This and That

By Lisa Baker

This post is a little of this and a little of that.  My family and I celebrated my Dad’s 81st birthday this month.  We were able to use the family room at his facility to celebrate in.  All of his remaining siblings were able to come. He did not realize that it was his birthday so it was indeed a surprise.


We all had a good time visiting with Dad.  I made his favorite cake.  A Japanese fruit cake.  This is usually made as a layer cake.  To make it easier to carry I made it in a 9 by 13 pan as a single layer cake.  Dad gave me a wonderful compliment.  He said it was as good as his Mom’s.  Over the years I have often made this same cake for him.  Always he would tell me it’s not quite as good as his Mom’s.  So to me that was rewarding and a memory I’ll never forget.

Of course, during the celebration Dad kept saying that he wanted to pack up his things and go home with one of us when it was time to go.  We had to keep telling him to just hold on and enjoy your party.  We had to leave one at a time while whomever was left kept him busy talking.  It was a good day.

Now a little of that.  During the week leading up to Dads birthday we had some water issues at home.  I’m living in Mom and Dad’s house now.  We didn’t have hot water one night.  So, there I was trying to figure out what was wrong as well as who have they called in the past for water issues.  They are both at a point where if I had asked them I wouldn’t have gotten the answer.  I called my neighbor which is also my cousin and ask her who she used.  She was able to give me a name and number of a gentleman that proved to be honest and fair to help us out.  The problem was an easy fix.  But while he was here he was able to tell that we also had another issue brewing.  He was able to fix that as well.  It was more than we expected but keeps the second issue from becoming an emergent fix later on.  Now we have the name of an excellent plumber.

I’m starting a book with names and numbers for different things that need to be serviced at the house.  Just one more thing that you miss when you realize your parents both have dementia so you can’t rely on being able to ask them.

bookI’ve also finished reading a book that some of you may find very helpful.  The 36-Hour Day. By Nancy L. Mace, MA and Peter V. Rabin’s, MD, MPH. I got my copy online.  I think it cost me around $6.00 or so because it was a used copy. It’s a very good book.

Life is ever so full and ever so busy.  My parents both want each of us to visit every day for several hours each day.  They no longer fully understand that we also have to work and take care of our families as well.  I run out of hours.  I could use a 36-hour day in order to accomplish everything I need to do as well as spend time with each of them.

You start to feel very overwhelmed with everything.  Even with having them both in a facility they are constantly on my mind.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not doing something involving them, from visiting with them to paying bills.

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If you are dealing with dementia in any form with a loved one hang in there.  You are not alone.  Until next time!

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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.

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Unfortunately

By: Chaunte McClure

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and while some daughters were planning get-togethers, deciding what to buy Dad, or where to take him, there were also daughters (and sons) who were dreading the day’s arrival. Why? Because their father is absent, unavailable or unattached and they knew that day, like every day, would be a fatherless day.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children live without their biological father in the home. While some of them may have a relationship with their biological father, most of them don’t and the effects are alarming.

A few weeks ago I participated in a workshop for fatherless girls, where I shared my story of being a fatherless daughter. Through tears, I saw pain and through the words, I heard the pain loud and clear, coming from girls, mostly teens, who lack a relationship with their dads. When the facilitator asked one participant if her father is still living, her response: “Unfortunately.”

Unfortunately, too many children share this heart-rending sentiment. As a matter of fact, many adults do too.

It’s girls and women like these that I long to reach out to help. I was that angry little girl once and for years, she lived in me as an adult. Fortunately, in my twenties, I recognized her character and decided I didn’t want that angry little girl having a negative impact on my life, and as result, the life of others any longer. It is a journey, but a journey worth taking when that means having a more peaceful, purposeful life and bringing others along to join you on the journey to love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Though it does not fill the void, I usually honor someone on Father’s Day whether it’s a family member or someone I know and respect.

If you are a fatherless daughter, how do you respond to Father’s Day?

P.S. I’ve used the term fatherless daughter here, but I do understand that everyone has a biological father, but not everyone has the privilege to know their father or emotionally connect with him.

I’m A Mutt

By: Stacy Thompson

People like to say that a person takes on the physical or emotional embodiment of his/her dog—if that were true, at one time or another I would have been described as a stout, menacing, but sweetheart of a Rottweiler (OK, so not far off); a placid, neurotic, scared-of-everything Lab-mix (way far off); and a Cheeto-lovin’ doe-eyed, gotta-follow-you-everywhere-you-go gangly Rottie-Lab mix (yeah, well, I’m OK if you want to go into a room unattended, but I do love some Cheetos). I’ve been the happy Mom to both pure-bred pups and mixes; and although we share the same penchant for unconditional love, I can say with assurance that it ends there—but with both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in my rear view mirror, I am proud to say that I am a mutt in the best sense of the word.

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From Mom I have gained the desire to make a list and check things off, while going off-list and doing (climbing, jumping, running, hiking, venturing) beyond that which is expected. She taught me to plan ahead but to never be afraid of the unplanned, as that is where life is lived and loved. She taught me that even if you follow a guide you can pave your own path and attain more than what even you think is possible. This was a woman who upon receiving her Medicare card decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro—pretty big accomplishment, for sure, but only one adventure in her many roads and paths (stay tuned, she’s not done yet!). And most importantly, she showed me that everything is possible; and in case it’s not attained, she will always have my back!

From Dad, after my teen-year eye-rolls were done, I learned what compassion, patience and hard work can bring—not just financial security but a soulful peace and satisfaction of a job not just well-done but a job done well, for others. I learned from him that laughing at yourself can be the funniest and most stress-relieving act ever, while laughing with someone can bring the greatest joy. I inherited his corny sense of humor, terrible knees, gonna-burn-before-you-tan skin and his need/drive to help whoever and  wherever possible—not just to accomplish a task, but to create a vocation, a calling, that makes each day worth it.  And finally, I know for sure, to paraphrase his own words, “I may not know where I’m going, but I’m making good time.”

So this mutt wants to spend this post thanking the two most important people in my life—they make it fun and fabulous not only to work hard but to play hard, while enjoying each equally. Every day is a treat when they simply walk into a room, and, much like my pups, I get excited every time!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Father’s Day from your Mutt! Love you both!

Dear Working Mom

By: Ashley Whisonant

Dear working mom,

I know you are exhausted.

You wake up extra early to pack lunches, book bags, pick out clothes, check homework, or gather after-school activity gear. You probably also notice the toys on the living room floor, the left over dishes from dinner last night, or the toy you promised to fix last night. Don’t get discouraged.

I know you feel like a failure most days – same here. The feeling of not being 100% at work or home, it’s a constant battle. The guilt you feel if you do have a successful, full day at work, but then miss an activity at preschool for the kids. Why can’t you finally figure out a halloween-cupcakesway to volunteer at 9:30 in the morning to make stick horses AND get to work by 8:30? Don’t get discouraged.

Let’s not even start on Pinterest. Pinterest is basically a working mother’s worst nightmare. You are addicted to the cute and perfect snacks and art projects. When can I fit this in my already-over-extended day? I would LOVE to make graveyard cupcakes with tombstones for my boys’ preschool classes – sure. Let me try and do this after working all day, cleaning up from dinner, and trying to be present to my boys, after baths and bedtime. It’s okay to just buy cupcakes for the party. Really, it is. Don’t get discouraged.

I know there are times you feel selfish. Wanting just a free night or weekend away. The voice in the back of your head telling you, “How can you leave your precious babies when you are already gone all day?” “A dedicated mother would never do that!” Don’t get discouraged.

Being a working mother is tough. Don’t get discouraged. You are enough for your children. They think you are amazing. Keep reminding yourself that you are amazing.

Sincerely yours,

A fellow working mom