A Week of Decisions

My heart is breaking and I think I have moved into a long-term state of depression and greaving. What a week it has been, let me fill you in.  I have received an education in senior living and senior care this week. 20151225_133213

Mom has increased in her confusion and not knowing where she is or where she lives.  I find evidence frequently that she has been up roaming the house during the middle of the night, which leads to fear that she may go outside again and this time not remember which house to come back to. Wednesday night she wrote a heart-breaking note and placed it on Anita’s door telling Anita that she was in the room at the other end of the hall and to be sure to not leave her.  She had no idea where she was, or where she belonged, and clearly did not want to stay.  It pushed me over the edge and we realized that we needed to do something better for her.  I started a serious search for some help. I was not sure what kind of help we needed, just that we had to make some changes.

Our first stop was at a Senior Day Care center.  They were very nice with lots of activities to keep people busy while there and lots of parties that Mom would not have cared for at all.  We considered this place, but it would not have really given us much relief and none in the evening and night. I talked to a group that contracts people to come into the home to assist, but that seemed awkward since she lives with us.

I started making comparisons of places that offer respite care from the emails that A Place ForMom had sent. That would at least give her a place for a week or two and we could sleep better or get away for a few days. I learned that there are at least three levels of care for seniors.  Independent living, basically an apartment with community benefits and activities for seniors.  Assisted living which offers some medical staff, help with mobility and medical issues. Memory care is designed to assist people needing long-term care who have dementia or Alzheimer. They do all the things that assisted living does, but are designed for people with memory issues. In addition to the more traditional facilities, some are in neighborhood houses, so the places are small and intimate. Of course, the staff would also be few in number. It seems to me that these places would be better suited for assisted living, but I’m sure that there are many that are excellent in whichever specialty they serve. The senior can move in as a long-term resident or for shorter periods call respite care.  As for respite, we decided that the changing of locations would be too hard and only complicate things by adding to her confusion of where she belongs.

After the Day Care, our next visit was to an independent living facility.  Actually, a very large hotel-like structure. Each resident had a complete apartment with a full kitchen and stacked washer/dryers, two meals a day are included in the rent and activities are available.  They had nice commons areas and everything was very elegant.  We were there on Valentine’s Day and a number of the residents were coming down for a get-together, all were dressed to perfection. The coming and going of the residents were not monitored and little assistance was offered, this was definitely not the place for Mom.  Very nice, but it would not meet her needs.

Our last visit was to Arbor Hills Memory Care facility. We were so impressed with the heart that we saw demonstrated for the people there, how clean and fresh it was. There is plenty of places to visit outside of the room, activities designed for their abilities and interest, full medical needs met.  After a day to contemplate and talk it over, we returned to put down a deposit.  This is a very hard decision for us. We so much prefer to keep her here with us but have come to the realization that we have reached the place where it will be better for all to move her into a place for long-term care. Now to fill out the paperwork.

If you are moving into the area of caring for a loved one, be sure to get a durable power of attorney signed and a living will.088

Better times

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Sleep Who Needs It

So at her primary care doctors strong recommendation, we took Mom to see a neurologist several weeks ago.  The goal was to see if he could help with some of the dementia issues. At this point, I am thinking that was a BIG mistake! The first visit was routine, he ordered some blood work and a MRI of her brain.  At 96, I’m not sure what good he thought the MRI would do, but we scheduled one and took her for it.  She had NO idea of what was happening and no amount of trying to explain it would make any sense to her. They gave her the traditional buzzer to push if she needed to stop.  Well, of course, she pushed it every time they started the machine. After probably enough time for the test to have been completed, they came out and requested that I come back.  They had me stay in the MRI room with her to keep her quiet while they did the test.  Oh my goodness! Those little ear plugs are worthless!

At the return visit, he said her brain had shrunk, but no other issues.  Seemingly there is little that can be safely prescribed for someone her age. He did provided a one-month sample pack of medication.  It starts out with a week of one half strength pill and each week works up in strength, if she can tolerate them. Guess she can’t.  Her confusion has gotten much worse on the medication. She has become more restless, more resistant to guidance and her sleep at night has almost gone away.

Two nights ago, she woke us all up crying out “Don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here.” We got up, reassured her we were here, that she was at home, she thought she was at a church, and that all was ok. Anita made her some chamomile tea and I took her back to her bed, got her back in bed cloths and sat with her for awhile to hopefully get her to sleep.  In less than an hour she was back down stairs and I had to repeat putting her to bed again.  Then again, she was up in an hour. Last night did not start quiet so early, but the same pattern, she was down stairs in our bedroom milling around in the dark twice – well she did turn on our bathroom light.

Poor Anita is off to work with severely compromised sleep, I had to not work yesterday, I was too groggy to try. I called the Doctor’s office off and on all day yesterday to not be able to get through, until just before they closed. The doctor should call back today. We did not give her the medicine yesterday, hopefully, it will work out of her system quickly.

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Where is home?

I’m at the point of tears this morning!

I’m not handling Mother well, partly because I have a cold and did not sleep very well, partly because she is really out of it today.

Last night she would not settle down for bed, and was up well before 7 this morning and greeted me with “Oh when did ya’ll get here?” This morning has been a disaster already.  She puts used toilet paper in the trash and just now brought a big handful down in her hands, that was just too much. We have tried for four years to get her to flush the toilet paper, including putting signs all over the bathroom with that instruction.  She just will not do it.

Our biggest issue today is that she is determined that she does not live here, that her things are not here and that she needs to go where they are.  But in the next second, she is asking were the keys are, so she can make sure it is locked up when she goes. She is convinced that this is Waco and that she does not live here.

Praise that Anita got me out of the house.  We had a delicious lunch at On the Border then did a bit of grocery shopping.

Things are calmer here at home now, but not better. Too much pain.

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Dementia – New Chapter in Our Travels

Walk with me as I struggle to help my sweet Mom who is living with dementia. She is ninety-six and has been progressively worsening over the past two years.  Really longer than that.  My precious Dad was the center of her life, her goal in life was to serve him and to meet his every wish. Don’t get me wrong, he was a hard worker, a very good man who was active in many organizations and church, a leader, but always, unfailing kind and loving to Mother. They had 66 years together, eleven years ago he passed away after completions from heart surgery left him with kidney failure. We all worried about how well Mom would do without him.  Their home was on three acres in a small Texas community, about 2 hours from our home.  Mom amazed us all.  She picked up life, returned to being active in the organizations and church that they had shared.  About five years ago we began to notice some changes, her friends also alerted us to little things that they were noticing.  After discussions, she accepted our offer of moving here with us.  We began the chore of dismantling her home. Even though she was willing to move, letting go was hard. The move was complete three years last November. Her most prized possessions moved here in her room. We saw to it that she had doctor checkups and cataract surgery, she had been neglecting her health, which even so is amazingly good. No medications at all. Unfortunately, she has become progressively cognitively challenged. You may think well this is not as bad as someone who is much younger and has/had many years to look forward to, yes, I agree, but this is where our struggle lies.

33 Things People Affected by Alzheimer’s Wish Others Understood More

I have support, Brady, my husband is a well of patience, help and a deflector when it has become too much. Anita, our eldest daughter took a room in our home a couple of years ago, when she acquired a job close to the house. She is great in providing outings for me, and in patience when I have none. So much has changed, not at all what I expected, but I know that all will work for all of our good. It is so much better having her here rather than worrying about her. So our RV travel is now limited, our adventures taking on a different nature.

She has fallen into the ways of dementia, repeating the same questions over and over again.  Her favorite is “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”, which is repeated anytime someone walks through the room, or makes enough noise for her to hear.  I am learning, responding to repetitive questions sometimes drives me crazy, but not nearly so much now. There are times when I just cannot hear it one more time, but she has no idea that I am becoming frustrated or why. I know it is all up to me to react with understanding.

I will be frequently sharing our journey through these dark time as we learn to help each other and bear each other’s burdens.

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What an Amazing Day!

Theodore Roosevelt reportedly said of Colorado, “The scenery bankrupts the English language.” That was certainly our experience on Tuesday. There were beautiful views around every bend. We would look one way and be awed by the view then turn our heads to be overwhelmed by an even more breathtaking view! This is a drive that even native Coloradans find inspiring. Where? Independence Pass – Highway 82 from Twin Lakes/Leadville to Aspen. There’s no shortage of amazing views as you twist up and around on the at times narrow two-lane road, eventually reaching the Pass and the Continental Divide at 12,095 feet. Hugging the Lake Creek (roaring river this time of year), the pass cuts through the Sawatch Mountains, running right between Mt. Elbert, the state’s highest at 14,433 feet and La Plata Peak, the fifth tallest in the state, while several other summits over 13,000 feet can be seen rising into the bold blue Rocky Mountain sky. Each mountain peak is colored with the crisp white of a winter’s snow, dark blue-green lodgepole pines and the bright green of Aspens. Below the towering peaks runs the roaring Lake Creek, and crashing waterfalls, all due to the massive snowmelt. One waterfall dropping from a great height was so close the to the road that it actually sprayed us as we drove past.

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About half way up from Twin Lakes to the pass we came across a small herd of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. We quickly found a place to pull off and walk back for a better view, of course as we got close they took to the steep rocky cliffs, but still in view. One ewe who was evidently in charge of protecting the group made sure to keep us in view, She seemed almost at interested in us as we were in them. That was a real treat and very rare to be able to actually see them at a relatively close range.IMG_1212-1 IMG_0444

On the pass, we were buffeted by winds so strong that we feared we might be blown right off the mountain. Everywhere was covered with snow and the glacial lakes at the pass were still frozen.IMG_0467

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Over the pass to the west, we stopped to overlook the old mining town of Independence. Once a thriving town with hotel and stagecoach stops, but now a ghost town with a few building still standing. At that point, we turned around and retraced our way back to the highway where we headed toward Leadville.

 

Remains of Independence

Remains of Independence

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Old Leadville Mine

 

The road between Salada and Leadville is known as the route of the 14ers or the Heart of the Rockies. It runs right along the Arkansas River.  Tthe headwaters of that mighty river are near Leadville which is the nation’s highest incorporated city and full of historic buildings.

IMG_0512We found a great place to have an early dinner tucked into one of those historic downtown building, Quincy’s Steakhouse. Sunday through Thursday they feature a 6 oz. Filet Mignon steak with baked potato and salad and freshly baked bread for under $10. It was mouth-wateringly delicious!

 

Our day was full exciting but we were exhausted by the time we returned to our cabin.

 

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The mountains are calling and I must go.” (John Muir)

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What glorious days of soaking up magnificent scenery.

On Saturday we struck out for Buena Vista and I had the privilege of sharing with Anita some of the sites that we have visited and loved in the past.  I have written about Buena Vista and Cottonwood Pass on more than one occasion (The first time in 2012 and again in 2014 in Slush, Mush, and Sunshine)

We had been told that Cottonwood Pass was closed due to proposed construction, they plan to pave the road on the west side of the pass and make improvements so the whole thing is to be closed all year. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in Buena Vista that the sign to the pass had a bright orange sign on it saying that the pass was open!

Up we went.  

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As we begin to reach higher elevations snow lined the road and covered the open areas. What a thrill and so beautiful. After several pull-offs to enjoy the scenery we made it to the pass, sure enough the western side was closed by snow (no sign of construction yet).

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Looking West from Cottonwood Pass

20170610_122813 20170610_123339 20170610_123049 20170610_124847While we were there we we were entertained by a man with a German Shepard, he would throw a chunk of snow out into the field of snow, and the dog happily raced after it, but of course could never find it to bring back, but he clearly enjoyed the chase.    

Back in Buena Vista, we drove out to the Railroad Tunnel road to travel along the Arkansas River, the tunnels are always fun.            

Drive through Railroad tunnels blasted in the mountains

Drive through Railroad tunnels blasted in the mountains

                                                                                        

 

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A Relaxing Get Away

The MtsHere we are in the amazingly beautiful Colorado mountains again.  Oh how I love the tall snow capped mountains, the swaying aspens, the fragrant pines.

This trip is a gift! A gift from my wonderful husband who so graciously is staying home with my elderly mother in order to give me time to relax and rejuvenate from her long-term care. It’s also a blessing to be spending this time apart with Anita, our first born. So here we are in a wonderful cabin/chalet in the heart of the Colorado mountains.

Our home away from home for nearly two weeks is in Monarch, about 6 miles from Monarch Pass, and right on the Garfield Creek (really a roaring river right now).Me at cabin

Anita at cabin

Anita at cabin

We are lulled into total relaxation by the coursing, swirling, hypnotic river. Our chalet has all the amenities needed for a retreat including a fully stocked kitchen, comfortable beds, satellite internet and phone, no TV service and last but not least a hot tub. We are within a few miles of Salida, so yesterday we took advantage of a trip into town to gather some supplies, but on day two, we are just chilling.  I put in a few hours this morning working in my zero gravity chair (we both brought ours from home) on the porch. A perk of my part time job is that I can take it anywhere.

We put out a hummingbird feeder and the amazing beautiful little wonders are taking full advantage.  The tiny ruby and iridescent green hummers swoop in for a drink then zoom off again, occasionally sitting down for a longer drink or driving off a rival.Hummingbird

Here is a link to where we are staying

The 1st chair Chalet.

Devils Stair Steps

Devils Stair Steps

 

 

 

Deer

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On the Gulf

Here we are again, on the coast – watching the surf, wiggling our toes in the sand!

What a great time to come to the coast (the Gulf Coast). It’s still warm enough to enjoy being outside, but not so hot you hunt shade or burn.

The Texas State Park on Galveston Island is a great place to settle down for a few days for some surf, sand and sea food. We are camped just across a sand dune from the ocean – awesome, long stretches of nearly empty beaches and easy access to shopping and dining.

We are planning on 4 nights here before heading back toward Dallas. 126

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Hallowed Ground

Death, Death all around! Boom, whiz, crash – severed limbs, blood and gore! 100,000 in this battle, 70,000 in the next. Who are they? So many – approximately 75% buried without names – just never going home again. What? Where? Right here!After the Battle

After the Battle

Anita and I have spent the last few days walking on hallowed ground, immersed in the stories of the Civil War. Battle of Bull Run where it started, Fredericksburg, Sunken Road, Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, Battle of the Crater, The Breakthrough, culminating where it ended at Appomattox Court House. Did you know that it wasn’t until during the Vietnam War that the number of American deaths in foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War?map3

Virginia, so rich in history, was the epicenter of the war and the 110-mile corridor between the two capitals, Richmond and Washington DC, saw many bloody battles. We enjoyed the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park. Hearing the stories of soldier experiences in their own words and seeing the way they lived.

Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson Statue at Bull Run

Home riddled with bullets during along the Sunken Road.

Home riddled with bullets  along the Sunken Road.

McLean House where Lee Surrendered

McLean House where Lee Surrendered

At Pamplin Historic Park

At Pamplin Historic Park

But not all our time was in the Civil War. We visited the house that Charles Washington (brother to George) built in 1760. It was converted into the Rising Sun Tavern where Thomas Jefferson drafted the statute that set the pattern for religious freedom in the US.

Tavvern of the Rising Sun

Rising Sun Tavern

The Chatham Plantation where Clara Barton an early founder of the American Red Cross assisted in caring for Union Soldiers. And so many beautiful Fredericksburg homes built in the 1700s.

1820s home in Fredricksburg

1820s home in Fredricksburg

view from Chatham to Fredricksbutg

view from Chatham to Fredricksbutg

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Graduation in Norwalk or When Did He Grow Up?

‘In response to those who say to stop dreaming and face reality, I say keep dreaming and make reality.’ Kristian-Kan, author and editor.

What a wonderful week.  Anita arrived in Norwalk to the welcoming arms of Celeste, Joe, Justin and Madison.  My first impression walking in the door – WOW! how tall Justin is. He has matured into a responsible, considerate young man. While I was proud of each of our girls at this important milestone, I found myself a little emotional seeing our first grandson walk across the stage.  I’m excited for all the opportunities that lie ahead but a little afraid that he and the younger ones won’t have the opportunities that we have had. Justin graduated with honors as a member of the National Honor society and Capt. Cap. Honors. He is headed for the University of Connecticut and aiming for a degree in Chemical Engineering.

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Graduation was held at the high school stadium and the graduates marching in with the boys in green and the girls in white was very impressive. There were lots of speeches followed by the handing out of diplomas. His class was over 300 strong, so it took awhile. After the ceremony we were off to an outstanding Italian restaurant for scrumptious food and fun.

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Joe is an outstanding cook and loves to grill, I’ll be surprised if I haven’t put on a few pounds. Thanks to my Fitbit I have managed to put in a reasonable amount of walking, so hopefully it the day of reckoning won’t be too bad. Last night we enjoyed an evening of out door movies and smores fixed over an open fire. The weather has been perfect, sunny but not hot. Actually we have had to scramble for a wrap when we were outdoors in the evenings.

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We are sad to be leaving tomorrow, but excited for the next leg of our girls trip and to reach home and the family left behind.

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