Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Returning to Substitute Teaching


Middle school and high school students around here recognize me as the substitute teacher who raps at the end of good classes. I so wanted to return to this a month ago--to have a normal life instead of staying home with all the grief reminders here.

You see I missed the transitional meeting on June 27th when Kelly Services would accept all the sub teachers who have substituted with the county schools last school year. The 27th was the day before my late husband's memorial service and I just couldn't go.  I called Kelly Services and rebooked for August 6th and thought everything was then set. Then there have been a series of phone calls that had not gotten me anywhere. I practically memorize their phone message.

Kelly Services Now Handling Substitutes

"Thank you for calling Kelly Educational Services.  
Press one if you are a substitute employee and need to cancel and assignment. 
Press two if you are an administrator and need to cancel an assignment or modify an assignment. 
Press three if you need substitute payroll. 
Press four if you are interested in becoming a substitute. 
Press five if you have technical questions. 
Press zero if you have any other questions."
Nothing to press for a transitional sub. I usually called four, five and zero and people would get back to me hopefully--or not. Yes, each one learned that I was supposed to be at that meeting in June, but had had to cancel due to my husband's death.

School came and I wasn't substituting. Very unusual. Lots of phone calls again. Lots of bureaucracy. Had to have my finger prints taken on Sept. 2 for $95 and assumed that I would be on board that next week. Didn't happen.

Sept. 9 I got a "no-reply" email from Skillsoft Support called "Welcome to Kelly Learning Center" with detailed information to Carole Johnson (not my spelling) on how to take Kelly classes and set up my computer. I needed help for my Mac I thought. It turns out this did help me modify my Mac computer so I can get in to substitute, but I am transitional and did not need their Kelly training. A Charles emailed me Sept. 11 that within a day he would be back to answer my questions.

I have escalated your issue to the appropriate department 
to be handled via telephone. 
You can expect a follow-up within one business day. 

Oh, yes, I did (in my mind) have an escalated issue!!! It wasn't one business day because Joel called me earlier today Sept. 16th and we talked about how I had gone to Kelly Services for substituting and did not need other training  and I thanked them that they had helped me make my Mac computer ready. 

Friday Sept. 12 two people from Kelly Services promised to call back and that Friday I had been given information on the location of Kelly Services in Tampa--had almost thought that Kelly Services was not in our area that they were in some high rise somewhere in the galaxy.

Actually Suite 117 in Tampa
Yesterday morning,  September 15th, by 11 am they hadn't called back.  So Monday, Sept. 15,  I gassed up the car and traveled the familiar I-4 route to the I-275 North and got off on the exit that would eventually bring me to Kelly Services after almost an hour. Walking in Suite 117 someone said I looked perplexed. (Well actually I had an  escalated issue!) A gentleman, possibly the boss I had talked to on Friday who recognized my name, said they would investigate. I stayed in the reception area--not invited back to a cubicle. I started taking pictures and explained to Melissa that I was going to blog about getting into substituting with Kelly Services. She said she hoped it would be good. It is!


Name tag will last me until 3/18!
Someone came out and asked for my birthdate. Someone went to look for that picture that had been taken August 6th and no one could find it. Then Dareaus took another picture.

Finally a new name tag was brought to me and they said that I would receive a call within 48 hours that I could sign on in the computer to substitute teach.

To celebrate I rapped for Melissa and Dareaus who liked the raps and said they would look me up on YouTube. Thanks Melissa and Dareaus, Carol and others who helped!

I am not angry with Kelly Services and they have been polite to me as they tried to get this transitional sub back in the system.

During the month I thought I should rightfully be substitute teaching while I waited for answers from Kelly Services.   But the LORD had other plans for my time:
  • Time with my grieving dog Ziggy.
  • Time to adjust to widowhood and make the house my house instead of our house.
  • Time to get out and about.
  • Time to start coaching four women on caregiving by email.
  • Time for a dental, vision and medical appointment.
  • Time to apply to refinance the mortgage.
  • Time for friends.
  • Time to arrange for more YouTube videos of my raps.
  • Time to do homework for the Grief and Share group I go to one night a week. 

What have I learned? There is life after caregiving and the death of a spouse. You just have to jump back in even if it isn't easy to jump back in. Sometimes you just have to go in person to an office to get the results you need and to cut through the bureaucracy. Sometimes you just have to have faith and believe that it will all work out, that money will come to you when you need it, that the LORD will provide.

Maggie called about 4:55 pm today to tell me I could put my pin in, set up my profile of the schools where I wish to teach. I did that. Within a half hour, I had been called for a school that I like.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Aha Moments in My Caregiving

Not to sound like a braggadocio, but my hubby was great and knew he had a problem. I had to change and learned to take those changes in stride. 

Caregiving.com asked for seven caregiving moments. I actually took the time to read through a lot of this blog. 

Meeting another couple I call “Sally and Jake” (their names on my blog about my husband’s Mixed Dementia) and our doing things together so the Alzheimer’s husbands bonded. Meanwhile Sally and I had support from each other when we did things together. Our husbands went to a senior center together and this would not have happened if they had not first bonded. Jake is not able to go to the senior center without my husband because they used to do this together. 

Using coconut oil that seemed to calm my husband, although it didn’t cure the disease as he passed away June 23 of this year. 

The realization that I was in training since I couldn’t control his disease. I had to change and I often didn’t feel at home in our home because I had to make so many adjustments.

 Handling difficult issues such as driving. I worried and worried. In the end after passing two Alzheimer’s driving tests funded here in Florida, my husband decided on his own that he wished to be a passenger.

 Dealing with Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and incontinence.

The medical community not understanding my husband’s not being able to walk. At first they thought it was a torn ligament. Then arthritis. A chiropractor helped until several months before he died. Really, not walking is part of a later stage of the disease.

The incredible help of Hospice so he could die at home and the amazing help of volunteers such as Kenny and Pharis that enabled me to keep working until several months before he died.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I am so glad that I decided to keep blogging after my husband was diagnosed. I look back on so much life that we participated in even after that diagnosis. I am so grateful to our LORD for taking me through, even as I grieve now for my husband. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Senior Health: Take Time for Checkups

While you are a caregiver, you hardly have time for yourself. It is important to get those checkups, however. Now that my husband has passed away, I had some time for three appointments recently .

Dental appointment.  After my husband died, I had time for the tooth I lost. I received a new crown on one of my teeth on Monday. Hadn't been to the dentist since 2012. That crown is expensive, but I needed one and charged it. I like it. Feels good. Now I need to schedule a cleaning and maybe gum treatment --not sure what they will advise.

Doctor appointment. My doctor was pleased on Monday, but I didn't get my way about discontinuing the antidepressant. I am to keep taking Paxil for one month, and then alternate days for October, and then take Paxil every third day in November. I had read that you should not get off of Paxil suddenly. She noted that I have had two counseling appointments (one with Hospice and one with the Alzheimer's Association) and was pleased that I am going to a grief group at a local church. My HDL, or good cholesterol, was lower than she wanted whereas last time it was normal. I can help my HDL cholesterol through exercise. She was pleased that I had gone back to Weight Watchers and started losing again. Fortunately I had not gained back all of the weight I lost in 2012, but really I had other priorities including eating ice cream with my husband--one of the last things he would eat in bed. Now I do not want ice cream--would be a grief issue for me to have some.

Eyes.  I hadn't been to the eye doctor in quite a while. I went today and found out nothing shattering. My cataract is a little worse and my vision a little worse. I can get new reading glasses and use the other frames and it is covered under my insurance.

In the spring I did have a mammogram and had someone stay with my husband. At some point I need to see my audiologist (hearing) doctor again to have my hearing aids adjusted. However, because of my husband's condition I missed an appointment with the endocrinologist who had been checking my thyroid a year ago and I need to reschedule that. Oh! I need to get a shot so I don't get Shingles!

The family caregiver can pass away 
before their care receiver.  
I have heard as many as 60% do. 
Don't put off those checkups.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Recognition Near the End of My Husband's Life

End of life impressions of the care receiver are interesting. I did remind my husband that I was his loving wife Carol and we remained close to the end. I was told that with Vascular Dementia my husband would always recognize me.

I had been telling my husband that his adult son (my step-son) was going to come to visit, but he didn't recognize him when he came unfortunately.

However, my husband warmly greeted Kenny's nephew from his bed at the end of life,  with a big smile and hand shake. I really think he thought it was his son at an earlier time period. His eyesight wasn't so accurate in any case.

Esteban came by to see me the other day to check on me. I took his picture holding one of my husband at an earlier time. Maybe my husband's son looked something like he looked in the picture.

Esteban holding early picture of my husband.
Perhaps his son looked like this. 
This graphic is helpful for visiting someone who is living in long-term memory.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Caregiving the Final Year

I had discussed the options of nursing home care and in-home Hospice care with a counselor at the Alzheimer's Association. I decided on Hospice. My husband could stay at home and since I could resign from my jobs substituting in public schools it was THE solution, rather than a nursing home. It was most comforting to have hubby at our home, as his decline was very rapid as chronicled on this blog.

NOT WALKING. A year ago hubby woke up not being able to walk. He hadn't fallen and I thought it was that arthritis and not a broken leg. A knee brace had been used for a time.  However, in hindsight, his not walking was all about dementia and the plaques and tangles taking over another part of the brain. Our chiropractor gave him increased mobility, but in the end that part of his brain that enabled walking didn't work.

I realize that not everyone is able to keep the loved one at home, but someone has to live with them.  Some dementia patients are difficult to handle because they are angry and their filters for normal social behavior are missing.  Or some wander away from home.  Some turn the stove on and forget they did that and risk burning the house down. My husband didn't cook in the past few years and didn't wander. My husband relished being "normal" and I treated him normally as my loving husband, learning to talk simply to him and always saying "I love you" at least once a day. It worked for us. He had a good disposition and just loved watching TV and enjoying his DVD collection. We both loved our home. I would keep busy, but not really concentrate on the TV he was watching.

Hubby in hospital bed at left;
dog Ziggy on my twin bed. 
HOSPICE decision. We took out the king-sized bed in the master bedroom, the Hospice hospital bed was moved in and I slept by hubby in a twin bed pictured. Our dog Ziggy moved between our beds. I learned from Hospice that hospital gowns at home are made by cutting the back of a T-shirt up the middle but not through the top ribbing so they would stay on; this made it easy to change their top. By this time my husband was bedridden and using adult diapers.

Handy dining room cart moved to bedroom

TV, bomb box and cart for supplies
Hospice needs a station to do their work. I used a cart from the dining area and moved it to our bedroom. The "Depends" type products were stored on a chest nearby. Near the end of Hospice, a Home Health Care Aid came every day and I actually learned to change my husband's diapers and he never got a rash. The nurse who came when he died noted that he had been well cared for. He was loved and made to feel normal.

My dear husband knew he was dying and told Kenny he was ready to stay in bed -- he had had enough of moving from the Geri chair to the bed. He would tell Kenny things that he didn't tell me, because he needed to feel normal around me I think. Kenny was his buddy--not a volunteer caregiver in my husband's mind.

I believe that Hospice in the home is a great way to take care of our loved ones. They are most comfortable at home. Look at this wheel with all the services Hospice provides.

Support groups and other help. An Alzheimer's Association support group is most helpful. We caregivers need support. We HAVE to get respite. People were always with my husband when Hospice was called in. I went to the grocery store when the Home Health Care Aid came, and went to church when someone was here. For months I had been contracted to teach three classes and someone was with my hubby for many hours those three days. I had to ask for that help from friends.

When hubby went downhill I started taking 10 MG of the antidepressant Paxil that I will get weaned off of hopefully when I see my doctor in September. I tried to stop because it is non-habit forming, but that was a mistake and I needed them to maintain my hormone levels and an acceptable mood. Then l read where you need to get off Paxil slowly. I have had two counseling sessions--one with the Alzheimer's Association and one with Hospice. Neither of these appointments cost me a dime. Both counselors also advised me to taper off of Paxil slowly.

TAKING CARE OF ME.  Many caregivers pass away before their loved one dies because of the stress perhaps--maybe 60% I have read somewhere. The grief added to years of caregiving can take a heavy toll. I am finally taking care of me. I went to the dentist this week and before my hubby died I had someone at the house so I could keep my mammogram appointment that had been scheduled for a long time. I am going to Weight Watchers again--glad that I didn't gain all the weight back that I lost in 2012. I think some of my gaining back weight was that ice cream that hubby and I enjoyed together--one of the last things he would eat. I have not had ice cream since he died--it would cause a grief burst to have ice cream.

I am both relieved and grieving and need more sleep--even dog Ziggy needs more sleep.  I am trying to get out and about and do things that bring joy to my life. I am discovering what works for me, glad that I can still do things.

I am going to a grief support group. Hospice has them, but I am going to a thirteen-week grief group with my friend Sally at her church. We are using Grief Share: Your Journey From Mourning to Joy, published by Church Initiative, P. O. Box 1739, Wake Forest, NC 27588. It has a manual with homework and also a video that the facilitators play in class. Tonight is my second session.

Today I go vote and I am less prepared to vote than I have been in the past. I started to watch the Emmy's last night and realized that I did not know these TV programs up for nomination.

THIS BLOG WILL CONTINUE.  Stay tuned. I am writing a seminary counseling dissertation on dementia caregiving and then finding a publisher for the popular version of that manuscript.

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning 
and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you 
and not be silent.
O LORD my God,
I will give you thanks forever. 
Psalm 30:11-12 New Living Translation

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: The Sun Still Rises by Shawn Doyle

I had seen Shawn at a gathering in December of 2012 and he gave me a piece of jewelry that had been his wife's--very special simple act. His wife Cindy had passed away unexpectedly seven months earlier.  His book, The Sun Still Rises: Surviving and Thriving After Grief and Loss, is a splendid guide for the necessary journey for my widowhood.

Shawn Doyle is an author and motivational speaker who thoughtfully sent me his book when it came out last week.  Spread the word, he said, and I am glad to do that because it has so much food for thought and insight and is so timely for me.

Doyle covers the myths about bereavement that society puts on us and critiques those expectations. I thought about one of those when publicly I was seen rapping in a street fair that I wrote about recently on this blog. I wondered what would people think. Yet I knew in my heart that my husband would want me to go on and bring smiles to people when I rap. As dementia ravaged my husband's brain he tried to act normal and he would want me to go on when he was gone.

Other myths Doyle dispels include that there is a time frame for grief and that all family members will be helpful. He points out that the death after a sudden illness is not the same as a prolonged illness. Certainly this is the case with my two late husbands. I experienced shock the first time after the heart attack and acceptance the second time because I saw my husband go downhill and know now that his soul is with our LORD waiting for the bodily resurrection when Christ returns.

One morning, June 23, 2014, to be exact, the sun rose when the every four hours alarm rang at 6:30 am. I awoke in my twin bed by my husband's hospital bed and I soon discovered that husband was dead as I recounted in PRECIOUS LAST DAYS on this blog, a post that has had over 300 views. I am angry at dementia, but not at the LORD's timing in taking my husband to be with Him when He did. I finally became comfortable with caregiving as I have written on this blog, but I now need to begin a whole new chapter--grieving. I am not so comfortable being single and grieving as of yet.  Shawn's insights are helping me.

But it is not just GRIEVING, where I could get stuck, but I could get stuck NOT forging of a new life. "You will eventually be OK" writes Doyle assuredly (p. 48) and you CAN reinvent your life. Hmm, my life now includes getting back to my counseling dissertation on caregiving and continuing to write this blog. Will my grieving continue because of writing this dissertation and writing this blog? I ask myself as I read this carefully crafted book.

Here are some gems from the book.
  • Sawn advises to not have toxic people in your life. 
  • I choose how I think and I choose my attitude (p. 59) he writes. 
  • Life is so short and precious that I'm not going to waste my life sitting around being miserable, mean, and sad. . . I choose to heal, honor the past, but embrace the present (pp.60-61). 
  • Grief is not only emotionally draining, but also takes physical tolls on the body. We have to take care of ourselves. Shawn went to Weight Watchers and I now have the time to go back to Weight Watchers and have been there for several weeks slowly losing almost five pounds.
  • Get involved with others and give back to others. 
  • Decisions are more difficult when you are grieving. Listen to your heart, but also have advisers.
  • The feelings of grief can include numbness, anger, distraction, nightmares, impulsiveness, special day blues, jealousy, lack of direction, lack of optimism, depression, personality changes. My first special day, July 4th, saw two people backing out on being with me and it was hard. I haven't had nightmares or jealousy. I admit to a bit of impulsive spending, numbness, anger and distraction. 
In chapter seven Doyle lists 12 rules of others and how to break those rules. He writes:
My advice to you on this rule is simply be yourself and don't worry about how you are supposed to or not supposed to act. If people want to misinterpret your actions as being inappropriate then that is their problem. (p. 118)
Shawn concludes: Every day the sun still rises. You can either turn and face it, or hide in the dark. The sun is better for you, trust me. (p. 170)

I want to add to this review that the SON rose from the dead so that I may have new life on this earth because I believe in Him and eternal life in Heaven. Christ said in the beatitudes God blesses those who mourn,  for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4 NLT). While Shawn is well read with many helpful quotes and excellent advice, his book is mainly for his secular readers as he is a popular motivational speaker. However he does touch on spirituality briefly.

But if you are in grief, don't miss this book.  It is a HUGE help 
with freeing suggestions 
and well-crafted, clear insight. 
Thanks, Shawn, for this gift. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Celebrating Being Old

The six weeks of Hospice care for my husband before his death on June 23rd saw my husband aging each day--looking older than his 76 years. 

A birthday was coming up for me also, and my husband died two days before I turned seventy. I just seem to never celebrate those decades appropriately and this year my husband had died and couldn't celebrate with me. 

When I was a widow the first time and turned 50, the gentleman I was dating didn't get it right. Then I thought that when I turned 60 I should celebrate at a Plant City tea room because my husband was so busy working. This was before dementia and I didn't know our friends Sally and Jake. The tea room event never was pulled off even though I hinted to friends.  

However, Sally got this decade birthday right as she planned a 70th b.d. luncheon at her home. It was so lovely. What a thoughtful friend Sally is! The guests that came brought two cards, as it turned out--a birthday card and a sympathy card. 

I am at the head of the table. 

That day Jake was at the Senior Center, and although he had been going there with my husband, he became accustomed to going there by himself as we all saw hubby going downhill. Six weeks later  Jake asked, "So did your husband actually die?" They were such good buddies. Life goes on even if memories fade. Part of my grief is that Jake doesn't have his buddy. 

I started a Pinterest board on aging.* Here are some pins you might enjoy.

We should take the best of every age.  Hey, folks, I rap. I plan to write more raps and get YouTube figured out.  I am working on an Ed.D. in counseling. 

Have a reason to laugh.

Laugh at our memory.

Laugh at our eyesight.

Laugh at our teeth. 

But above all, be spontaneous, creative and have fun.

* Click on the bottom of this blog (after the July 16 post) for Follow Me on Pinterest