Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dental Distress?

As Sis, Dad, and I sat in the Memory Care dining room visiting today, the housecleaning gal accidentally dropped her broom with a loud clatter.

"Whoa," Dad said. "She just dropped her teeth!"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let me tell you about Barbara

For Barbie and Melissa. I love you both.

I'm going to lose one of my very dearest friends in the not too distant future. Her name is Barbara. She's 91, and has Alzheimer's. And she's dying.

How can I tell you what a special person Barbara is?

She sees the good in everyone.

She loves to laugh. She even giggles.

She sings "You are My Sunshine" to her daughter.

She wears outrageous socks.

And funny hats.

She loves the color red.

And she hates Alzheimer's.

Even though she no longer walks, Barbara still dances through life. And she's taken so many of us onto the dance floor with her.

For the rest of my life, for as long as I live, I will be telling the world:

"I got to dance with Barbara.

She was my friend.

And it was lovely."

The portrait I painted of Barbara in 2012.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


We were helping Dad eat lunch one day when someone's phone rang. Without missing a beat, Dad said in a sing-songy voice as if he were answering the phone: "Mickey Mouse".

Dementia and Vision

This explains so many things about Dad's behavior. We knew his vision was affected by his Alzheimer's, but this really puts it into perspective (no pun intended).

I wish more professional caregivers were aware of things like this. I can't tell you how many times Sis and I have seen someone who should know better approach Dad from the side and startle the heck out of him. Can you imagine having this happen to you over and over during the day? It would ruin your nerves.

The speaker in the video is Teepa Snow, a dementia expert who trains and consults for healthcare professionals and families.

What is dementia? (Video)

Excellent, easy-to-understand explanation of dementia (and in particular, Alzheimer's) by Teepa Snow, a dementia expert who trains and consults for healthcare professionals and families.This is probably the best explanation of dementia I have ever seen.

What was that word? Oh,yeah. Crap.

While sitting on Dad's bed waiting from him to fall asleep for a nap, I chatted with him about inconsequential things, but he was having such a tough time finding the words he wanted to say. Finally, in frustration, he looked at me with tears in his eyes.

"I really am losing it," he said.

I willed myself not to fall apart and concentrated on trying to make him feel better. I replied, "These things happen with age, Dad, you know? I have trouble sometimes, too. I'll be talking to someone and can't find the word I want to use no matter how hard I try."

He looked at me with big eyes. "You, too?"

"Me, too, Dad. And I know it's frustrating."

"It's crap," he said.

Yeah. It is.

I couldn't have said it better myself, Pop.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Singing and Sundowning

Music continues to amaze me as a tool for reaching deep into the minds of dementia patients. There are accounts of dementia patients who haven't spoken in years who will suddenly start singing when exposed to music from their past. It can truly be a miraculous thing.

As I've mentioned before, Dad has always loved music. Whenever a guest musician is at Memory Care, Dad does his best to sing along. He used to be a wonderful dancer, too, but we haven't been able to get him to dance with us. So far. *grin* You can see the latest attempt in the video as one of Dad's favorite aides tries to coax him into some moves. In the beginning of the video, you can also see Dad trying to sing and eat at the same time...with varying degrees of success. :)

The consensus now seems to be that Dad is sundowning and that this is the reason for him acting out in the early evenings. According to WebMD, "Sundowning...affects some people who have Alzheimer's disease and dementia. People with dementia who 'sundown' experience periods of increased confusion and agitation as the sun goes down -- and sometimes through the night. Sundowning may prevent people with dementia from sleeping well. It may also make them more likely to wander."

Sundowners' behaviors may include pacing the floor, yelling, and becoming combative. We are told Dad does all of the those.

Because the agitation and anger is not good for him (or for the other Memory Care residents), the plan now is to adjust Dad's medications to see if we can find a way to take the edge off the sundowning and give Dad (and his caregivers) some relief. We are only into the first week of adjustments. It may take a while to find the right solution.

In the picture I've included with this post, you can see the after-effects of Dad's latest bout of eczema. His face gets brightly inflamed and then flakes. He told us the other day that he had a "sunburn." He has a prescription face wash that prevents these outbreaks when used on a daily basis, however it appears that sometimes it's forgotten. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom, with her only granddaughter, Kaitlin
Today would have been Mom's 79th birthday. We lost her in December 2008 after an eight year struggle with vascular dementia. I don't think you ever truly get over the death of a parent. No matter what your relationship might have been, there's still an enormous part of your life that is suddenly missing. And it's a void you can't fill with anything else.

Mom's illness blinded us to the signs of Dad's creeping dementia. The things we did notice -- forgetting names, not being able to figure out the cell phone we bought him, not remembering something we'd told him in a previous phone call -- we put down to the stress of taking care of Mom. It wasn't until Mom had passed and Dad's growing dementia led to extreme paranoia (with extremely bad results) that we realized we had another uphill battle to face. It was only five months or so after Mom's death that Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Sending you a hug and a kiss for your birthday, Mom. We miss you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Silly Questions

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Last Wednesday when Sis and I were visiting Dad, we sat in the Memory Care courtyard with Dad and several of the other residents. It was such a pretty day that we all just wanted to enjoy the weather.

We'd taken Dad outside without his wheelchair because he was doing so well that day, both physically and mentally.

The hospice nurse came out to see him, surprised to find him without his chair.

"Hey, Hal," she said. "Look at you! How'd you get out here?"

Dad looked at her quizzically for a moment, as if he wasn't quite sure why she was asking such a silly question.

"Same as you," he finally said. "I walked!"

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Celebrating Spring

We've been blessed with some truly gorgeous weather the last few days. Just look at that breathtaking sky! To celebrate Spring, I took some flowers to Dad's residence when Sis and I visited and handed them out to the ladies in Memory Care. Nothing like a beautiful bloom to make people happy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thankful for the sun, but...

What joy a little bit of sunshine can bring!

Sis and I had a lovely visit with Dad yesterday. The weather was so nice that we spent a good part of our visit in the courtyard just outside of the Memory Care facility. The three of us sat with several of the other residents and, while Dad napped in the sun, we chatted and enjoyed the day. What a joy the elderly can be when we take the time to listen and engage with them.

We had a bit of a downer when we were leaving, however, as the MC supervisor informed us that because Dad has been so active lately (i.e., able to get up out of his chair and walk freely, putting himself at risk of falling because he's unsteady) that we either a) have to hire someone to supplement their caregivers to keep an eye on him, or b) face having to move him to a different facility.

Now, we are paying top dollar at this facility. We *thought* we were paying for just this kind of care. (Yes, we *know* he needs constant supervision. That's *why* he's at your facility in the first place!)

But evidently, all we are really doing is paying for room and board. Really, really expensive room and board.

Looks like we'll have to check out the contract to see what it says. The last thing we want to do is move Dad. At this stage of the game, it would be very hard on him.

Sometimes I really hate that corporations have so much say in the care of our loved ones. Corporations don't have hearts. They just have contracts.

Sis and Dad enjoying the lovely Spring day

Dad, getting sleepy in the sun