Folding. Mom tends to do a lot of this now. Usually she collects individual squares of toilet paper or Kleenex. She then folds, creases, folds and creases until she can’t fold anymore. These pieces of paper treasures are hidden in shoes, pockets, under her pillow or placed in drawers. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind the folding. I do know the repetitiveness tends to soothe her.
If you listen closely, Mom is breathing heavy. It seems to be an anxiety reflex. After mom began folding, she tuned me and Lisa out. As she concentrated on the wash cloths the heavy breathing subsided. Besides folding, this activity encouraged sorting. It is a great activity for people struggling with dementia. (It also covers a multitude of fine motor and academic skills for teachers/parents of young children.) 😄
Mom folded everything in the basket. The timing was perfect because she was getting antsy. Luckily a friend came over and lead mom away. It was an easy departure for me and Lisa (my son’s girlfriend shares the same name as I).😁
These are the moments that we need to hold on to. The lady (purple pants) walking with mom is one of her table mates. Jane can carry on nice conversations and in the next sentence make you blush as she spews crazy cuss words. The first time I sat at the dinner table with them, I called her Jan instead of Jane! Have mercy, my first thought was that I needed to take cover! The nurses kindly calmed her down, I told her how pretty her name, ‘Jane’ was and she became my new best friend! No matter the anger that may surface, there is an even stronger force of love coming out. It may look different, but it is real! Look with your heart! It is everywhere, even when hiding behind dementia! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Today was a perfect visit! Mom was not hiding. I found her immediately in the party room where the residents had eaten birthday cake. When mom saw me in the doorway, she immediately jumped up and hugged me. She then took me over to meet a friend. She tried to introduce me but kept calling me the names of her sisters. Mom’s friend didn’t mind. He was not focused on us! It was sweet how mom kept trying to pull him into our conversation. Luckily, a family friend who resides there, Ms. Ellie walked over. She let mom hug her and they both talked. There was no real conversation, but both ladies were happy babbling!
I had brought a Reese Cup for mom. She loves sweets! I told her she would receive it once in the room. Walking became a challenge. Not because of her gait or being uncooperative. The problem was, mom started taking off her clothes! I insisted she keep them on or I would keep the candy. She partially obliged. We reached her room and only mom’s outer shirt and bra were off!
We made it back to her room with the rest of her clothes on. I was proud of her! She sat down on the bed and opened the candy!
After finishing the first piece of chocolate, mom had to wash her hands. She would not eat the second one because her hands were dirty! Mom has always had OCD with cleanliness. That remains a dominant trait!
Mom washed her hands and promptly returned. She grabbed her Reese Cup and went out to the hall where she heard voices. Mom being the social butterfly, was talking by the time I reached the group. It was a man, wife and their dad. They all knew mom. The daughter’s name was Mary Ann. She had spent several evenings with mom while visiting her dad. The first time she meet mom was several nights ago. Mom had been having an emotional evening. Mary Ann went to sit with her. Mary Ann shared with me that while sitting with mom, she felt prompted to go get a book from the bookshelf. Mary Ann grabbed one and took it to mom. Mom immediately calmed down and started talking as she touched and turned the pages. Without knowing anything about mom, Mary Ann had grabbed a fabric book. Mom was a renowned quilter and expert on fabrics before Alzheimer’s robbed her of the ability to continue. The book filled with fabric and Mary Ann’s kindness gave mom instant peace! I am thankful for this new friend who listened to the whispering in her heart! God sends His angels in many forms! (Psalms 86:12, Psalms 9:1, Galatians 5:22-23)
Wandering in Alzheimer’s patients is caused by disorientation. Sometimes wandering occurs because the person is in search of something. Other times, the person believes they need to escape a situation. Mom has experienced all three of these reasons. She has become confused and kept returning to places familiar to her from the past. Many times she has tried to escape the house due to fear of someone killing her (hallucinations are common in Parkinson’s/Alzheimer’s patients). The journal today is going to focus on her wandering to satisfy her need to find something like a bed!
The last few times I have visited mom, she was nowhere to be found. The staff laughed and said that she enjoys hiding from me! Reality is, she ‘wanders’ into other rooms. Sometimes she is there to organize closets. Other times she crawls into a bed and falls asleep. I think she is looking for friends and then she becomes distracted by closets and beds! Mom has always loved being around people. She likes being a friend to others. Her love is sincere though her actions are not always appreciated. (Examples are when she tries to help a person using a walker by guiding the walker. She will take peoples’ trash, even if it isn’t trash! Mom likes holding hands without understanding that not all people enjoys the affection. Sometimes she wants to push wheelchairs that she is too weak to push!)
Mom’s wandering has caused a disturbance amongst the staff. The first two times she disappeared, it took around 10 minutes to find her. Each time she was in a different room. The last time mom disappeared, it took closer to 20 minutes to locate her. The staff ended up conducting a sweep of the facility. Staff members took one side of each hallway and entered all rooms. After a thorough search proved mom was not there, a pillow was put outside the door. Of course mom was not found until the very last room was searched. I was impressed with the efficiency and calmness of everyone involved. When found, she was not happy about being awakened. When she was brought to me, she was grumpy and kept walking to get away from me! Eventually she calmed down and was happy hanging out with her daughter.
My writing is never meant to insult or hurt anyone with Alzheimer’s. I am showing unedited honesty mixed with love. There will be many tears, frustration and even anger. Don’t worry, there is going to be a lot of laughter also. If you can’t find humor, you will only live with pain! I want everyone following us to walk away with a merry heart amidst the sorrow. (Proverbs 17:22) I will share it all from my eyes and the eyes of family and friends.
Yesterday (7/2/19) I got to join mom and her friends for dinner. Mom may struggle with language and memory, but her creative gene still rules! Mom had been given mandarin oranges for dessert (She is down to 115 lbs.and is sitting in the dining room where nurses closely monitor the amount of food she is eating. We do not want her loosing any more weight!). She decided orange juice would be better. She was not waiting for anyone to bring her some. Instead she mixed the oranges with her left over water and happily ‘drank’ every bite even after complaining that the oranges were ‘gross’!
Our dinner companions were fun in their own right! The lady to my right felt that shoes were not important! I tend to agree! 🙂PS: The picture looks awful. Except for the toenail, her feet were fine. She was using her toes to scratch her bottom foot!
After eating, mom enjoys walking. I took her outside for some fresh air. We sat down so I could show her pictures that her friends from all over the world have been sending (Thank you Patricia and Donna). Mom’s frustration in recognizing the ladies, but not being able to say their names became apparent. I turned the pictures off and took a selfie! Mom was much happier because she recognized herselfand kept saying, ‘That is me!”
Mom and Ali arrived in Charleston, SC on June 7, 2019. It was her final destination and going to become her permanent home! Mom was wheeled into the airport looking frail, frazzled and exhausted! She was not making much sense as she tried to communicate except when I asked her if she knew who I was? Her snappy response, “Of course I do Lisa,” let me know I had insulted her! Maybe I shouldn’t have smiled, but I did! Mom was still there!
It has been two years since my sister and I had last seen mom (LeAnn). The decline in her memory and speech was shocking! Her husband had been in close contact with me. His honesty, along with my reading everything I could on Alzheimer’s, had my brain educated and prepared. Nothing could have prepared my heart!
The first night back in my home proved to be challenging. I knew the jet-lag, due to the 22 hour flight from Kuwait was playing havoc on mom’s mental state. Yet, I had to admit, there was more! Alzheimer’s was boldly introducing itself to me! Mom was agitated and kept wandering. The doors had to be monitored because she kept trying to escape! My 12 year old son asked me if he could sleep with his bedroom door locked because grandma kept barging in. That had not been her room for over 5 years, but that was the room she kept returning to! She took her frustrations out on me and Ali. (At one point she told me I was stupid!) Luckily, she had always been close with my husband, so Richard was able to provide her security.
Around 9 PM, mom was fed and ready for bed! To say I was relieved was an understatement! I needed peace and quiet to process the day! I know there will be good days mixed with bad days. Patience will be tested as tears flow! Alzheimer’s is robbing all of us of the wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt and friend we once knew. One thing Alzheimer’s will not rob LeAnn of is the unconditional love surrounding her! She has a ‘village’ that extends worldwide! These friends and family embrace LeAnn, no matter her condition! This is not the journey I expected life to take us on, but God did! My Faith and trust are in Him, no matter the road ahead!
Welcome to my journal blog. As you read my entries, you will enter into the days I share with my husband, children, parents (understanding and living with my mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s) dogs, family, friends and work. Through my writings you will experience my good, bad, challenging, exciting, frustrating, joyous, sad and angry. No matter the adjective used, when seen with your heart, there is always His love to experience. Find a comfy chair or location and join me on my journey called life!
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust