Posts Tagged ‘flexible’

Are you Burned Out?

If you can no longer remember what compelled you to become a caregiver, you just might have caregiver burnout! Remember, you cannot care for anyone if you do not first care for yourself. There is nothing wrong with asking for help from family, friends or agencies that can provide respite care. Be strong enough to take care of the caregiver.

If you answer yes to these questions, it may be time for you to take a break or re-evaluate your situation. Don’t smolder and burn until you explode.

  • Has it been more than two months since you’ve had a weekend to yourself to do whatever you wanted, even if that was to do nothing?
  • Have you cried for what seems to be “no reason at all” in the past week?
  • Have you neglected your own medical needs since you started caregiving?
  • Has it been more than a year since you visited your dentist or found a new one if you moved to start providing care?
  • Do you feel tired and listless most of the time?
  • Have you abandoned beloved hobbies due to lack of time or interest?
  • Are you more easily angered or upset than you used to be?
  • Is your fuse shorter than before you were a caregiver?
  • Has your patience decreased?
  • Do you think you will never have fun again?
  • Have you considered self-medication for depression or anxiety without consulting a physician?

Before any more time passes, seek help.

  • Ask a family member to visit more often and when they visit, if you can’t leave for long, take a walk outdoors. Enjoy the fresh air by yourself a few moments.
  • Invite one of your friends and one of your loved one’s friends over for lunch or dinner. Socialization is important for both of you.
  • If you have no local friends or family, check into agencies that provide respite care so you can take care of your own medical and dental needs.
  • Get a massage, pedicure, facial or manicure. If you can’t afford these, find a friend who will listen and give you a simple backrub.
  • Visit a nursing home, alone or with the one in your care, to gain perspective.
  • Practice gratitude. Think of one thing about your situation for which you are grateful. Every day, add to your list.

Question from a reader

My father has Parkinson’s and my brother was his caregiver for years but he said he’s burned out and I need to take over as Dad’s caregiver. How can I avoid burning out like my brother did?

You must remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot care for your father. It is vital that you take some time every single day for yourself to prepare each morning and unwind in the evening. It’s not selfish. It’s part of healthy caregiving. Seek out other caregivers to talk to. Get into the habit of regular caregiver texts, phone calls and social meetings for lunch or coffee. Set up a schedule for time away each week, then reward yourself with a weekend away at least once a month. Take a daily walk, alone, if you can. Breathe deeply and purposefully. Nurture your hobby or start a new one. Stay connected to you friends and call on your brother for helpful advice. Find out what worked and what didn’t work for him and remember: this is not permanent.
Caution

Education is a Caregiver’s Friend

Library booksYou will repeatedly read about burned-out or stressed-out caregivers because stress is one of the most common features among those who provide care for their loved ones. The stress comes from many sources such as constantly worrying they aren’t doing enough or aren’t doing the right thing the right way. Also, it is the result of working long hours and feeling unappreciated. A prime cause of this stress is inadequate preparation prior to joining the ranks of family caregivers.

Caregivers must educate themselves on whatever medical conditions their loved ones have and learn as much as they can about nutrition, possible side-effects of prescriptions and how to motivate or engage people who may seem content to waste away. It’s vital for caregivers to discover all they can about local support groups and community resources as well as the challenges of aging and the demands on caregivers. It’s essential for caregivers to know their own physical and emotional limits. Burnout comes from many sources, so it’s important to know ahead of time, who will be available to help in an emergency and where to find daily comfort.

Hydrant

If you want to take a break without feeling guilty, enroll in a Red Cross CPR/first aid class. You’ll have a few hours to yourself, be able to socialize with others and learn or brush up on a useful skill. If there isn’t a local Red Cross office, call your fire department and request a class.

 

 

What is the cutoff point? Exactly when can you stop crying, stop caring and start getting your own life back?  There is no easy answer for this. Sometimes, the end of caregiving comes when the ones in our care recover enough to care for themselves, but more often, caregiving ends with the death of our loved ones. The fact that you are a caregiver means you can’t stop caring, even if you stop being a caregiver. You will never regain the life you had before, but when caregiving ends, your life will be richer for the experience. Years from now, you may long for just one more day, despite the sadness and anxiety you feel now. The key is to find ways to make your caregiving experience work for both of you. If you have a respite schedule set up, use it consistently. Step away. Seek help from family, friends or local agencies. You may need to make many phone calls or research online for hours, but help is available. Whatever decision you make, guilt should play no part. If you have to walk away from caregiving for a few hours, a few days or a few years there is no reason to feel guilty. You are doing the best you can and for that, you deserve to spend whatever time you need to take care of yourself.

Most often, caregivers are family members with little or no formal training on how to provide nursing care for their loved ones. They might feel guilty about illnesses or injuries that occur under their care. Education is an important element for caregivers. You don’t need to know everything about nursing or nutrition, just be open to learning about those who can provide the missing pieces of the puzzle. If you are a caregiver or contemplating becoming one, learn what options are available to you. Discover alternative sources for respite and get creative when you need guilt-free time away. Spend a few hours at the library researching respite agencies or schedule a visit with a nutritionist to discuss your loved one’s dietary needs. Take a day off to plan activities both you and your loved one can enjoy together by educating yourself to what’s available in your neighborhood. Check with your library and local hospitals for classes on health-related topics. Learn all you can, then relax and let the experts help you create a better life for your loved one.

Learn all you canKnowing that you don’t need to know everything is crucial to lowering your stress level. You can relax more if you simply coordinate experts who will care for your loved one’s special needs. There’s no need to hire a personal chef, but if you consult a nutritionist for menu ideas based on your loved one’s dietary needs, planning meals will be much easier. If your loved one needs physical therapy or has a regular hair appointment, you can use this time to take a short break, even if it’s a walk in the parking lot or a quick phone call to a friend. Sometimes, just putting space between you and the one you are caring for helps adjust your stress level.

Email your questions about caregiving to mary@marybrotherton.com

Who can be a Caregiver?

Caregivers come from all walks of life. They may be married or single, have a large family or no children at all. They may work full time, part time or be retired. Caregivers own homes and rent. Caregivers might provide care for parents, children, spouses, siblings and friends. Some are licensed by state agencies or other entities and for some, the only license needed is love.
Acute Care: Care that is generally provided for a short period of time to treat a certain illness or condition. This type of care can include short-term hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and surgery.
 Question of the Month:
How do I deal with the lack of feelings towards me from the one I provide care for every day? I sometimes think Dad would be better off in a home, without me.
First, realize that you are not alone. Secondly educate yourself about the particular condition that has caused the apathy. Does he have Alzheimer’s or other dementia? Has he been through a stroke or is he suffering from Parkinson’s Disease or something else? There is strength in knowledge. Reach out to other caregivers, online or in your community. Be honest with yourself. If you feel angry or frustrated, don’t take it out on your father, but express your emotions to others.
 This month’s Hot Topic – Advance Directives

old desk

Before the coulda, woulda, shoulda sets in, families need to have honest discussions about Advance Directives, those documents necessary to be sure life is lived according to individual wishes. Before it’s too late, talk about what you want to happen in case of an emergency.
Emergencies can happen at any age and to anyone. If you don’t have a family to support you through the end of life, you can appoint someone as your guardian, or the court might.
If you do not want to be revived after a heart attack, a tragic accident or other debilitation, you will want to be sure you have a Do Not Resuscitate order in place.
A Living Will spells out exactly what you do and do not want toward the end of your life. Ice cream for breakfast every day? Make it so! Feeding tube to prolong life? Make it happen. Love to eat and think a feeding tube is unnatural? Spell it out in your Living Will.
If you designate a Healthcare Proxy now, that person will make medical decisions for you – based on your conversations – in the event that you cannot speak for yourself.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows your designated person to make both financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Talking about these issues will not create a need, but it will create peace of mind. Be sure everyone who may need to know your wishes, does know. Do not assume everyone will tell the others in your circle of family and friends.
Keep a copy of your Advance Directives in a folder, near you or in a designated location for first responders and other medical personnel.

 

Know your Signs

Everyone has some stress and each person deals with it differently.

Excited

As a caregiver, it is essential that you recognize the signs indicating a need to address your stress. The sooner you recognize and accept the signs of your own stress, the sooner you can do something to resolve the issue. If you are over-stressed, your ability to provide quality care is compromised.

Cautionshallow water

Do you experience headaches after a long, frustrating day? Perhaps your tension manifests through hives or hair loss. How has your blood pressure been since you started providing care for your loved one? Are you more easily irritated than you were before? How do you sleep at night? Have you become more restless or are you dealing with disturbing dreams?

Painful

Maybe you are a pacer or the kind of person who must have a spotless house when your anxiety takes over. Has your appetite changed or are you turning to alcohol more often? Don’t mistake a lower libido or lack of energy as a need to adjust to the demands of caregiving. It’s probably stress.

strange hair

When my mother struggled to raise her children with an alcoholic spouse, she coped with her stress by charging out of the house to stand on the grass, fists raised to the sky, and she screamed. We lived in a rural area with the closest neighbors more than a half mile away and she didn’t care if they heard her. Her stress didn’t have time to make a physical manifestation. The moment she felt overwhelmed, angry or afraid, her vocalized angst with no words alerted us to tread lightly.

Privacy

I’m not as clever as my mother. I tend to stuff my worries and concerns deep inside until, like a burst water balloon, they splash all over when I keep adding more. I suffered with migraines for years until traditional Chinese medicine helped me bring my body and mind into balance. Their frequency and intensity diminished until I became my mother’s housekeeper, activities director, nutritionist and companion. illness

More pervasive, however, was how my fingers dried out. They sometimes cracked and bled, but most often, they peeled off layer after layer until my fingers were raw and felt burned.

ouch

I sought the help of many medical experts and numerous home remedies – nothing helped until I took an extended break and visited my doctor who ordered me to relax. relax in hammock

“Stop doing. Just enjoy your life. Let your husband cook and clean and let your sisters care for your mother for a while. Take some time off to do only those things that bring you pleasure.”

Oh, to be carefree again! Don’t we all wish we could just flip a switch to take us back to our childhood, where the biggest worries we had were usually brothers and mosquito bites?

Flipped SwitchBouncing

“If you don’t, this level of stress will kill you,” he said.

What? Did my doctor just tell me that my stress will kill me? How could I provide care for my mother if I am not alive? I knew the importance of caring for the care giver. I’ve written about it, but I ignored my own advice. Not this time. It can happen to me. It did happen to me!

Get Serious

When I called my sisters to tell them I needed to extend my therapy break to two weeks, I discovered my mother, who had been ambulatory the day I left, was now bed ridden in excruciating pain. Three days later, she had been taken to hospice with stage four bone cancer that had not been evident at her last imaging three weeks earlier.

Go Left

After my mother’s memorial, I returned to my doctor who expressed amazement that my hands had healed so well despite the new emotions associated with grief.  I had been so committed to providing her with the best care and an improved quality of life, I ignored the signs of stress as they appeared on my fingers.

Be CarefulNo fishingLimited

One of the primary rules of caregivers is to care for the one providing care. Don’t wait to establish a healthy routine for yourself. Set up a regular schedule for relief. Your loved one will not suffer from a few hours a week, even a few days a month, without you. Most people work five days each week and take two days off so they can revive and recuperate. They typically take a week or two off each year for vacations. Whether or not travel is included, time away from work is essential.

Caregivers deserve no less – in fact, you deserve much more for the sacrifices you are making for your family.

Take a momentLimit

It’s time to take action. Call on brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and family friends. Before you have reached a critical stage of tension that may result in injury or illness, set up a schedule for your weekends and vacations, even if they are in the middle of the week and happen one day at a time over the course of the year. Just as important as the family finances, living will, power of attorney and medical needs for your loved one are, it is vital to be sure the caregiver takes time and makes time for breaks that take you away from the caregiving setting.

Past Calendar

Know and heed your signs. Take a few minutes to look at what has changed in your body since you started providing care and take steps to find your balance. Don’t let stress rob you of your own health and sanity.

Be kind enough to love yourself, too.

Ends

I am not a Nurse!

Uniforms and hats

I’ve worn some interesting hats over the years, but of all the hats I’ve worn, a nurse’s cap was never one.

             Ask my brothers and sisters and they will tell you that I am not a nurse. I’m the family erudite. As a child, I played school, not hospital. I pretended to be a teacher, not a nurse or a doctor.

            So, why did I volunteer to become a caregiver? Why am I my mother’s HANC?

Woman on scooter

She needed help with Housekeeping, because her limited mobility prevents her from doing all but basic cleaning and home maintenance. This same handicap, brought on by the fall that broke her hip and precipitated an entire shoulder replacement, controls the amount of Activities in which she can participate.

good food

Her dependency on a walker and her failing memory restrict her ability to prepare Nutritious meals. Although she has lived alone for nearly three decades, it was clear her limitations were preventing her from many social interactions; she needed Companionship.

            She needed a HANC, not a nurse.

woman on phone

Every day requires I employ my Housekeeping and Nutritionist skills, but the need for me to be her sole Companion changes if friends or family call or come to visit.

book

Her willingness to engage in activities other than watching television, crocheting or working word puzzles  is contingent on her energy levels. If her overall health declines, she needs a nurse, not a Companion or Activity director.

She’s had a few bouts of illness. Only one, so far, resulted in hospitalization. That’s when I realized I am not a nurse.

tray of medical items

Nurses run on schedules and panicked calls from patients. My shifts run twenty-four, not eight or even just sixteen hours. Some nurses taught me how to control her pain by adjusting her body and supporting it with pillows. Other nurses taught me the strength in a gentle touch and the power of a calm demeanor. Some taught me they care more for a patient prior to receiving discharge orders than they do for those eager to go home.

pain meds

One nurse displayed a preference for medication rather than providing attentive nursing care.

Unfortunately, I learned my mother respects a nurse’s authority more than her daughter’s opinion. Still, no matter how caring, compassionate and qualified a nurse can be, family is always better.

family photo

Even a family as goofy as mine!

Forced to Follow my Dream

Since becoming my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC), I face new challenges daily. In some ways, on some days, it’s as if I am responsible for an 85-year-old toddler. Without family intervention, her meals would be meager and lonely, her health declining rapidly.

man on motorcycle

Prior to moving, my sister, Jane, or my brother, Joe, cooked for her, but they weren’t able to be on hand daily to ensure she ate what was prepared. That’s my job, now.

Without my support system, I might have burned out quickly. By far, my biggest supporters are my brothers and sisters. Each in his or her way has provided invaluable assistance. Some have taken us out to dinner.

family phot

Others have brought food or even tea parties to us. Some have helped with yard work. All have given words of gratitude and encouragement.

tea party

Jane offered to give my husband and me one weekend off each month.

I had no idea how important that would be, but Jane knew.

What a gift!

Gift with a bow

When we first moved in, I needed some time to unpack and assimilate.

boxes

We all needed to adjust to the new lifestyle. We were here three months before our first weekend away, which meant it was all the more important – but what a fiasco! We’d started planning a trip to a local resort town, but something didn’t feel right, so we decided my husband would follow his instincts and use “the force” to direct us on our spontaneous adventure.  My well-intentioned sister didn’t realize that my night-schedule husband wouldn’t wake at dawn, as hers would have. I knew this, so I promised her I’d call when we were leaving, but she came early. It all worked out well, but it seemed as if we were being rushed that day.

traffic jam

We drove an hour to North Charleston, where he surprised me by taking me to the Fire Museum, a wonderful visual tribute to firefighters all over the world.fire museum

That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal and sat outside our less-than-ideal hotel/motel room watching a feral cat colony. The next day, we drove to historic downtown Charleston and the Battery where we started making plans for a future trip.

customs house

A short drive to the Isle of Palms, where we toured the island and I took photos, took us past the Windjammer Beach Club and we modified our plans. My husband then drove us to Sullivan’s Island. He  stopped so I could take some photos of the historical monument that described an early battle during the Revolutionary War.

monument plaque

Then we saw him.

A young man was rising out of the water, a hose attached to a jet ski. He rode on a stream of water, hovering the inlet. It was the highlight of our day.

jetski rocket

I have wanted to travel, for as far back as I can remember.

Wait. That’s not accurate or truthful.

Bernie

My first memory is of my sister Bernadette “Bernie” and me making cucumber pies. I was five and she was almost four. We lived in the largest house I can remember for my family of ten, although at that time, the “babies” had not yet been born.

The house was situated on a corner at the intersection of two major thoroughfares. Long before interstate travel sped by on freeways created for the purpose, travelers used these small-town highways.

On one hot summer morning, our house roused to the sound of a collision and we knew a large truck had been involved. This one had been filled with cucumbers. Housewives and older children rushed to the intersection to help clean up the debris so traffic could resume as soon as possible. My mother pickled what she could and those too bruised or broken became playthings for Bernie and me for a day. We made the best-smelling mud pies in town.

reading

When I wasn’t making mud and cucumber pies, I was reading. I don’t recall a time in my life without books. Once I started school, I read even more. That’s when thoughts of travel first entered my mind. I longed to visit exotic places I’d read about and for many decades, I believed travel meant passports, airfare and foreign countries.

I’m reconsidering my perception.

passport

To be certain, I do own a passport. It’s in almost pristine condition, though it will soon be time to renew it. I have traveled outside of the United States, but barely.

cruise ships

Although I enjoyed it thoroughly, traveling on a cruise ship is an extremely limited sort of travel.

Hawaii hello

My husband and I have dreamed together of being able to spin a globe to stop it with a finger on “Where shall we go next?” knowing our dream is tied to our budget. Outside of a few cruises and some outings while visiting family, our travel has been limited – in location and ambiance.

As another month approaches, we are faced with a dilemma.

sign

  • Where should we go?
  • What will we do when we get there?
  • What kind of restaurants will we find?
  • Do we want to visit the typical tourist venues or go off that path?
  • How can we avoid another iffy hotel, when the online rating system is flawed?
  • Can we really afford to spend the night away each month?
  • Can we afford not to stay overnight?
  • How much can we, with our current jobs, afford to disconnect?

We think we have a solution.lottery

Scaling down our global travels dream (until we win the lottery), we’re going to put names of cities and towns in a hat or a box or a basket or maybe just stack them like playing cards.

hat and cane

Each month, we’ll draw out the name of that month’s destination for our weekend away.

There are no rules, but we do have some guidelines.

  • No location should be more than a three to four-hour’s drive from home. This will ensure we can enjoy our destination as well as the journey to get there.
  • We’ll spend a little extra for nicer accommodations, even if we have to skimp on our main meal out.
  • Some months, we will pack a picnic basket, depending on our final destination.
  • Each location should have some draw: a museum, an aquarium, a historical monument, a botanical garden or some other special amusement.
  • We reserve the right to change our minds.

wine

Now, my task is to locate cities and towns that fit our criteria, set up the cards with options for entertainment and search out accommodations.

historic inn

If you have any suggestions for exciting destinations or locations within a few hours from the Charleston/Columbia South Carolina or the Savannah Georgia areas, I’d love to know about them. Please, leave me a comment with your suggestions.

You’re Welcome to move in, but don’t Touch my Stuff!

Today, I am paying for yesterday’s choices

Cleaning and organizing

Sometimes, you have to make a mess before you can clean the house.

     I started taking  items from the china closet and placed them on the kitchen table.   When the table filled, I put items on the stove, the counters and in the chairs. The china closet has not been moved or cleaned in years.

China Closet contents on table

This picture might need 1,001 words.

     One door opened to hit the light fixture on the ceiling fan, which would not do. So, I started emptying the wall-sized cabinet/closet. It was cluttered with an assortment of seldom-used items.

      Momma has not eaten at her table for many years. She preferred to remain in her recliner, so there was less chance of falling.

Woman in recliner, crocheting

She has everything she needs, close at hand.

      Momma’s recliner is where she has built her own little “nest” over the years.

Bird nest

Unlike birds that can fly away, my mother’s nest supported her limited mobility and fear of falling.

  She wasn’t happy when she saw so many things on the table and on all the counters.

appliances on table

It’s intimidating to walk into your own kitchen to see what you thought had been put away all over every flat surface.


 

  She thought I would destroy the cabinet or move it in the storage “shed” in her back yard.   

storage in rural setting at sunset   

      Demanding answers, she asked my plans. Unsatisfied with my responses, she stated with an unusual emphasis,  “Don’t you dare move that cabinet. I don’t care what else you do, but don’t you move it!”

     Later, she became frustrated when she wanted to empty the dishwasher and found that I’d been washing bric-a-brac and dishes we have not used – dishes no one has used in years. Again, she demanded to know my plans for her cabinet, but my answers did not soothe her anxiety.

cute chicken sugar and creamer

The proof is in the dust track.

    I stopped unloading the cabinet and walked outside, because I knew I couldn’t respond with calmness. Her frustration is also my frustration.

I am doing the best I can to live in her home, with her things and despite the many bits and pieces of stuff and substance that I gave away or sold prior to moving, I have a deep need for order.

Organized china closet with cookbooks

Organized is good.

    I knew I would be moving into an established home, a home with many years’ worth of other stuff. I knew that I did not wish to duplicate the appliances and dishes my mother already had, but I did not know how many duplicates she had. Neither did I know how many one-of-a-kind kitchen orphans she possessed.

 bowl and rolling pin

Many birthday cakes were made in this bowl.


From the moment we first discussed the idea of living with Momma, she and I have said, “We will make this work, no matter what it takes.” It seems, to me, that it will take patience, compromise -primarily my giving in – and acquiescence, understanding, forgivement and forgiveness and something for distraction.

 

Camera lens

Lola is my camera and she goes to all the best places.

Typically, when I cannot go out with Lola and take photos, my preferred form of distraction is bicycling or cleaning. Since my cleaning started the frustrating cycle and the bikes weren’t easily accessible, I didn’t know what to do.

 

Two bicycles

      My mother was adamant and she was grumpy. I knew what I needed to do in order to be able to live with the smaller kitchen, but I also knew I could not do it under her watchful eye or even with her in the other room watching television. She was in one of her less enjoyable moods, so I went outside.

 

Rural sunset through Oak

Sometimes, just putting some distance between me and whatever is bugging me is enough. A beautiful country setting is a bonus.

I decided that I could start working on the two storage sheds in the back yard. I moved as much as I could from one into the other so that I could separate “our” stuff from “her” stuff, thus taking us one step closer to getting my husband the private office he needs for his work.

tools on racks

One day, our sheds and garage will be orderly and neat.

 While I moved tools and other things, I burned some paper and old wooden items I found in the shed on the left.  That helped keep the mosquitoes at bay and kept the landfill a little less full. The wood ashes will be good for the compost.

Compost bin

Until I can make a better one, this is serving as my composter for mulch.

 By the time I returned, I felt less upset and Momma had gone to bed.  The next morning, she said she didn’t sleep well for worrying that she had hurt my feelings over the kitchen. I assured her my feelings were fine, but I did not tell her that I was growing frustrated with her mercurial moods. I understand she will have good/bad days where she remembers and understands or becomes petty and obstinate, which is why I will rely on my grounding rituals, such as burning unusable items and writing in my journal.

Journal diary

Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake. What a wonderful thought!

I have discovered that Momma sometimes needs to repeat some things as many as five times before her cycle concludes. Some require more repetition. I try to remain calm and act as if each time is the first time she asked. So, today, when she asked again, why I had made such a mess of the kitchen, I told her that I needed and wanted to clean the cabinet and the things inside. I told her that by cleaning it, I could see and learn what was inside as well as get to know what items of mine I could sell, discard or give away. After the fourth repetition, she accepted the answer and did not ask again.

She often asked me when I planned to take a break but always accepted my answer that I would stop when I was finished. I did stop from time to time to write a myself a reminder note, ensure she was drinking or share lunch with her. I kept working on the large cabinet and she only told me the back story three times.

Crystal, lights, glass hens

All lighted up, after cleaning and reorganizing, the cabinet is a large piece of functional art.

    Years before my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he had done “a big job” for a man who owned many antiques. As barter for the work my father did, he was allowed to bring home any item he chose from the man’s collection and he chose the china cabinet. I don’t know if the cabinet was an antique When my father brought it home. It’s now another 30 years older, but the purpose, as far as my mother has been concerned, has been to act as a separating wall between the kitchen and the laundry area.

Using furniture to make walls

The darker wood is the “antique china cabinet” used to create a wall between the kitchen and the laundry area.

When this house was first built, it was designed to have four bedrooms inside its 1,100 square feet. After my father’s death, my mother enlarged her bedroom and the kitchen. The washer, dryer and a freezer were placed inside the kitchen and the china cabinet, which is much larger than a hutch, became a separation between the two sections of the room.

dead mosquito

This mosquito was one of several insects I found inside the cabinet, all dead, so every dish needed to be washed.

 I washed away years of dust, insects and grime from the items inside the cabinet and the cabinet itself received a through washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I strung lights inside the cabinet and consolidated, rearranged and cleaned. Boy, oh Boy! did I clean!

Green dishes and crystal with lights

Christmas lights make a great accent to the china closet.

 I also moved the cabinet into the kitchen, giving the laundry area more space. Oddly, everyone who visits thinks I moved the cabinet the other way and made more room in the kitchen. Decluttering really does work! It certainly helped me declutter my mind and eventually, even Momma agreed it was good.

Organized battery drawer

It’s kind of like a Batteries R Us display, isn’t it? They were in so many different locations before I started organizing.

I consolidated where I could and I know I will find more batteries, more glue, more stamps and tape in other places. I’ve probably located all the dishes but the odd household items will likely turn up in other rooms. Once I established which items I felt I needed to keep to use and to provide Momma with a sense of security, I cleaned them and returned them to the cabinet.  The lights made the glassware sparkle. The orderliness made me calm. The hours of walking and bending and reaching and sorting and cleaning made me tired.

Hens on nests

For years, my mother has collected glass hens on nests and other objects with roosters. It’s just one of the many collectibles she has.

One of Momma’s prized possessions is her collection of hens on nests. I’ve given them a prominent place near our combined cookbook library.

cookbooks

This cookbook collection represents many fine family meals and memories.

I never knew she owned martini glasses until I started cleaning!

Martini glasses and stones

Now, we drink our morning juice from these martini glasses.

 

Momma is very pleased with how I cleaned her cabinet and with how I rearranged the kitchen. She was so impressed she agreed to eat dinner at the table for the first time in years. That, in my mind, is a triumph!

Two Weeks as a HANC

When we visit our parents as adults, we want to believe everything is under control, as it was when we were children.

     We may see or smell things we’d rather not, but to keep the fantasy alive, we tend to ignore them.Gransmomma and siblings

   Usually, we make a point to clean something or do some yard maintenance on our visits, but mostly we visit, because our parents want to spend TIME with us, not watch us work.Clock in town square 

     Once we are back home again, we can pat ourselves on our backs for whatever we did. We might tut-tut to our spouses or siblings and think about what must be done “one day,” but we don’t want to believe our parents are anything less than super-humans. We want to remember them as strong and independent, virile and always capable.

Matt's guns

 Those of us with large families hope someone else will inevitably step up and take charge.

      For me, living more than 300 miles away, I had no option but to allow my sisters and brothers who lived closer to do just that. Each did what could be done  around schedules and personal requirements. Each filled a special role.

     My role was to visit as often as my job allowed and do what I could during the few days I was “home.”

     Over the years, our mother’s physical capabilities have declined and her memory lapses have worried us more and more. We have talked one-on-one with each other, but never as a collective family about her increasing need for more companionship, better nutrition, help with housework or more diversions to help her focus mentally.

variety of produce

     Once, my sister’s husband was driving Momma’s car, with Momma on the front passenger’s seat when Momma became startled by what she thought was an oncoming car.

      Momma decided for herself that she would no longer drive.

      She didn’t suffer the indignation of having her driver’s license taken from her, but she told me she misses not being able to trust herself behind the wheel of a car. She still loves to “take a drive,” and told me after her recent trip for bloodwork, “This is fun. I don’t care if it is just to the doctor’s office and back. I like to get out of the house.”

Oak tree lined dirt road

      Now, that we are living here, I can take her for a drive any day of the week. We don’t even need a destination.

 I hope to do more of this kind of driving once we are unpacked…at least, maybe after I have finished cleaning the kitchen. Goals are good.

redundant swiffer

     I try to clean, organize and unpack a little each day and I hope we aren’t confounding her, though sometimes, I think we must. There have been some incidents that make me know we need to be here and I am tempted to take over, but she loves her independence and I must remember she handled all her daily-living activities long before we moved in. She is proud to load or empty the dishwasher, but I do all the meal preparation – sometimes with her nearby. She still is able to do laundry, and I am pleased to allow her that chore. Today, she patched a pair of my shorts that had ripped. I would have probably worn them, ripped and all, until I could no longer do so. She enjoys doing needlework and I may end up in patches, but each one is lovingly stitched.

 quilted

     She is headstrong, but reasonable.

    Some changes make her wonder, “Why, after all these years, do I need to do that?”

As long as we explain what we are doing and why we must do it a certain way, she accepts the changes with grace. She just needs to know why.

 

     For many years, she has lived in a house with almost no insulation in the walls or attic, which makes her air conditioner work harder than it needs to. It also makes the house extremely hot during the summer. She’s on blood-thinning medication, which means she is relatively comfortable in a house that is warmer than 80 degrees. What she doesn’t seem to understand is that at 84 degrees or even 90, as it was one day, her thinking is impaired. She was very grouchy during the hottest days. She didn’t want us to purchase a window air conditioner, but when I told her we needed to, so I could cook and clean, she accepted it. We paid for it, but she’s not always certain she didn’t buy it.

    

     We can’t easily open most of the windows to allow a cross breeze and the roof has no venting for the heat. I noticed her mood improved when we were able to cool the house to anything below 78. She has started wearing a knitted shawl in the early mornings so I can do my household chores in more comfort. We compromised without even discussing the problem.

      At times, she smiles when I do something my father used to do or that she once did, but can no longer do. Nostalgia can be good.

     She has been writing her memories in a variety of notebooks and they are random. She knows there is no “book order” to them, but I hope to share them, soon.

Journal pages blank

     She retells stories, not remembering that she may have told the same story, almost verbatim, a day ago – an hour ago – five minutes ago. We do our best to listen and react as if it is new. Sometimes, she stops herself or asks us to stop her if she is repeating.

     Sometimes, she simply forgets things. “I never” and “I know I didn’t” precede many declarations. Whenever I remind her, respectfully and gently, in detail, she usually says, “Oh, yes. Thank you for reminding me.” It must pain her to know that her memory is slipping away from her. She often says, “I pray all my children can live long lives, but I do hope you can be healthy and not like me.”

      The worst for me is when she and my husband each want my attention at the same time and neither knows the other is also speaking to me. Some days, I just want to cry. Some days, I do.

 mom and son

 

     This is but one day in our new life adventure. There are many challenges and many rewards. When I moved out of this town nearly 15 years ago, my mother managed a hotel and was one of the most amazing people I knew, physically, emotionally, intellectually and there were few women whom I felt compared to her. I still feel that way about her.

I wanted to live an adventurous life in a city and for three years, I did just that. Then, we moved to a smaller city and my life became that of a suburbanite career woman. I immersed myself in my job and was content to visit my family whenever I could, but I also contented myself to vacation in more exotic venues as often as money permitted.

       Now, I have returned home to a more bucolic life and it’s good.

 

torch

     As I listened to a whippoorwill while standing between two tiki torches that kept the mosquitoes at bay  I thought about today’s achievements in addition to my editing and writing. It is good. It is very good, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Role Reversal Reverses Roles for a Week

medical equipment     When my mother was hospitalized for her last fall, one of the doctors  told the family to prepare for her to be placed in a nursing home.  At the time, I was living more than 300 miles away, but my sisters and brothers kept me posted on her situation until I could come spend some time with her.

     Seeing her in the hospital bed on a morphine pump for the pain in her hip, ribs and shoulder was difficult, but watching her reaction to the medication during the times between the pump was one of the hardest things I had dealt with up to that point in time. She was hallucinating and she was afraid.

     The family made arrangements to hire someone to assist with her daily needs during her rehabilitation at home. We all agreed to avoid a nursing home at all costs, if possible and I suppose the seed was planted at that time for me to eventually become a caregiver for my mother. I never saw myself as a caregiver and to use that word in association with my mother causes me discomfort.

 

With home health nurse 7-11-10with visiting nurse 7-11-10     In home nurses and therapists monitored her progress and encouraged her to do more than sit in her chair and watch television.

     Still, with limited mobility and a fear of falling again, she prefers sitting to moving and her mild Alzheimer’s disease seems to be the reason she prefers game shows and court TV to her former active social life. Add to this, her hearing difficulties and some days become much more frustrating than others.

    If I’m off my game, even a little, I can’t provide the care my mother needs and we both feel the difference in our relationship. I want, always, to be the best Companion and Activities director for her, in addition to a skilled Nutritionist and Housekeeper, but even the best HANC has limits.

     Knowing those limits is key to a successful relationship.

Today, I felt vulnerable and so typed in “Dealing with Dementia” online. One of my first links led me to the manufacturer of one of her medications. I found great information here.

Flexibility Is the Key to Working Together

The changing relationship between the person with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and the caregiver is a lot like the relationship between two ballroom dancers. When a couple dances, one person is the leader and the other is the follower.

In your relationship now, the caregiver may have to do a little more leading and less following. And the person with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease may need to find a way to follow that is comfortable.

Fortunately, Alzheimer’s disease usually progresses slowly, and in most cases you can shift your roles little by little. Being flexible is required. That is usually true for successful relationships. So, if you can stay flexible, you are likely to find ways to be close to each other. And that is staying connected.

 

big old oak     As strong and stalwart as the oak in her yard, my mother would never ask for help. She didn’t turn it down, though, when offered and she has been very appreciative of our presence.

     There are times I feel as if I have a very opinionated, 85-year-old toddler in my care and other times I am very much her child. The past week was the latter, as I was dealing with a migraine as well as simple hay fever and I simply did not feel like doing the things I came here to do.

     It may have empowered her to be in charge again as she did her best to help take care of me.     daffodil closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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