The Visitor

Years ago, when I was CNA, I worked in the Alzheimer Unit for four years. It was a place that I loved and I learned about life and nursing. You had to become good at bribes, distraction, negotiation, break downs, agitation, sadness and grief. Every day was different and you learned how to use all of those pretty quickly. The unit also taught me about love, family, hope and just the effort families would go through visiting their loved ones. I remember one woman who would come and visit her husband every single day, without fail. Even with his end stage dementia, she could still bring a smile to his face.

My favorite residents were the ones that did not have any family come and visit them. Even though it has been almost twenty years ago, I can still picture them and their names. Ethel, who always had perfect hair and a slight drool,  would ask me if I had seen her mother today. John, who had a stroke and would only allow me to get him dressed and would never seem to hit me, like the other staff. If I didn’t have him on my schedule, I would trade him for someone else.  He couldn’t communicate, but every time he would see me,  he would start to cry. I adored him and no one could understand. There was Helene, who was very aggressive and hit me in the head so hard one day,  I saw my very first stars. We became friends after that and when she was having a very bad day, we would talk about her family and she would slowly start to calm down.

I miss those days of 1:1 care. I believe those four years were the best thing that could have happened to me and made me want to continue my education with nursing.  It has helped me understand this disease and prepared me for my journey with Mom.

When you have a loved one that  is battling some kind of disease, whether it be AD, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Stroke…the list can go on. I know that it can be hard to visit them. The unknown is a very powerful thing. Your friend or loved one may look different, act strangely, move in a way you are not used to or may forget who you are. You need to prepare yourself for that.

My brother has not visited my Mom for a while. I am not going to fault him for that. I know that when you get a diagnosis of a disease, fear sometimes can overtake you. It can be very difficult to watch your loved one change. I think that this has been very hard for him. I reminded him not long ago, that she is still in there. She still looks the same, but may not remember your name. She is still our beautiful, funny, coffee loving mother.

He came to see her last Saturday, a beautiful perfect day. He and his friend Heather arrived and I prepped Mom by stating his name, in case she forgot. He was very nervous. I showed him around, introduced him to the staff and her dog, Matilda. We also spent some time outside and Mom really enjoyed it.

I haven’t asked him to do much with her care, though any help is greatly appreciated. The hard part of me being a nurse is that he just lets me make the hard choices with her. His unspoken job is to call her, one expense I will keep so they can communicate on his terms.

At times, this is difficult for me. For twenty plus years, I watch families and friends not visit for whatever reason they have. I have heard all of the excuses and at times, I want to shout at them to just visit. Even if you stay for five minutes, one hour or spend the day with them, you will never know how it will touch them. For that amount of time, you have shown them that you care. Even if they don’t know who you are, I believe that they feel your love and attention. For that moment in time for them, you are in their world, you are present for them and you make them feel worthy. And that is really what it’s all about.

 

 

 

The Love Story

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Recently, I was going through Mom’s stuff and trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. It has been a difficult task for me due to the amount of items and not knowing the real significance of some of them.

While looking through her journals and boxes, I found this picture in a very old book, along with some other special pictures. It is my very first picture and on the back, in my Mom’s handwriting, it states, “Taken January 14th, 1970, the day we adopted Jodi”. If you look close, you will find there is a smirk on my face and you will note that I was pretty well fed at Lutheran Social Services. It is a picture that has long been forgotten, but very important to Mom. It marks the day that both Mom and Dad welcomed me into their family. My brother Ross, is almost three in this picture. He, of course, came first.

Both  my parents were young (20) when they got married and it was just after WW II. Life was very good for them and they enjoyed traveling and had many adventures together. For twenty plus years, they tried to have children. When my Mom was young, she had some minor surgery and they think that is the reason my Mom could not conceive. It is such a different world now, and I can only imagine if she were young now, she would be able to get pregnant. I can only imagine their sadness of not being able to get pregnant as all of their friends were now having children. They choose Plan B.

We were both adopted through LSS, with Ross getting help also from one of my Dad’s friends. In the process, they had highs and lows. Back in the day, you could not have any drug/alcohol problems and you really needed to be “perfect”. My dad struggled with alcohol and LSS denied them at first. My Dad had also set up a saving account for the future Baby Lundell and a social worker at LSS felt my Dad was “materialistic” and denied them once again. If you know my Dad, you can only imagine, how this went over. It was difficult for them but in 1967, they finally got a baby boy and as the story goes, Ross picked out a brown eyed girl, two and a half years later. It is a fact that he has wanted to give me back ever since.

After I was adopted, we moved from Plymouth to a wonderful small town, surrounded by farm land and a beautiful lake. It was a wonderful place to raise children and we grew up knowing we were always loved. As in any family, there were ups and downs. I can only imagine at 43, with two small children, it was tough at times for them. But as communities go, Starbuck was ideal.

Fast forward years now gone by, I look at this picture and I am so thankful for the person who decided to make the difficult choice of giving up a baby and letting someone else give her a better life. How unselfish of her to decide that she or her family, were unable to raise me and love me enough to give me away to parents that really, really wanted children. That is the ultimate love story.

 As she walks in this fog of Alzheimer’s Disease, I know how much we were wanted and loved, the same feeling I am sure she felt that day in January. When we were driving to Starbuck a few years ago, I asked if she was sad that she never got to experience birth. Her response was that she never had to go through any labor pain and that LSS just handed her a clean, happy baby. She reminded me I caused her other pain, which I laughed.

Life is all about choices. I am thankful for the woman in Minneapolis who gave my parents much happiness. Now you can also see why it is so easy to love Mom.