Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kitchen Reflections--As Perfect As Can Be Now

Ready to be mopped, enjoyed and kept clean

 Mrs. Clark, in The House That Cleans Itself, believes in camoflauge. Regularly I make coconut fudge in ice cube trays so my husband gets coconut oil, probably a factor in his stability in stage one. While we have been using coconut oil for quite some time, a year ago I started the fudge. (See recipe here.) So I needed a camoflauge strategy for the ice cube trays and tub of Tropical Traditions or Lou Ana coconut oil that I am regularly using. Those trays come right out of the dishwasher and go here as pictured at the left. This is the HTCI system. This little corner production is out of the line of sight that Clark advocates. You look at my kitchen now and it works for us and makes me happy. But, it is not perfect. After all, FlyLady says:
Perfectionism is Shelved in 2012!

Speaking of FlyLady, why didn't her system take for me? (FlyLady is Marla, the author of Kitchen Sink Reflections.) She seems to have  whole industry now from calendars to special brushes for your toilets to water containers.  Probably my cargiving situation and the rah, rah of the FlyLady business didn't mesh at this time--too overwhelming.  HTCI seems to work best for me, but I still get FlyLady email and look at it from time to time.

Not perfection, but major changes. Now I want to cook and can easily clean the counter tops. Major kitchen and laundry room changes include:

1. Finding things and storing them where they are used.

Didn't work

What works

2. Getting everything off of the floor in the laundry room so that tile can be mopped easily.

3. Pantry closet tweeked so that it continues to work (see below).

4. Using cloth bags when I grocery shop so I don't collect those plastic bags.

5. Giving equipment away. Hope to have a party for young people and newlyweds to acquire some of those items as prizes.

Pantry closet opposite the washer and dryer

I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. Psalm 101:2 TLT

Monday was DH's turn to go to the chiropractor who got him to stand up straight. Can you teach dementia loved ones new ideas? I think so. I have been telling him to strand up straight because he can and because it helps his back pain. He does that more now.

Then Monday we went to vote early. I got in a booth next to my husband and assisted him the with process, thinking that maybe I would be thrown out. Not so. He was pleased that we voted early and also shows interest in news of Hurricane Sandy now.

Hubby asked when is the next time we see "Jake and Sally" and I told him that will be Saturday during the Alzheimer's walk. Sally and I will walk the 5K and he and Jake will wait for us. Who would have thought of two Alzheimer's loved ones babysitting each other! Please contribute if you can by clicking on the above link. I have not raised all my funds yet.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Starting on Kitchen and Laundry Room, Area # 3

I remember how my mom as she got older started leaving stuff out in the kitchen and I started doing that also. OK because Mom did it? Not so. That recipe that I think I am going to make doesn't need all the ingredients left out on the counter. In fact stuff needs a home so my galley kitchen will function. 

Bad habits leaving things out.

Now I have space to cook.

View of laundry from kitchen
The laundry room above is an extension of our kitchen and has a closet pantry at the left and more shelves that my husband built to house baking items in back of the closet leading out to the garage. Above the freezer, the washer and dryer and the sink are more shelves. I really do have so much storage to make better use of. Somehow, stuff just gets left out on the dryer, on top of the freezer and even on the floor, making mopping harder. You get the picture! I used to be able to close off this area with a hidden wall door, but when we replaced the linoleum floor with new dark tile I we can't do that now.

The biggest dent I made last week was to decide to get rid of two large boxes of kitchen stuff.
Can't really think of anything I need above.
This feels so good. Then I was able to move party goods into spaces in the pantry/laundry room that had been hidden in a bin under our pool table. That bin is now available for clothes storage. 

I have started the process of going through each drawer and cabinet in the kitchen and asking those hard questions of do I need this? and when have I used this?

How does this apply to my husband with Alzheimer's? I am not changing anything that he is used to--where the plates, glasses and utensils are, for example. He has such a great habit of rinsing out his dishes and leaving them in the sink or by the sink ready for the dishwasher. This is his kitchen also.

I went again to the chiropractor for my carpal tunnel this week as my wrists needed an adjustment. I am practicing this week for the 5K Alzheimer's Association run on November 3rd.  I have to wear those braces on my wrists when I walk. I tried running for 3/4 of a mile yesterday bending my elbows and my wrists hurt. Overall I am excited about my new level of fitness and weight loss. Hopefully there will be no more hospital visits for me for I can remain my husband's caregiver.

I need to raise more money and if you can contribute the link is at the top right of this blog. Thanks.

Thanks to The House That Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark!  I am so happy with the changes I have been making. Through my thick brain I am finally learning to think and practice: 

A place for everything and everything in its place!

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Email Story and National Make a Difference Day

Today is Oct. 27th National "Make a Difference Day".  I posted that fact on the Alzheimer's section group board on Pinterest.

Sally sent me the following e-mail story about an angel (dog) and a grouchy father. Get ready to cry and think about what you can do today.

"Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!" My father yelled at me. "Can't you do anything right?"

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn't prepared for another battle.

"I saw the car, Dad. Please don't yell at me when I'm driving.My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn't lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.
At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, and then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.
My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad's troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, "I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had proved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world's aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?" The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. "He's a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we've heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow." He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. "You mean you're going to kill him?"

"Ma'am," he said gently, "that's our policy. We don't have room for every unclaimed dog."

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. "I'll take him," I said. I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.  "Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!" I said excitedly.

Dad looked, and then wrinkled his face in disgust. "If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it" Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. "You'd better get used to him, Dad. He's staying!"

Dad ignored me. "Did you hear me, Dad?" I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.
It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne. Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad's bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne's cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night.. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father's room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad's bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad's peace of mind.

The morning of Dad's funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church.. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.
And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."

"I've often thanked God for sending that angel," he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article. Cheyenne's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter, his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father, and the proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time. God answers our prayers in His time--not ours.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Joy of Having a Working Den

Above is a picture of ridiculous stuff I found that will be no more in our den: 3 junk bunkers, one dead chameleon, and one box of envelopes all sealed closed.

I never really moved into our den with my current situation, but now I have. It would be embarrassing to find things. Now there is a place to file, a hidden place to sew, a hidden iron and iron board, and more.

    Computer desk, copier and teaching materials
I teach a class for DUI offenders and one for first-time drivers. My crates and the moving cart now have a home when I am not teaching as you see above. I used to put these in a bedroom when there was company. I have a real desk that used to be my husband's desk. I use a second screen from his old computer. It is our desk, just like our one car is our car. I haven't changed that desk much so he feels at home.

FlipFold on Pub Table
    I now FOUND the  missing FlipFold and now have a place to use it to fold the laundry where I can see my husband in the family room watching TV. It is so important that I be with him at this stage in his Alzheimer's. This FlipFold saves my carpel tunnel wrists and is a great organizational tool and folding on that taller pub table is perfect for me. See demonstration on YouTube. I pinned this in my Useful board on Pinterest and it has already been repinned. I use FlipFlop on the pub table which used to have the sewing machine with items to be ironed or mended. Now I have a "mend/alter" shelf in the guest bedroom. The sewing machine is in a cabinet.
It is truly amazing when you find things and then place them in a new home. I FOUND the chord and instructions for our GPS. The voice was in another language recently but and I can update this tracking device and have "Miss Garmin" speak in English again. (I wrote on this blog about my husband using this when he drove before his Alzheimer's got worse.) 

Study Center
Above I have a box for cleaning in the den including screen cleaners. On the front of that box is The House That Cleans Itself card that Mrs. Clark, author of The House That Cleans Itself mailed me when she mailed us all books that I have distributed. I created a box for Weight Watcher meeting material. Now it is not clutter in the dining room and I can plan my meals there. The copy machine is in the corner to use in my planning. I have a devotional area with Bibles, etc., including Dana's book on Galatians. I also study here for my counseling course work. I do use it as a station to plug in electronics. Perhaps I can find a better place for my plug-in station.

Game Center
By the French doors I have a little cabinet which stores a Discovery Toy marble run for children who visit. Coasters for drinks are on top for people who use our pool table. The antique desk in back of it is now a game center.  

Where did it all go? The bins under the pool table will be used for clothes storage. I have too many clothes of various sizes. Hopefully I will be able to move those bins elsewhere or better yet get rid of clothes. A book case in the living room contains extra books that I will decide upon.

My hubby and I played pool recently in the den. He won. Just to think of all the opportunities to play pool that I kept him from with my clutter!

Thank you, LORD,
for this very special den.
It works for us now. 
May we use it for hospitality,
fun and study.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Later Stage Caregiver Laurie's Interview

Laurie’s husband, Gary, has Early Onset Alzheimer’s and is in a later stage than my husband is. We chatted on Facebook on October 15th and several times during that interview Laurie needed to attend to situations at home with her husband or an outside caregiver. I interviewed Laurie to learn from her for my road ahead and also to share our Christian faith.

Carol: Laurie, your blog, “I Have Been Young”, is so awesome. When did you start your blog?
Laurie: I started it in 2010. I've enjoyed it, but lately with all the transitions, I've been slow to get new posts done. I'm going to merge it with my website for my watercolor business. I am almost ready to have the new website published. Just working out the "kinks". I'll announce it on my blog when ready.
Carol: I love the last one with marriage pictures and all your sentiments. I pinned that on Pinterest into the Alzheimer’s section and noticed repins for you.
Laurie: Thank you I enjoyed looking at the photos of our wedding in that post too!
Carol: You created a digital box for your husband that got his attention. Does he still like that?
Laurie: He sees the digital frame rotating the photos while he is at the breakfast bar each morning. They are currently all photos from his childhood and teen years. Sometimes he seems to zero in on one, but it's not consistent. He especially notices the ones of the family ski-boat.
Carol: Communication by pictures when words don't work so well I guess!
Laurie: Yes. I assume he understands, or that at least they look familiar. Somewhere deep in his mind's long term memory, perhaps he remembers the waterskiing days.
Carol: Does the routine keep him focused?
Laurie: I'm not sure because the "focused" moments are so random now. I think the routine helps in other ways, like physically. His body is not "thrown off" by too many changes. But I try to balance that with what he used to like--lots of variety within the routine--different views, objects to handle, etc.
Carol: This takes a lot or coordination on your part. For my husband the routines don't bring up a noticeable difference until something like my hospitalization shows his decline. My husband is happy to be home and doesn't remember my being in the hospital now. What kind of changes became hard to bear for you?
Laurie: The need for so much more "in home" care has been a big adjustment. I must say that it is a very good thing (and necessary) to get so much more help, but it comes with a price. I have to release more and more of Gary's relationship with me to others. It's hard to describe this, but the random moments of connectedness are now sometimes experienced by him with others, rather than with him and me. I love knowing that they get to "connect" with him, and that he is enjoying himself, but I miss him and it's hard to share him. On the other hand, if I'm going to keep him at home, it is imperative to get more help, because I have a weak back and the Lord reminded me this weekend that I need to share the load with others.
Carol: It sounds like anticipatory grief kicking in to release Gary to the care of others.
Laurie: It is, and in a way. The Alzheimer’s disease gives us the time to adjust and as we greet each new situation, we learn and grow. As Dolores [another blogger] said, "Life goes on." It's not easy but it's best and we trust God.
Carol: Trusting God! Yes! “I Have Been Young” is your blog title and is a biblical quote from Psalm 37:25. I gain so much from reading how the LORD sustains you. How is the new schedule working out?
Laurie: The schedule is falling into place. We have about half of it figured out, and I still need someone for a couple of other days. I don't get someone all day, just during the most strenuous parts. I have had some "random" caregivers, here and there, and then our regular ones too. I want to fill in the other hours with "regulars" so they can get used to us, and vice versa, so am praying for direction on just the right person.
Carol: Hurting your back necessitated more help for you. How did you hurt your back?
Laurie: I hurt my back while helping Gary keep from falling the first time, He was losing his balance, on the slope of our driveway. The next time I don't remember, but Saturday I was loading a wheelchair into the car in a different place, and oopsie! My back! If I were to be hospitalized because of my back, I would call on good friends who live nearby to come right away in an emergency; then our regular caregivers to add extra hours if possible and get more caregivers to fill in the blank spots.
Carol: Like you I love the caregiving examples of Ken Tada and Robertson McQuilkin (A Promise Kept). We both value our marriage commitment. Are you in a support group or do you have specific people/elders behind you?
Laurie: We actually started a support ministry for Alzheimer’s/dementia folks in our church. It is a large church so there are a number of families affected by it. It's been going a couple of years now, and the elders are very supportive. We have a pastor of special ministries for the disabled, so he oversees us. I love going! We are also very involved in a neighborhood Bible study through our church. They have been incredibly encouraging and helpful to us. They even take turns staying with Gary now so I can attend. It's too hard for him to go now because he gets too tired.
Carol: I love how you chronicle your husband's prayers. We pray each night also. Sometimes my husband's missing neurons cause impatience and swearing. Then hubby forgets about it. Does Gary show anger? Anger in a wonderful Christian husband? I see it in mine.
Laurie: They get frustrated. Gary doesn't show it if he is. As believers, we want to please the Lord. We "buffet our bodies" and try to obey, because we believe God and want to serve Him with our lives. This is not easy, and when our minds are not healthy, and unable to process, and reason, it seems logical that unwanted behaviors come out. The soul is alive and well, but the mind is broken, so thankfully, for those who are saved and in the arms of God, He sees them in the righteousness of Jesus, and understands. We need to try to correct the sinful behavior, and redirect them to think about something else, remind them of the truths they may remember, and try to understand that they have less ways to handle their frustrations. I think sometimes that instead of anger outbursts, Gary gets even more withdrawn as a way to cope with frustration, or discomfort or confusion.
Carol: The book we both like, Blame It on The Brain, helps.
Laurie: I love that book. It's practical and helps sort out the sin from the disease. I wrote a blog post about that topic...I think it's called "Be Careful Little Eyes What You See"
Carol: Excellent. I will check that out. Is that blog post under lessons?
Laurie: Yes the blog post is under "lessons" December 12, 2011 here.
Carol: We ourselves as caregivers also have our own sin nature we. We both try to be superwomen and we can’t be that woman. You learned from Seven Habits of Effective People and I am trying to learn from The House That Cleans Itself so I can be there more fully for hubby at a later stage. How does the urgent, not urgent, important, not important grid work for a caregiver such as yourself? Does the painting get put into the not so important category?

Laurie: I need to move the painting from the "important not urgent" category, to the "important AND urgent" category since I'm trying to grow my business. Having more help will allow that, I'm thinking.
Carol: Is it hard to have people come into the home to help now?
Laurie: We are used to having people in and out of our home for different reasons. For many years Gary and I helped in our College ministry at church so our house was always being used for various events. The last 3 years before Gary got sick we had Seminary students renting rooms from us, so nice young men were around coming and going. So in that way, we are prepared. BUT I do like my privacy somewhat, but am setting it aside again for this season in our lives. It's necessary.
Carol: How have you simplified your house? I notice you will have to put a ramp in.
Laurie: The ramps are all installed, and working fine. We put tile and laminate where there was carpet a few years ago, knowing that would be helpful for Gary in a wheel chair. Other than that I haven't done too many things. Just getting some equipment that helps. I'm waiting on a "power lift chair" that will help him stand up, to save our backs!
Carol: One can get swallowed up in caregiving and we are told to take care of ourselves. I almost felt guilty in the hospital when I felt better and wasn't caregiving and working on the house. Hard to relax at times.
Laurie: Lately I've been thinking in terms of "pacing" myself for the long journey ahead. Gary is in the advanced stage, but in fairly good health otherwise, and like I said, if I'm going to have him with me, here at home, I need to be a good steward of my own body, emotions, and soul. (Well God is the steward of my soul ultimately, but you know what I mean.) So relaxing, and things like an occasional "cruise" with your sis, are good things to do! At least your recent hospitalization wasn't from a heart Attack!
Carol: That would have been worse for sure. Today he doesn't remember I was in the hospital, but is content to be in the family room watching TV while I am here in my almost clean den on the computer interviewing you. At first when he was diagnosed I used emotional eating and now I have that more in control. We have to change because they can't. One change that is hard at first is learning to speak Alzheimer's.
Laurie: Yes, but I think now that Gary is beyond speaking, and giving feedback that I just try to talk to him as if he understands, and then try to chat away. I just try to keep good hymns playing for part of the day and watch "benign" things on TV/movies that wouldn't be confusing. It actually helps with my own sanctification because I don't want to rely on his being able to be “discerning". In that way it is good for me. Simplifying life, and being his companion. But now, I am feeling more of a need to be well-rounded. Don't get me wrong though. I still have the occasional "melt-down." But don't we all no matter where we are in life!
Carol: All for our sanctification and growth in the Lord. People say "I don't know how you do it" and sometimes I don't handle the disease very well at all. Do you get respite time at all?
Laurie: I have respite time two days a week for five hours each day. I am gone from the house most of the time. One day is for errands and shopping and one day for friends, going to lunch or helping my parents. I am hoping to incorporate some time going to a concert, or art show, or overnight to the beach with my daughter or friend, as the caregiving time increases.
Carol: You are adjusting to more help. What else has Gary had to adjust to? Did your husband have a difficult time adjusting to not driving?
Laurie: Gary willingly surrendered his driver’s license, but I know it was hard for him. He has truly been so content with each stage. He is a good example of trusting the Lord. He has had a hard time with receiving personal care, but that's natural for anyone, I'm sure. All the same, he accepts it. As far as "adjusting" he is beyond that. He did have a hard time, not seeing his truck or garage anymore. He still turns his head when we're driving and he sees a truck like his.
Carol: Any problems with hallucinations, seeing someone else in the mirror, losing stuff, embarrassment when forgetting someone?
Laurie: I think he sees something because he reaches out to take hold of something, but it doesn't appear to be frightening. Not sure if he sees someone, and is beyond "losing things". He did get frustrated when he was in early stages with work related boo-boos and forgetting things. But that seems so long ago now.
Carol: Did Gary ever wander?
Laurie: Gary only took off a couple of times, in middle stage. Now he can’t walk unassisted, because of his balance issues. He wears a bracelet.
Carol: My hubby does too and I want to wear a caregiver bracelet now
Laurie: THAT is a very good idea. I should get one too.
Carol: What advice do you have for me for the later stages?
Laurie: I think the best thing to do to prepare for caregiving, is to introduce some outside people right now, in some small way so if/when it becomes essential, your hubby will be used to someone else being at the house, helping "you" and him. Even if it's someone who cleans, or does things in the kitchen for you for 2 hours a week, then when you have to "ramp up" the hours, or add someone else, it's more natural, and will be easier for him.
Carol: All of this is not easy, is it, Laurie!
Laurie: We live in a fallen world that is broken because of human sin. Without the Lord sustaining me, I would be given over to despair. I am a weak person who is able to come to the Lord for His strength. He is everything to me and Gary.
Carol: The Lord has promised to not give us more than we can handle. It has been a pleasure to chat with you on Facebook. I look forward to that new blog and I will link it to the right under my blogging friends.
Laurie: I’ve enjoyed this so much too, Carol. Thank you for asking me. I would love to meet you in person some day, but until then we will enjoy our cyber-friendship and it’s been a joy to spend this time talking to you. I even had my cup of coffee right with me the whole time too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Books Came

While I was in the hospital, 15 copies of The House That Cleans Itself came and I will be mailing/distributing them out to you all who requested them.  I am working today, and have an insurance man coming this afternoon to explain changes in Preferred Care. I expect to mail them tomorrow after I also subsitutute teach.

I am still on the den and of course couldn't work last Saturday because I was pacing the halls in the hospital. However, I did rearrange my part of the hospital room and neated up just to keep up on new habits.

Love the new habits that Mrs. Clark has wisely counseled in her book. There is hope!

Thanks so much Mindy Starns Clark for these 15 copies!

Also thanks for your prayers while I was in the hospital and continuing for my husband and myself. He doesn't remember that I was in the hospital, but enjoys his routines and being home.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Short Hospital Stay of Caregiver

I had a short hospital stay Friday morning through Sunday afternoon. It certainly wasn't planned that I be taken to the hospital and leave my caregiving responsibilities.

So what happened to me you ask? Hubby is still able to stay home by himself and I set out Friday to substitute teach. On the way I realized very suddenly that I needed to vomit. I pulled over to a Ford dealership and upchucked, hoping that was the end of it. Not to be. I arrived at the school and vomited in the parking lot. I got up a little strength to walk with my purse into the office and say I was sick and couldn't sub. I headed for the staff women's bathroom. My stay in that bathroom included vomiting and passing out. I found myself on the floor with a headache and realized I might have a concusion. I got myself up and the room was spinning. After a bit I opened the door and said I needed a nurse. The nurse called 911 and I was on my way to the hospital in an ambulance. Needless to say, I didn't care at all whether school kept of not! But I did care about my husband and in my weakened state told people "I am an Alzheimer's caregiver". By Friday afternoon I was out of ER, had a room and Friday night I knew I was on my way to recovery, including eating dinner. Nurse assistant DaDine thoughtfully gets an iPhone charger for my cell while I slept Friday night; this had to be borrowed from staff who worked at night and loaned it to me for several hours.

I had not purchased a bracelet that says I am an Alzheimer's caregiver.  (I have seen these, but hadn't gotten around to ordering one). My husband has one that says he has memory issues and he wears it all the time.

HUGE THANKS to family. Hubby stayed with his daughter. The step-daughter, her husband and daughter graciously took on caregiving responsibilities including hosting both hubby and the dog during my hospital stay of over two days. Our car was retrieved from school.  Naughty dog Ziggy, however, taught the host dog how to chase their cat while he stayed there. 

Hubby's cell phone is misplaced again in the last 12 hours and he notices it early this morning.  He did use it to call me on my cell at the hospital. After the stabilizing me in ER, I went to a room where I was able to use my new iPhone to call him. Somehow he got through the short-term memory problem and was able to visit me in the hospital on Friday thanks to his ex taking him there. Saturday morning he woke me up at 6:15 AM on my recharged cell:  

Where are you?

At the hospital, Sweetheart!

Oh that's right!

Hubby had forgotten that he had seen me in the hospital on Friday. Our routines were disrupted. He called often during Saturday saying he missed me. I realize again how important that caregiver (me) is to the loved one. You are the one, even with other family around.

This morning early his cell phone is missing. He is very discombobulated that his cell phone is missing and wants to go get another one ASAP. This morning he is going over and over his loss and asking how many cell phones he has lost. How many cell phones has Ziggy taken? he asks. Coping is hard for the Alzheimer's loved one who is trying to hold on to reality.  That cell phone is a big issue this morning. I have him wait until 7 AM to call his daughter. Sure enough it was in a box with the dog food just where she said it was last night. I had not seen it the first time I unpacked his things.

So glad I can stay home today to get us both back to "normal" or "the new normal". But I do know that life will never be normal again. Just so thankful to the LORD that we are both home.  

Get those shots. Saturday night in the hospital I had my yearly influenza shot and got my pneumonia shot that all of us over 65 need to get. Perhaps my trip to the hospital could have been avoided had I received those shots. Why knows!  

Cuddos to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where my treatment was so excellent--doctors and nurses. I had a SYNCOPE and a SYNCOPE HYPOTHERMIA along with the vomiting. I was cold in ER! My white blood cells were elevated from vomiting and I was fighting something. Scans  revealed that there was no internal brain injury from the fall and no heart issues. My electrolites were off. I thought I had avoided treatment for GERD by watching what I ate carefully. But now I have a prescription for OMEPRAZOLE  to be taken for 30 days and I will take it. People with GERD should not be vomiting at all. It throws us off completely.   

Boredom sets in Saturday and Sunday. I was better. My charged cell phone helped entertain me on Saturday and dutifully I stayed in my room and interacted with my roommate. The sign on the TV said:
Thank you for remaining my your clinical area during your stay at Lakeland Regional, and allowing your health care providers to monitor your care and recovery. Leaving your clinical area for reasons outside your treatment is considered against medical advice and you may be discharged. Please help us to provide you with the best health care experience possible. Thank you.
I became stir crazy and wanted to get back to my husband and get him home. I walked the halls in "my clinical area". Through my iPhone I posted updates on my Facebook LIKE page for this blog during the day Saturday.  I entertained the troops with the two raps "Get Me Out of Class [the hospital]" and "Boredom Games" I deliver for good classes when I substitute teach.  I promised a few staff that  I would post those raps here and I dedicate them to those wonderful staff at the hospital we put smiles on each other's faces.
"Get Me Out of Class"
[the hospital]
Get me out of class
Gotta get a pass
I’m a student you can trust
Getting me out of class I must.
Let me get some water
I’m not your son or daughter
But I will be your teacher’s pet
I’ll always help you out
—you can bet
It’s right outside the class
Don’t have to write a pass
So let me get some water
(I will roam the school halls
Or maybe the nearby malls.)
But, oh no!
You don’t give water passes?

Hmm . . .
I have to pee can’t you see
But so much liquid I just bloat
And I have a doctor’s note
So much pee I may float.
I have to be a finder
I left my school binder
I left my purse
I have to see the nurse
Can I go to my locker?
(Really I want to play soccer
I want to go find that jerk)
Please --it’s just a little perk!

Get me out of class
Gotta get a pass!

"Boredom Games"
Paper toys
Boredom ploys
Sunflower seeds
Don’t want to read
Don’t want to heed
Or do a good deed
But a boredom game
May get me fame
Or bring me shame
Those boredom games.
Let me make a popper
Lots of ploys in the hopper
Shooting rubber bands
Making beats with hands
Let’s play football
Make it out of paper
Or fly a plane
Just a little caper
Chewing gum
Think I’ll hum
Or twiddle my thumb
Have a little gas
I can fart for a laugh
I’m not the only one
Who has to have a little fun
And my work is done
A boredom game
Won’t get me fame
Might bring me shame
Those boredom games.

God is good. Now where did I put MY glasses! Might be at Denny's where we had supper last night!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

De-cluttering Makes Room for Other Values and Experiences

Sally told me about a lecture on clutter at our local Plant City Library and so my hubby and I heard Michelle Passoff, the author of Lighten Up, last night. Hubby said he was bored, but I appreciate so much just getting to hear Michelle and reflect on my de-cluttering process. She took a broad perspective on clutter--not just physical clutter, but emotional, mental and spiritual clutter. Here are some gems from what she said.
  • If you are human, you have stuff. If you don't de-clutter, you become a hoader.You can retreat, or you can get a handle on that clutter and plan for the future.
  • What life do you want when the clutter is gone? Realize what you are making room for and the energy you will have as a result of ridding yourself of stuff.
  • Complete 100% of something and do not introduce clutter back into that spot. You can put clutter anywhere else, but not where you have cleaned. This got me thinking. I wanted to put all the kitchen and pantry stuff in the den, but that would not be wise.
  • Take breaks from the de-cluttering project.
  • Work only two to four hours at a time. So far Saturday is my best day for doing this.
  • Get free from unfinished business. For example, today after substitute teaching I mailed a book back to Crafter's Choice. I had forgotten to open mail and that book club sent the book anyway.
The grass in the back yard had gotten high. When I came home from substituting today, DH had mowed the rest of the back yard. Could it be that he is starting to realize what I do around here and deciding to contribute?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Handling Clutter: More On the Den Area Number Two


Have to

Make It

Look Easy

Staples has an easy button, but they don't have that vertical file from Office Depot that is helping me organize temporarily . Organizing is not easy. The commitment in The House That Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark is to do that HARD WORK so you can have EASY. Having a loved one with Alzheimer's is hard enough--at least the house can be easy and simplified.

Mrs. Clark has many principles that I am applying. One is stations so you do not run around the house getting what you need and then having to put things away--or not and then it is cluttered again.

She also says to put things on the wall. My iron and ironing board are now in an unobtrusive corner of the den between a bookcase and a door leading out to the workshop.  I use the iron and ironing board in the den when I sew and sometimes for ironing clothes. EASY! I do not have to go far to put them away now. We had Sally and Jim's son over for repairs and he put them up for us. The iron is on an holder from Ikea that I had for several years, never deciding where to put it.

Their son also solved a huge problem in the den-- very small ants who seem to get worse during the rain. He got up on a ladder and found where they were coming from and sealed those places with silicone. Fortuately these small ants never invaded our kitchen and pantry closet.

The hardest work in the den and maybe the whole house is paper clutter. FlyLady talks about it here and she hits me right where it hurts. How I wanted to be able to tell you, readers, that  the den is done, but it is not because of that paper clutter.

Who do I think I am--an historian of my own life? A librarian collecting magazines and books in case someone needs something?

Beyond pool table: File/sorting station, sewing cabinet, pub table
What has been done? 
  • Furniture has been moved. One piece went to the large master bedroom we have and on it is a bomb box and an iPod player. Inside are CDs and tapes. An small end table with storage is now available to hide kids toys. On top of it are coasters for drinks for those playing pool. The four drawer file was moved. The half book case that used to be in that master bedroom is now in the living room temporarily by the piano for putting books that may be donated or traded in at a used book store in Plant City. A pub table is available in the corner. The sewing machine and sewing projects used to be there.  
  • The pool table is now free. I can play pool with my husband! When it is his turn I can work on paper clutter! He needs something he likes to do beside watching TV. He doesn't like to get on the riding lawn mower to mow the lawn, but that is another story.

  • There is a clutter sorter station, a sewing cabinet that doesn't look like one, and a nearby pub table that seats four!
What would you like to drink? Pool anyone?

What needs to be done?
  • Paper clutter.
  • Clean the rug.
  • Sort through books.
  • Get rid of my overhead projector I used to use to teach DUI classes. I now use an LCD projector with a Power Point on my small notebook computer for speaking. Get rid of other stuff or find it a home in our home.
  • And did I mention paper clutter!
  • The bins under the pool table need to be sorted through and moved. Mrs. Clark is so right. Don't buy those suckers--they just keep you from solving problems.
  • Make the four drawer file contemporary, not historical. Keep only the paper that will go in there.
  • Use Mrs. Clark's system of the one collection bin for the week while I substitute teach and the weekly filing and monthy filing to keep on top of that paper clutter.
All of this is not so easy yet. LORD willing we will play more pool and I will get there with this room.

What is also not easy is the death from Alzheimer's of Dolores' husband and the death of my last relative in the older generation; my aunt had dementia in her last years.

I do have a serious rap I give at the end of good classes.
Educated, dedicated, motivated, college-bound
Where are those students?  We need them found.
Hey you hims and hers
Think pink--no more cancer
We need cures.
Hey you hims and hers
Think purple--no more Alzheimer's
We need cures. . . .
The next generation will undoubtedly come up with cures. Let's hope so.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview With a Lovely LaTane

Any One Riding Off into the Sunset?
 LaTane and I follow each other on our blogs, Google Plus and Pinterest . She accepted my friend request on Facebook Tuesday and I talked her through how to chat on Facebook.  

Carol: LaTane, thanks so much for being willing to chat. We seniors have to learn so much don't we!

LaTane: Yes, it's an entirely new world for us. I try to stay in touch with today's technology but find that I can't run as fast as I once did!!

Carol: I know. Barb (Cleaning Up the Clutter) helped me get on Pinterest, and then this last week my sister-in-law helped me adjust to an iPhone after my five year old cell phone died. But for this interview you and I have two things in common--widowhood and caregiving. I have been a widow and you are one now. I am a caregiver now and you have been one.

LaTane: Yes, and I bet if we explored it further we would have other things in common.

Carol: We both love the LORD, blogging, writing, quilts, etc.

LaTane: Yes, you got it!

Carol: You have been a widow for over a year now. How long were you a caregiver?

LaTane: About eleven years with my husband. I took care of my Mom, who had dementia, for 12 years prior to that.

Carol: Wow! Did taking care of her prepare you for hubby's situation?

LaTane: Not really. Each one was so different and in many ways you treat dementia differently. Alzheimer’s is much more complex. Also, taking care of your Mom isn't like having your spouse retreat into a dark hole. Maybe I should have used the word “disappear” instead of retreat. Retreat is a conscious effort, disappearance is not really.

Carol: “Disappear” is a good word for it. How did you notice that happening?

LaTane: A missed appointment, confusion over where we were supposed to be, forgetting things he should have known.

Carol: And it is easy to nag until you learn what Alzheimer’s is.

LaTane: I am afraid I did some of that nagging. I expected to have Elbert by my side until we rode off into the sunset together, with him being that strong and capable man that he was. The tables were turning and I was scared.

Carol: I know I miss that strength from my husband now and I have to learn a new language just to simply be able to communicate and to be responsible for so much.

LaTane: Having to take on the entire responsibility for the two of you is very difficult. You are getting older, have less energy and now you have it all to do. And, let's face it-- men do some things better than women!!

Carol: I had that as a widow also. I went through Hurricane Andrew with my late husband and then every time something would come up after he died (insurance, fixing something around the house, mowing the lawn) the grieving would be painful in another way.

LaTane: In my generation the man assumed the role as head of the household (with me as his partner). It just felt odd to have to make every decision by myself. But, I had a very supportive family to help me through all that.

Carol: Did you have any role models for being your mother’s and husband’s caregiver or did you learn and blog as it went along? Was navigating all the insurance and medical decisions hard for both mom and hubby?

LaTane: That is one thing I am having so much trouble figuring out-- all these companies and stuff that Elbert took care of. My brain is so overloaded. Mother was easy. But, when I knew that we would have a lot of decisions to make (and before Elbert got too bad) we went to an elder law attorney who guided us through so much of the legal tangles that we would face. A couple of our children were involved in every aspect of that. I will say it helped so much to have a professional in our corner. We also had a very knowledgeable family services director who was always there for us.

Carol: Did your late husband have trouble with driving, hallucinating, anger issues?

LaTane: Elbert was a very calm person in the real world and I am so thankful that he, for the most part, remained calm and nonviolent. He was easy to care for in that respect but he would want to “go home” and after his getting out of the house and down the street in the middle of the night more than once we installed alarms on the outside doors. These can be bought at Lowe's for a small amount and alerts you when the door opens.

Carol: Good tip and I think there is also an Alzheimer’s store that where you can buy such items.

LaTane: He spent nearly two years falling several times a day and that was my main task--keeping him off of the floor. Someone had to be with him at all times because he did not remember not to get out of his chair without help. That was a very stressful time. After that length of time his doctor decided that he was having seizures which caused the falls.

Carol: Then came the nursing home I would imagine. I read about that on your blog which I religiously followed.

LaTane: Yes, and, that was a very difficult decision. Tore our hearts out but I just could not continue on with his care.

Carol: Did you have to trick him to get him to move? And how did the elder law attorney help with this?

LaTane: We investigated several places which I suggest everyone do. After the choice was made my daughter and I took him to meet with the director and also to familiarize him with what could be his new surroundings. Later, after his room was set up and all his clothes in place we took him, visited with him in the room and then the director brought in another resident who had similar interest to distract Elbert. The family left and I really do not think he ever realized where he was.

Carol: So interesting that he recognized it as his home with his things.

LaTane: His first home away from home was an Alzheimer’s wing in an assisted living facility. A bit more upbeat, more like home situation which made it easier I think.

Carol: So you were now on road to being a widow and yet married when he left your home you both had shared.

LaTane: Yes. You lose your loved one to Alzheimer’s long before they pass away.

Carol: I know this is what my fate is. I do not know how to prepare for it.

LaTane: Your role as caregiver becomes your main focus, your existence. You do whatever you must in order to make their days (and yours) as comfortable as possible. That becomes your full time job. I must add that there are sweet moments of tenderness, of love, of hugs. You learn to cherish those beyond measure.
Carol: Oh yes I am cherishing each good day we have. I however just challenged DH to finish his breakfast, take his pills and scolded the dog for not eating also!

LaTane: That's funny... poor little doggie!

Carol: I talked to the dog and now he is beside me. Both the dog and the husband here do not understand me! However, I am still able to work outside the home.
LaTane: I do not know how women still work (or men if their wives have AD). It's such a challenge without a full time job.

Carol: I am working to pay off credit cards so I can stay home one day when I have to. Also substituting and teaching classes for DUI offenders are a sort of break.

LaTane: Oh yes, we all need those breaks.

Carol: Did you get any breaks and did you feel guilty when you took a break?

LaTane: I finally found a woman who would sit with Elbert when I went out. She was wonderful with him. I was feeling guilty to begin with but soon realized that I had to take care of myself in order to be able to take care of him. They preached that in the support group I went to.

Carol: On our subject of widowhood, I had to be babysat when I got rid of the clothes, books, etc. of my late husband.

LaTane: Was his death sudden or was his illness a long one? In my case I found that I was prepared to stack his clothes in a pile and ask someone to take them. Having him living away from home for a year and a half had to have helped my state of mind in that regard.

Carol: My late husband died very suddenly from a blood clot following surgery. Then I dated too soon when I was a widow and then had grief on top of heartbreak. You try to fill the void before your grieving is done. How are you doing with widowhood now? One of my mother-in-laws told me she didn't want to take care of some old man. Are you thinking of remarriage at all?

LaTane: I have a lot of things I am involved in. I stay busy. I meet friends for lunch. I had a few months counseling which helped. It's a long process. Don't rush yourself. Just face each morning when the sun comes up.

Carol: I had counseling also and went to a widow support group. My counselor asked me, Why are you in such a hurry to replace your husband, Carol.

LaTane: I don't think I will ever be ready for marriage. I said I would never get involved with someone, I love being alone too much. But, I realized I really missed the companionship that a man provides. I do date some. I appreciate anyone for showing kindness.

Carol: The Scriptures tell younger widows to remarry, not older ones.

LaTane: Hey, where is that Scripture?

Carol: I Timothy 5:14 and there may be room for interpretation here, I think it is both good and controversial when older people marry. The thing is you are so vulnerable as a widow. It took me a long time to marry another Christian—I was 55 when I remarried. I am glad I can be his wife/caregiver now. It is my marriage commitment.

LaTane: See, I don't think I am in that place in my life that I can go there. I wonder sometimes if I am just searching for what I had.

Carol: The best, Heaven, is yet to come.

LaTane: Amen to that!

Carol: I am envious of people who are almost there often (Heaven), yet live to hear my LORD say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Well, LaTane, you have a cold and need to take care of yourself. I am very grateful that you have shared this experience. Hugs and prayers as always and look forward to maybe meeting you this side of Heaven.

LaTane: You have been great interviewing me, drawing me out.
Carol:  “TTYL” as the young people write!

LaTane:  I know your journey is fairly new and I pray for peace and guidance for you in the days and years to come. Bye for now!

This and That

  • I couldn't wait to tell you. Please pray for blogging friend Dolores and her husband who is in a coma. She wrote this week:
David is in a coma, no food or water since Wednesday evening last week. He's nearing the end of his journey here on earth. He's moving forward to Paradise.
I'm overwhelmed and honored by family, friends and blog friends . Your love and encouragement are lifting me up and helping to sustain me through the darkest time in my life.
  • Pray for the plane trip of Sally and Jake, our friends who live nearby, whom I often write about; you know--our husbands tell each other the same stories over and over again and it doesn't matter because both have Alzheimer's and don't remember the stories anyway.
  • Interviews. In addition to Dolores' interview here last month, two more are scheduled. Yesterday I interviewed LaTane, whose husband died from Alzheimer's, and that interview will be posted some time this week. Also  in October Laurie and I are planning an interview of her journey with her husband's Early Onset Alzheimer's.  
  • For all the ladies whom I promised a free copy of The House That Cleans Itself, I have not received them  from the author yet, but Mrs. Clark assures me they are on the way. Barb couldn't wait and got her own copy on Nook. A new edition of this book will be out in early 2013.
  • I am still collecting funds for the Alzheimer's Association Walk in early November. You can contribute by clicking on link above right. This will be my third year walking.
  • New Way I Am Learning To Handle Clutter
  • Last Saturday at Weight Watchers I had lost 26.8 pounds. When asked what I was happiest about this loss, I was at loss for words! Can you believe that!  Actually the discipline going through my house and decluttering it using the strategies from The House That Cleans Itself makes me the most happy--more than losing weight which I do periodically anyway. That vertical file above at right is working so well.
  • Hubby is happy, but so needs encouragement to take his medicine and to eat. He quips about getting whipping from me if he doesn't do this and also jokes with others that I hit him and that is why I wear wrist braces.
  • My carpel tunnel syndrome on my wrists is being treated by my chiropractor and my wrists are slowly improving. This is great, because I do not need surgery. I wear braces especially at night, take MSM from the health food store, and go on Pinterest less.