The Sneaks are Made for Walking!

My siblings and I agree that to serve our mom, we won’t pursue things we believe will extend her life. There are so many times when this creates an internal struggle for me. When my mom was declining and refused to eat, I struggled with the notion of giving her Ensure. There were other benefits like avoiding skin tears due to malnutrition so we brought in a variety of flavors to see if mom would even drink these meal replacement shakes. I didn’t want my mom to be hungry so I have used a rule that what she is being offered needs to bring her pleasure. That simple question has helped me navigate several choices recently.

Before my mom was in the wheelchair, she would constantly be walking around her community. Being able to move about as she wished gave her control. It took her a while to adjust to being dependent on someone for everything from sitting up, to dressing and toileting. In the beginning she would yell “Wait, wait,” in hopes of at least commanding the pace of her movement. She eventually began to thank everyone who was helping her move and lamented at the fact of being so dependent on someone else for everything.

One of the benefits of the hospice care were visits from a social worker. She shared with me that my mom has expressed feeling depressed over the loss of control. I was sad, but also happy that my mom confided her feelings with someone. I know she’s lonely and it’s difficult for her to understand what occurred to land in her the current community. I have explained it all to my mom in varied ways different times. First to fulfill my golden rule of always telling mom what’s coming and discussing the options with her, then as she has asked questions.

I saw how much stronger my mom’s been getting and her personal daily assistant (PDA) has been encouraging her to transfer herself giving her back some control. The doctor ordered three physical therapy sessions. I must say, we were not sure mom would comply when it was time to do the exercises and work with the therapist. She did and within two weeks I saw her walking down the hallway supported by her PDA.

On my last visit a walker appeared in her room. On my visit today, I found my mom sitting in the living room of her community without her wheelchair. She then proceeded to use it to go all the way to the Activity Room. She was slow and needed to sit down once, but she did it. 

The choice to move my mom to this new community has brought wonderful results. My mom is adapting and has actually been improving. I never thought I would have good news to share about my mom, but things have been getting better.

The diagnosis is frightening and brings so many unknowns. The only fact that I seemed to latch onto early was “things will never get better.” I am happy to have to eat my own words. Gulped. 

Mom walking – what a beautiful sight!

black KedsWhen I arrived to visit my mom the personal daily assistant (PDA) was working with her. My mom was on her feet and walking along the hallway hanging onto the railing. I feel excitement being able to witness such a noticeable improvement in mom. After years of living with dementia, I have not expected to see any improvements in her quality of life. We had hoped that getting her out of the wheelchair and back on her feet would return to my mom a sense of control. For several months she’s had to rely on someone to help her toilet, change, shower and simply move.

We are working with a therapist to get mom’s legs stronger and work on her balance. That is a tall order, but given how tenacious mom has been through many other set-backs, I’m starting to feel hopeful.

Within hours of returning home I get a call from her care manager with hospice. She touches base with me weekly and we chat through mom’s status and outlook. She tells me that mom is really low and wonders if that is normal for her. I explain that since my dad’s death, my mom has told me she is unhappy and doesn’t know why she’s still here.  I’m relieved to hear that my mom shared her feelings with the care manager. My mom has always been a very private person, and the wall she kept up has been in place even though her dementia has progressed. It seems like the wall is falling. I explain to the care manager that I discussed this with the doctor and wondered if we could find a “happy pill” for mom. While I would like to find a solution, I’m also concerned given how the pain medication Tramadol affected my mom. Would a mood pill come with the same risks? They were going to try something, but she doesn’t see that anything has been prescribed and will follow-up with the doctor.

I share with her my wish that we were in a state with medical marijuana laws. I’ve heard many reports that pot brownies have been very successful supplements for individuals suffering from dementia and feeling low. I know my mom would not refuse a brownie … ever.

I won’t let this news minimize my mom’s progress in a positive direction.I still believe getting my mom back on her feet will bring a mood enhancement for all of us. Celebrated