Thursday, March 26, 2015

Connecting the Dots

Project managers across Corporate America love using the term "Connecting the Dots". The online slang dictionary defines it as "to figure something out based on multiple pieces of evidence".

Joan Pondering Her Next Move
A couple of nights ago during a visit with Mother, I decided to distract her by engaging her in a game of dominoes. It's funny that I don't remember playing games with her as a child, she never seemed to have the time or desire. However, I've often heard her talk about the bowling alley, playing UNO, stacking dominoes, playing solitaire, Monopoly and other popular card and board games. But, here I sit tonight, with mom, playing dominoes. I suppose it was a good thing for both of us. It allowed me to close some squeaky doors from my past.

Interestingly, as we played, Mother remembered an elementary version of the game, that of connecting the same number of dots and same color of dots to pieces already lined up on the table. She's always been competitive. Looking at the picture on the left, I'm sure you can see just how intent she is on picking just the right domino for her next move. I'm sure we weren't playing by any rules, but neither does Alzheimer's play by any rules.

As she continued the game, her intense focus made me smile. She was able to do what the Electric Company jingle chimes, "One of these things is not like the other."

Distracting my mom these days is becoming more and more difficult. Lately, all she talks about is going home. I gently explain to her (and sometimes not so gently) that where she now lives is her new home. When I say things like that, looks of puzzlement and bewilderment frame her face. She just doesn't connect the dots. And, then the questions come in a line much like the domino game. "Why can't I come home?" "What do you mean I need 24 hour care?" "Do I have to live here the rest of my life?" "I.WANT.TO.GO.HOME!" It doesn't matter how many times I try to explain to mom that she needs 24/7 care, or that the place she now lives is her new apartment, or explaining that you are here because you have Alzheimer's. Each visit I'm faced with the same questions as the times before. My countenance falls and my desire to visit wanes. But, I continue to do the 'right' thing for Mother.

Connecting Dots
To me the most frustrating thing about Alzheimer's is the way it plays havoc with the minds of the patient as well as the primary caregivers and family members. We question our own motives at every juncture. "Am I doing the right thing for my loved one?" "Am I providing the appropriate quality of life?" "Does my loved one really have Alzheimer's?" "What if the diagnosis isn't correct? She seems so 'normal' today." And, on and on and on it goes until our minds begin to question sanity.

Connecting the dots? Where are the multiple pieces of evidence I need for living in the valley of personal confusion? I don't think I'm going to figure that out tonight my friends, but, maybe tomorrow, right after a good night's sleep.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'MMMMM BAAAAACK...................

It's been a long time since I last posted something about mom. A few years have passed and many, many things that I could have posted about are now in the past.

In April of last year, she became ill and was hospitalized. In May, she entered skilled nursing and in June we admitted her permanently to a full time nursing facility.

This awful disease called Alzheimer's continues its journey. May days the roads are filled with potholes and some days there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But, one thing remains certain, the disease has no rhyme or reason. The emotional ups and downs for family members are ever changing.

Mom for now is content. She loves her surroundings, but constantly challenges family and staff with her cries of "I want to come home". It tugs at our heart-strings, it pierces our guilt and taxes our emotional strength. We cannot bring her home for none of us have the strength or stamina any longer to care for her needs 24/7.

I'm glad to report that physically she is as strong as a horse. If we were to put a pedometer on her, we'd probably be reporting a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. That walker of hers get a workout every single day. It's just a shame that her minds is not keeping up with her body, but that's just the way it is. There's really nothing we can do about it until "they" find a cure.

It does not mean that we don't love her - in fact, it means that we love her more. Because, instead of two to three people overseeing her needs, she has an army of dedicated staff to feed, bathe, clean and keep her active day in and day out. I commend the facility where she lives - they are true servants, maybe even close to saints!

I hope to write more soon. Some days will be glimpses of the past few years (to help you all fill in the missing pieces). Writing is cathartic for me. It calms me and keeps my emotions in check. It's the gift God has given to me to get me through the bad and the good times. Thanks friend for walking this journey with me. I value you and your sympathetic and often empathetic eyes.