Monday, September 5, 2016

I live in a nursing home for almost three weeks!

Huntsville Health and Rehabilitation 
Never had to put my late husband who had mixed dementia in a nursing home. Had the privilege of having him in our Plant City home all his days. However two years later I have recently had the nursing home experience--not in Plant City, Florida, but in Huntsville, Alabama where I moved a year after he died.

Prayer. Breaking both ankles will send you to ER and then in my case to Huntsville Health and Rehab right across the Parkway from my apartment. The LORD has such a sense of humor 'cause this is the very facility that my Huntsville church has a prayer meeting in! So now I have been to prayer meetings there and expanded my prayer opportunity for my church and for the residents and staff I have met.

Residents. I have been able to identify dementia patients there. The first night I sat in someone's spot in the dining room. She said, I have sat here all my life! Of course she hadn't, but I got up and moved. No use arguing with a dementia patient!

I met lonely residents, parked here with little interaction and no visitors. When I can walk and drive (when my two legs are healed), I will come back to visit them. These three weeks have changed me. 

Nursing Staff. My mother was a nurse. She advised,  Carol, become a teacher. I see why after living in this nursing home. The tasks and responsibilities are endless. Maybe thankless. The staff is expected to counteract the realities of old age and disability. Teaching is easier, but just maybe nursing is more rewarding than teaching.

Therapists. I had Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists. I thought I would have time to polish my dissertation and read--not so. Therapists would find me and the sessions would begin. I was very glad I had been using the gym at my apartment house because it gave me a "leg up" (pun intended). Sessions included hopping on the better leg for use with a walker. I was happy about my upper arm muscles being toned because of my old lady wings. Occupational therapists prepared me for when I would leave the facility and would have to dress and cook.

Now the speech therapist sessions were optional for me, but I elected to take the training. I had haunting thoughts about my own memory from all I have been studying. It turns out the memory enhancing skills I learned help with normal aging and some studies (such as The Nun Study) suggest that mentally, socially and physically active seniors are less likely to get Alzheimer's. The cognitive therapy that I was given is very interesting and useful to me.

I am now staying with my family and having home health care several days a week after Labor Day. On September 23rd I go back to the orthopedic surgeon to assess the state of my bone healing.

But there are a group of residents that are my new friends. I had many visitors in my 19 days in this nursing home, and I can never repay them, not to mention Sandra and Richard who are taking care of dog Ziggy. I am going to "pay it forward" by visiting my new friends. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Becoming a Care Receiver

I wonder when my dog is thinking I will come home. We have been apart since Wednesday night--a whole week.

Wednesday night, Aug. 10, I took my dog on a long walk. On the way home I fell in the street. It was dark and as best I can tell I started slipping into a drain. I fell on my rear and the top of the concrete would not give way. My feet crunched! I yelled for help in the street and people came. I called for my neighbor on my cell phone to come get my dog while an ambulance came to get me. The pain was excruciating and I rapped while on the way to the hospital to effectively block my mind from the pain. 

Thursday morning I had surgery. I asked for anesthesia that doesn't promote Alzheimer's since I know about that--don't think I have AD however.  In surgery I had a cast put on my left foot for a tib/bit fracture and other metal pinnings and a boot put on my right foot for a simple break at the button of my feet. Gradually I am hopping on the right foot to use the port-a-potty in the hospital but it is not easy.

Monday morning I was transferred to a rehab place not far from where I live. My brother drove me with my own car which was the right height for my late husband and now for me to get into and out of. Sandra from my church had taken my dog for a month on that Thursday  or maybe longer. The picture above looks like my old dog in Plant City.

Ziggy had obvious help from Sandra to write:

"Hi mommy I slept well last night. I got a bath today I wanted you to see how pretty I am. I was a good boy when I got my bath and it really felt good. I ran and I ran and I ran and played ball after my bath. I made everybody laugh! I hope you're feeling better. I love you, Ziggy"

I have had to cancel substitute teaching which I will miss until I can literally get back on my feet. I rap at the end of good classes and have gotten quite a reputation as a rapper here in Huntsville--MC AC The Rap Lady on YouTube. The man who took my blood in the middle of the night in the hospital is a bus driver during the day and the high schoolers all talk about me on the bus he says. 

Now the staff here at the rehabilitation place are learning about my rapping. The first day was VERY hard for me, but I am adjusting. 

Thanks for your prayers, folks. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dating As a Widow

The world has changed. Dating has changed. Betty Friedan changed the male/female in the work place over forty years ago and women have become more bold. Many women do not believe in enduring relationships and even forego marriage. For the Christian woman, however, cohabitation is unacceptable. Contemplating dating may help the widow realize she has come far in her grieving, or dating can be a disaster for her. Here are lessons I think are important.

Lesson one. TIME. Give yourself time to heal from the loss of your husband. If you date too soon, you will be both comparing and grieving. Some aspect of the person will be different from your late husband and that will bother you. Or if something reminds you of your late husband it can be a grief moment. I dated too soon with the death of my first husband and counseling for a year helped me pick up the pieces. I had heartbreak on top of grief to deal with.

Lesson two. COMMONALITY. Ask yourself if you have anything in common with your date. What commonalities are important to you? For me, the Christian faith and theology are important. Life will continually throw fast balls and without a faith to navigate life's trials a relationship or even marriage will not work in my humble opinion. You have to rise above the loneliness and embrace wisdom. Does the gentleman value Scripture and worship of our LORD? Intelligence and emotional maturity are also important to me. Age, looks and money are not so important to me, but commitment to health might be.

Lesson three. TRANSPARENCY and TRUST. Are you able to be yourself with the date? Do they expect you to act a certain way? My brother advised me to not rap on the date, but his married daughter told me,

"Aunt Carol, just be yourself."

Trust must be earned. Often a divorced person will be very skeptical of a relationship possibility. I married and was widowed by two divorced men, and I think that our common Christian faith helped us be transparent and gain the trust of each other.

Lesson four. SOCIAL MEDIA.  What do they use? How do they wish to be contacted or not be contacted? It has all changed. This is not the olden days when women sat by the phone at home and waited to get a phone call. Today there are so many avenues of communication. Our girlfriends like to be contacted on social media, but men don't -- they often need to be in their "man cave". If they are truly shy, you may need to initiate I think if you would really like to get to know them. I like country singer Luke Bryan's song "Crash My Party" and maybe this song is so popular because the apparent extrovert Bryan easily lets his special woman into his life.

A caution is Facebook messaging. Do not accept someone as a Facebook friend who wants to sweet talk you and has no other friends but you. There is no way you can check them out. They may have seen on your profile that you are widowed. Oh well! They haven't even joined E-Harmony or some other site. Messaging you has cost them nothing and could turn out to be a scam.

Lesson five. FRIENDSHIP. Some old-fashioned men like to do the chasing. You walk a fine line between friendship and something more. Probably it is confusing for both of you. At least I think so. The age old advise of going slow applies. It doesn't hurt to just decide on a friendship at first and in the end.

Lesson six. FORGE A NEW LIFE. You don't have to date. You are forging a new life as a widow and it is okay to venture out with new friends both male and female and new experiences. Exercise some caution when you do venture out where men are involved. I took up line dancing when my first husband died and a married gentleman I met at line dancing lessons thought I would enjoy spending the night with him. I shot back,

"Why would I want a temporary fix! 
I am the kind you marry. 
Go home and love your wife, sir."

Lesson seven. LEARN FROM YOUTH. One high school student told me he would want to go on the first dates his widowed grandmother has to check out the gentleman! One young girl summed it up: "I want a guy to write me snail mail and just hang out with me!" Many young people are so wise.

Above all, widows, let the LORD be your husband. He will never let you down.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Sale of My Plant City Home

Back yard

It was about a year ago that the house went on the market after yard sales as I noted on this blog. The first week there was a buyer, who quickly got out. I moved to Alabama and the negotiations for the house included another buyer. Just when we were about to close, the buyers couldn't get insurance because the roof was too old and there were outlets that my late husband put into his workshop without a permit. Sale off. 

When the economy was better before his dementia my late husband and I had gotten a second mortgage, on advice from a financial consultant. That second mortgage would help us maintain the house he explained because we had less income. Surely the house would be worth more when it came time to sell it. We did use some of that money for improvements. The roof had been fixed in two places, but we never thought of replacing it. 

However the house didn't increase in value. When it came time to sell, it was "underwater".Short of foreclosure, the only other option was a cash buyer. 

The place looked occupied as I let neighbors put animals in the second back yard after I moved to Huntsville, Alabama. 

Cash Buyer Needed or Foreclosure

Enter Leroy  who lives in this neighborhood along with his wife. They recently celebrated their 60th anniversary! She has Parkinson's and I met them at my yard sales. I sold Leroy handicapped items for a dollar each--you know--port-a-potties, wheel chair, etc., and we became friends. He even gave me a chair.

It turns out Leroy buys houses to rent--for cash. Who would have thought? I called him when that second buy fell through. He made an offer for the short sale and it took from October 16, 2015 until this week for the negotiations to finish. Thank you, LORD.

Now Leroy is a fine Christian gentleman. When I rapped for him, he sang me this song.

Some people save their money
For the hard times that's to come
Planning for the future
For their daughters and their sons
But when life down here on earth is through
And we face the judgment throne
The only thing that matters
Is if to Him your soul belongs.

The only thing that matters
Is if you've been born again
Has the blood been applied?
Have you been forgiven of your sins?
'Cause when He opens up the book of life
And into your heart he stares
The only thing that matters
Is if your name is written there.

Thank you, Leroy, for this song and your testimony. It doesn't matter that the house didn't turn a profit. The only thing that matters is that I have real estate in heaven.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Love of a Caregiver Daughter

I had the privilege of interviewing an outstanding caregiver whom I had been corresponding with. My dog Ziggy and I were privileged to stay overnight with this couple. Over a breakfast of homemade biscuits Patricia said about her mother:

I was blessed with a great mother 
and I can do no less than care for her. 
She always tried to care 
for others in her family, 
selflessly giving even after she was disabled with leg fractures.

Her mother broke her hip and leg at age 84 requiring metal rods. Then 2 years later she broke the other leg in two places requiring rods and pins. Her resilience was amazing, but due to issues with blood pressure she began to lose her sight and have small TIAs. Then the dementia began as it often does in the 80s. Finally at 87 she had a stroke that paralyzed her left side and throat causing aspiration issues. Due to the extreme physical issues she was placed in a skilled nursing facility hoping for rehabilitation. Unfortunately a second stroke in rehab greatly reduced her ability to respond to therapy and today’s healthcare system discontinued the therapy due to lack of progress. 

This was a very stressful time for Patricia because she felt so helpless. She knew her mother didn’t qualify for therapy,  but without it she would just lose the existing strength and rapidly cycle downward. How do you watch a loved one lose their dignity and connection to reality? Her mother had good days where she was alert and realized that she was not getting therapy and therefore she had little hope of regaining function of her body and returning to her home. It is difficult to see a loved one lose their spirit and will to live. The 88-year-old mother also had a son, but he was not in a position to help. 

So for four years Patricia worked four days with the schools and then drove 3 and 1/2 hours to stay with her mother Friday through Sunday—so her mother could stretch her finances needed to pay around the clock caregivers allowing her to remain in her own home. Patricia said it overtook her life for those four years, greatly impacting the quality of her other family relationships especially the special time to share activities with her husband during their golden years together. She said that she always felt guilty trying to meet everyone’s needs at the same time and never doing a good job anywhere. Her mother had to pay $35,000 a year for Monday to Thursday caregivers when Patricia was not there during those four years. After the first major stroke her mother’s needs increased but Patricia was exhausted also. She had also developed physical ailments from helping to lift her mother over the last 2 years and now her mother would not be able to assist with any position transfers to prevent bed sores.

Something had to give. She was moved to live closer to the couple. They decided to have her dentist husband  hook up oxygen to create a sort of  SUV ambulance to move the mother to a nursing facility in their home town. The original plan was to receive therapy until she improved and could then assist with transfers and limited caretaking within Patricia’s home. Unfortunately, her health continued to degenerate and she was unable to make any physical progress. Now Patricia is able to visit her several hours a day and still have a life with her very understanding, caring husband.
I asked Patricia how she was able to sustain this selfless care giving for four years and even now going to the nursing home every day. She said,

I just do it.
I stay in the moment.
Then I’ve also let go of some 
other moments or expectations for my life.
I don’t look at it as an intrusion.
I know that once she is really gone
 I can’t touch her again, 
so for now it is all worth it.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trip Back to Plant City

Presenting the draft of the dissertation
A seminary counseling dissertation has kept me very busy lately and I haven’t blogged here since December 1, 2015. So let me tell you about the trip I took recently back to Plant City, Florida.

Last fall I applied to be a registrar at Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida starting Feb. 25. When I was accepted as a registrar, I knew I could also attend much of this great  conference for free  have free lodging at friends since I have limited funds. Orlando is about an hour away from Plant City, Florida, where I used to live before I moved here to Huntsville, Alabama, also know as Rocket City.  

I did accomplish a few other things on the trip—namely the presenting of that seminary counseling dissertation draft, Hope for Dementia Caregivers, to the seminary in Florida along with attend the conference. Thank the LORD they both happened--the draft submitted and the conference. 

I  even managed to see people, and talk at Lakeland Toastmasters on Reflections of Writing a Dissertation. I had four points that I remember.

1. I reviewed my usual topics in the club--how I got eyebrows, accidentally became a rapper, and how I got my house organized (all covered on this blog).

 2.  But this time, I told the group, I have a serious talk on how I wrote the dissertation draft. 
I took people along with me. 
I had a dissertation committee in Huntsville that met with me about once a month at the Huntsville Library. They day before I left for the trip, I had two lovely ladies from my committee who proofed the dissertation at my house. 

3. In addition to the accountability of my committee, I described how I persevered writing it, getting up early to write before substitute teaching and finding other moments for writing. 

4. I also mentioned the wise advise from my Huntsville pastor--get it done even if it isn't perfect. If you have liked this page at the top right, you can hear my talk on that page. 

Also in Florida I record two raps to be produced for my YouTube channel, MC AC The Rap Lady. Lyrics for the rap "Rocket City Ditty" about Huntsville where I have moved, is on the last blog post. I took Dezarae and Pharis to the studio and they were featured as I introduced the rap “While You’re Still One”--see HERE. I knew these two young people because their father used to help me at the house while my husband was a dementia sufferer and couldn’t work on the house. Dezarae and Pharis were adopted by a wonderful couple so their birth mother didn't have to get an abortion. Because Florida is a pro-choice state, I had not recorded this rap previously. Because I now live in Alabama which is a pro-life state, it works here. 

I had the privilege of taking my dog Ziggy to stay with Plant City friends Sally and Jake for 10 days and even was able to arrange an overnight stay with Ziggy at another caregiver's home on the return to Huntsville. Both places a caregiver read the dissertation and approved. I so appreciate the hospitality of these two couples. 

With Ziggy at  a BBQ on the way back to Huntsville. 

Thanks to all who have been praying for my trip. Continue to pray for the revision of the dissertation. I need to add a chapter on grieving after your dementia loved one has passed away and make some other changes. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rocket City Ditty

So living here for six months makes me feel like I am on vacation, discovering new places, and making new friends. Of course the big attraction for me as a widow, is that I live by family. Now I haven't decided I am a donut fan or a football fan yet, but the pressure is on. One grand nephew likes Dunkin' and Auburn and the other grand nephew likes Krispy Kreme and Alabama. 

In the meanwhile I have fallen in love with this city, Huntsville, Alabama. They say the engineers here retire and decide to stay also. As a reverse snowbird moving here from Plant City, Florida, I started to notice the quirkiness about Huntsville. So I wrote a rap. 

Computer program Huntsville Schools uses
"Hvs" is short for Huntsville, and "Edmodo" is the name of a computer program used by students in middle and high school--public school students all have laptop computers checked out to them instead of books; elementary students have iPads and recess if you can imagine that, Florida!  

Two days this week I will substitute in high school and I will try out this new rap on the students. Will let  you know how it goes. 

Rocket City Ditty
Do I love this city?
If you need an adventure
There’s Space & Rocket Center
In spring, fall and frost
Edmodo is the boss
Hey Hvs school
You are pretty cool
Hvs has its schisms
Hvs High or Grissom
Name your donut
Dunkin' or Krispy Kreme
Alabama or Auburn
Name your team
Engineers who like the arts
And lots of business new starts 
Houses and buildings brick
Making friends that stick
Memorial Pkwy is a cinch
Helps you get there in a pinch
Military time Redstone Arsenal
Don’t ask me anything too personal
Rocket City ditty
Yes, I love this city.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Turn to Give Respite

I had respite when my husband was alive as I shared on this blog. Often I had to ask for help--but not always. Once my sister-in-law took me on a cruise while my late husband went to stay with his son. Near the end of his life, my husband could not go to church and I had someone stay at the house so I could go to worship.

Caregiving is often a 24/7 job. I found this with my new friend in Huntsville, Sally. Several years ago Sally's mother Evelyn came to live with Sally and Bob, and gradually this 99 year old mother developed dementia (as we all may should we live that long).

Sally and her husband Bob need to be with her mother Evelyn constantly. Evelyn can't hear well and has glaucoma and macular degeneration.. She walks with a cane because of her hip and at her advanced age, a hip replacement is out of the question.  In addition, as can be expected, she has developed dementia, but doesn't know it.

Recently I went to Sally's house to meet her lovely mother Evelyn. Sally showed me the tub where her mother gets an aided bath with a home health care aid that Sally hires. I was impressed at how this bath routine worked and didn't know about the long shower chair. Evelyn uses Depends on her own, and is able to dress herself with the clothes that Sally puts out.

When Evelyn is in bed and needs help, she can press a button Bob Bob installed on her bed. The button rings a wireless doorbell out in the hall that can be heard through the whole house. Bob or Sally can then go and help her.

How do you test for dementia? The doctor can ask the care receiver as happened with my husband in 2008, or the caregiver can answer questions about their loved one.

But the test for Sally was not needed. She was stressed to the max. She needed respite. I contacted her pastor and others at her church about help for her. The wheels were put in motion. Sally also started brainstorming about people who could help including a young person she could hire. Aging Care has suggestions also HERE. 

Meanwhile I provided respite on Sunday, November 15. It was my time to help. I did not go to my Huntsville church but would have my church with Evelyn (hymns and prayer).  Sally and Bob could get out to their church together --Sunday School, worship and out to lunch.  This retired couple deserved this respite and a date together. Sally had it all arranged--the usual breakfast was set out for her mother and a delicious ham was warming in the oven. They left for church about 9 am.

Evelyn came out all dressed and chipper. I reminded her that I am her new friend Carol. She had buried one husband and I told her I had buried two husbands. She quipped:

You are pretty hard of husbands
aren't you!

She also said that her hip was bad, but she needed to keep it because it was attached to the rest of her body. Delightful lady! She said she couldn't hear well or see well.

After lunch of corn, ham, squash and a banana, she occupied herself with a large Word Search puzzle, taking great pride in what she was doing. We did not watch TV, but I enjoyed maintaining the fire which we both watched. 

About 2 pm Sally and Bob returned and Evelyn showed Bob her progress on the puzzle. 

But there is more to the story and Sally was brave enough to tell me that Sunday--something I hadn't noticed.  

I had had Sally over to my apartment last summer with some of her friends that had been praying for me in my caregiving journey. I didn't notice her hands. I didn't notice her hands at the Alzheimer's Association Conference recently which her husband insisted she attend while he watched his mother-in-law. That day, I had just noticed her tears and the stress she feels being an 24/7 caregiver at the time in her life when she and Bob should be enjoying their retirement. She had characteristically bent her elbows and folded her hands in front of her like a speaker would do. Remarkable woman and remarkable smile. 

In 2001 Bob and Sally had planned a trip to Maui, Hawaii in conjunction with a test connected with Bob’s work.  Bob was delayed at a test at White Sands so Sally went on ahead alone to wait.  She became sick and eventually went into septic shock.  She went to a "doc in the box" who treated her for nausea when she asked for antibiotics.  The next day he said he couldn’t help her and called an ambulance to take to the hospital emergency room as she could no longer drive.  Bob only found out when he was paged in the LA airport and told he needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. The first three days they could not tell Bob whether she was going to survive or not.  The actual message was, “She is hanging over a cliff and we are reaching for her but we don’t have a hold yet.” She was in the hospital for five weeks with nineteen days in the ICU.  Septic shock causes the capillaries to shut down.  That affects the lungs and extremities the most.  She was put on 100% oxygen to keep her alive which is not a good thing for long periods of time because it turns the lungs to “leather” and will eventually kill you.   While she eventually began to improve, her fingers and toes turned black. She had to have all her fingers beyond the first knuckle surgically removed except for thumbs which she begged to keep. All but her little toes also had to be removed.  

Bob got a medical leave from work to stay with her, and her mother and sister also came out to stay with her.  However, the last week Bob had to leave to attend their son’s wedding so Sally’s secretary and her secretary’s daughter, Beth, came out to stay with her.  On September 10, 2001 they took Sally directly from the hospital to the plane to return to Huntsville.  They landed in LA the morning of 9/11 and all flights were grounded.  Beth, not being a shy person, pushed her way to the head of the long car rental line and said she needed a van for a medical emergency.  For the next three days they drove straight from LA to Huntsville.  At every stop Beth would drag out a suitcase to put on the ground beside the van for Sally to step down on.  That trip served as Sally’s in residence PT!

Sally returned to work as head of research and development for Huntsville City Schools.  However the stress of her job and the lasting effects of her septic shock were too much.  In 2005 she took an early retirement  from her administrative position and as a former Special Education teacher with Huntsville City Schools.

Sally deserves respite!