Thursday, April 23, 2009

Small infection leading to additional confusion

On Monday night, I noticed added confusion. She said she is so tired. She seemed dragged down. I was sad, as a daughter might be when she noticed a downturn in the level of dementia. On Wednesday, Helen and I picked her up as usual for our exercise class. She said she didn't think she would make it through the exercises - she hadn't been feeling well.
"Not feeling well? How?"
"Oh, I'll tell you later."
During the exercise class, I began to smell the strong odor of urine. I wondered if it was her but she seemed to be doing the exercises as usual, no sign of distress, so I decided it must be someone else.
We went for lunch and Helen and I didn't notice any smell of urine. It was nice to be in our familiar restaurant where everyone knows Mom, they coddle her and tease her. She likes it there and it is like home to her.
During lunch, Mom tells me that she is having a terrible time with her bladder. She woke up through the night and it was like her whole bladder was burning. She has trouble getting the urine out, she's dribbling. She wears a light pad for protection of bladder leaks.
I immediately phoned the Doctor and told him I thought Mom had a urinary tract infection. They sent a nurse out that afternoon and Cipro was prescribed. The pharmacy delivered the pills to Mom.
I was at a dinner that evening and got to her place just after seven. When I opened the door, I was hit in the face with a strong smell of urine. I told her and asked her to change her pad. The smell went away immediately. I guess she had worn the same pad all day and with the infection going on, it smelled worse than usual.
She was distressed, feverish, had not gone upstairs for supper. I put the pills into her blister pack and she took one that evening.
The next morning, she is feeling much better. Amazing how fast those work.
Also amazing how a urinary tract infection can cause such confusion in a senior with some dementia. Boy, I know what to watch for now!
But what if there was no family caregiver. She had difficulty telling me what the problem was, fumbled around with words and a lot of "Oh, I don't know".
But, celebrate the day! And Cipro!

Friday, April 10, 2009

New confusion

Mom's birthday is over. She is now officially in her 96th year. Think of the changes in the world in her life. She remembers being 15 or so, hearing people talk about the radio. "Oh," she said,
"I don't think I'll ever like radio." But the whole radio wave thing has led to so much, TV, computers, cell phones and on and on.

Every Wednesday I pick a friend, Helen, up at her place, we go and pick Mom up and the three of us go to exercise class. Mom does quite well, even through the 10 minutes of cardio. She swears every week that the class is getting tougher - but she makes it.

Then the three of us go to the Apple Tree Restaurant for lunch. They know us there, Scott the waiter teases us, Mom hits him with her cane, he tells her not to touch what she can't afford, and so on. We have fun.

This week we left exercise class and headed up to the Apple Tree.
"Barbie, I know I should know this but where are we going?"
"We're going to the restaurant for lunch."
"Oh, what restaurant?"
"We're going to the Apple Tree."
"Oh, where is that?"
"It's the restaurant we go to every week at the Hillside Mall."
Then she says, "Oh, I remember now. Of course. It's the one that Barry works at."
"His name is Scott."
"Oh, where did I get Barry from?"
"I don't know, Mom."

A very bad milestone. She forgot the Apple Tree. I am away this weekend and I hope she's okay. I spoke to the man who sits at her table in the independent living place she lives in and he knows how confused she is but he enjoys her just the same. Her humour comes out and they kid one another all the time. It's good for her. I am comforted that her friends there will protect her as much as they can.

I'm off and away.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The first of several 95th birthday parties

My sister and I took Mom out for her 95th birthday on Monday night. We went to a restaurant the three of us always go to - the owners, Frank and Nula, know us well. Dinner went well. We gave Mom some flowers and had the gifts of clothing waiting.

Frank came to the table and gave Mom a bottle of Baileys liqueur for her birthday. Mom did not seem to understand what it was. She fumbled around trying to figure out what to say.

"Mom, why don't you thank Frank for the Baileys?" I prompted.
"What bottle of Baileys?"
"This one right here. Frank just gave it to you for your birthday."
"Oh, did he give me a bottle of Baileys?"
By this time Frank had vanished to seat another table.
A short time later Nula came to the table to wish Mom a happy birthday.
"Hello, Nula, dear," Mom says
"I wanted to say happy birthday to you," said Nula.
"Oh yes, I'm 95 you know."
Again I prompted, "Mom, maybe you should thank Nula for the bottle of Baileys. It's from her, too."
"What bottle of Baileys?"
At this point Nula said she had to get back to work and we said our goodbyes.
"Thank you for coming," Mom said, as if she was having a party and Nula had come to her party.
I smile when I think of it.

Every night when I let me dog out for the last time of the day, I watch the ants from the colony that lives, apparently, on our roof. The busy worker ants walk up and down the brickwork on a particular trail and I watch dozens of them touching each other's antennae as they pass on their familiar route. I enjoy them.

A couple of days ago, downstairs business owners sprayed the back wall of the building to try to get rid of the ants. I went outside, heard the sprayer and smelled the poison. I'm sorry, I felt a bit sad for my evening friends. Get over it, I said to myself, they are just ants.

Last night when I took the dog out, I watched as one lone ant wandered, confused,alone up the brickwork, trying to find the trail that was so familiar to the ants. It would stop, feel with it's antennae, trying to find the pheromone trail left by former ants. It passed another lone ant going down the brickwork, they touched antennae and both of them wandered off.

I couldn't help comparing them to the workings in Mom's brain. Her thoughts used to tumble over themselves as if following a pheromone path, touching each other, finding humour in the trails her thoughts wandered. She found food everywhere she went - she passed it on, she fed my soul with her laughter.

Now her thoughts wander like these poor poisoned ants. Sometimes she will find something familiar and follow that path for a while but she then staggers off into unfamiliar territory again. I'll keep an eye on my ant colony - I'm really cheering for them and I hope it's not too late.

Today when I see Mom and take her for a surprise lunch with a few friends to celebrate her birthday, I'm cheering for her, too. I'm hoping her little colony of thoughts and ideas find a familiar path to follow so that she can enjoy herself. And feel fulfilled and loved.

That's all for now. Must get ready for the day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I am working on the concept of resiliancy - I need to be resiliant in order to deal with the marathon of dementia caregiving ahead of me.
First I need to "accept" Mom's dementia and I have a problem with that "accept" word. The picture of me, throwing up my hands accepting defeat bounces around in my head. No definitions I have seen so far have been able to budge that picture off the front page of my brain.
In a Family Caregivers' Network educational session I took recently, the following definition of "accept" was spoken and I am taking it on board as a tool I can use.

Accept - humbly letting go of things you cannot change or that over which you have no control.

That works for me. Letting go suggests choice. I like choice. So, accepting is no longer rolling over and playing dead.

I have also just finished a six-week course at the Alzheimer Society in Victoria. I learned so much about the inner workings of dementia - not the medical part but the behavioural part. I also learned a lot about grief and the emotions that are stirred up when one is grieving.

In looking at my own grief, I realized that nobody will ever love me the way my mother loves me. When she dies, the years of feeling that love will be over. In many ways, I am losing it now as she changes. That's a tough one for me.

At the same time, I know that I will not truly be an adult until my mother dies. Another scary thought. I'm sixty and have never known life without my mother. What will that look like?
It will be a natural transition, a natural cycle of life, and it would have been nice without the constant sadness that I feel now. And without the fear Mom feels now as she knows she's losing her grip. The blessing is that she only knows that she forgets what she knows she should remeber. Forgotten things - she has no idea she forgot them.

I think this may be the toughest type of grief - Mom is still here, looks the same, sounds the same but she is not the same. The "she" of her is missing. Little chunks of her melt and fall off like the collapse of the glaciers. Each day I notice another change and I celebrate none of them. It is a constant reminder of "what is" compared to "what was". Daily sorrow.

But today she sounded well when I phoned - she will be happy to see me this afternoon and it will be a surprise for her, even though I told her I would see her this afternoon.
"Oh, Barbie, why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
Ah, another day.