Dignity and discretion with dementia at the doctor

I had two experiences with my mom at two different appointments with doctors this week.

First, we saw a new neurologist to evaluate her worsening dementia and see what we could do to reduce frightening hallucinations and worrisome delusions.

I called ahead of time to ask if I could speak to the doctor alone at the beginning of the appointment and the scheduler confirmed that I could do that. I arrived with records and notes.

The doctor came into the waiting room and loudly announced “So the daughter wants to meet with me first.”

Just because someone is suffering from dementia does not mean that they have lost their humanness. They should be respected and treated with compassion and discretion. I can’t help but wonder if my mom knew that we were in there discussing her, but thankfully, on this particular day, I think that she was quite unaware. Continue reading Dignity and discretion with dementia at the doctor

Finding a Caregiver

There are good caregivers out there to help you. There are also many awful ones. If you had small children at one time, you were most likely very particular about selecting a babysitter for them. Caring for seniors is no different.

I have gone through six different caregiver agencies. If you are hiring, you have the best chance to get a good caregiver if you can offer them the same hours every week. I cannot do that. I need someone if I have grocery shopping to do or if one of my children needs to be driven somewhere. I cannot predict each week when things are  going to come up so I get the caregivers who are either the new ones without regular clients or the floaters who pick up hours with clients such as myself. Money is an issue and I cannot afford to hire someone for hours when I do not need a helper. Continue reading Finding a Caregiver

Snapshots from Today

Today I intercepted my diabetic dad as he tried to eat a dog treat, thinking it was a cookie. He still wanted to eat it after I told him it was for the dog.

I saw my mom trying to get up from the dinner table and asked her if she was ready to get up, so that I could assist. She answered that she would come whenever the dentist wanted them. I told her we didn’t have an appointment tonight. Not sure what she was thinking. We have not mentioned the dentist in ages.

She sat at the table for a few more minutes with my  dad and then she tried to get up again.  I asked her if she wanted a hand and she asked me if the foot bath was ready. We have never done a foot bath and I never figured out what she meant. Continue reading Snapshots from Today

My Little Red Mittens

The last few days have been particularly challenging from my perspective as a caregiver. Mom has been lost in a sea of confusion. She does not appear to be aware of it or distressed. She continues to say things that are just not grounded in reality.

I ran into her room this morning as soon as the motion detection sensor went off. The first thing she told me was that she did not sleep in her room last night. If she had slept somewhere else, the alarms would have indicated her movement. The next thing she told me was that a man came into her room and slept in there all night. Again, if someone had come into her room, the alarms would have sounded.

Later in the day we tried to do crossword puzzles but she was too confused to process any info. The conversation turned to knitting and she was an avid and skilled knitter for decades. I told our visitor that mom had made me many mittens over the years. She looked at me and told me that she didn’t remember that. I thought that perhaps if I found a pair for her to hold, the tactile and visual stimulation would be enough to elicit a memory.FullSizeRender

Continue reading My Little Red Mittens

Poop Happens

It is challenging for me to figure out how to best deal with bathroom issues of two aging parents, both of whom have some level of incontinence and dementia.

When a child in diapers has had a “big blow out” you can peel off their clothes in the shower and wipe them down, give them a bath, wash out their clothing and get them put back together.

I am trying to figure out how to save the dignity of my parents when they are in similar situations. Continue reading Poop Happens

Motor (Muscle) Memory

You don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but motor, or muscle, memory is a part of everything we do. You probably open the door or curtain of the shower with the same hand every morning.  You step in the shower with the same foot. You reach for whatever product it is that you use first, and wash and rinse in the same order without stopping to think about it. If you don’t feel well, you have probably also noticed that you may stumble into the shower because you stepped in with the other foot first. You may grab the soap instead of the shampoo. You feel like your game is off.

Throughout the day, your common movements are all done with muscle memory. You might grab your cell phone first and put it into your right pocket. Next you pick up the briefcase with your left hand while grabbing the car keys with the right at the same time. Muscle memory allows us to move through live with a certain fluidity without thinking about each step. There is much info available about muscle memory as it relates to playing musical instruments or exercise routines. Continue reading Motor (Muscle) Memory

Another conversation with Mom: “People stinking up the room”

One morning, my mom awoke very sullen. As the day went on, she continued to be quiet and looked quite angry and annoyed. She asked that we go into a room where we could not be overheard and I knew I was in for another one of these sessions where she just reads me the riot act. And to that effect she did not disappoint.

She told me that whatever kind of boarding house I am running here is my business. (It is no boarding house and there are few visitors because most of my time is spent caring for her. All is calm and quiet.) She said she was up all night with the people I have sublet the house to.  They come out of the wall in the back of her closet at night and there are 30-40 people stinking up the room and she cannot sleep. All night long there is a lady who holds one or two fingers in the air to let them know how many bathrooms are free. They are using not only her bathroom, but a secret bathroom in the same hallway that my husband has been quietly putting in so that no one will know; there is no “secret bathroom” that my husband has been working on. Continue reading Another conversation with Mom: “People stinking up the room”

Tactile Misperception

I am learning on the job, so to speak, while caring for two parents who have different kinds of dementia.

My mom’s case is more complex. She displays what I would call “tactile misperception.” These misperceptions are often alarming to her and she will yell in fear or anger. She often spends hours, if not days and even weeks, stuck on the same one. In some cases they get recycled.

Here are a few examples.

Upon taking out my mom’s hearing aids, she will shout “watch out” as she cups her hands and tells me that they are falling apart and I should catch the pieces. Then she hands me imaginary pieces and asks if I have gotten them. Continue reading Tactile Misperception

Pack your bags! Traveling with seniors

Pack your bags!

Traveling with seniors is much like traveling with young children.  You must pack your car with important items in case of emergency.

Your car will be have quite a number of items but if you break down once or get into an accident you will be so glad that you were prepared!

Update your bag regularly with the most recent medication list and be sure that your snacks are kept up to date. Re-supply the water bottles as needed.

Reinforcing memories & bringing the past alive

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative.

One day, my daughter was asking my mom what kinds of toys she played with in the 1940’s. My mom replied that she did not have many toys at all, but she and her friend spent hours playing with paper dolls of a certain movie star. I found the dolls on eBay and bought them for her. The originals were framed for her room. Before I framed them, I scanned one, printed it out and laminated it, so that she could use it as a bookmark or little memento.

Our world today is so different than the world of someone who grew up during the Great Depression. We are swimming in material items, many of them new and it can be overwhelming.

Find a mixing bowl or decorative item that is a blast from their past. Second hand stores can often be just the place to find just the item that will evoke a happy memory.

If your loved one has been uprooted and lives many miles from where they grew up, a subscription to their local hometown paper could be a source of great delight. Continue reading Reinforcing memories & bringing the past alive