Posts Tagged ‘#memory’

Up until this point in my life, everyone I’d known that has died did so while still in full control of their faculties. Whether it was natural causes, heart attack, stroke, suicide, etc., they were able to be recall the majority of their life experiences, up until their demise. I’ve been agonizing about whether I should write the story I’m living. I don’t know if there is anything to gain by sharing this but I feel compelled to do so.

The past 15 months has been a new experience for me. Dealing with an aging parent can be hard in itself, seeing their bodies become slower and more health problems surface. Dealing with a parent that has Alzheimer’s or Dementia is a whole other level of difficulty. I hadn’t really given it much thought what it would be like to live to a ripe old age and slowly, piece by piece, lose parts of your mind and memories. Of course, I’ve been fully aware that Alzheimer’s existed. Hearing about it on the news or even reading about it is totally different from seeing it on a daily basis.
I’m a strong believer in the saying, “Charity begins at home.” I’m not against helping others, friends or even strangers but feel that we should move heaven and earth to help out the family in our household first and foremost. We need to care for our own people and not leave the job to someone else because it is unpleasant, time consuming or emotionally trying.
All my life I’d wondered how anyone could put a loved one in a nursing home. My grandma (my dad’s mother) would’ve been 135 years old on 7/7/13. She died at age 93, when I was 9. I figured out then that our tiny house was too small for 2 adults, 4 kids and an aging grandma. She had lived about a block down the street until the time came when she must’ve broken her hip and went into a nursing home. My (now deceased) aunt had gone into “assisted living” after she decided to sell her house. For years I wondered why she couldn’t just live with one of her 2 daughters. One was widowed with 2 older kids and didn’t work. The other was divorced and lived alone. I swore that I would always have my mom with me, no matter what. It’s funny how life has a way of making us look like idiots when we get self-righteous or judgemental. The very thing we judge someone else for could very well happen to us.
I don’t have children but I assume caring full time for a 92 year old is similar to caring for a toddler. Except the toddler moves faster. As hard as life is every day, I’m blessed to have her with me. I just wish I had HER with me. The body/ shell is here but the person she was no longer exists. She had a mischievous sense of humor that made everyone say she was a real character. That is all gone. Her personality and everything that made her what she was, is long gone. It left slowly at first, then more rapidly. It’s one thing to forget something like a restaurant you only went to once, 10 years ago. It’s quite another to forget the last 30 years of your life. No one gets to pick which memories are stolen. It would be ideal if a person could actively forget all the painful memories and hurtful events of the past. To lose memories you at one time cherished is just plain cruel.
“When are we going home?” is what my mom asks every day. With all the patience I can muster, I say, “We ARE home.” When I ask her where she thinks we are, she says, “Elgin.” That is where we store our RV. So I ask her if she thinks we’re in the RV now and she says “Yes.” When she asks again later, hubby will say, “Tomorrow.” Then she’ll ask again later, “Are we going home tomorrow?” It is maddening and infuriating and beyond sad.
All my life, just about my favorite thing in the whole world was talking to my mom. Having long, heart to heart talks. Deep conversations where no subject was ever off limits. She always listened and offered advice or support, as needed. She shared stories of her childhood and life experiences. Now she is practically non-verbal. She doesn’t like to talk or be talked to. She doesn’t answer very often, no matter how many times I ask her something. Or she answers with something non-related. I thought for awhile it was because she didn’t hear what I said but have realized her cognition is lacking. We may be in the same room for hours and not speak. I try to engage her but no comprende.
She was always stubborn but now fights me about things like going to the bathroom and not picking her legs. Her body doesn’t signal her when her bladder is full so I try to time it about every 4 hours or so and remind her to go to the bathroom. She never thinks she has to go and doesn’t want to go. I have to always keep in mind when she went last and if she refuses to go before dinner, make her go immediately after dinner. This is so odd for me since all my life she’s been self sufficient. Up until early 2012, she was washing her own clothes! Then one day, she forgot how to run the washing machine. I showed her and helped her load her clothes. Then the next time, she had no interest in doing it herself so I’ve been doing it. I don’t mind. She doesn’t know where her clothes hamper is in her bedroom even though she’s had it for almost 18 years. She has always been extremely independent, wanting to do for herself. That is all over. Now she doesn’t want to do ANYTHING. She also used to have a bossy streak and would tell me what to cook for dinner or what dessert she was hungry for. Now she doesn’t care what she eats.
The doctor told me I’m expecting her to behave like she used to and that’s not going to happen. The greatest source of my frustration is trying to keep her from picking her legs. She has skin ulcers from congestive heart failure and they would heal if left alone. At the doctor, I got her some pills for itching. If I give her one, she sleeps ALL DAY but she doesn’t (usually) pick her legs. I’ve told her 100,000 times (no exaggeration) to not pick her legs. I put Neosporin on them and keep them wrapped up (I use paper towels instead of bandages because I’d go broke) and taped on. One was completely healed and we got the other almost completely healed. Then she started on the good, healed leg and now both of them are bandaged. It is more of a habit than anything but she either can’t remember not to pick them or doesn’t care. She does the most damage when sitting on the toilet. I don’t want to have to stand over her while she uses the toilet. In the mornings I wake her and give her her glasses and hearing aids. I do this as soon as I get her out of bed and walked to the toilet. She can’t leave her legs alone while I’m standing there OR after I walk away. I’m about to lose my damn mind. Short of handcuffing her, I don’t see a solution. I’m still afraid she’ll end up losing  her legs if they get too infected.
I’d heard about people with Alzheimer’s wandering but she won’t leave the house on her own. She can’t walk far distances so I don’t have that to worry about. A few times lately, she has gotten up super early, gotten dressed and come downstairs on her own. Like at 5:30 am!! I’ve told her to stay in her room until I get her up. She also comes down in her housecoat the day after she gets a bath saying she thought she was going to have a bath today. Then on the day of the bath, when I tell her to put her housecoat on and come down, she’ll get dressed anyway. If I’m not watching her, she’ll head off to bed at 8 pm, not knowing what time it is and thinking it’s later than it is. She can still tell time, as far as I know, and wears her watch every day.
She doesn’t remember most of her possessions, jewelry or clothes. I’ve found her going through her jewelry box almost every night (or morning) and looking at everything like it was the first time she saw it. She also does that with every drawer in the house, every pile of papers, etc. She picks everything up and looks at it like it’s new to her. Over and over this happens. Same with certain clothes, she’s shocked to find out they are hers, even though they are hanging in her room and she’s worn them many times.
It breaks my heart that she can no longer remember how to sew. She was a prolific seamstress, even doing it professionally after retired. She made her own clothes and mine in the past. Halloween costumes, curtains, dog beds, there isn’t anything she couldn’t make. It was her passion and kept her going. I remember when I was working nights years ago and sleeping in the daytime. It was so hard to sleep when it was light out. The most comforting thing was hearing her sewing on her machine on the other side of the wall while I laid in bed. It lulled me to sleep and anytime I heard her sewing, I knew all was right with the world. All is not right in my world, anymore.
My mother was always an incredible housekeeper. I can’t say the same about myself. She always “looked like she’d just stepped out of a band box” (one of her sayings). She wanted everything clean and was strict about everyone washing their hands. I’m vigilant about handwashing too but now she’s let hygiene go by the wayside. She has to be reminded to wash her hands or she won’t do it! EVER. I feel like I’m the gestapo having to police her every waking moment.
The 2 things she answers to any questions I may ask, “I don’t know” and “I can’t!” These both burn me up. The funniest thing is that when I was growing up, she INSISTED that those weren’t answers. I was never allowed to say either one. I had to KNOW WHY I did things and keep trying to do things I might think I couldn’t do. She can still feed herself (with a decent appetite) and dress herself so there’s that. We keep her occupied most days with playing casino slot games on the computer. A year ago our computer crapped out and we couldn’t go long without one simply because there is no other way to keep her busy. She doesn’t want to do much else. She’s always done well with the games and for awhile I thought they kept her mind sharp. Now she’s having trouble remembering to click on the LEFT side of the mouse. I’ve told her 10,000 times (no exaggeration) and she still clicks with her right ring finger (not index). She ends up screwing it up and opening all kinds of other applications and programs on top of what she’s supposed to be playing. This is well and good if I am home (in the room). She no longer calls to me for help EVER even though I remind her all the time to just call me if it gets fouled up. Then I was afraid she forgot my name. She always called me Kitty. I asked if she knew who I was and she said “You’re my daughter.” So I told her to call out “Daughter” but she still won’t call out for help. I may have to get her a bell to ring like the drug dealer’s grandpa in “Breaking Bad” (season 2). She would probably forget how to ring it or what it was for. I’ve been lucky to be able to go on a half hour walk with the dogs while she amuses herself playing. Now I’ll come back and the game will be all messed up on the screen. It’s not a big deal in the realm of things but it makes me realize it won’t be long and I won’t be able to leave her at all. Hubby keeps reminding me that it will only get worse. Gee, thanks for that.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of what I’m going to be dealing with in the future. Now that I’ve broken the ice with this post about it, I’m expecting to do further updates here. Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself and everyone on the Internet, I’ll move on to another topic next time.
I still have no plans to ever put her in a nursing home but I’m starting to understand why others in my situation might. It really is all consuming. The emotional wear and tear on your heart and soul is palpable. I’m feverently wishing for a cure for Alzheimer’s/ Dementia. Hopefully, in 20 years the entire baby boomer population won’t have to go through this. I fear for myself. That I’ll end up with it as well and have no one to care for me or about me.

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Forget Me Not

This is getting interesting. I started 2 posts prior to this one. One I started last week and never finished about writing styles and how some bloggers make me feel dumb. Someday I will tackle that one again. In the meantime, I started another one last night about relationships and how they almost never seem to be the way we want them to be. Hopefully, I will go back and finish that one soon. Except for my list of 100 things, all my other posts I just sat down and wrote in one sitting. I don’t like this going back later and trying to finish since there’s a good chance I won’t. Lack of follow through, remember? Plus I’ve lost the initial writing adrenaline for the topic. It’s also too easy to pick apart what I’ve written and lose where I was going with the subject. Where was I again? I’m only partially kidding. That’s what made me change course and decide to discuss what’s really bothering me right now.
In between making appointments this week to take my mom to the ENT doctor and the audiologist, I made dental cleaning appts. for both hubby and me. Tomorrow I’m taking my elderly car (almost 18 yrs. old) into the dealership to have the passenger side window fixed and the door (it won’t open, probably due to the window). It’s been a few weeks that I’ve been driving it with the window up and unable to be opened (probably the motor) which wouldn’t be a big deal but I haven’t had working air conditioning for years and it’s summer. I drive it very seldom, like a few times a week at most to do errands (library, grocery, bank, etc). the You should’ve seen me take my mom to the drive-thru at the bank. She had to sit in the backseat and it was like “Driving Miss Daisy”. I’m not having the a/c fixed since it’s an old car and I’m not made of money. Besides, it’s almost autumn and I won’t need it. There are a lot of little things that need to be fixed on it as well but I’m just going to opt for the major thing and hope the price doesn’t kill me. It’s still cheaper than a new car. I happen to love my old Pontiac which still drives like a dream!
My life is as busy as the next guy’s and with having a garden I’ve been trying to use up whatever I harvest as it comes along: rhubarb, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, etc. I can’t stand to see food go to waste so It’s taking up a lot of time making spaghetti sauce and cucumber salad from scratch. The reason I’m bringing up all this stuff I’ve got going on is I’m wondering if having too much on my mind (and my plate) is what’s causing my memory to falter.
It is scaring the bejesus out of me that I can’t remember what I used to. My husband never had a good memory so I don’t notice his being any worse than it was and I don’t think he does either. My memory was phenomenal. On a scale of 1-100, it used to be about 99 3/4. Now I’d rate it about 29. That is a long way to deteriorate. I realize age is a factor. My parents were in their 40’s when they had me. More than once my dad “forgot” to pick me up after school. I usually took the bus but due to some function I’d need to be picked up occasionally. This is back in the day when there were no cellphones. I never had money to use a payphone so would wait awhile, then start walking home. My junior high was 5 miles away. High school was 2 miles away. Eventually he would remember and I’d be at least halfway home. I would be so mad! I couldn’t understand how you could forget your own kid. Now I get it. I also used to be horrified at news stories of babies in carseats being left on top of cars while the parent got inside and drove away. I never thought I could do something like that but if I had a child now, I’d be so afraid I might. I haven’t forgotten anything major YET, it’s just the little things. I always say “I can’t think of everything”. I try to but I still forget stuff. I forget to wash parts of my body (in the bathtub) or can’t remember if I did them so do them again. I used to hear about people checking the stove to see if it was turned off or the door to see if it was locked over and over. Now I can’t remember if I just did something like that myself. I also need a list even for a few items at the grocery store. I used to be able to remember without a list. Now even if it’s 3 things, I need a list. I also forgot salt in a cake I made. I’ve never forgotten any ingredient before. It turned out fine but it shook me up thinking I’d have to give up baking if I can’t even follow a recipe anymore.
Alzheimer’s is the cruelest disease out there. I’m really not too afraid of having that but I would like to find a supplement or something to improve my memory. I am having a hard time just accepting that my memory isn’t what it was. My mom is 90 and just in the past year or so, her memory has started to slip. It’s not even every day but she’ll not remember that I made something before or won’t remember someone I’ve talked about a lot. She doesn’t let it worry her though. She has some days she’s like her old self and other days when she is not all there. But she’s 90! Probably watching her memory fade is causing me to worry more about losing mine.
Am I the only one losing their memory? Or is there something in the water? 🙂 If there’s a vitamin or supplement you’ve taken that has actually worked, I’d appreciate you sharing it here. Also, any funny (or not) stories about something you or someone else forgot would be helpful.

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