Gracious Mom has returned

graciousI am still a little skittish … am I in the eye of the storm? Is there a second wave of emotional turmoil that will arrive as swiftly as the first one disappeared? My mom was so difficult to manage during the actual move that I’m waiting for her to return.

The retirement community knows what they are doing and I’m thankful for the resource. They notified my parents of the move and gave them two days notice. My parent’s knew that was unreasonable and fished around to see if we knew in advance. No one broke ranks.

The fact that all four of their children were in town on the day of the move went unmentioned. However, the day they were notified my mom found and called a lawyer. She failed to write the appointment in her calendar and had forgotten about it. We had already looked into the legality of the move and timing and knew the community had the right to make this move.

When the movers arrived right after all four of us children showed up, my mom was surprised. She was angry, confrontational, disruptive and combative. We made it through the day and left my parent’s in the new apartment with the staff as the community recommended.

When I call a few days later to ask if I can come visit, my mom is excited to hear from me. We had a pleasant trip to the grocery store.

When I arrive today, they have already hung more pictures and moved the furniture around. My mom is working on enhancing the frame of a family portrait we had done two Christmas’s ago. It contains everyone from my parents down to the four grandchildren. They have placed it in the middle of the living room wall where they seem to now spend most of their time.

My mom has a list of things to buy and a smile on her face as we head out the door today. Endeavored.

Don’t lock the door

lockfrontdoorWhen my dad and I return from our trip to the grocery, we find that the bulk of the items have been moved. The new place is just a bedroom, living room and small kitchen area, so the movers got the bulk of the big furniture moved in a few hours, despite my mom’s interference.

Apparently while I was off with my dad, my mom went to speak to the Assistant Executive Director that she has known for more than a decade. She was very agitated by the moving and in order to placate her, he tells her they can visit their old apartment anytime they want. Oh no!

Maintaining access to the old apartment in Independent Living was not part of the game plan. Our goal was to move everything they needed and close down the old apartment. Given our parents inability to give up their town house and move into the retirement community full-time (even after the stroke and broken hip), we wanted this transition to be a clean break. We had their apartment in Independent Living rekeyed so we could ensure our parent’s would not be able to return.

By late afternoon, we are in the apartment working to pack up final items like pajama’s and toiletries. My brothers invite my parents to dinner so they could get them out of the apartment. We believe it’s critical that our parents stay in their new apartment tonight. My mom has said she plans on sleeping on the guest bed in their old apartment tonight. Before my parents and my brothers walk out the door, my dad instructs them: “don’t lock the door.”

My sister and I work a little longer and take the last of the boxes to the new apartment. As we leave, we diligently lock the door behind us. Closed 

It takes all four of us to manage the move

fourkids (2)The past year has made me regret not having more than two children. Since I grew up with four kids in my family, I always believed I would have four children myself. That was until I had the first one! He was a tough baby, or possibly, I was an ill-prepared mom.

I started late, having my first at 33, so that by the time I was ready and actually did get pregnant, my second arrived to a 38-year-old mother. Given all the high-risk discussions and the additional needs just a second child brought, my husband and I felt for us, it was too late to have more. I am lucky to have two healthy kids.

On the day of the move with my parent’s, we can barely manage my mom between the four of us. Our game plan was that two of us would give our parents a specific task to keep them busy while the other two would manage the move and movers. My mom always behaved nicer when there were two children in front of her — she would often bully you if you showed up alone.

When the movers arrived we have them start with the bedroom. While they are loading up the furniture, we task our parents to decide which sofa set they want in the new apartment. My sister and I invite my dad to go to the new apartment.  My mom is furiously trying to redirect the movers. My dad invites my mom along and she comes with us to the new apartment. Our job is to kill time so the movers can move.

After we linger in the apartment, we suggest getting lunch. On our way to the dining room, my mom sees their furniture being moved down the hall and takes off for their old apartment. My dad decides to follow me into the lunch room. My sister takes off to the old apartment after my mom.

My dad and I order lunch and try to find a topic to discuss. It’s only been two hours since breakfast so I’m unable to really eat anything. I know if I don’t eat, my dad won’t eat so I try to at least fill up my plate with a salad and some fruit and move it around on my plate.

My dad is ready for this move and does not want to fight it. My mom is making him very uncomfortable. I ask if he will come with me to the grocery store and we can pick up some of his favorites snacks for the new apartment. He agrees.

My mom and sister make their way to lunch and we tell them of our plans. We invite my mom along with us. She is not interested.

We all go back to the apartment and my mom is very upset. She keeps trying to tell the movers to put the furniture back and runs to the office of the Executive Director. I leave my mom to my siblings to manage and take my dad out to shop. Wandered.

Helping my parents move from Independent to Assisted Living

movingdayToday is the day we move my parents. My last sibling arrived late last night so we could all show up to help our parents with the move. My home can’t manage all 3 of my siblings comfortably, so one brother and sister stay in my parent’s town house, and another brother stays with me at our house. We decide to meet in the morning and set the game plan over breakfast.

Our parent’s are looking forward to having all the kids in town. After they were notified and we spent the rest of the day discussing and dealing with our very agitated mom, we stopped talking about the move. When we set the timing with the Executive Director of the retirement community, she strongly suggested that someone stay with my parents full-time after they are notified. My oldest brother W. was the freshest, so he took the last day and a half with my parents.

At so many twists and turns, our parents have surprised us. We were concerned they would leave the retirement community and go stay in a hotel.  By not raising the subject, we have avoided the debate. By day two my mom had either forgotten the impending move or assumed her refusal to accept it made it go away.

Today we will arrive a half hour before the movers are set to show up. We know it’s not going to be easy, but the day is here and we need to help our parent’s manage through and make this transition. It’s the best place for them going forward. Undertaken.

Are you sure you don’t need my son’s help?

mysonthelawyerMy older brother, W., is taking a full day shift with my parents. It’s tough duty given my mom’s anxiety and anger over the pending move.

After being notified, she finds a lawyer listed in the resident’s directory and makes an appointment. However, she fails to remember she made the appointment and does not meet the lawyer when he arrived. My brother stayed in the apartment to meet him and give him an explanation.

Neither parent has mentioned the request for a lawyer today nor mentioned the appointment. My brother decides not to raise the issue and lets it be.

At dinner, another resident comes to the table and asks my parents “Are you sure you don’t need my son’s help?” My parents don’t know who this woman is and have no idea what she is talking about. The woman goes on to explain that her son “the lawyer” stopped by to meet with them.

My brother can’t believe this woman. She does not know my parent’s but has come up and pressed them on calling her son “the lawyer”. My mom is a little put-off by the woman and wonders aloud to the woman while she would call a lawyer when she has a daughter who is a lawyer?

While I find the mother’s follow-up horribly inappropriate, my brother is floored at the chain of events. Thankfully, my brother W., can escort her back to her dinner table before this day get’s any messier. Appalled.

Grieving for my mother while she’s berating me

angry ladyFor the better part of two years, my mom has been uncharacteristically suspicious and mean. It took me a while to adapt to the understanding that the changes in her brain were altering her personality in negative ways. My survival mechanism has been to remind myself, over and over, that my mom has a head injury. It helped me better understand how to approach and interact with my mom.

I have three people I want to thank for helping me adjust my mindset:

  1. My sister–in-law who works with individuals who have head injuries and has explained how similar the issues are to my mother’s dementia. She raises funds every year to support new research to assist head injury survivors.
  2. Kate Swaffer who is diagnosed with early on-set dementia.
  3. Lynda Alicudo with Leading Executive who suggested I start to mourn the loss of my mother.  It helped me appreciate the familiar moments with my mom and recognize that her behavior was not personal.

As I reflect on how much my mom has changed, I realize how much I have changed. My mom is unable to adapt, so I had to adapt.

I also recognize that people change and move in and out of our lives as we age. My friendships have changed as circumstances and personal choices divide and reconnect us over the years. I understand that right now, I don’t like my mom. However, I will ensure that she is safe and happy and enjoy the moments when the mom who raises me reappears. Thank you to the women in my life who have helped me on this journey.  Appreciated.

Dad has Alzheimer’s

alzheimersFor the past few weeks my mom has given me a variety of reasons to return to their town house:

  • Mom: “Dad needs to do work in his office.”
    Kay: “The boys moved dad’s office to the apartment two months ago. Should we make sure the printer has enough ink?”
  • Mom: “I need to go get my winter coats.”
    Kay: “I just saw some coats in the entry closet. Let’s see if your winter coat is in there.”

We have made these trips, gathered the items they requested, but they don’t remember. 

Sometimes, my mom would ask if I would take them to their town house to stay overnight, I then share with my mom that “Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’m worried about you having to help him alone.”

Telling her this seems to immediately sink in. She knows he has good days and bad days.  To almost every question she poses to him he will respond “I don’t remember.” He has yelled at her in public and she has had to have others help her get him back to their apartment — she knows something is wrong with my dad. At their town home, she is alone but at the retirement community she has many around her who can help if dad needs assistance.

Over the summer, I had to rush to the town house to meet the police. My parents broke into their own home, then they called the police to report a break-in. The police would not leave until I arrived and they could speak with me. My parents willingly jumped into my car for a ride back to the retirement community.

I’m thankful that telling this to my mom registers.  I wonder if it’s that I can better communicate on her terms by smiling and patiently answering her questions. It could just be that her own survival mechanisms are still intact and she is aware of her own fear. Soothed.

Three friends, three moms with dementia?

This weekend was my 30th high school reunion. I had a chance to catch-up with two dear friends. Because we were high school buddies, we all knew each other’s parents.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports became very real to me this weekend. The latest Alzheimer’s Association report shares that 1 in 8 people who are 65 have some form of dementia. At 85, that figure is 1 in 2. While those figures are striking to me, I’m starting to comprehend how pervasive dementia is in our world today.

Both friends have parents in their mid-70s. I knew that my one friends mother had dementia because she purchased both the MemoryBanc Register and MemoryBanc Monograph several months ago. She has been keeping me up to date on what’s happening with her mom.

My other friend was listening to us talk about our parents and wondered if what she always considered “eccentricity” in her mom might really be dementia. I think most of us can relate to that. At first I wondered if I was just getting to know my mom better as an adult and now seeing some odd quirks I never recognized before.

While on vacation, she said her mom collected everyone’s underwear daily and washed it. They just went along with it, even though everyone was sure they had packed enough to make it through the trip. This was not a travel habit she had grown up with. She was happy to report that only one pair got singed too badly sitting next to a light bulb to make it home.

As we were talking she mentioned her mom has had some mini-strokes. I explained to her that those mini-strokes have most likely resulted in her mom having vascular dementia.

Three friends, with three mom’s with dementia in their 70’s. This problem is bigger even than I thought. Realized.