The Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift

redpresentI recently finished teaching a course for adults over 50 to help them gather their important papers and document their personal wishes. An important statistic I shared with them came from The National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information, which reports that by the age of 65, 70 percent of Americans will need long-term care—and the average term is a little more than three years!

Several of my students were widows with grown children, and during the class, they approached me to ask about services that could help them manage if they needed support. They didn’t want to burden their children, and the isolation felt behind that simple question hurt. I know my Mom felt the same way, yet I believe most children would prefer to have this discussion with their parent rather than struggle through the issues my family faced (visit the first post on this blog if you are unfamiliar with our challenges in caring for two parents with dementia). I can imagine the hurt I would have felt had my Mom hired someone and not discussed her choice with me or one of my siblings.

While we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope those of you in great health with vibrate families will consider celebrating your mom with the ultimate gift — your time. When you need this information is always a bad time to start the discussion. Every day is a good opportunity to let your mom or dad know that you are there and would like to help SHOULD they ever need it.

Good times to raise your offer include:

  • When they ask you to be their executor or share their estate planning documents with you.  Let them know you are honored to be asked and request that they schedule some time to sit with you to share the information you would need to fulfill this role.
  • When something has happened to a family friend. These are the best times to warmly ask how your parent might want you to help if your family was faced with a similar situation.
  • At family gatherings when you are all sitting around a table. You can ask open questions like “Have you noticed any changes or had to give up things you love since you have gotten older?” Once you find an opening to the discussion in a positive light, you should be able to build on that discussion.
  • If a parent has cognitive impairment, there may never be a good time. It could be that they don’t remember much of the information and are afraid to share it with you. In this case, you will have to work on finding mailings and checking files to collect the information. A cell phone with a camera can be an easy way to gather information without mom or dad feeling like you are sneaking around and taking their papers.
  • In general, you will need to be patient, take it slow and look for windows of opportunity to raise these issues.

When you are ready to sit down with Mom or Dad to gather this information, please use this list to identify the information you need. If you are interested in using the MemoryBanc Register which prompts you through the collection of all the needed information, any order placed in the month of May will receive a 20 percent discount when you add in the coupon code of “Mother”. Gifted. 


No one has a Christmas wreath up now!

wreathMy daughter has a snow day and the snow didn’t quite pan out, so we decide to go visit my Mom. When we arrive, my daughter finds the Christmas wreath hanging on the back of a chair and asks Nana why the wreath isn’t on her door.

My Mom barks out “No one has a Christmas wreath up now.” A silent “huh” plays in my head and I see the same expression on my daugther’s face. I tell my Mom that “We passed quite a few wreaths in the hallway.”

My Mom doesn’t resort to her prior habit demanding we “prove it“, but challenges me to “show me another wreath” in not a very pleasant tone. I open up her door and point to two wreaths within sight of my Mom’s door.

“Oh, then lets put it back up.”

A week ago her Christmas tree disappeared and we found it hidden behind a chair in her bedroom.

I now have been through it enough and recognize that my Mom is moving through periods where she doesn’t recognize that Christmas is coming. I imagine that she takes it down believing Christmas has passed. She now is unable to really grasp time and it’s passage. When she did this previously, I just thought it was poor memory. Now I recognize that she can’t conceptualize the difference between a week, month or year.

She’s trying so hard to keep it together. We can still sit and have a nice visit together and share a meal – and for that, I’m grateful. However, the deeper she moves into this disease, the harder I sense she’s fighting to manage. Watched.

It is going to be 1913!

calendarMy parents have had a hard time with the day of the week for almost a year. I got them a Day Clock, but it wasn’t something that has been a long-time habit so they don’t use it to see what day of the week it is — or maybe they do but they do not remember.

Time seems to be a difficult concept in general for my parents. We were discussing the Christmas holidays and when my dad says it’s 2010, my mom tells him “No! We are in the 19’s — what do you mean saying it’s 2010?”

My daughter is with us and confirms to my dad it’s 2012.  My mom stares at my daughter and asks “What do you mean, we are out of the 19’s and into the 20’s?” We all nod yes.

It’s remarkable how quickly and how intermittent some skills seem to ebb and flow.  While my dad is the one who was clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, most of the cognitive testing lead us to believe that my mom had Alzheimer’s.  It’s not worth pushing for more testing at this point, I’m just trying to watch and learn most days.

Last week at the doctor’s my mom correctly stated the day, date, month and year when asked by the doctor. I was surprised since on most days she will ask what day it is … over and over.

We all wait as we watch my mom mentally chew on this concept. “It is going to be 1913! We can’t be in the 2000’s,” she states. We just move on to the next topic. Shifted.