No Easy Answers for Caregivers
The dementia patient is not giving you a hard time, the dementia patient is having a hard time. Quote from Agingcare.com
My parents lived to be ninety-three and ninety-four. Mother lived the longest and kept her mental sharpness until a few days before she died. Daddy suffered from dementia probably for the last six months of his life. It’s hard to say how long because his dear wife of seventy-two years knew how to cover for his forgetfulness or sometimes bizarre behavior.
There were times, however, when Mother became totally frustrated with the changes she saw taking place and she would accuse him of doing things on purpose just to irritate her. He loved Juicy Fruit gum, but she kept it hidden from sight and rationed it because he could chew five or six sticks in an
hour and ask for another package. “I have to watch him like a
hawk,” she would say.
And she did, even though they lived in an assisted-living facility. He was changing, but I think her denial, at times, and anger, at other times, added to the stress and tension in their lives.
He would not bathe himself and would not let any staff person help him. So Mother adjusted his shower temperature, washed his back, brought him a dry towel, and helped him dress. With her congestive heart failure and the need for oxygen full time, this chore wore her out, both physically and emotionally.
Then he started getting up in the middle of the night. He would go into their bathroom, which was actually a part of their bedroom, turn on all of the lights, and shave. Mother could not convince him to return to bed until he finished. And then he would often put on a shirt or a pair of pants before finally lying down partially dressed, only to rise a couple of hours later to repeat the procedure. He nearly always forgot his oxygen tube hanging on the bedpost. I had no idea both of my parents were sleep deprived until Mother told me later that this was a common occurrence.
I don’t have any answers that might have made their last months together any easier. Because they were very private people, sometimes it was hard to know what was really going on. When I stopped by to visit, Mother would chatter nonstop, as usual, and Daddy would smile a lot, like normal. I took them treats they enjoyed, like smoothies or milkshakes. Mother loved orchids and they thrived under her care so she usually received one for any special occasion, or “just because.” Daddy would often let me brush his “angel hair,” as mother named it, and I might help her fasten jewelry that had tiny clasps.
All of these little things were ways to say “I love you,” but we didn’t often discuss some of the truly important issues concerning my daddy’s declining health. I tried to respect their privacy and treat them with the dignity they deserved. I think they both tried to protect me. I guess that’s what parents do.
Happy National Lollipop Day! July 20th
Lollipops range in size from the tiny ones bought by the bagful, and sometimes given away at banks or thrown from parade floats, to the enormous ones twisted into rainbow swirls.
When I was growing up, my sister and I always watched for the candy man who made deliveries to the company store where mother was manager. We lived in a coal camp at the time and the store was only a stone’s throw from our front porch. We knew if ran down there to greet him, he would allow us to choose a piece of candy from his many boxes. Remember Sugar Daddies? That was usually my pick. Back then they were large and would last for hours. I also loved Tootsie Pops in cherry or grape. Though I no longer indulge, I may have to listen to my inner child and celebrate this special day.
George Smith is usually credited with inventing the modern style lollipop in 1908. His idea of putting candy on a stick made it easier to eat and he named the treat after a popular racing horse at the time, Lolly Pop.
In my book, Agnes Hopper's Bridge to Retirement , one my characters who lives in this small-town retirement home is nicknamed Lollipop because his shirt pocket is always filled with suckers. His sister brings him a new box every week. He also loves to watch cartoons. His real name is Elmer McKinsey and he is a dear, sweet man who happens to be mentally challenged.
Lollipop doesn’t speak many words in the book, but he is delightful just the same. One of my favorite lines of his is, “Wanna be my girlfriend?” He makes me smile and he seems as real to me as a next-door neighbor or the candy man from my childhood.
What was your favorite sweet growing up? Something on a stick? Anything chocolate? Or maybe ice cream. Yum. Let me know!
My Daddy lived ninety-three years on this earth, his last two years spent in an assisted living facility where both of my parents had professional and compassionate caregivers. Always a gentle man, I never saw him cranky, but I’m sure Mother did as his frustrations bubbled to the surface and spilled over.
For the last six months of his life, his dementia affected his usual routines. Always an avid reader, he could no longer concentrate enough to enjoy his books or even the daily newspaper.
Yet when he spoke of his childhood or early married life, he could remember specific details of those days and would even laugh at some of the hard times now softened with the passage of years.
The following poem touched my heart. I hope it does yours as well.
Cranky Old Man
By Phyllis McCormack; adapted by Dave Griffith
What do you see nurses . . .What do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . . the things that you do. And forever is losing . . .
A sock or a shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . lets you do as you will. With bathing and feeding . . .
The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . As I sit here so still. As I do your bidding . . .as I eat at your will.
I’m a child of Ten . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . who love one another.
A young boy of Sixteen . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . my heart gives a leap. Remembering the vows . . .
That I promised to keep.
At Twenty-five, now . . . I have young of my own, who need me to guide them . . .
And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . My young now grown fast, bound to each other . . .
With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons . . . have grown and are gone, but my woman is beside
Me . . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more . . . babies play ‘round my knee. Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . My wife is now dead. I look at the future . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . young of their own. And I think of the years . . .
And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man . . . and nature is cruel. It’s jest to make old age . . . look like a fool. The body, it crumbles . . . grace and vigor depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart. But inside this old carcass, a young man still dwells. And now and again . . . my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . I remember the pain. And I’m loving and living . . .
Life over again. I think of the years, all too few . . . gone too fast. And accept the
Stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . open and see. Not a cranky old man. Look closer . . .
see . . . ME!
Remember this poem when you next meet an older person whom you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. If we live many years upon this earth, we will all, one day, be there too.
Thank you, Kevin McAteer, for inviting me on this Blog Tour. Kevin is the author of Daddy Can You Make Me Pancakes?, the story of how Kevin and his three children survived the cancer diagnosis and death of their wife and mother. He imparts advice on the Life Lessons that he learned during this traumatic time, and also shows how he found the resilience to find love again.
What am I working on?
My editor, Andrea Merrell, and I are editing, polishing and revising my book before publication in October of 2014. Even the book’s title is not set in stone. Some possibilities are: At The Bridge, The Bridge to Nowhere, and Agnes Hopper’s Bridge to Retirement.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My heroine, Agnes, is a feisty seventy-year-old and a widow. She becomes the voice for her new friends in a small-town retirement home.
Why do I write what I do?
I have always enjoyed older people and have volunteered in assisted-living homes for many years. I have listened to seniors as they shared their hopes, their fears and concerns, and their wisdom. I feel honored to speak for them.
How does my writing process work?
Usually with a particular character, or characters, who face a major crisis and have to take action.
Next stop on the World Blog Tour?
I would like to introduce the three authors I invited on the World Book Blog Tour. They will each be posting on their blogs next Monday, July 14, 2014.
Leanna has written a number of novels- including her latest romantic suspense novel, Wish. Leanna’s books have won numerous awards, including her novel, Gate to Nowhere, which won the 2012 Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award by the North Carolina Society of Historians.
She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina and her books are available on Amazon.com.
Marcy wrote the book Down and Out, which is available on Kindle. The novel is an intriguing cat-and-mouse mystery with a surprise ending!
Elizabeth Van Liere
Elizabeth is a delightful lady that I have just recently had the pleasure of meeting. Elizabeth wrote a devotional entitled, Dare to Live: Devotions for Those Over the Hill, Not Under It! Elizabeth's devotional is also a GoodReads Giveaway now through September 25!
This page is dedicated to my inspirations and those who have enriched my life along the way.