Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The D.E.A.N.A Foundation

A couple of months ago, I posted big news here on my blog. We have had a few really great board meetings now and are well on our way to getting this foundation established! I want to give you all a quick update on the progress we've made!

One of our first items of business was to name our Foundation. We wanted to choose a name that represented our mission while also paying tribute to the person who has inspired this foundation: my mom. We tossed around several ideas and the name we have elected is The D.E.A.N.A Foundation [The Dementia Expense And Nursing Assistance Foundation].

The purpose of this foundation is as described in our mission statement:

"Our mission at the Deana Foundation is to provide financial relief to middle class families affected by dementia. We understand the emotional and financial burden this disease places on families caring for their loved one. We strive to ease these burdens by providing emotional support, resources, and caregiving grants."

Establishing a foundation is not a small undertaking. This isn't an amateur idea that came to me in passing. I've spent many hours pondering and researching how to make this vision happen (as have the other board members). This is going to be a legit foundation and I hope to reach thousands, even millions, of people down the road. There are a lot of formalities in establishing a foundation (I won't bore you with all the details); I'm excited to say that we have completed the first big chunk, which is to write the foundation's Articles of Incorporation and by laws. I am forever grateful to our board member, Melissa, who has spent a lot of time figuring this part out. Because of her hard work, we were able to sign and mail in our Articles of Incorporation to the Secretary of State last week! This step approves our foundation name and establishes us as a non-profit charity. As soon as we hear back, we will be ready to file our tax exempt paperwork, get our taxpayer ID number and be ready to get this party started!!

Some other things we are working on include: a foundation logo, vision boards for our website, marketing and brainstorming ideas for our grand opening event. We still have a few seats open on the board, if anyone would like to serve with us! Living closeby is great but not necessary; in the future I would love to see this foundation reach across the country!

That's my update for now. I just want you all to know that things are moving along...it wasn't just an idea that has passed! It is very much happening. It's just a long process to get going. Please continue to share my blog on your social media sites and with those around you and help to get the word out! I am very hopeful that we will be able to make a difference in many lives through The D.E.A.N.A Foundation!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No Way Out

For the past couple of months, mom has been trying to escape the house. She's pretty sneaky too. Some days she waits in the back of the house, sweater on and purse in hand, and then pops around the corner and makes a mad dash for the door before anyone can stop her. Some days she sneaks through the garage door and opens it up and runs out. She has even tried going through the backyard; she can't figure out the lock on the gate but she has actually gone so far as to try and hop the brick wall!!

We've always got to be two steps ahead of mom. After my dad leaves in the morning, he unplugs the garage door opener. The gates are locked; mom's only escape route now is the front door. What we've been doing is guarding the door; as soon as we see mom come down the hall, we park ourselves in front of the door and do not let her through. You can imagine how tedious that task can be...sitting in a chair in front of the door for sometimes hours on end! One day, she was giving my Tia an especially hard time about getting out and my poor Tia was very stressed out. My brother-in-law went over to help her and my mom body slammed him against the wall in an attempt to break free! Guarding the door was obviously a temporary solution as we brainstormed other options.

We thought about putting a lock on the top of the door on the inside. The problem with that would be if mom somehow figured it out; no doubt she'd lock out her caregivers. We attempted a childproof lock-the plastic circle kind that goes over the doorknob. My sister-in-law brought one over on her first day watching my mom. Mom hit that plastic child lock until it finally snapped off the doorknob!

My dad is a pretty smart guy. He came up with a good solution. Duh, why didn't I think of that? (Nevermind the rust on the screen door ;) )

Now, when a caregiver arrives, they have a key to lock themselves inside. Mom doesn't understand the concept of unlocking from the inside, so for now we can rest easy knowing that she can't escape outside without us. Let's hope she doesn't get too creative in finding another way out!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Matters Most

I absolutely love the holiday season. The changing seasons, the chill in the air, the scents of pumpkin and holiday spices, the feeling of gratitude and helping others in need...I love everything about this season-from October until January.

Now that Halloween and October birthdays are over, I decided to get focused on Christmas! I know...can't the turkey have his holiday? ;) I really want to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving so that I can sit back and truly enjoy all the holiday traditions and festivities that the season brings. I don't want to have to think about shopping after November! Yesterday, while my kids were at school and my youngest was at his preschool group, I decided to tackle some Christmas shopping. I love Christmas presents, and not for materialistic reasons. I really enjoy finding that "perfect" gift for the people I love. I love seeing their faces when they open up their gifts that I've carefully selected that I know they'll love. I love gifts because I love giving.

While driving to my shopping destinations yesterday, I was alone in my thoughts. It's a rare occasion that I drive anywhere alone; those quiet moments always cause me to pause and reflect. My thoughts quickly turned to my mom. Last year, we had a pretty good feeling that it was our last Christmas with mom knowing what the holiday was. Given that she hasn't been remembering any of our birthdays over the past few months, I am doubtful that she will have any clue about what the upcoming holidays represent. I was remembering the beautiful quilt I made her last year and how excited I was to give it to her. I was very proud of that perfect gift I had created for her. And then my thoughts turned to a day, not too long ago, when I was at mom's house. She was sitting on her bed in her usual silence, arms folded across her stomach. I tried to strike up a conversation with her and reached for the blanket that was folded up on dad's side of the bed. I spread the quilt across the two of us and pointed to some pictures of her grandkids.

"Remember this blanket I made for you last Christmas? Who are these people on here, mom. Do you remember?" I asked, pointing at the square with my son's face printed on.

Mom wouldn't meet my eyes nor would she look at the blanket. She seemed agitated that I was bothering her with incessant chatter.

"No, that goes there," she finally responded, grabbing the quilt from me and tossing it back to my dad's side of the bed.

As I reflected on this, driving in my car on my way to pick out those perfect gifts, I thought about all of the perfect gifts I have selected for my mom over the years. Though they were meaningful in the moment, they mean nothing to her now. They hold no value or significance to mom any longer. All of the material things that she owns in life- every gift she's received and everything she has worked so hard to buy for herself- no longer holds meaning for her (save it be her blow dryer, make up, and a few other daily objects that she uses). What makes it even harder is that not only do the "things" we've gotten her no longer matter, but even the memories of them are fading; the memory of why each of her belongings are significant.

As this realization hit me, my perspective changed just a little. I spend so much time thinking about getting the perfect gift and giving people "things" that will make them happy. At the end of the day, is that what really matters? I'm not saying that it's not important to me; I still love giving personal gifts to my loved ones and seeing that look of happiness when they open their gift. But thinking about my mom was a reminder to me to focus on what matters most: spending time and making memories with the people I love. I am excited to get those special gifts and by Thanksgiving, I'd like to have them all wrapped and ready to place under the Christmas tree so that I can devote the rest of my energy on making the season special for those around me. We can't take our material things with us when we die. My mom has already reached the point where those material things don't matter. Unfortunately even her memories are leaving her. But I believe that one day, all of those memories will be restored. Traditions, time spent with loved one, lifting those up around us, making memories...that is what matters the most!