Meet the Caregivers

By Lisa Baker

It has dawned on me that I should tell you all a little more about me.  I have two younger brothers, Larry and Chad. I am married to a wonderful man named Carl.  He is such a blessing to me.  My brother Larry is married to Stefanie and they have two children.  Chad is single and has three fur babies, a cat and two dogs.  I have two children, a boy and a girl.  My husband has two children, a boy and a girl also.  Between us we each also have a grandchild, a boy and a girl.

My parents thankfully were smart in setting up their wills ahead of time and along with it a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.  So we were in better shape because of that.  We just had to find the will and get copies to the appropriate parties.  Their financial institution also required that their Doctor write a letter stating that each of them were no longer able to handle their financial affairs.  Out of everything, this is one thing that took a little while to get.  We had Mom’s letter before we had Dad’s.  But once we had them both and signed the appropriate paperwork at the bank, it went smoothly.

I can’t stress enough that we all need to have a will and a medical and financial power of attorney and talk with these people so they are well aware of what you want.

You should also let these people know what insurance you have and where the contact information is for all policies.

Be aware that while some facilities take insurance, but some are private pay. Also, it depends on the level of care your loved one needs as to what the final cost is.

With my parents, my Mom needs more care around the clock.  She is unable to stand or walk.  She barely eats anything and drinks very little as well.  My Dad can still take care of his personal hygiene and doesn’t need as much one on one care.  They each needed different facilities for their special needs.  wall art

There are some great support groups on Facebook and the internet.  One that I have enjoyed is Molly’s Movement on Facebook.  This is a page that you can join and have conversations with other caregivers dealing with the many different forms of Dementia.

Also, on YouTube you can look up videos by Teepa Snow.  She is really good at breaking down what the Dementia patient is going thru.

There are many others.  These are just two that I have gotten very good information from and have enjoyed knowing that I’m not the only person going thru this with my parents.

As a family we struggle each day to get used to our new normal which isn’t normal in any way.  In fact, my Dad has been in the hospital for two weeks.  He got combative at his facility hitting two of the staff members.  The head nurse had him sent to the hospital.  His hospital stay has been very hard on us all.

He won’t talk to us at all so it’s very hard to tell if he knows us or not.  That alone is heartbreaking to experience.  He has also been in restraints during this hospital stay.

So, it seems that we are constantly facing one challenge after another.

I’ll continue to keep you all posted on our challenges and experiences hoping that they will be helpful to someone else out there going thru the same things.  Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I would love to hear from you.

 

Tough Decision Making

By Lisa Baker

After my Mom’s dementia diagnosis, she and my Dad went to stay with my brother and his wife.  My brother’s wife has a work from home job that made it easier for her to keep an eye on Mom and yet keep them both together.  This worked well for all of us.  We knew they were safe and getting their meals while Mom just relaxed trying to recover somewhat from her hospital stay.  Dementia also turned their world upside down too.  They were so used to relying on each other.  As we started learning more and more about dementia, we realized that Mom has had this for a while, we just didn’t pick up on it.  But we also realized that Dad had some of the same symptoms.  We started to question ourselves, could he have dementia as well?quote

Little did we know that we were closer to finding out the answer to that question than ever before.  Mom had a seizure one evening while staying with my brother.  She had never had one before.  So this put her back in the hospital for more tests.  They did not find an exact cause for the seizure.  It is possible that maybe from her eating and drinking so little that it threw her off enough to cause the seizure, but we never got a definite answer for its cause.  They did start her on a low dose of medication to help with seizures.

During the time she was in the hospital, my brother and my Dad had gone to visit her in the hospital.  After getting back home, my Dad decided that he was going to walk home to his house 20-something miles away.  He is 80 years old and certainly did not need to be walking the road.  Dad ended up being taken to the ER.  He was very agitated and upset and confused.  The doctor kept him overnight and they did some tests.  It was decided that he needed a psychological evaluation, which would help to give us a determination as to whether or not he also had dementia.  Because of insurance he had nothing wrong with him to stay at the hospital he was at which meant they had to find a psychological center for him as a geriatric patient.  The closest one that had an opening was in Lancaster, SC.  He stayed there for a week.

During this time, we found out that Mom was going downhill faster than we thought.  She wasn’t eating or drinking.  We were advised to consider putting her on hospice care.  You can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions we were on at this point.  Because of the recommendation for Mom and we needed to find a place for her such as a nursing home.  The facility Dad was at agreed to keep him for one more week.  During this time, we were able to get Mom settled into a nursing home and on hospice care.  The following week we went to pick up Dad.

At this point we had nowhere for Dad to go facility-wise.  So I kept him at home for a week and a half.  It was then that I realized just how bad he was.  He couldn’t balance his checkbook, he couldn’t remember names and he was very confused.  But the worst part was him slipping out and walking the road.  This scared us the most.  We didn’t want to risk the possibility of him getting hurt walking the road or even killed by getting hit by a car.  So the search for a memory care facility for him was our next priority.

When I went to see Mom she told me that Dad had divorced her and was seeing a 17 year old girl that had thrown all of mom’s furniture out of the house and spent all of their money.  She also told me that Dad had married this girl and that their pastor had officiated the ceremony. Of course, none of that had happened, but I could not make her believe that so on that day I had to join her in that train of thought and say, yeah Mom, you know I guess maybe dad did leave you, although I didn’t use the word divorce.  But by joining her in her world or train of thought that day kept her much more calm than if I tried to argue with her.

Dad took my cell phone and held it behind his back as if to keep it away from me.  So I just let him have it and watched to see what he was going to do with it.  He took it outside and touched the screen as if he were pressing the button on the key fob to unlock the car door.

I went outside after a few minutes to see why he wanted to get in the car.  He was looking for Mom’s purse. I had the car key because he isn’t supposed to be driving.  I opened the car and let him look for a while.  After a bit I told him that I thought my younger brother had Mom’s purse last.  He stood up looked at me and said you know what I think you are right. He let me lock the car and he went back inside satisfied.

He stayed with me for a week and a half before we were able to get him in a facility.  It felt like four weeks.  I had to constantly try to redirect him.  I was also having to hide the car keys when I went to bed at night.  That means I hid them in a different place each night.

quote 2Being the caregiver for a dementia loved one is very hard.  They ask the same things over and over not remembering that they have already asked and you have already answered.  It is very important that you take the time to take care of yourself.  Have another family member give you a day off or a few days off.  Check your area for possible respite care centers that give the caregiver a week off while they care for your love one.

In my situation, my mom has gone down so fast that she needs nursing home care or 24-hour care as well as hospice.  My dad can’t stay home alone by himself because he could get out and walk the road so there’s a safety issue involved.  For my family it worked out better to have both of them in a facility geared to their needs instead of having them in a facility together.

 

Dementia Diagnosis

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Lisa:

By Lisa Baker

What is the first thing you think when you hear dementia? Well, for me and my family this very word has put our lives in a tailspin.

First, my Mom was diagnosed with dementia in May.  From the day she got her diagnosis she went downhill so fast.  She couldn’t walk without a walker.  She had to wear adult diapers or pull ups.  She blamed me for so many things:  I took all of her money and spent it.  I messed up the checkbook.  I was trying to kill her.  That’s just a few things I had done, according to her.

Slowly we began to realize the very best she was going to be was at that moment.  For the only guarantee was she would get worse not better.  So we began the whirlwind of trying to get used to our new normal that was changing daily.

mom and dadIn June, my Dad also was diagnosed with dementia.  So now we multiply all the above by two.  If we thought things were tough before you could only imagine how they were now.

So…….how do you even begin to get through the initial shock?  I think one of the most important and valuable things my parents did for us was to already have their wills done.  And with them their medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.

So many people think that they will do their will later, sometime in the future.  You need to do it while you are of sound mind.  After a diagnosis of dementia isn’t the best time to do this.  Talk with your loved ones so you know what they want.  Yes, my parents have all that in place and still it can be hard.

We still had to get a letter from their doctors stating they could no longer handle their financial affairs.  Most doctors will want to see your loved one before they will write such a letter.

Talk with your loved one now about what they want and don’t want for medical care.  That also means the hard questions such as, “Do you want all life saving measures such as feeding tubes if your quality of life will be compromised? Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing?”

Know about their medical insurance as well as life insurance.  Where you can find the policies and who can you ask if you have questions.

The next thing to try to get used to is things constantly changing more for the worse then for the better.  Remember there is no cure and no guarantees other than they will get worse.

So today is the best it will be and tomorrow won’t be as good as today was.

If and when you need to consider a facility for your loved one do all the research you can.  There are memory care centers and nursing homes as well as assisted living centers.

At this time, we have my Mom in a nursing home facility and on hospice care.  My Dad is in a memory care facility.  They are at separate places that are best for their needs at this time.  We would have loved to keep them together however Mom’s care is a lot more involved at this point then Dad’s.

Cost is also a huge factor in finding a facility for your love one.  I’m talking thousands of dollars.  Yes, there are places that take insurance but there are also private pay places as well.  Ask to take a tour of any facility before placing your loved one.

You also learn quickly to join your loved one in the frame of mind they are at in this moment.  There is no way to change their mind and no need to argue, you won’t win.  You will learn to redirect them, but you won’t be able to change their mind.

During one of my Mom’s hospital stays she insisted that Dad had divorced her and had remarried a 17-year-old girl.  This was during the time that Dad got his diagnosis and therefore had not been able to go see her very much.  I did start out trying to get her to understand only to realize nothing I said was going to change her mind.  Looking back, I have to laugh a bit about it.  She was very serious.

dementia tips

What being 50 means to me

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet June:

By June Headley-Greenlaw

So it happened – I turned 50 on July 16th!  I’m counting among my birthday gifts finding out that I was chosen to be a new blogger.  I am excited to share some of my experiences with all of you.  Hopefully, my thoughts about turning 50 will help you get to know me a little and I look forward to sharing more each month.

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During my birthday week celebration, I reflected on all the blessings I have in my life.  But that week, I also found myself reflecting on things I don’t normally think much about – my childhood.  For me, turning 50 means I not only made it through, I survived and thrived!  I was fortunate to have lots of neighborhood friends in our very lower-class neighborhood, but times were tough!  I grew up in a 900 square foot house with a family of four.  It’s taken a lot of hard work the last 30 years for me to get to a life I’m proud to crow about.

I have a wonderful husband that is my hero!  He cooks and cleans AND does the grocery shopping!  We have six kids minus one.  That’s a story for another blog.  Four of the kids served in the military and the youngest two are in college.  Five boys and the baby girl.  I am blessed!

I have a nice home in a nice neighborhood where kids are safe to play in the streets and adults can be seen chatting on curbs.  I’ve learned a lot from these chats and sincerely recommend that you get out and get to know your neighbors.  There’s always someone you can call when you need help with a project.  We literally call each other and say, “Hey, can I rent your husband for an hour”.  Yes, I know how steamy that sounds, but it’s really just about a toilet or some heavy lifting that needs to be done.  I promise it’s not that kind of neighborhood!  Although we LOVE “the hood” it is more than we need now so we recently showed it to a couple that would like to buy in our “hood”.  I told them I had to put a disclaimer on sales documents that our neighbors might show up unannounced to use the pool because they have a standing invitation.  We don’t have to be there.  They are all welcome!  Don’t worry, I’ve got good insurance.  I am blessed!

I drive a 10-year-old minivan because I haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that my youngest child is now 19 and in college.  It’s a really nice van and I see no need to upgrade.  I am blessed!

I have a wonderful job that has gotten me to within a month of retirement eligibility.  I am blessed!  Since this is my first time blogging here, I’ll let you know that I work at the University of South Carolina.  Primarily, I help faculty members develop research proposals, but I also help coordinate a very large regional conference each year and anything else that folks need me to do.

While I’m starting to feel parts of my body losing strength, I am pretty healthy.  I am blessed, but a little scared!  During my birthday week, someone at work literally said to me, “get ready for bladder leakage”.  Really?  Yesterday I was 49 and today I’m supposed to start peeing my pants?

So here I sit, at the age of 50, just waiting for my application to join AARP to arrive in the mail!  Feeling completely blessed and grateful to have made it this far!

Letting go

By Jeanne Reynolds

I was in yoga class when it happened.

As I tried to ease into a downward dog (which looks more like a downward log thanks to my lack of flexibility, but that’s another story), the instructor encouraged us to let our necks relax and heads drop comfortably. That meant my eyes were facing directly back at my angled thighs. And that’s when I first saw it.

Loose, crepey skin hanging away from my legs. Like … OMG … old lady skin. Now, I realize I’m part of the Every Woman Blog team to fill a certain demographic, but seriously: When. Did. That. Happen?

And: Now I know why most people wear capri tights for yoga instead of an old pair of bike shorts.

I’ve never been mistaken for a Vogue cover model, but c’mon. These are an athlete’s thighs. Thighs that have run 5 Boston Marathons and regularly lift weights and walk 18 holes of golf once or twice a week. Apparently all that doesn’t overcome the fact that they’re also 61-year-old thighs.

A friend – several years younger, many pounds thinner and a much faster runner than I am – told me she’s noticed the same thing recently. It’s not really wrinkles. As she put it, her skin is letting go of her body.

That doesn’t make it look any better, but the idea of letting go does make me feel a little better. Because being able to let go of some things is one of the best parts of getting older. When I hear people long for their younger days and wish they were 21 again, I recoil in horror. I (vaguely) remember the things I obsessed over at that age that now seem so lacking in perspective. Which of course makes sense, because you can’t yet see the big picture from the bottom of the hill.

I’m realizing there are many things I’ve been glad to let go as I’ve gotten older:

  • Caring what I look like for a quick run to the grocery store.
  • Always having to tell someone when I disagree with them.
  • Feeling like I have to sign up/volunteer/donate every time I’m asked.

Of course, there are many more I’m still working on:

  • Worrying because I can’t ever seem to get everything done.
  • Feeling guilty when I need to say no.
  • Spending more time trying to make things perfect than simply enjoying them.

And there are things I hope I never let go:

  • Challenging myself physically and mentally. I don’t know if or when I’ll run another marathon or go sky-diving again like I did to celebrate my 50th birthday, but I won’t rule it out.
  • Being willing (even enjoying) looking completely silly while doing something fun. Catch me dancing to “Love Shack” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Believing age is a number, not a definition.

So, fair warning: I’m going to yoga class tomorrow. And if I get the laundry done, I’ll be wearing those same old bike shorts. If it bothers you, I suggest you set up your mat on the other side of the room.

Or just let it go.

letting_go____by_senyan

Do You, Can You, Will You, Have a Sense of Freedom About You?

By Shannon Boatwright

 

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcase of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”

  • Shannon L. Alder

As we journey into a new year, I want us to start with as much confidence, hope and positivity that we can grasp hold of. Ironically, as I write this blog entry, I’m quite honestly not feeling very confident and actually have a hint of depression with a side of insecurity. I’m aware of my worth, my skills, my talents & most importantly, my blessings. At my core, I know I’ve got this. Yet, in this moment, I’m hesitant and leery of starting a new year, one that will bring an incredibly busy rest of the school year (one in which just the thought tends to overwhelm me.) This past year there were people I’d hoped to reconnect with, things I would’ve liked to accomplish personally and adventures I wanted to experience with my kids. I have a birthday coming soon and I’m not doing so well with this whole getting older thing. Any woman reading this entry I’m sure will feel me on the issue of dealing with getting older. Though I love the getting wiser part, the physical aging part of the equation certainly has its moments.

That being said, I decided to share the quote above because, well, I think it’s fabulous. I’m a fan of actress and rocker, Juliette Lewis and she recently posted this quote on her Instagram. She’s a firecracker of positivity and I think she rocks. So, in my moment of feeling a bit down, this quote was what I needed.

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Have you ever noticed that in your moments of strength and positivity – you know, those times when your confidence is actually at a healthy level – that you indeed have a sense of freedom about you? Yea, those moments are lovely. It’s in those moments that we’re willing to reach for our own positive change, better directions and ultimately create the change that makes a better YOU. And those moments are moments I think we should experience more of!

In light of a crazy past year, let’s look forward in this beautiful future we have the privilege of living, and live it with an air of total confidence, recognizing our worth, taking pride in our many talents, ready at every moment to celebrate our freedom to accept that the fact is, we totally rock.

The sooner we can see that, recognize that and accept that, the sooner we can create it. No matter what your age, range, size or level in life, take pride in your skills & your goddess beauty, inside and out. Freedom awaits. 🙂

 

Oh Stop It! Not 40! Seriously???

By: Shannon Shull

Ok, so I admit it, when people say to me, “Oh stop! You are not turning 40! Seriously!?” well, I secretively like it, even if they are totally faking their sweet shock. Of course, it’s only after I’ve broken in and divulged the information to some endearing person that can relate, that I ever tell anyone my age.

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell anyone

I quite enjoy not letting anyone know my real age. In fact, I refuse to tell my students how old I am. Kids can be brutally honest, so when my students discover that I have kids of my own and make claims about how they can’t believe I have an 11 and 9 year old, then proceed to guess my age in the 20s or early 30 range, well, let’s just say I prefer to keep their thoughts thinking just that! Suits me fine, I’m won’t lie about that.

So why is that? Why am I literally dreading turning 40?!? Ugh… I get a bad taste in my mouth when I even think about it. Sad, I know. It’s just that I eternally think of myself as a young person. I can’t help it. And now the harsh reality of life is smashing a pie in my face and it’s not funny. How can I seriously be entering my 40s? I mean, I still think of my own mother as being in her 30s!

My Mama & Lil Shannon - Oh to just be a child again!

My Mama & Lil Shannon. Oh to just be a child again!

It’s been an interesting adventure witnessing other friends turn 40. Everyone seems to have a different take on some level. Some, like me, dread it. And, some even go so far as to refuse to talk about or even dare celebrate it. Others go all out and throw down, rockin’ the town with their besties. Some take it very seriously and torture their bodies so that they can enter their 40s with a bod they can also celebrate – we’re talking botox, liposuction, harsh diets and exercise, the whole shebang. And then some let the day pass like “it ain’t no big thang,” it’s just another birthday to them.

…insert deep breath accompanied by a dramatic moan…

I’m thinking I may be a combination of all these different takes. If money was of no concern, I would go full out with body improvements and take myself on some fabulous trip in which I’d do nothing but eat, drink and live up every moment celebrating my grand entrance into the 40s. But alas, my busy schedule will not allow for that. Not to mention, anyone who has an inkling of how us teachers get paid for all our hard work… well, you get my drift. So no fanciness for me, but I do have all the things that money can’t buy!! And that, my friends, is what makes life worth living! All these beautiful things in my life, for which I am ever thankful, will make entering my 40s not-so-bad after all.

I came across this fabulous article written by a lady who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. Christina Vuleta has a fantastic article on the Huffington Post called, “15 Things to Love About Turning 40.” I’m really thankful I came across this article. Let’s just say I needed to read these wise words of hers at this time in my life! I want to share some of the incredible points that she brings to our attention because, well, they’re pretty priceless.

Some things to love and embrace about turning 40…

“You realize that all those people you think are so confident and lead perfect lives… are just as screwed up as everyone else. 

You learn that it’s a waste of time comparing the worst of yourself (your insecurities and flaws) with the best of others (their Facebook profile, family pic, etc.). And on top of it all you realize your flaws may just be assets.”

You know it’s true! People put their best on Facebook and all those other social media sites. Can’t blame them and I’m not slamming anyone, but it’s certainly not fair to compare ourselves to others, ever, because the truth is, we all have our issues! No one is perfect and if they claim to be, de-friend them and RUN – cause they’re not living in reality.

“You ask.
You know your worth and you aren’t afraid to ask for it. You realize that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and there really is nothing to lose.”

I can relate to this one because I have certainly learned by this age that we might as well reach out for what we want, reach for those dreams and take chances, because gosh, what in the world do we have to lose!?! The worst we can be told is NO. Better to have tried than to regret not trying.  

“You get your silly on again.
You learn not to take yourself too seriously. You really do dance like no one is watching. You are like a teenager again… but less loud. It’s not for show. It’s for smiles.”

I LOVE this one. Get your silly on! For smiles, NOT FOR SHOW. Amen to that, heh!? The more I’ve learned to just let go and have fun, the more I benefit from it in so many ways. There’s no need to take everything so seriously. If only everyone could just loosen up, the world would be a much better place. 🙂

“You have resilience.
Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Life is long. Time heals. So just give yourself time… and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.”

Oh do these words ever warm my heart. “Life is long. Time heals. Give yourself time and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.” Man, that’s beautiful.

“You respect yourself.
Meaning you can see when someone else isn’t respecting you and value yourself enough to form an escape plan. Get a mantra. Remind yourself daily of your worth.”

Whoa, now that one is deep and so incredibly true. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. But that mantra worked and I do try to remind myself daily of my worth.

“You are more beautiful.
Any 40-something woman who decides to eat well and find one exercise they like to do, looks better than they did at 20. Yes, you may lose the baby fat or spring, but there is beauty in living a full life. You see yourself more kindly. You feel at home in your body, and it shows.”

Oh what a lovely one to wrap this up with! I look back at old pictures and yes, my lines are less deep, there are no grey roots… but I do indeed feel more beautiful now. I’m working on getting back to exercising again like I should be to feel and look better. But, I am more comfortable in my skin. I have a confidence I never had when I was younger and it feels so good. Sure I might be tempted to try out Botox and such if I had the fearlessness to actually try some medical procedure! But for now, I have decided to embrace my lines, imperfections and effects from age. I guess I don’t have much of a choice! Ha! But hey, it sounds and feels better to declare that I am embracing my age.

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

So there you have it. I’m going to decide right now that my 40s are going to rock. I am making a promise to myself right now that I’m going to make the best of it. To the best of my ability, I’m going to live my life to the fullest! Daggomit, I’m 40! Just don’t tell anybody, ok? 😉