The Google, The Mouse and It’s Not Her Fault Friday, Aug 21 2015 

I’m sure there are plenty of you that are dealing with an aging parent with dementia issues. If you’ve read any of my blog you know I’ve been down this path before, and that I understand exactly how this process works. But I’ve recently been slapped with a reminder that I might need to take a refresher course, or possibly adjust my expectations. I may need to dust off my mantra and restart saying a phrase I used to say all the time with my mother in law that helped me keep my balance when she was off. It’s not her fault.

This most recent awake up call occurred last week when my Mom called me to tell me her computer, a gadget she used to be very proficient using, just had ‘the Goggle’ on it. First of all, ‘the Google’ is not something she would have uttered a few years ago. She knew it was Google. Second, she would have known that if her PC was reaching Google, it was reaching the internet. I spent quite some time over the phone trying to figure out exactly what her screen was displaying, and how to get her to be able to open her email. I pictured the white Google search engine page, even went to my PC, pulled it up and started to direct her to her email link. Then she started telling me what she was seeing on her page, and none of it made any sense. I explained that if she had Google availability, she could get to her email, since ‘Gmail’ was Google mail. I asked questions. In the upper right hand corner of your screen do you see…? Read to me what your screen says. Etc. etc. Many answers were provided with a timid no, and I wasn’t able to tell if the items I was asking her to look for were really not there or she just didn’t understand. In her frustration she finally said all she wanted was to get to her email. I restated since she had access to Google, she had access to her Gmail account. After some time, we worked through the issues presented, and she was able to access her email. She was relieved and I was exhausted.

The situation was unsettling for me because I know how she used to be able to move around on her PC. But, being somewhat in denial, I packed the episode away and let it be. It wasn’t her fault.

Yesterday Mom called and talked about many random things. In the course of the conversation she mentioned that she’d had a computer person out to the house because she thought she had a computer virus. He’d told her she did have a virus and it was because she had been using her mouse backwards. Now this really didn’t make any sense. First of all, that’s just BS, because a right click just brings up a menu. Second, ever since Mom has used a PC, her mouse has been programmed backwards due to her wrist issues. Her right side is double click (main operation like the rest of us) and the left side is one click to menu. She uses her ring finger and pinky to operate the mouse and has for the last 20 years. But when the repair guy tells her mouse is backwards, she doesn’t recall this and lets him change it to normal mode. When I tell her mouse has been configured like this for a reason, at her request because of her wrist, she states she doesn’t recall this, but it makes sense because she’s been trying to use it the way he said and her wrist hurts.

I am used to her forgetting recent things, but the mouse issue is not a recent thing and it was a big deal, something she really was focused on. My full blown awake up call has arrived. We’ve moved into another level and I need to get a grip on where we are now. I need to dust off my coping skills, practice my balancing act, repeat my mantra “It’s not her fault”, and stow my frustration.

Because truly, it’s not her fault.

Just Close Your Eyes (Not a Country Song) Friday, Feb 20 2015 

No, really, I sat in the car, my Mother’s car, in the passenger seat, with my eyes closed.   My Mother is driving at my request.  I am testing her and she is actually doing okay.  Not “great” and she drives quite differently than she did previously, but I am not too worried.  But to keep from reacting when she skims too close to a car parked on the side of the road,  I just close my eyes.  I don’t inhale.  I don’t tense up or say anything.  I practice all my self restraint. When I don’t hear the mirrors crunch, I open my eyes.  It’s going to be okay.

I’ve started going to all Mom’s doctor appointments.  She’s taking what appears to be the only memory med she is going to be able to take and it is at a reduced level because she had side effects when she tried to step up to a higher/preferred dose.  They’ve already determined she cannot take Aricept.  She reacted to the higher doses of Namenda.  I am not sure if I am imaging she shows some slight improvement since she’s been on the med, but I sure want to think it.

For the last appointment, I decide that I need to see for myself how she is doing with her driving.  Dad is having more and more trouble physically, and she’s been taking on the driving.  But she did not do well on the driving memory test given by one her doctors, so I am worried.  The answer, I think, is to check it out myself.  I explain why I want her to drive, and she’s fine with it.  I expect her to be nervous, but she doesn’t appear to be.  I am ready for a slightly too slow trip.  I even allowed extra time.  Ha!  No need. That is not what happens, as she has sped up.  Acceleration is now her friend.  And as mentioned above, I closed my eyes (three times) when she fails to move away from objects too close on the side of the road.  But all in all, she did okay.  So the driving argument of ‘you can’t drive anymore’ is postponed for a while at least.  She even remembers to ask me when we get home how she did.  That’s why I think the meds might be providing a slight spark.  The Mom of a few months ago, probably would  have not thought to ask.

I am the Sandwich Friday, Oct 4 2013 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandwich_generation

The Sandwich generation is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.

According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.

Carol Abaya categorized the different scenarios involved in being a part of the sandwich generation.

  • Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
  • Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
  • Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care. [1]

Merriam-Webster officially added the term to its dictionary in July 2006.

The term “sandwich generation” was coined by Dorothy A Miller in 1981. [2]

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My eldest son, mid 30’s and his son, 5, moved out of our home this last weekend.  They have been living with us for almost 2 years.  The joy of having that level of access to my grandson was tempered by being his parent much of the time, versus just being able to be his “Granny”.  My husband and I often had a differing opinions on how things involving our grown child and his child should be treated within our home, adding an additional level of stress to the situation.  But we made it though that phase of the sandwich, and looked forward to having our home and our time delegated back to ‘us’.  We joked about relearning how to have a two person conversation, how to cook a two person meal, about cooking meals we liked vs those the picky 5 yr old would eat, how we’d spent time ..just the two of us…..and so on.   It is a nice dream.  The financial side of the situation is ongoing, but that is another topic.

So, on day two of our ‘freedom’, when my parents called, upset and needing my help, I should not have been surprised.  We didn’t even get a week of ‘just us’ before other responsibilities pressed us back into service.  My parents are aging, not in the best of health, and are quick to call on me, rather than either of my brothers, when they want or need something.  There is a thin line between want and need.  I think they call me because 1) I am female and they are of that generation that believes that caregivers are female, 2) I am the oldest 3) I’ve been down this road before with  my mother in law and 4) I find a way to do what they want if I can.

My husband and I have been ‘the sandwich’ for so many years now, providing care for members of his family and mine, that I do not recall a time when we were not taking care of an aunt/parent/grandparent/sibling and a child at the same time.  It started in our 20’s and we are in our mid 50’s now.  We were the sandwich before there was a sandwich.  We’ve been able to regroup in the small gaps between, but each round it gets harder and harder to reconnect and adjust.   Since we only get one round on this planet, I’d like to assert, we’ve done our time caring for others and we need a break.  But reality is, that is not going to happen.  Buck up, Ms. Sandwich.  This one is a toasty footlong with extra cheese.

Visit Monday, Jan 30 2012 

We drove over to visit my brother in law yesterday.  About four hours one way.  He is not doing well, and basically we’ve been told it is just a matter of time.  His body is failing, and the main goal now is to manage the medications so he doesn’t feel any pain.  He is in a facility, what in the old days would have been called a nursing home.  He has a semi private room.   It was pretty depressing.  Not just his situation, which was awful enough, but the whole place.  The people there.  It’s not the fault of anyone, the place itself was clean and as cheery as one can make a place full of very sick or incapacitated people.  What was depressing was the craving for contact that so obviously radiated from so many of the people.  We had our 4 year old grandson with us, and most of the people at the home reacted to a child being present.  He spoke to everyone as he walked by ‘hi’ on the way to the room, ‘bye’ on the way out, he roamed the halls, he found the entertainment room, which had a pool table in it and rolled the balls into the pockets as patients watched and smiled.  A tiny bright spot in the day perhaps.

My brother in law is no longer able to move around and made no effort to do so while we were there. He drifted in and out of sleep, mainly due to the meds, and would join the conversation with a comment from time to time.  He seemed to be aware of his surroundings, and who everyone was.  But he hardly ate at all, and from what I’ve been told, that has become the norm. I won’t list all the things are are going wrong.

Diagnosis August.  That is not so long ago, and here we are.  Watching him die. Were all those years of smoking worth this? A body riddled with cancer and pain?  It is easy to say the words that smoking causes cancer.  It is not easy to see the reality.  It is not easy to see the consequences of the action.  And I am certain it is not easy to experience it first hand, as he has too.  Quit smoking.

Wake Up Call Sunday, Aug 21 2011 

We made the drive to visit with my brother in law and his family and discuss how we could assist with all the things that need to happen as part of his financial needs and physical needs.  It was not a fun trip, and my stress level, even after returning home late last night remains at DEFCON 5.

If you smoke, stop.  If you have a loved one or friend that smokes, ask them (nicely) to stop.  Time to repair the damage is needed.  For my brother in law, there is no time.

Some families pull together in crisis, some do not.  Some try but are not successful.  The jury is out on how this family will be able to handle the downward pressure being applied to it. The baggage of the past interferes with the present, and adults frozen in immaturity by real or imagined slights react to pressure in unpredictable, unproductive and inappropriate ways.  In the midst of this chaos, a man tries to come to grips with the fact that his life will soon be over.  His regrets are plain to see and play out in the dysfunction that surrounds him.  It is heartbreaking.

Chapter Thirty One-Alzheimers Story Saturday, Jul 9 2011 

But I Already Have My Lipstick On:  Our story of dealing with Alzheimers

Chapter Thirty-One

The atmosphere at the personal care home was more far more conducive for Belle’s needs than her previous home and we fancied we saw some improvement.  She appeared calmer and more at ease. We continued our visits and drives, with chocolate shake treats and dinners out.  If we chose to stay at the home to visit, the back porch was normally where we would visit, watching the birds and listening to the wind chimes.   Scott continued his routine of talking to all the little ladies at the home and they smiled and shined whenever he stopped by.   Our only issue with the home was its location, which was over an hour’s drive from our home.

Christmas of 2004 was our first Christmas in our new home, and Scott thought a family reunion  with his siblings would be nice for his family.  He also felt it might be the last year that Belle recalled her children.  So, we invited his siblings out for Christmas and made plans for Belle to be able to attend.  In the months that had passed since Belle’s move out of our house, Susan had gotten divorced and moved closer to our new home.  Between  our home and hers, we felt we could accommodate the whole group for a holiday visit.

We had a house full. Larry and Emma came down from Wyoming and Mike came over from east Texas.  They all stayed with us. Chuck’s family already had plans out of state, but Chuck’s work schedule was going to limit his ability to spend the holiday with them on the trip.  He decided to stay home and attend the sibling reunion.  Since he lived over an hour away, he also stayed with us during the holidays.   Susan made arrangements to keep Belle overnight at her house on Christmas Eve.  Everything was all set.

On Christmas day 2004, Scott, his siblings, his mother and our two sons spent the day eating watching football and visiting.  Pictures of that Christmas day, ten years after the last Christmas spent together fixing up Belle’s new city home, show a family once again posed in front of a fireplace, older, tired, and glad to be together.  We all thought it might be the last time for this group to enjoy their mother’s company.