Good Riddance to Ten Pounds of Grief

muffintopA year ago today, my Dad passed away. While he had Alzheimer’s, he died from a tumor on the back of his tongue. It was a harrowing experience, but I knew it was a blessing that the cancer seemed to take him so swiftly. I miss him, but I missed him when he was still here but the Alzheimer’s began to steal parts of him away. When he was here, I could visit him, chat and even get a hug.

A few months after his death, I was suddenly ten pounds heavier. I don’t gain weight easily and have a pretty solid tennis habit with regular weekly exercise. The swift change surprised me. I started to count calories and charted my exercise. Nothing changed. I started to think about the weight as my “grief fat.” I desperately wanted to have both the fat and grief gone.

It hung around my middle and plagued me, seeping out at inconvenient times, just like my grief.

Some girlfriends were chatting about a “metabolism” diet and I figured I would give it a try. I had moved into a period where I was just too busy to eat well, regularly. I would eat breakfast early, then lunch at 3 PM ruining dinner and then would graze before bed on dinner. Had I messed up my metabolism or was it just age sneaking up on me in inconvenient ways? We started the diet together and doing it with others definitely helped me. I started to pack meals and snacks and made sure I ate every 3 hours. I made it through the four-week plan and emerged ten pounds lighter. I’m pleased that even after the diet ended, I continued to lose a few more pounds.

I’m relieved to have lost my “grief fat” before the anniversary of my Dad’s death. As I hit the one-year marker, my grief lingers, but I’m quicker to recover as I reflect on his legacy and all the wonderful attributes of him that live on in me. Encouraged. 

Finding ways to work through the stress of caregiving

tennisI wanted to improve my tennis game so my husband and I joined the local gym that offered tennis. It took me a while to get into lessons, flights and play with others who would help me be able to improve my game.

Several women welcomed me and invited me to join their weekly groups and even join into their lessons. Tennis has been an incredible way for me to find new friends as well as work off the stress of caring for my parents.

Most of my tennis friends know what I’m dealing with. My parents have come to watch matches. When my father died, I actually volunteered to step in and play if someone needed a sub as soon as the day after his death. I find the rules that require you to turn off your phone and dedicate uninterrupted time therapeutic. I can shut off my brain to life outside of the court lines.

A friend shared an article that was recently posted in The New York Times called “Walking the Talk” and I love the idea. After the winter we have faced, the story is compelling and makes me wonder if there are local groups like this to help move through the stress of caregiving.

What are you doing to work through the stress of your caregiving experience? Asked. 




Your Mom is not doing well in the Assisted Living Community

sunriseThe death of my father impacted my Mom cognitively. For years they were a team that managed their dementia by being together. Now my Mom’s alone with no wing man.

Her decline is escalating and unfortunately, she’s getting more combative. I’ve noticed this on my visits as we interact with others in the community — at least she is usually kind to me. However, she now believes someone stole a card set she used to run bridge games and this is causing grief for everyone. She has always tended to perseverate on specific topics and this month, it’s the bridge card set. My mom turned over the set to a woman to run the games but doesn’t remember and/or doesn’t like it on any given day.

I was called by the head of the community and they asked to have a meeting with me. They took me through a litany of events and issues and are worried that they are going to be unable to care for my Mom. She is refusing to take the prescribed medication, which includes a change to give her Lorazepam daily. Before, it was used as needed to reset her anxiety, but her behavior now has moved the recommendation to a daily dose.  

I ask for suggestions, my Mom can’t be the first resident they have faced they have trouble helping. The head of Assisted Living has decades of experience as well as do the collective experience of the other staffers at the meeting. They share the varied things they have done to try and help my Mom that have failed — many that worked for others. They have even tried a variety of new things given my Mom’s interests and mobility. The psychologist and the head of the dementia care unit have spent time with my Mom over the past few weeks and felt that unless she started taking the mood medication (Lorazepam), the community would be unable to help my Mom. The biggest difference with my Mom is her mobility.

If we can’t reset my Mom’s anxiety, and her behavior, they will put her on a 30-day discharge plan.

So here we are and the first step is getting my Mom to take her medication. I ask if they can just give her the 1 pill. It’s very small, she could easily take it and then they could reintroduce the vitamins and other medication that they believe are “essential.”  My Mom has never liked taking pills and resents that the staff watch over her while she is presented with 7 pills in the morning. Most of them are vitamins. I requested that they minimize the number of pills my Mom was taking several months ago, but the doctor felt strongly we should not make a change. She recently just refused to take any pills.

As my Mom continues to decline, it’s still surprising how many things she can do. However, her disease is moving her into a very negative place and we are struggling with how to best help her manage within her community. Just when you think you have a handle on the situation, it shifts and challenges you in new ways. Confronted. 

Please share your experience – positive or negative with different medications or a similar behavior.

I don’t understand why you are so upset

ImstuckAs I am walking out the door to get myself and kids flu shots, I see a message on my phone. As I listen to the voice mail,  my husband reminds me we only have a half-hour to get to the doc-in-a-box before it closes. It is the only one in the area that even had flu shots left.

The voice mail is from the director at my parent’s retirement community. She is calling me from her home to let me know that the staff saw my parents leave in a cab after they refused to serve them wine with dinner.

I quickly call the town home and my mom answers. “Mom, what’s up?” – I try to say as calmly as I can manage. My mom whispers “I don’t know why we are here, you father wanted to come. I know we shouldn’t be here.”

I offer to drive over pick them up and take them back to their retirement community. I’m relieved to hear my mom knows they should not be at the townhouse, but flustered that they are there.  My mom tells me my dad is in bed and she does not think he will go back tonight. She asks if she should she put him on the phone; I manage to reply “Sure”.

In the background, my husband understands what is going on and starts on his way to get the kids in the car. I feel my blood pressure increasing. My patience has been replaced by aggravation.

As I speak with my dad, I can hear the stress in my voice. All I wanted to do was go get my children flu shots and now I’m concerned about my parent’s safety at their town house. My dad tells me they came to the town house because this is where they live.  In the background my husband is loading the kids into the car and backing out the driveway.

So many emotions are rolling through my head. Anger, dismay, concern, frustration. My dad says to me “I don’t understand why you are so upset.” During this conversation, I’m flagging my husband down to let me in the car so I can get my flu shot. I tell my dad I’m too overwhelmed to even begin to answer his question now.

My dad asks me for a ride tomorrow, I tell him yes. It’s inconvenient how my parents are behaving. While I know they don’t realize the duress they are causing me and my family, I am not yet ready to cut off the support I can extend to them to help them make this transition. But I recognize, most days, my parents are not interested in trying to make any transition. They want everything to stay the same.

The manner in which they react to any help or concern some days seems like they are trying to make it easy for me to walk away. Troubled.