Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mother Goes to Church!

It's Sunday morning, and a lot of things have changed around the Edwards' household since mother has come to live with us; with Sundays having no exemption. I am taking mother to church today and have gotten up early to give her a shower and make sure I give her all the amenities. Choosing her clothes carefully, thinking that if given the chance, she might have chosen the same for herself. I have bought ample make up to use on her, with just the right color of lipstick, making for a beautiful pallet on my mother. Adorning her with my silver necklace and hair curled and sprayed to a tee, I take a look at this woman of 83 years, seeing a glimpse of the beauty she once was.

It's been seventeen days now since mother's arrival. I must say, adjustments have been made and I am feeling a little more settled but still a little addled. I have asked my sister Sue to come after church services for her weekly visit so I can continue the tradition of dining out with family on Sunday afternoon.

Mother is a little hesitant to go to church, but with words of encouragement and her "happy pill", I can maneuver her in most things. It seems that dementia isn't the only trickster in the house.

I've decided to take mother for preaching only until I see how she fairs in public. It's been about three years now since she has attended church services. With questions as to where I attend church and just how long it takes to get there, we head off to Silver Creek Baptist Church. Mother is a very independent lady, who frowns at wheelchairs, canes and walkers. I gently lead her up to the ramp and tell her to be careful going up. "Well,what are you putting me on this thing and you high tailing it up the steps for?" she barks. Mr. Duke greets mother with a "Hi darling!" and mother's tone changes. Walking into the church, I see that she is in her element. Well wishers, old friends alike, gather to mother's pew. Everyone is glad to see this lady who has taught Sunday School, sang in choir, a deacon's wife to name a few.

As we stand to sing, I whisper to mother that she can remain seated, since she has a hard time getting up and down. With a "what did you say?" beating me to my feet, I chuckle quietly. Mother's beautiful alto voice is still audible, singing every note as loud as she can. As the message is delivered, I notice that mother is nodding. With a slight elbow, I give her a nudge. She opens her eyes and shakes her fist at me with a tight lip; a look that I've seen in my childhood days when my sister and I would be misbehaving.

The Lord's Supper is being served today and the juice tray is passed. Empty holes where cups of juice should sit are visible but mother cannot see them since she won't wear her glasses. She sticks her finger in the hole thinking a cup is there. With several unsuccessful attempts to snare a cup, I quickly grab one and pass it to her. It's time to go and the pastor announces for us to sing a song and go out. I whisper to mother that we can slip out now to get a start on the crowd, knowing that it will take me a while to get her to the car. In her stern voice, she says "No, we're supposed to sing a song, didn't you hear what he said!" She begins to sing "Blest Be the Tie" in unison, rather loudly with that smug look on her face that only she can give when she has out smarted her "bossy" daughter.

All in all, it has been a good day. We arrive back home and my sister and husband relieve us for the afternoon. I just know that God had a big smile on his face today when mother came to church.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"I Must Be Dreaming!"

Today is the fourth day of mother's arrival at my house. If you have read previous posts, you'll know that we have built her a "granny flat" to live in, connecting just through the french doors in my livingroom.

So much anticipation of mother's arrival had kept me awake many nights. Never having to sleep away from home at mother's house again, jumping up at 4:30 am to the call of the alarm clock was something that would not be missed.

Visions of my sister and I taking mother on a long awaited beach trip when all was settled in lay hidden in the back of my mind. Many times had the Gibson family, traveled to "Crescent Beach" which was located just north of Myrtle Beach, SC. A quaint little motel called "By the Sea" equipped with cabanas for those wanting to beach watch, housed our family of 6 on many summer days. My sister had informed me that the motel was far from what I had remembered and would not be inviting to stay at any longer. I also believe that Crescent beach itself is long gone from the landscape as well, becoming "North Myrtle Beach." Nevertheless, I still dreamed of taking mother back to the beach just one last time, watching her sit in those breezy cabanas. Even though she probably wouldn't even remember being there five minutes after we had left.

Thoughts of sticking my head into mother's room to just say "hi," inviting her to go for a ride to the grocery store or to a child or grandchild's event were just some of the things I envisioned us doing. Not to mention cooking and baking for her, lots of yummy things to eat, just like she had done for me so many times in the past.

As my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Swain might have said..."Jean, wake up and quit dreaming!" Popping my head into mother's place was indeed just a dream. With every waking hour, the creak of my french doors has startled the best of us, morning, noon and night. Thinking that you have done all you can for her and she's situated safely and contented on her old comfy love seat with snacks in hand, I rush off upstairs to do some long needed ironing. Asking my daughter a question from my bedroom, a voice comes from downstairs with a quick answer to my question. I lay down my ironing and rush down to see if it indeed was my mother who could hardly get about yet, had made it into my livingroom in that amount of time. This scenario has played out for most of the four days that she's been here. For some reason, mother's dementia won't let her understand that she lives in one space and we live in another. Her flat houses a small kitchen, living area, bedroom and bathroom, yet she insists on coming in and using our facilities.

Another dream that has come to a sudden halt, is all the cooking I wanted to do for her. Spending most of my day baking on Saturday, chicken casserole, slaw, green beans, cornbread, strawberry salad and sweet tea, some of mother's past delicacies, are pushed aside for a craving of a blt or hotdog.

My youngest daughter has been accepted to a teaching fellowship at UNC Wilmington. A trip to "the beach" is suddenly a dream come true. I will finally get my chance to take mother on that long awaited trip next week. While going for a Sunday ride around our community with my husband Bob as our chauffeur, we begin to tell mother of our plans to go check out our daughter's new graduate school located near the beach and that she would be traveling with us. "Well, have fun!" she says. "I've had enough of the beach to last me a lifetime!" were some of her laments. Dream bubble number 23 burst!

My husband and mother sit down in her "granny flat" watching old reruns of "Hee Haw" while I steel away to do some blogging. I'm not sure what kind of dream it is I'm having but I must say, I'm ready to wake up!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


While devastating tornadoes have demolished many areas in our southern states, and Osama Bin Laden has been brought to justice, a whirlwind of change has been encircling my mother as well.

Since my last post, I have hardly had the time or effort to record anything which has transpired. Some, I'll write about, and some I choose not to.

A new doctor, a stay in the hospital,new medications and a week away from mother's move to my house, seems to be bringing dementia more and more to the front burner in my life. I find myself with a tiny buzz inside my brain and stomach most of the day. If you've ever used one of those personal face fans and remember the tiny motor sound that it makes as you fan, you can know that this is what it feels like. Tears, panic attacks, chicken little episodes are all just a thought away. Another word for this is "stress."

I have learned lots more about dementia in these past weeks. Some helpful, some worrisome. While talking to some dementia specialist and just those who are going through the same issues as I am, I have found some answers to questions that I thought had none.

I was able to speak with a nurse who cares for dementia patients and is well informed. She told me that even a change of my voice, the way I walked into the room or turned my head, could all cause my mother to go into an "episode." But one of the most helpful answers I have come across, to a question I have had for a long time now is "where is the home that mother longs for?" A friend told me that she had discovered the answer in a dementia training. "Home" is really not a place, but a "state of mind." The feeling of being insecure, unsafe, possibly unloved, causes this "wanting to go home." I have gone back to the most recent episodes of mother's wanting to go home, and agree that it has been when she had reason to feel insecure.

A friend who works with dementia patients in a nursing home environment, sent me a packet of wonderful information as well. Included was lots of very helpful tips on how to caregive. My husband said that I didn't have to read the material, that all I had to do was the "opposite" of what I had been doing and it would be what the info said. As I began to read, one thing stood out to me. Never give dementia patients more than two choices, because it will confuse them. I would imagine that during the time of one of mother's rantings and ravings, when I gave her two choices; either to go to a nursing home or to jail, didn't count. So many things I have said or done that was merely a human reaction and not neccessarily the right one, can cause feelings of guilt. I have been told that these feelings and reactions are only human and a part of it all through trial and error.

I have come to realize being a mother myself, there are many parallels to a dementia patient and a young child. While on a trip back from mother's new doctor in a different town, we encountered a thunderstorm that seemed to follow us all the way home. Mother was already in the back seat due to her fear of my "driving skills." As the rain battered down and cloud to ground lightening flashed everywhere, mother became unconsolable. I began to sing the song "My Lord is Near Me all the Time," and reminded her of words she had said to me many times through out my life. "If God can't take care of us now, when can He?" I must admit, it felt a little unnerving to hear myself in the role of her parent. As we pulled into the garage, I ran around the car to help her exit. "Just get the little boys out first," she ordered. Just as a little child would do, with her mind, she had created imaginary friends during her time of distress.

Mother's "granny flat" is almost completed. We should be having our final inspection within days. I know that I have enough love for my mother to care for her on a daily basis, I just hope I have enough strength!