a certain time and I could not leave Grace alone.

I didn't think this was a big deal. After all, I am in the office just after 7:30. Only two others beat me in. And I connect from home at all hours. I am "on" 24/7.

But, the response I got was ridicule. He said...."caregiver? I'll be your caregiver for sql...."

What? Really? Did you say that? Did that come out of your mouth? SERIOUSLY?

I could only respond with "wow...." and walk away.

Wow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Last Time

I remember the last time I stepped into my childhood home. The furniture was gone and I knew that an era was over. I walked through the house. I tried to soak in each room, absorbing the feeling each one. I remembered what it was like to hear my father laugh. It was over. I walked away, locked the door and knew it was the last time. I wrote that message on my heart and my head.

Last times happen all the time. I don’t always know that I’m living a ‘last time.’ Of course, I remember the last time I was in each of my schools. Graduation punctuates the experience and draws the line that must be crossed; the last time.

Sometimes the most important ‘last times’ happen without ceremony. I don’t remember the last time I nursed a baby. I don’t know the last time I picked up one of my children and held her in my arms. It sneaked past me and was gone. The treasured feeling of holding a child in my arms and providing comfort. It went unnoticed, unannounced. The last night both my daughters slept in my house. I didn’t know that summer was the last summer I’d have both my girls with me.

I didn’t know.

I would have absorbed the moment. I would have stayed up 5 minutes more to soak up the sounds of their laughter.

I didn’t know.

There was a last hug from my father, a last conversation, a last smile. When was the last time we sat and laughed? It slipped past me and I couldn’t appreciate it. I would have hung on longer. I would have tried to memorize the feeling. I guess I always thought there would be more.

I didn’t know.

I have learned that ‘last times ‘ sneak into your life. It can take years to notice, or just seconds. My last conversation with my mom; the last time I could recount the events of my day, is a mystery to me. The last time, Grace smiled at me and said something relevant, selfless or supportive. I know it’s gone, but when did it leave? When was exact last moment? Where were we? Why didn’t I savor it?’

I just did not know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Perils of Communication

I have a pet peeve. If I ask for someone to repeat something, I can guarantee you it’s because I did not hear you. If I ask a question about what someone said, then you can be sure it’s because it wasn’t clear to me or I only heard part of it.

Around here, that happens a lot. Grace doesn’t process what she hears well and is equally poor at communicating. The caregiver does not speak English as her first language and sometimes the accent trips me up. When she says something to either me or Grace, if asked to repeat, she will not.

Caregiver: “Grace, do you want to go to bed?”
Grace: “What?”
Caregiver: “bed.”

If I ask her to repeat anything I get the same treatment.

Caregiver: "I didn't see the mailman yet today."
Me: "What?"
Caregiver: "mail"
Me: "huh?"

I can easily picture this.

Caregiver: "There's a fire in the kitchen!"
Me: "What?"
Caregiver: "kitchen"

Evidently this is a one-time only deal. If you don’t hear it the first time, the repeat is a super abbreviated version of what passed you by in the first place.

I particularly love it when I ask Grace what she said, and the caregiver feels compelled to answer. When she does “interpret” what Grace said, Grace chooses to repeat herself so instead of getting clarification, I get chaos.

“I didn’t hear either of you.”

Another endearing quality of the caregiver is her drive to become a mime. My dog had a spot on his back that bothered him. He was biting at it. Instead of telling me, she felt compelled to act it out. Not once, but several times.

She must be killer at charades.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Just In Time

At one point this weekend during my flurry of activity, I came downstairs to Grace laying in her usual spot. She looked at me, smiled and said,

"Edie!!! Your're just in time.!"

"Oh?". I asked cautiously.

"I'm tinkling."

"AWESOME!!"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Right Side of the Bed.

Saturday morning I was ready to go to Michigan, then I heard Grace stir about 40 minutes before the caregiver was due to arrive. Forty minutes is a long time in the world of “now.” I knew I had to get her cleaned up, dressed and start breakfast. I walked in to her room to find her wide awake with one hand holding on to the arm rail tightly. She looked at me and a childish toothless smile spread across her face with a smile that included every part of her.

“Oh, I’m so glad to see you!!! How did you find me?? Could you hear me??”

I have to admit, she’s darn cute like that.

I told her that I heard her and I was here to get her cleaned up and dressed.

“What?!?”

Immediately I recognized my error. Too many thoughts in one sentence and not enough volume so I just told her ‘good morning, sunshine.’

She has a new behavior. When she’s being cleaned up or transferred physically (for example, chair to couch), she screams. Well, it’s not exactly a blood curdling, hair raising, chainsaw massacre scream, it’s more” bad-actress-in-a-bad-dramatic-play” scream. There are little bursts of the affect. The caregivers are on to her too. They just go on as if it wasn’t happening. I’ve rolled an eye or two at her. And when she is done screaming, the event never happened. It is gone and we are now in the next moment of ‘now.’

I was ready for the litany of drama during the cleaning, I warmed up my hands (one of her big complaints). Much to my surprise, no scream. She just kept saying how lucky she was to have me there. Grace had the “cute” on high volume. It was hard to not get sucked in.

We discussed color. She has a rainbow of pull on, elastic waist slacks, so I was able to comply with any requests. That day was good for purple. I brought the pants and just like a child getting to wear her favorite bunny shirt, she said, “Oh, I LIKE those!”

More “cute.”

I dressed her and used a lot of the near peek –a-boo tricks I had leftover from dressing toddlers. She responded to each trick, each coo from me. And smiling? As wide as she could.

Darn cute.

I got her lined up with the walker and we shuffled out to the couch. Once there, I built her a chocolate breakfast; chocolate Cheerios in chocolate milk (blended, of course) . I fed her and she eagerly gulped it down. I should just break down and get the chocolate kids’ cereals that I never bought for my own children.
The caregiver arrived and Grace was all smiles.

It was a good morning.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Grace on the Go

video
I will try to get a better video later. But this repetitive behavior is fascinating. She has asked "Can I Go?" about 3 bazillion times today. She has no idea where she wants to go and has zero plans for getting there.

At the end of the video, I laughed because my parrot had decided to climb down from her cage and walk over to me.

Going, Going, Gone

G: "Can I go? Can I go?"

Me: "Yes you can go."

Grace lays back down. A few minutes pass.

G: "Can I go? Can I go?"

No one answers immediately

G: (in a weak voice, pleading) "Please? Please? Can I go? Please please?"

The Caregiver: “I’ll be there, Grace, just wait a minute while I clean up from lunch.”

G: (in a weak voice, pleading) "Please? Please? Can I go? Please please please please?"

Me: ”Yes you can go.”

G: “Okay, thank you.”

I go back to my computer.

G: "Can I go? Can I go?"
------------------------------------------------
Imagining her in a nursing home, asking this over and over and no one answering saddens me. I imagine her saying .. "Please? Please?" And everyone too busy or too used to this question being asked repeatedly.

A Typical Morning

Grace is laying on the couch, clutching her dog who happily stays with her. The caregiver is next to her in a chair. I go into the kitchen to stir my simmering oatmeal.

Grace: "Edie? Edie? Can you come here?"

Caregiver: "Grace, what do you need?"

Grace: "Edie? I need you."

I walk over to her

Me: "What do you need?"

Grace: "I need.... I need...."

Grace looks around, concentrating on her scattered thoughts.

Grace: "I need you to tell me I'm alright."

Minutes later she is on one of her walks. She shuffles through the kitchen in her walker, the caregiver right behind her.

Grace: "Is that a refrigerator?"

Caregiver: "Yes"

Grace: "They have a refrigerator here? That's nice."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Descent

I’ve been watching her decline. It’s subtle and it’s obvious.

Time has less meaning for her. Just a year ago, she knew what time I should be home and if I was late, there was a lecture. Now I can leave for days and there is little notice.

She is not so picky about food. I remember the demand of visible butter on her potatoes. Now she eats not knowing what she is eating and apparently not caring. However if I eat anything in front of her, she demands to know what it is and wants some for herself. Fortunately she can be distracted as her lack of teeth make our diets a bit different.

She still can fool visitors. Only she receives her guest as she reclines on the couch instead of being seated. Grace knows somewhere on her brain stem to smile and nod as people speak to her. Her contributions are negligible, but she appears attentive. I wonder when that will fade.

Recently we had a change in caregivers. A gentleman from the agency brought the prospect by to the “interview.” He sat near Grace trying to make conversation. He wasn’t too successful, but his efforts were cheery and kind. Grace would have nothing of it. She called me over time and time again to tell me “they are FRAUDS!!!” I never determined what the nature of the fraudulence was but got a little hint later when she told me the man was selling these women for sex. Quite a complex, though decidedly incorrect thought.

Tonight I came home to see her toddling in her walker, aided by our trusty caregiver, to her room. She stopped at the door to the closet under the stairs and opened it. She was sure that was her room and there was a fair amount of negotiation that the caregiver had to engage in to convince her to pass the closet up.

Alzheimer's steals our loved ones little teaspoonfuls at a time. Usually it doesn’t get me. But seeing her confused by the closet did. Why does that bother me and the others not?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Not So Bright

The caregivers don’t always like to share information. They are not a forward thinking lot. When they tell me that there is a light out in her bathroom, that means that absolutely every light bulb (and there SIX) is out.

So time to change all the bulbs. The ceiling fixture has very strange bulbs that I always keep on hand (refer to the LACK OF WARNING in the last paragraph). After wrestling with this fixture and thinking unkind thoughts about it, I discovered one of the slots is so corroded that it will not receive another bulb and I managed to drop a bulb while trying to address this.

Then I tackled the bulb over the toilet. My focus was on the ceiling. After I was done, I looked down in horror to see human feces on the floor NEXT to the toilet.

O M G!!!!!

There was no mistaking it. I wondered if I could blame it on her dog but no. It was distinctly not canine.

I guess I should have let the caregiver clean it up but I could not stand it. Armed with bleach I took care of it. I will not share the thoughts running through my head as I scrubbed.

The caregiver du jour is not the sharpest crayon in the box. I mentioned this to her and surely she is wondering why I even told her.

Now, in my litany of things to check, this will be added.

Ew?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Crushing.....

Grace is in love. Yes, love in the golden years. It is unmistakable. He walks in the room and she melts. Her eyes go all puppy eyes. A smile grows wide across her toothless mouth. She sits up straight, hand goes quickly through her hair.

In contrast to the strange stuff she says all day, a moment of clarity as she says a breathy greeting,

“Hi John.”

Grace holds out her hand and whispers to me giggling, “He’s cuuuuuuute.”

Fortunately John is good natured and returns the smile but is painfully aware that he is two inches away from the death grip of stalking-style love.

Her eyes say COME HITHER, but John is tactfully looking for his escape. He indulges her like a celebrity to his audience, but gracefully slips away to prepare for his next audience.