Tuesday, April 30, 2013


This is a somewhat of a hard post to write, because it is so personal for me. But in sharing the journey of dementia, I think it is a very essential post to write and share with others who are on a similar journey.

Around the holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), I started to feel very down and even depressed. I think a big part of it was the time of year, and not having mom “there” throughout the season. I felt a sense of loneliness in my Christmas baking and holiday planning. I found myself just wishing and waiting for the holidays to finally be over. For those who know me, you know that this is not typical for me. At all. I LOVE the holidays and everything they have to offer: traditions, festivities, music…

By the end of December, I knew that I needed to do something about my situation. I found myself on the verge of tears nearly everyday over seemingly little things: I didn’t have enough butter to make the batch of cookies I wanted to bake or I couldn’t find the kids shoes as I was rushing to get them off for school in the morning. I couldn’t vocalize what I was feeling because if I did, I knew I would break down. Nobody likes a cry baby.

I’ve been taking my step-daughter and my adopted daughter (formerly a niece) to therapy for a few years now, just to help them to overcome some of the obstacles they’ve faced in their short lives and to have a safe place to express how they are feeling. I knew that it was probably time to see a therapist myself.

I fought it for quite some time. I was worried about having a stigma attached to me for having to see a shrink. I didn’t want them to push medications as a solution for how I was feeling. I told myself that this was a mind-over-matter kind of situation…I just needed to be stronger. But try as I might, I just couldn’t shake off the sadness that hung over me like a dark cloud.

By January, I finally picked up the phone and made myself an appointment to see a therapist. I told them I wanted someone who specialized in grief counseling, and they set me up for an appointment the next week [I will refer to her as Dr. K]. I kept this a secret; only my husband knew that I was going (and eventually one other person). I wasn’t ready for anyone to know.

I felt very anxious at my first meeting with Dr. K. As I sat in the waiting room, I almost felt like there was a target on me and that everyone was staring at me. I don’t know why…I certainly DO NOT think any less of anyone who needs to see a counselor. For some reason, when it came to myself, it was hard to admit that I needed help.

The meeting went well. Dr. K was very sympathetic and very compassionate. I opened up and shared some of my deep feelings. She sat and listened thoughtfully, occasionally offering some words of wisdom and asking questions. The question that sticks out the most in my mind was,

“Do you ever let yourself have a good cry? I mean, just really let it out?” 

I sat back and thought about that for a minute. The answer was “no”. I knew that it was good to let it out sometimes. But I had been so focused on being strong that I realized I was suppressing all of my emotions and not giving them a release. We talked some more throughout that session about the importance of grieving and allowing myself to cry and “let it all out”. She told me how important it was to do some things for myself-get out for an evening by myself or with a friend or on a date night; allow myself to read a book or have a hobby. I struggle with this as I try to balance my load: my family, my marriage, my 5 children, my mom and my dad; the list goes on. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking time out and doing things for myself-it almost feels selfish. But what Dr. K helped me to realize is that it is not selfish to take time for myself, it is essential. Essential for my emotional well being and essential for my family (you know that saying…if mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy!)

I met with Dr. K a few more times until a new realization dawned on me: that I was going to be okay. I realized that when I let myself have a good cry, I don’t feel as depressed. I realized that it’s okay to let myself breathe. I can take time for myself and not feel guilty about it! Most of all, I realized that I have a strong network of people in my life that I can lean on for support. I realized that while I was paying Dr. K to listen to me (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is necessary), I have a small group of people in my life who I feel safe with; who I can vent to, cry on, lean on and depend on to help get me through the hard times (and at no cost!). I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before! I guess it took talking to a complete stranger to figure it out. But I am grateful for those close friends and family members who love me unconditionally and allow me to be myself-rain or shine-and give me support on this journey.

This road with mom is always going to be bumpy. It’s always going to hurt. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier. I know that and I am doing my best to prepare for that. And I am no longer afraid to let myself have a good cry (even if it is only in my closet! ;) )

I would say to any of my readers who struggle with the idea of seeing a therapist: give it a try. You may find that it helps you to keep some sanity and to learn some coping techniques. Or, you may discover that you’ve had the tools you needed all along.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dad’s Birthday

Today we celebrate dad’s 53 years of life. Although most of our celebrating was yesterday. We kept it simple this year by going out to dinner at the Spaghetti Factory (without kids!!) and going back to dad’s house to play our favorite family card game: Scat. Dad has been itching to get a group together to play Scat for a while. What better time than his birthday? To help us celebrate, dad’s sister and husband came,  my brother and sister came with their spouses and our family friends, the Klamms, also joined us.

Mom still remembers important dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries, so she knew dad’s birthday was coming up. I prepped her days in advance that we would be going out to dinner to celebrate. Knowing mom’s rigid routine, we planned to leave early (I told her we would swing by and pick them up at 5:00) and dad chose the Spaghetti Factory knowing that at least one of mom’s favorites was on the menu: tortellini.

Of the few foods mom loves to eat, tortellini is among them. But not just tortellini…she must have her frozen mixed vegetables smothered in ‘Smart Balance’ and garlic. Lots of garlic.

Last Monday I told mom where we were going; she couldn’t remember The Old Spaghetti Factory. I described the restaurant to her and explained that they had her favorite tortellini there, but she still could not remember. And she was concerned about what foods they would have there that she would like. Later that same morning, as were shopping in Target, mom went down the refrigerated food aisle and pointed out the “same kind” of tortellini that she loves to buy. I took that as my golden opportunity to explain to her that the package she was pointing to was exactly the kind of food that would be at the restaurant for dad’s birthday. A couple rounds of repetition and mom understood what I was saying.

Saturday morning, I called mom to remind her about dinner that night. She remembered and was prepared to go.

No sooner than I pulled out of my driveway, at 5:04 pm, did I get a call on my cell phone from mom.

“Cassandra, I thought you said you were coming to get us at 5:00. It’s getting too late for dinner and I need to eat, we need to go. Are you coming?” she said, hardly pausing to take a breath.

“I’m in my car and on my way to get you mom,” I told her.

“But you said you were going to be here at 5:00, why aren’t you here yet?”

“I’m coming mom, I’m in my car,” I repeated.

“What? You said you’re coming now? But why aren’t you here yet? You said 5:00,” she whined.

“It’s only 5:04 mom. I will be there in 3 minutes. Look at your clock and I will be there in 3 minutes,” I said, as my husband chuckled in the driver’s seat next to me.

“Are you coming down my street now? Are you at that stop sign place now? Where are you?”

I firmly, yet calmly, told her again that I would be there very soon and that I was going to hang up the phone. A couple minutes later, we pulled into the driveway to see mom’s face peering out the curtains at the living room window. I walked in to let my dad know we were there (as if my mom wasn’t going to let him know!) and mom pushed us out the door, complaining that,

“It’s getting too late for dinner.”

I felt a bit uneasy as I watched mom walk out the front door with a plastic bag. A quick peek inside the bag confirmed my suspicions: a container of mixed vegetables and a can of diet Root Beer.

We’ve had this problem before: mom trying to bring her own food into a restaurant. A couple years ago we took mom to her favorite steak house and she brought out her own can of Root Beer and started pouring it into a cup. The waitress told her she couldn’t bring in her own drinks and mom carried about her business, pouring the soda, not seeming to hear a word she said. We tried to tell mom that she couldn’t bring in her own drink and she became a little hostile with us, insisting that she could too bring her own drink because they didn’t have anything she liked. This incident was before her diagnosis, so weren’t quite sure how to handle it back then (it was at the time that we were suspecting her behavior was due to brain damage from her surgery). In the end, the waitress had let her keep her soda, but let us know that it would not be allowed in the next time.

I was nervous about the confrontation that would likely ensue at the restaurant. Not only was she bringing in a soda, but mixed vegetables! This wasn’t going to be pretty.

We conversed in the car-my brother, Joe, his wife, Natalie, my dad, husband and myself-about the situation. It was decided that it might be best to just explain the situation to the hostess or waitress when we arrived at the restaurant and hope that they would be accommodating. I felt skeptical.

After we checked in and everyone took a seat in the lobby while they prepped our table, I approached the host and explained the situation. He told me he would need to consult with his manager.

Great. My nerves took over as I stood waiting for the manager to come up. I didn’t want a confrontation with my mom. I didn’t want to put a damper on dad’s birthday. I wondered if we should have just tried to sneak the food in (the problem with that is that mom is not very inconspicuous about it).

The manager came to the front desk and my Aunt came to my side in support. It helps that she’s a nurse. I figured I could try to use that to my advantage if needs be…she assured me they could not discriminate her disability. I felt more confident with her by my side.

I first told the manager that we were there to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and then I explained that my mom had dementia and that with this dementia comes certain obsessions. One obsession is her food. I told her that mom planned to order the tortellini but that she must have her mixed vegetables to go with it. She also has to have to her Mug Root Beer, which most restaurants do not carry (she despises Barqs Root Beer). I told the manager that we tried to talk her out of bringing food in, but that she lacks comprehension of what we are telling her.

For a minute, I thought she was going to turn us away. But relief soon swept over me as she said,

“That is not a problem at all, don’t even worry about it. You don’t ever have to worry about that at all when you come to the Spaghetti Factory.”

Confrontation averted! We thanked her and went about our evening, enjoying dad’s birthday dinner. Mom happily dumped her veggies onto her plate of tortellini, giving it a good stir before devouring it in minutes.

I even got a picture of mom and dad. I have to say, this is one of the best pictures I’ve gotten of them over the past several years. I think mom looks quite pretty and more like herself than I’ve seen in a very long time.

dads bdayI just want to say, one more time, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my awesome dad. The past few years have been really hard for our family, beginning with the loss of my grandparents…then the diagnosis of my mom. The past couple months have been especially difficult for our family, due to other circumstances. Losing my mom has been gradual over the past few years, but each day seems harder and harder and she slips away more and more. And I know the person who suffers the most is my dad. I hope that he was able to enjoy himself for all of his birthday festivities. And I am also very glad that mom was able to be there with us, even with all her quirks!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Perfect Birthday Gift

Today I took mom out to Target to buy a few household essentials and to shop for dad’s birthday, which is this upcoming weekend. I wasn’t sure how this would go. For those faithful readers of mine, you can understand why I would be a little apprehensive about gift shopping with mom, after our Christmas shopping experience.

As usual, mom had a list ready to go when I picked her up. She generally makes her list by looking at the labels of the product she wants; sometimes there is no empty bottle to look at and she has to write down from memory what it is she wants. This usually requires much interpretation. Among the items she needed was Lysol toilet bowl cleaner, window soap, sink spray, dishwasher soap, fruit and table soap. On our way out, I made a quick call to my dad, just to double check how he wanted me to have mom pay for this. He asked about her list and I told him the items which were on it. He informed me that she already had Lysol toilet bowl cleaner in the laundry room cupboard. In fact, she had bought a 4-pack the last time he took her out to run errands. I turned to mom and let her know that she still had plenty of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner at home. Immediately, she took my words as an attack; she seemed only to hear the words “you don’t need to buy that”…the rest of my words were lost in space. She became angry and agitated with me,

“I do too need that. Your dad doesn’t let me buy what I need, my kind is better than the kind he buys too. I wish you wouldn’t call him when you take me out, you guys don’t support me!”

I tried explaining that dad was fine with her buying the other items on the list-and he was fine with Lysol for that matter-they simply didn’t need it. Eventually, after a lot of back and forth about it, she seemed to be catching on to what I was saying.

“Laundry room, what? Laundry room? Bathroom, living room, laundry room…what? I’m trying to think, laundry room.”

I explained to her what the laundry room is…"the place where you wash your clothes” and after several minutes of deliberation, mom remembered what the laundry room is.

“I don’t remember ever seeing any in there. There isn’t any in that front room too. I haven’t seen any.”

I reassured her (over and over again) that the Lysol was in the laundry room cupboard. Eventually she gave up the fight, though she seemed skeptical that the Lysol really was in the cupboard. But not another word was said about the Lysol toilet bowl cleaner.

As we pulled in to the Target parking lot, mom’s finger set on the seatbelt’s release button, I urged her not to run ahead of me.

“Please wait for me mom, I’d like to shop with you.”

To my great surprise, she actually waited for me this time outside the car while I got my boys out of their car seats. She walked with me into the store and I explained to her that I needed to make a really quick exchange at the customer service desk.

“I don’t know why I can’t just go shop around here, why I have to wait for you.” And with that, mom grabbed a shopping cart and took off down the aisle towards the house cleaning products, leaving me struggling in the return line with my two little boys.

It took about 10 minutes for me to get through the return and find my mom. She was right where I figured she’d be-in the cleaning aisle, concentrating on her list. Only one item had made it into her cart in that lapse of time (the “sink spray”). She struggled to remember what dishwashing soap is (and what a dishwasher is) and was looking for the window soap. I grabbed a bottle of Windex from a nearby shelf as she inspected it. She then asked me where to find the table soap. I figured she must be talking about dust spray, so we made our way to the back aisle and I picked out a can of dust spray for her.

“Where does that say table soap on it??…I hope that’s the right thing,” she said.

When we were done with the list, I asked her if she had any ideas of what she wanted to get for dad for his birthday. Much to my surprise, she responded right away,

“I was thinking that card thing to that place he likes so much, Home Depot. He really likes to shop there too.”

“Perfect idea mom! He loves Home Depot.”

This was going to much easier than I thought!!

The only problem is, nothing is that easy when dealing with a person with dementia.

To start with, she was very objectionable about my suggestion to walk next door to Home Depot to buy the gift card. She was insistent that she could buy the card at Stater Bros. (our local grocery store).

“Mom, I’m not going to Stater Bros. We are already here and you can buy the gift card here. I’ll show you.”

She finally gave in to my coaxing to get the gift card at Home Depot. But not without questioning me further,

“How do you know they sell it here? I hope they have it here.”

I led the way to cash register and showed her the display of gift cards. I picked out a nice one with a picture of a heart made out of tools. Wrong move. Mom did not recognize it as a gift card and rejected it.

“No, that’s not what I’m looking for, no! I want to go to Stater Bros, that’s where the really good ones are. This isn’t what I want.”

I tried to keep calm and patiently explain to her that it’s the same thing. I quickly put the heart-pictured gift card back and picked up the standard, Home Depot gift card-the one I knew she would recognize.


She took the card from me and inspected it carefully.

“Where does it say this is a gift card? No, this isn’t the one I buy. Where does it say the money on it? This isn’t what I buy. I don’t want to buy this one, no. I’ll go to Stater Bros.”

I was getting frustrated, but it doesn’t do any good to lose patience. Instead, I pulled the cashier over and asked her if she could confirm to my mom that what she held was indeed a gift card.

“Yes, that is a gift card,” she said with a smile.

“See mom, it’s exactly what you’re looking for.”

“No. Where does it say the money on it? This isn’t the same, no,” she continued.

Back and forth we went as I tried to keep my cool. I told her that she would be better off to get it there because I wasn’t going to Stater Bros, and besides-she didn’t want dad to see what she was getting for him. I led her to the register to pay as she continued to protest and as I continued to reassure her that this was what she wanted to get him. She kept resisting because the price wasn’t on the card (it was the type where you tell the cashier how much to put on). I  asked mom what amount she was looking for and she told me her price. I asked the cashier to please write the amount on the card as to satisfy mom. She finally seemed okay with the card and paid for it. *Whew!*

I thought it would be nice to take mom to lunch and made the suggestion to her. I tried this with her last week as well. She insisted that she would go home to have her “really good sandwich” and try as I might, I could not convince her to go to lunch with me :(

“Mom, you never want to go to lunch with me anymore. I miss going to lunch with you…won’t you go out to lunch with me?” I asked. She did not respond at all to what I said, but instead looked ahead out the front windshield. Over and over throughout our 10 minute drive home, I tried to get a response, and each time I got nothing in return.

So…no lunch date today. BUT, we accomplished the most important goal which was to get dad a birthday present from mom. And it wasn’t laundry soap!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Morning Humor

Mom is very resistant to having caregivers come over to her house. She thinks that she is fine and doesn’t understand why people need to be there with her. She will find any opportunity to let each of us [caregivers] know that we aren’t needed for our “shift”. Sometimes, she makes up her own opportunities, as you may have read about with our caregiver, Teresa. It comes as no surprise that she is at it again, this time using her ‘broken’ house an excuse.

My Uncle forwarded me this email from mom last night, asking if it was just another rouse from mom or if there was more to the story:


Our living room broke down and it is still a mess so you might not be able to come this week because it isn’t finished yet and there is nothing in the living room to sit on and other things are a mess.


Oh mom! I have to admit, I got a good chuckle out of that one. Mom sure is a sneaky one!!

[If you missed my post last night about the “severe emergency” over the weekend, you can find that here.]

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mom’s Severe Emergency

Thursday night, my dad received a phone call notifying him that our hours are up for the caregiver program we qualified for. Long story, but in a nutshell, the Alzheimer’s Association approved us for a program which allotted us a certain number of hours with a caregiver. We were under the impression that it was 30 hours a month from March until May. Apparently it was 30 hours total. So this left us without a caregiver on Friday.

Friday morning, I was prepping for my son’s birthday party that I was to be throwing on Saturday. The cupcakes had just gotten out of the oven and I was making another batch of airplane lollipops when my husband informed me that our family friend, Shaun, was going to stop by my parent’s house to get some roofing paper from dad’s garage. We’ve been working on a treehouse for our kids and the roof was the last thing to finish up before the birthday party (Shaun was helping with that part). Knowing my mom, Jeff suggested to me that I call her beforehand to let her know that Shaun was dropping by so that she wasn’t caught off guard. I figured that would be a good idea since she would likely not recognize Shaun when he showed up on her doorstep (on a side note…Shaun’s family has been friends with our family since I was a kid; our parents were best friends before his mom and dad moved away to Utah about 8 years ago).

I called mom and no sooner than I told her Shaun would be stopping by than she interrupted me,

“I’m having a severe emergency at our house right now. It’s so weird, weird things are happening and there’s things crashing down in the living room too and making really loud noises and stuff falling from the ceiling too and it’s real wet too. Everything is getting wet and I tried calling your dad and he’s not answering his phone.”

I tried to make sense of what she was telling me. I remembered a leak in a small area over the couch a few months ago during a rainy spell. I figured the leak must have returned somehow and that she was making a mountain out of a molehill; everything is severe to mom.

“Mom Shaun is coming by in a few minutes and he’ll check it out for you, okay? He’ll see what’s going on for you and fix something if there’s a problem,” I tried explaining to her.

“Shaun. Who is Shaun?” she asked.

We went back and forth for a few minutes as I tried to remind her who Shaun is. Again, I reassured her that he would be there very soon and would check out whatever was going on, but she was insistent that I come over.

“I just wish you would come see what’s going on right now.”

I had so much to get done for the birthday party, but I could tell that mom really wanted me to come over and assist her with her “severe emergency.” I finally told her that I would be there in 5 minutes. I hung up the phone, covered my cupcakes and was on my way out the door for what I figured would be a quick trip to soothe my mom.

My jaw dropped to the ground when mom opened the front door and I got a glimpse inside.

                                      ceiling 2

“Oh my gosh Mom!” I exclaimed, trying not to panic. I think I repeated myself several times as I stood in shock, trying to make sense of what I saw. Mom began rambling about how weird this was,

“I don’t know what all this stuff is…what happened there?…this is so weird…this has never happened before…and it’s so wet too, I can’t even walk to the kitchen…”

I noticed that water was spraying down the doorway that separates the living room from the kitchen. The floor was covered in water. I knew immediately that the water needed to be shut off.

As luck would have it, Shaun works in plumbing. I called him right away and asked him if he was on his way and (probably in a very panicked voice) told him what was happening. He told me how to shut off the water and I quickly found the valve and shut it off. I called my dad next and got his voicemail. I called my brother-in-law, who works with my dad, with no luck. I called my sister. No answer. I finally texted a picture to my sister and told her to have Melvin (her husband) call me right away. She responded quickly that she would call Melvin and Shaun and Stephani (Shaun’s wife) texted that they were just around the corner and coming as fast as they could!

Now that I knew help was coming, I knew I needed to get mom in a safe place. She kept making circles down the hallway and through her bedroom, which wraps around to a room addition that leads into the kitchen. I followed her around the house and urged her to come out and wait with me on the front porch. I wasn’t sure if there were any other weak spots in the ceiling and I didn’t want her to get hurt. Mom was concerned about the floor being so wet and ignored my pleas.

“I need to clean this up, it’s so wet too,” she said as she hopelessly tried mopping up inches of water off the floor. “I just don’t understand where all this water is coming from, it’s not even raining outside!”

After much coaxing and pleading, I was finally able to get her to abandon the mop and follow me out to the front door. My dad finally called me back and I told him we had a very serious situation and he was needed at home. When I told him the ceiling had fallen in, I think he was envisioning the same little spot over the couch that I had imagined when mom first told me of her severe emergency. He told me he was just finishing up at the tile store and was on his way.

Mom kept asking for dad and I reassured her (over and over) that he was on his way.

“Your dad is real good, he can fix that too. Are you sure you definitely talked to him? This is so weird…”

Within 5 minutes, Shaun and Stephani arrived as did my husband, Jeff, who just so happened to be home early from work that day. Right away, Shaun got a ladder and got up in that ceiling and figured out the source of the leak: the drip line that connected to the refrigerator. Once we figured that we were safe, and the rest of the ceiling wasn’t going to fall in on us, we quickly got to work cleaning up the remnants of the ceiling that had thrown up all over the living room. It was a huge, disgusting mess. Fortunately, not too much was damaged. A few picture frames met their end, and the bookcase housing the DVD’s busted, but dad’s brand new TV and the furniture survived with no damage (other than the nastiness of the ceiling that had splattered all over)

   ceiling 5    ceiling 3         ceiling 4

As soon as mom saw that people were there to help her, she noted that it was lunch time and made her way into the kitchen to make a sandwich. She was a little confused as to why there was no water on to rinse her tomato. She stood by the sink and ate her sandwich as we started cleaning up the mess. We brought in a large trash bin from outside and started shoveling ceiling innards and broken picture frames into the bin. The dust and the smell was so overwhelming that I found a couple of masks for Stephani and me to wear while we worked. My sister showed up shortly after and assisted us in cleaning up the waste and moving furniture out of the room; the “clean” stuff went into a bedroom while we wiped down DVD’s and other knick-knacks that were covered in mushy insulation. It was embedded in every nook and cranny and splattered as far as the walls in the hallway. What a mess to clean up!

By the time my dad arrived on scene, we had the bulk of the ceiling cleaned up off the floor and had started moving things out of the living room. I think it saved him from having a panic attack. Ha ha. He walked into the room and very thoughtfully and quietly looked up at the gaping hole in his ceiling. I was expecting some sort of a meltdown (he’d had a stressful week as it was!) but he handled it rather well. Right away, he got to work with us cleaning up the mess, repairing the water line and prepping the room to repair the ceiling. Thank goodness my dad is a handy man, he knows how to do it all! [It is now Sunday evening that I write this, and the entire living room ceiling has been replaced already!]

Mom eventually moseyed her way back into the living room and noticed the progress we had made in cleaning up the broken ceiling off the floor. I thought she would be happy to see the mess gone, but the gaping hole above her left her confused.

“What did you do with that stuff that goes up there? That stuff that was on the floor?” she asked, pointing to the empty floor.

“We threw it in the trash can, mom,” I answered, explaining that dad would get new boards to put in it’s place.

Mom didn’t understand. She shook her head.

“No, you can’t throw those things away. It needs to be fixed! That has to go back up there. You can’t leave that like that, you have to put that stuff back up there. We can’t have that like that!”

Mom raced to the trash can and began looking through to find the pieces of the ceiling in an effort to put it back together again. I tried to break it down simply for her.

“That part of the ceiling is broken Mom. Dad is going to get a new ceiling and fix it. Don’t worry, there won’t be a hole for long.”

She wasn’t satisfied with our answers and explanations, but dad was finally able to convince her to go play a game on the computer while we finished cleaning up the mess. A couple minutes later she returned to the living room with a birthday balloon in hand.

“Cassandra you forgot to take this round thing too for Ryder’s birthday. Please take it, will you take it?”

“I’m really busy cleaning right now but if you leave it in the front bedroom I will take it home with me later,” I replied.

“Huh? No, you need to take this. You forgot it the other day. Here, take it…” she continued to argue with me about the balloon as I was in the midst of cleaning up the mess. Stephani took the balloon from her and told her we would keep it “right here” (in the corner) until we were ready to leave. That settled mom down for a few more minutes, until she came out once again to declare to all,

“Well, it’s my naptime now so I hope you all won’t be real loud too.”

We all chuckled and dad gently said,

“It’s gonna be loud. We have to fix this ceiling so it’s going to be loud for a little while. But you go lay down and rest.”

“Yeah it’s time for my nap. And thank you all you people who came to help me with all this,” she added, waving her arm around the rubble.

Thank the heavens above that mom was not hurt that day. It really could have been a lot worse. I am counting my lucky stars that mom was not in the living room when the ceiling came crashing down. I don’t want to think about the outcome had she been caught underneath that…with no caregiver there to help her! Thank goodness I called her that morning. I am so grateful to the friends and family who dropped what they were doing to come over right away and help out in mom’s severe emergency!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mom's "Scents"-ible Shopping Trip

Mom has been asking me for weeks now to take her JC Penney. She wants to buy my little guy an outfit for his birthday. I think the real motive for wanting to go to the mall was to stock up on some more Bath & Body Works lotions and sprays. Mom has an obsession with those bath gels and lotions. Her bathroom cabinet is FULL of them...seriously. FULL. There is no room for any more. It's been somewhat of pain for my dad as mom keeps stock piling more and more body products that have taken over not only all of the cabinet space, but now the counter as well.

The last time we all went to the mall together (about a month ago), mom tried to sneak off to buy more body products. Dad caught her though, and she didn't make her getaway to Bath & Body Works fast enough. She's been scheming to get there ever since. Dad eventually told her that she could buy some more of her "favorite kinds" of bath stuff if she agreed to get rid of some of the old stuff. Whether she understood that part of the deal or not, what she heard was that she was allowed to get some body gels!

Due to sick kids (and sick self), I haven't been over to mom's house the past 2 Mondays. I decided I'd make it up to her and take her out on a week night. I wasn't sure if she would resist, since she has a very strict routine of bed between 8 and 8:30. But she really wanted that body stuff, so she agreed to go after dinner last night.

My dad brought her over shortly after 6:00 pm. No sooner than he stopped his truck did mom excitedly hop out, with a huge grin on her face, ear to ear.

"I'm so happy, thank you for taking me and I have my bag here too for that store, what do you think I should do first? Should I go to pick out your son a toy or clothes or should I go upstairs first and go to that Bath store or you could look for something and I'll go upstairs and then I'll come back to you..."

On and on she went for the next 15 minutes in the car, incessantly chattering about how happy she was, how good it is for her to get out and shop (she used to go places all the time when she was a driver), asking what order we should run our errands in, and occassionally talking about memories of her childhood as we drove past memorable landmarks. I could hardly get a word in edgewise and if I did, she didn't seem to register what I was saying. But I was content to let her ramble; I was just glad that she was happy.

We pulled into the parking lot and mom, in her usual fashion, took off out of the car, racing upstairs to Bath & Body Works as if she was running a marathon! At one point I told her she was walking too fast and asked her to slow down. She responded with,

"No I'm okay. It's really good exercise for me to walk like this too."

After practically sprinting past all who stood between us and the store, we reached mom's destination. Each time she goes to Bath & Body Works, she brings her own bag from home-one that she has saved from the store a long time ago. I tried explaining that they will give her a new bag each time and she didn't need to save it, but she really wanted that bag. Hey-it saves the environment, right? ;)

Mom pulled out her list where she had written down the names of the scents that she loves. A couple have been discontinued but she found the other two scents which were sitting next to each other on the shelves. She held the shower gel and lotion in her hand, carefully studying the words on the label to be sure that was the item she needed. She was a little confused between the bath gel and the shower gel, and I confirmed to her that it was the shower gel she wanted. She didn't believe me and so she pulled out her glasses to read the label more carefully. She became confused when it came time to pick out the body spray. An associate who worked at the store came over to check on us. Mom wasn't responding to her offer to help, so I explained to the nice woman that mom was looking for the body spray. She explained to me that the packaging had changed but what mom held in her hands was indeed the body spray. I tried explaining this concept to mom. She wasn't catching on.

"Why does this say Bath & Body Works here too? That makes it sound like it's for the bath."

"Mom, that's the name of the store. See, it's on every bottle. They write the name of the store on every bottle, but this here says that it is body spray," I explained as I pointed to the labels on every bottle. After a couple more minutes of persausion and studying labels, mom finally concluded that she had selected the right products.

Whew, I thought. We're done! Not quite! Mom had only selected one of her favorite scents and she needed to choose her very favorite scent next: Warm Vanilla Sugar.

On and on we went again, sorting through lotions, bath and shower gels and body sprays. When she found exactly what she was looking for, she placed 3 of everything in her bag.

"Mom, I don't think you need 3 sets. That's a lot of money you're going to be spending," I said, suggesting that she buy only one complete set of the Warm Vanilla Sugar.

"No this is really good and I need it too. I use it so much and yes I need this too and I got this gift in the mail too," she argued, waving a 20% off coupon in front of my face.

We made our way to the front counter and mom took all of her loot out from the bag. In total, she had 4 shower gels, 4 body sprays, 5 lotions (one was a free gift for buying so much) and a travel sized lotion (which was a gift as well). I was becoming increasingly anxious at this point because I knew my dad was not going to be thrilled with the amount of unnecessary body products she was buying. And I was wondering how she was going to pay for all of this. She pulled out her coin bag and I saw a stack of $1 bills and one $5 bill.

"How much money do you have there mom?" I asked. "It doesn't look like it's going to be enough for all of this."

Mom very slowly counted her money, one-dollar bill at a time. She had $27. The grand total of her purchase, with her coupon, was $86.

"Mom, look at everything you have on the counter. You have more than 12 bottles here. Do you think $27 is going to be enough?"

Mom dumped some change into her hand.

"Tell me how much that is and then add this," she instructed the sale associate. "I have that other card too," she told me, referring to her credit card (which I wasn't certain dad wanted her to use).

I felt a little panicky; I wasn't quite sure how to handle the situation. I called dad, who (as suspected) was not thrilled about her attempted purchase. He told me to try and get her to put some back, but "if she makes a scene about it then let her get it and we'll deal with it later."

Deal with it later: this means that mom won't be allowed to go to Bath & Body Works for a long time. Dad thinks that she has to learn to do what we tell her to or else there are consequences. This is the perfect approach for a child. And since mom is very childlike, it seems logical. Unfortunately, mom is not teachable with this disease. I told my dad (later on that night) that the best approach is to limit her access to the money. The cards need to be taken away and she needs a cash allowance. It's complicated; it's not as simple as it sounds.

Back to the counter: I tried to coax mom into putting some of the Warm Vanilla Sugar sets back. The sale associate (who was wise to the situation) told mom that she would hold it for her until she came back "next time." I told her it would be there for a long time, why not come back and get it when she runs out of it? No amount of convincing would do for mom.

"No, I can get all this. I need this, no." Then she turned her face from me and glared at me from the corner of her eye, adding, "You guys need to just quit picking on me!" as she pushed all of the products forward to the associate.

I stood by and let mom move forward with the purchase, swallowing the lump in my throat. How did we get to this point? It just doesn't make sense that I would have to stand by and watch my mom-a grown woman, the woman who raised me and taught me all I know-struggle with a seemingly simple concept such as how much money it takes to buy an item (or 12). It is hard to reverse the roles and have to act like a mom to my own mother. And even harder because somewhere deep down she senses what is going on and feels like I am disrespecting her. It breaks my heart.

After paying for her abundance of body products, mom swiftly led the way out of the store and back down to JC Penney. She wandered around the kid's sections; I'm not exactly sure what she was looking for. But it was obvious that she wanted me to select something for her to buy for my son. I chose an outfit and we were on our way. I wanted to go to the Children's Place to buy my boys some much-needed summer clothes. But mom became anxious at the mere suggestion and took her phone out of her purse to check the time.

"It's already getting so late, oh my gosh it's already 7:30. I need to be home. It's not good for me to be out so late and I have to be back by 8:00 for getting ready for bed and other things too." [By other things, she means medicine time].

I knew it was a battle I would surely lose, so instead of shopping for my boys, we made our way to the car. I decided I could go shopping another time; it was more important to end the evening on a good note. And mom was happy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A little update

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great Easter holiday. My twin brother and his family came to visit and were so kind to leave us a present: the stomach flu. I, and my kids, have been battling the bug since Easter night. It started with me and every 48 hours someone else in the household catches it...I feel like it's NEVER GONNA END!!!!!

Needless to say, I have been consumed taking care of myself and my kids and I haven't been over to my mom's. I definitely don't want her catching what we all have...she would absolutely think she is dying!

Strange to say, but I'm feeling a little bit of withdrawals from not going over to help mom. She has been wanting me to take her to the mall. She has $4 left on her JC Penney gift card and it is burning a hole in her pocket!! She wants me to take her to pick out some clothes for my birthday boy, who will be 2 this Saturday. I was actually looking forward to taking her today and regretted having to call her to cancel. Surprisingly, she seemed to understand why I had to cancel (I was dreading the phone call due to her lack of comprehension). I suppose it is because I talked to her a couple of times last week already when the rest of us were puking. Hopefully everyone will be well tomorrow and I can take her on her shopping spree then!

Last week, I called to check in with her on Wednesday. She told me how "that girl" (aka caretaker Teresa) took her to walk up the street to the Dollar Tree where she stocked up on birthday cards for the grandkids. She also described to me what she had gotten for Ryder's upcoming birthday.

"I got him one of those things that's round and it goes up-it says 'Happy Birthday' on it-it goes up in the air, one of those things."

If you guessed balloon then your guess was as good as mine. As it turns out Ryder LOVES balloons and wants me to give him one every single time we go into that darn Dollar Tree! I assured mom he would be very happy with his gift.

Just another quick update here: after my post about mom refusing to let in the caregiver, and a repeat of that when my Aunt and Uncle went over a few days later, my dad went out and bought a lock box! We now have a secret code that will access the caregivers to a house key. No more phone calls from caregivers who are stranded outside the house for half an hour or more before mom will open the door!

More blogging to come...have a great week!