Sunday, August 23, 2015

"My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you."

Does the title of my blog sound familiar?

It should, it's a famous line from the movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy starring James Cagney in 1942. A classic for sure and "my mother thanks you" is recognizable as one of the top 100 movie lines of all time.

There's something magical about movies, isn't there? A great escape from the cares of this world. Something to spur our imaginations. Most of us remember the first movie we ever saw at the drive-in movie or local theatre. We remember lines and words from our favorite move script. We remember the soft, romantic kisses played on screen, and even closed our eyes and dreamed that it was us experiencing them! We remember the name of the date we were with the first time we held hands in the dark. At the mention of popcorn, our minds and senses immediately recall the smell of this buttery, salty snack, as if the bucket were sitting in our lap.

Movie theatres have become something more than "watching a move" in recent years. From a drive-ins of the 50's where you wore your PJs and ate snacks made at home, to an indoor theatre, to comfy theatre chairs, to 3-D and HD to even having your dinner served to you while you watch a movie.

This past Friday, Mother experienced one of these eat-in theatres for the first time. I'm not sure which was more of a surprise to her, an eat-in theatre or a movie about Minions! There's a part of me that thinks she probably understood their incessant, muffled chattering. She absolutely loves animation and the buzzing to and fro of comical cartoon characters (the cartoon channel is currently her favorite TV choice).

To a person with Alzheimer's, new experiences are often daunting, unfamiliar places frightening. Fear easily overcomes their reality. Uncertainty and despair become tag-a-longs. I'm sure that's what Mother might have experienced this past Friday when she and her caregiver embarked on their latest adventure. A simple request such as, "sit down Joan" can be overshadowed by confusion while experiencing too much stimuli. There are some studies that tell us that the patient with Alzheimer's develops tunnel vision, or at a minimum a distorted view of the world around them. Recently Joan has been telling me that the people staring in a TV show actually live and work at her facility! How bizarre is that? I simply shake my head in agreement that I've also seen them walking around the nursing home campus. But I digress...

For now I'm thankful that Mother is still mobile enough to take a couple of outings each month. And, I'm thankful for something else - my own ability to explore and see things through fresh eyes. There's always the fear that I too, may develop this awful disease. Research is inconclusive that it's hereditary, and I'm certainly not at a point in my life where I want to know if my DNA pre-disposes me to Alzheimer's.

In the meanwhile I'm thankful for safe nursing home facilities, Joan's private caregiver, the staff who daily care for my mother, my friends and co-workers who love me in spite of my bad days, a wonderful job that allows me a productive diversion, a husband who always has my sanity and best interests in mind, a church that hugs me and prays for me, but most of all a God who slathers me and lavishes me with more love and grace than I deserve.

Today I am grateful. My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you and most of all I thank you for all you have done to make this journey more bearable for all of us.

Thank you all!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiancé didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,

People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;

Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;

This past week's visit was much like all of the rest. I found Mother sitting in her chair watching her favorite cartoon network. Her mannerisms were the same, that of gently  and methodically combing her fingers across her forehead and through her hair. That mannerism used to bother me because Joan was always so neat and proper. Doing anything with her hair except perfectly styling it was certainly out of the question. These days though, it's okay with both of us that she finds this stress-release.

I've been told that some of the next signs I'll see as her Alzheimer's progresses, is a frustration on her part to find the words she so desperately wants to articulate. I'm seeing shades of this now, but for the most part, her conversations are still intelligible.

Tonight's conversations were similar to the ones from my last few visit. "I look out the window every day to see if I can see your red car." "The people here are really nice to me." "I like the food, but I'm always full." "They forgot to get my laundry." "Can you fix my candle? It isn't working." I like the man who cleans my room. He found my earring." "How are Braxtyn and Gavin? I bet they are getting big now." all time favorite...... "Everybody here knows my name."

We all love recognition, don't we? A hearty hand shake, a kiss on the check, a tip of the hat acknowledging that we exist. That we are important. That we serve a purpose. Well then, I guess it's no different for Mother either. The most important thing to her is that everybody knows her name. That she matters. That someone cares.

As a care partner or advocate for those who depend on us, it's easy to get caught up in the 'what about me' syndrome. We spend countless hours caring for, worrying about, and advocating for the person who's been placed under our care-radar. We grow weary, frustrated and right out exhausted carrying this burden. We desperately want someone, anyone, to acknowledge how heavy the load is that we carry. But, what about the person we care for? How often do we take the time to deflect from our own struggles and show one ounce of empathy or compassion for their struggles?

Oh, so embarrassed to admit, that for me, it's not often enough. But, for a moment tonight, I listen to Mother whose life has a beautiful purpose, still reminding me that it's not all about me and that she loves being at a place where the troubles are all the same ,and Everybody Knows Your Name.