Laughter

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”. -Robert Frost

This week, I choose to laugh. I think when you watch a loved one disappear on a microscopic level every day you can decide that you will be sad, fearful, overwhelmed or depressed. I am all of these at times, but the need for a laugh will awaken your senses, bring things back in perspective and get you back on track. 

This is what made me laugh in the past week:

We found my Mom’s remote for her TV. We bought a great new TV for Mom when she moved in and within ten days, she lost the remote. I have looked high and low for this remote. In a memory care unit, things disappear and I am totally understanding of this. Almost every day I have searched and checked with the nursing staff, finally giving up and just keeping her channel on WCCO, her favorite channel.  Last week, her phone rang when I was there and she used the remote (!!!) to answer. I looked at her table and both the phone and remote were there again. After five months and all that searching, it has showed up. Just like it was always there.

For months now, when I have visited, her clock has been on the floor. I keep thinking she has been messing with it and just doesn’t pick it up or she is tripping over the cord. When I called last week, she said there was a man in her room and they were talking. I could tell she wasn’t annoyed but I wasn’t sure if it bothered her so I called the front desk and they got him out. That was my first clue. When I went last week, I found him in her room again and he was attempting to take her clock. Mystery solved. He was very sweet and when I spoke to the nurses, he used to be an engineer. I think he was very interested in her clock and now I see he is in her room all the time. Now I see him holding his clock, walking down the hallway. I think Mom may have liked the company.

When I went to visit Mom last week, I met her in the beauty shop. Happy getting her hair done and very content. When I looked to Mom’s right, there was a woman sitting in the other chair and I looked closely at her. She had Mom’s sweater on. Then I looked closer and she had her sweater, pants and even her shoes on. The beauty shop assistant and I had a giggle. You know this happens in a memory care unit. It is a small event that left us all with a good laugh. She even looked like Mom.

In the scope of my Mom’s life, things will at times, make you mad but it is important for me to laugh. The staff work so hard at making sure things are correct. I will say it again and again. They have a tough job. Some are spit on, pushed, screamed at, called vulgar names and not given the respect they greatly deserve. I remember my first nursing assistant job like it was yesterday. Four years in a memory care unit. Patience and laughter are key. Kindness to the staff, goes a long way.

Today, you can choose to be angry or mad at whatever life gives you. Our lives are busy and complex but if you can laugh just a little, it may bring you some calmness and peace. Even if I can’t find the remote again. 🙂

The Catacombs

Somewhere in the catacombs of my Mom’s brain, the memory and history of me, has been tucked away. On occasion, coming out for a brief time.

One of the hardest things I have struggled with is my Mom not remembering who I am. How could she forget my face, my voice, my job as a nurse or even Sophia’s name.

I remember the first time she forgot. It is some what etched in my own brain. We were playing Bingo about six months ago and she turned to me and quietly asked me if I was “her Jodi”. I reminded her that I was and always would be her Jodi. I realize I should not have been surprised, but I was. Deeply surprised and sad.

Not long ago, I had a private conversation with Mom’s neurologist whom I adore. She is gentle, mild mannered, wicked smart and someone who does not mind my endless questions. We connect and more so, she connects with Mom.

She reminded me that Mom may not remember or recognize me at 43. She may picture me at the age of 17 or even 30. She may not remember that I have grown to be an actual adult. I am hoping she remembers me at 27, fresh out of nursing school and I’ve just met Steve, my husband. That was a good year.

On Mother’s Day this year, she sat in my big chair, in our sunroom and directly looked at me and asked me “Where is Jodi?”.  The doctor’s words of wisdom popped in my head. I told her it was me, and she nods.

I know the first time she did it, she was sad. I could feel her deflate and quiet. I am sure she was also thinking the same thought. How could I forget her?

I know in my heart, there will be a day were she will totally forget me. I am heartbroken at the thought but what you do today matters. We read mail together, play Bingo, watch old shows and go for slow walks. I know in the catacombs of white and gray matter of her brain, I will always take up space. The space, I can imagine, gets smaller every day but it will always be there. Never really going way. Just like me.

 

B-I-N-G-O

I played a little Bingo with Mom today. It is something that I do with Mom only a few times a month. When you mention the word Bingo to my Mom, her ears perk up, she tunes you out and then wants to know what time the game starts. No other phrase excites her more except for Wheel of Fortune or when we talk about her grandchildren Emme and Sophia.

I walk with her down the long hallway and prepare myself for the chaos. If you have never been to Bingo at a memory care unit, it may be difficult for me to set the scene but I will try. People LOVE BINGO!!

Everyone comes out of their room and tries to get the “Best” cards, which I think is so funny. Many people also play three cards at once. Did I say we were in a  memory care unit?

In the first 30 minutes, there will be ten false alarms for Bingo. No… make that twenty.

The person that calls the numbers has the patience of Mother Theresa. I am currently on my third cup of coffee trying to channel Mother Theresa and listening to the false alarms. I now know that I can’t come after work when I am tired.

Emme got slapped once for playing with the cards next to one woman. As a reminder, Emme is four and we had to move since the woman was playing “for keeps”. I have learned that she is just fine one on one, just don’t sit by her at Bingo.

People love the $1 prizes, when they actually win. Mom won a photo holder and it was better than any other gift I have given her.

When I watch Mom play Bingo, she is beyond focused. It is amazing to watch. She does not remember what she had for lunch, knows me by face but sometimes not by name but can totally concentrate on Bingo. She can actually tune the other players out and focus on her game. The brain is an amazing organ that receives, interprets data and is the basic control center. I wish I could get in that control center and tinker around. Fix what needs to be fixed and return her to her days of baking, reading, driving and helping others.

She has won some cheese and crackers this afternoon and she is happy. She has her coffee, crackers, Bingo, her stuffed dog Matilda and me.

 

 

Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I think we should honor our mother’s every day, and not just one day picked out of the year. In my card to Mom, I gave her some reasons of why I love her.

1. She could make you fall in love with rhubarb. Really.  Jam, torte, sauce, pie, bars and bread. Her love of rhubarb and baking with it was well known. I almost called this blog The Rhubarb Queen.

2. She would send me stamps all through college. I know what her thinking was behind that. Pay bills and send letters to mom. I was onto her but boy did I love getting those stamps in the mail. Something I will carry on with my girls.

3. She taught me life is hard work. And she has a bad back to show it. She never sat still long unless she was reading. I love that about her.

4. She stressed the importance of reading. I remember her telling me that when you don’t know what to do or if you are sad, get a good book. I can’t tell you the amount of time I spent with her on their big bed, both of us reading a book. If I could capture that moment in time, I would hang it on my wall.

5. Marriage is hard, but stick with it. No marriage is perfect but they found their way to sixty years. She deserves a medal. Well, maybe a statue.

6. She taught me clothes are best hung on the line. During the summer, we rarely used the dryer and there is no smell on earth like sheets taken off the line.

7. You are never too old to try something. Mom’s favorite game was scrabble. She took the game VERY seriously. Ask my family. A few months ago, I showed her Word With Friends on my iPad. It took her a few times, but she got the concept and could think of some words to play. WWF players, you may be playing my mom.

8. Keep your friends close. Mom has been very lucky. She has wonderful friends that still look out for her and I know she can feel that. Friends are a blessing and she has been truly blessed.

9. She could spend the whole day ironing and tried to impress the fact that crisp shirts, pants and sheets look sharp. I am still working on this and I know she should be shaking her head right now.

10. Try your best to be a good mom. In the past she talked about some issues she felt she didn’t do the best at. Trivial, minor things that I would hardly blink an eye at, but to her they meant something. Every day I also try. Some days I knock it out of the park, other days, epic fail. She was long ago forgiven. I hope I turn out as well as Mom.   

Simply, the best. To my friends who have lost mother’s, I am thinking of you. I hope the rest of you have a beautiful day.

Touch

Grandma and Emme

 

Last week, I took this picture. It was one of those special days that we happened to stop by on a whim. Emme wanted Jimmy John’s and we brought Mom a loaded ham sandwich. She hasn’t been eating as much lately and I have been a little worried. In my last post, I talked about bringing her some of her favorite treats and I have noted she hasn’t been eating them. She was very excited to see the ham sandwich had tomato on it and she ate half of it, along with those salty, crispy chips. It was such a good thing to watch her eat, with somewhat joy.

We walked back to her room and both of them headed for the bed. My Mom and Emme watching a game show and myself just watching them. The picture shows Mom watching the TV and Emme, as normal, snuggling with Grandma. I love how they touch one another. They seem to have a quiet communication with each other that I love to watch. I think this picture captures both of them so well.

I was thinking today of how important touch really is. You all know the statistics of touch, increased blood flow, nerves firing and general feeling of just plain contact. I remember a few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my long term client’s. I have taken care of her for close to nine years. She told me that the only time she gets any kind of physical contact is when I hug her on my nursing visits. That was an eye opening comment for me. By nature, I am not really a hugger. I will hug you if I feel I have that comfort level with you. Some people, I have learned, don’t like to be touched or hugged. I am very careful of that with nursing. You normally can tell what the client needs are and I am mindful of that.

This weekend, I opened up a hospice case for a man who broke his hip and femur. The family decided not to put him through surgery since he would most likely would not have survived. I found him in bed, wearing his WW II hat and in so much pain. He had all of his family around and his sweet wife with him. She was in a memory care unit and she was thinking he was her father. It was a difficult moment. I sat by his bed and he whispered something to me and touched my face. I could not really hear what he said but the daughter behind me, started to cry. She felt that he thought I was his wife. So gentle and sweet. Those are the times that mean so much. I saw him yesterday for my visit and sat with him. His breathing now labored and I’m sure it will be his last day. We talked about his family, his wife and I held his hand. I know he knew both the HHA and I were there. Big band music playing in the back ground. Again, thinking of how important touch is.

This week I hope you can reach out to someone, if only for a quick hug or touch on the arm. It does mean something and I think about Mom, my family, my sweet gentleman and his family and my female client.

Displacement

Today, I came home and looked up the word displacement. It has been a term I have been struggling with quite a bit. I wanted to make sure it accurately described how I feel on occasion. I was right. In simple terms, we have all had a bad day at work and we come home crabby and irritable and yell at the dog, the kids and anyone in your way. Are you really mad at them or was it the effects of your bad day and you have taken your anger out at them.

I could most likely give you 101 examples of displacement with the families I have dealt with. They are mad that their loved one is ill, the patient finds out bad test results or they know they do not have much time left. They are mad and you are there. It is not a daily thing but it happens enough that I should know what it is and when it comes along.

A year ago, I took care of a woman with a daughter that lived out of town. She would send me terrible e-mails about her Mom’s care and what we were doing wrong. I would see her email in my inbox, my heart would accelerate and I did not want to open it. There was no pleasing this family. Their mother was having a very difficult time with her memory loss. She was a woman in her early 60’s and as you can imagine, the children were having a very difficult time with the diagnosis. I could relate on every level. Their anger was normally directed at our staff and myself. We were the ones in charge, thus their anger. I know it was not about me, but it was all about their grief and I was in direct aim of their fire.

Displacement. I think I also have it. Some of you know I have been having a tough time with my Mom’s roommates daughter. She is a woman that has a Mom with end stage dementia. I think of hard that must be for her.

When I first met the woman, she started to rearrange my Mom’s stuff, lecture me on the amount of mini-snicker bars I had for her, calling my Mom by the wrong name (!) and let me know that Mom was not brushing her teeth enough. It was been awhile since I have met such a woman. I feel sometimes the air is being sucked out of me when she is in the room. She takes up the whole room. I breathe differently every time she is there. To make a long story short, she is in the medical world, like myself but at a much higher level. I know because she has told me 500x what she does. It came out that she talked about my Mom to a social worker friend of mine and in conversation, she was appalled at how much candy I give her and other things. My heart broke. After a few months, I confronted the daughter and it did not go well. I just asked her to please not talk about my Mom in her medical setting. Now she ignores me and reported me to the building. Yippee. The building has been very understanding, just so you know.

When I think of how I should have handled this in a different way, I am reminded of that dang word. Am I displacing my anger on the daughter because of my loss of Mom? Should I just have kept my feelings to myself? Why does this woman bug the heck out of me? Does she think I am a bad daughter because I give her candy? Questions I am not sure of. We are both dealing with grief and maybe our grief is one in the same but we are handling it in a different way. Loss is loss not matter how you look at it. For the record, I am still buying mom nuts and snicker’s, her favorite. If she only had one month left on this planet, I hope she goes down with a snicker bar and coffee in her cup right beside her. As it should be.

I think that if you can understand the word and what it means, that is the first step. Baby steps for me this week.