Friday, August 30, 2013

Amazing Help

Garage and roof  leak
by garage door 
Tuesday I mentioned to Kenny, our caregiver neighbor, about the leak in the ceiling in the garage.

"Carol, you'll have to get that fixed or your house will have mold," Kenny warned.

I often have my head in the sand about repairs around here.  So often overwhelmed with mechanical repairs and the expense of maintaining a home with a husband who cannot help any longer due to his Alzheimer's, I am tempted to throw my hands up in despair. Sure there is a list of thinks to fix and what if one is the most important?  It can remain on that list with no action. However  I guess a roof would need action. How can I manage to get the roof repaired and how quickly can I afford to do it? Big concerns.

When it rains it pours and shows a leaky roof!

It was also last Tuesday that hubby woke up unable to walk again--no specific injury, just must have twisted his knee at night.  Jake also wasn't feeling well, so hubby and Jake did not go to Plant City Senior Center as is their usual activity on Tuesdays. When it rains it pours. They say trouble comes in threes. Waiting for the third trouble. However each day since Tuesday hubby is doing better.

Fitted knee brace
Not being able to walk is possibly a return of July when hubby did something to that same knee cartilage and came home from the hospital to be fitted with a knee brace. We still have that knee brace, a walker, and a wheel chair.  We had a port-a-potty, which also comes in handy. Kenny and I can lift hubby, and Kenny by himself has done this when I have been gone substitute teaching since Tuesday. Kenny, bless his heart, has been there for hubby. When I come home hubby has an illusion that he has been walking around. However, this Friday morning he asked what has been going on and I reviewed what has happened as I help him get dressed. Each day he has been able to put more weight on his braced knee. I am thinking that the hospital cannot help any more than what we can do at home. I could be wrong. There is so much mystery to being a caregiver and life at the hospital was so confusing to hubby in July. He is happy to be home and forgets about his knee during most of the day.

Bartering for services
Also, on Tuesday, Wayne came over to mow our yard. He introduced us to Pharis and his daughter. Wayne had mentioned a possibility that trading some of our equipment such as the riding lawn mower with Pharis, which would enable Pharis to get yard work which he needs for income. I wouldn't have to put equipment in a yard sale. Furthermore Pharis was willing to weed in our yard and help in other ways in exchange for this equipment. We struck a deal! But also, can you believe it--Pharis can repair roofs!

So not only did we strike a deal for the yard, but also for the roof and ceiling repair in the garage! Pharis will be over this weekend to repair the leak! We will go to Home Depot for supplies and take advantage of six month interest free on my Home Depot card. This plan is so much better than a yard sale. Someone weeding our large yard is so much better than my doing it now! Thank you LORD!

Meanwhile another deal has been struck. I am substituting for about five weeks in one special education class through September until the regular teacher returns. I have already fallen in love with thirteen sixth, seventh and eighth grade students whom I have all day except for PE. There are also two teacher's aides in the classroom.  So I have been working on lesson plans in my "spare" time like 5 am when I am also finishing off this blog post.

This week in my Daily Audio Bible yearly trip through the Bible I have been going through the book of Job and also 2 Corinthians 1.  Yes, my life reads like a suffering Job at times with all kinds of counselors advising me to put hubby in a nursing home and that not seeming right for us. Then I read 2 Cor. 1:3, 4 and it brought such peace this week:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 
Oh I have so needed comfort about our situation! Both Sally and I have been down lately because of our caregiving responsibilities for our husbands. Sally comforted me with her prayers the other night. I prayed with Pharis and his daughter for their financial needs and trust that the new equipment that Pharis has will enable him to provide for his family. Blessings and comfort all around instead of trouble coming in threes. I am overwhelmed by blessings, not trials! 

And those blessings abound--hubby's knee is getting a little better each day,  we have help for the yard and the roof, Kenny continues to be there for us and I can earn money substitute teaching in a special education class.

Here's to blessings--not troubles! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Grandparents' Day

Poster from
I received a challenge from Esther at Caring Across Generations in a comment with a recent blog post:

  Write a post about grandparents for 
National Grandparents' Day September 8, 2013. 

So here goes. I decided to write for the grandchild and others who want to know how to interact with their grandparent/friend who has Alzheimer's or who is getting up there in years. 

It is difficult to talk with your grandparents who may not remember what you are saying if they have dementia. They may have Anosognosia Dementia and not know they have memory problems such as our friend has; anosognosia has caused so much confusion for our friend and causes so much grief for his granddaughter. The grandparent may not remember what they ask you and how you answer. Be patient with them when they ask again. They have emotions and the emotional connection of just being with you is so important. We have discovered that emotions live on even if memory brain cells do not.  Get over being annoyed. They can't help it. 

Visit them or spend time with them. I realize this is so difficult for many families. Those grandparents are most comfortable in their own home, but make family holidays special while you can.  Ask to hold their hand if that is comfortable for you. Emotions count! We enjoyed so much spending last Christmas with family and may not always have the luxury of traveling to do that. When you are with them do not spend all your time on you phone or electronic device. Be with them even watching a TV program with them.  My husband's son calls him often and this is a joy to my husband hearing about his grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

Find out what you can do with them. Go with them to a restaurant or a park or a movie. Invite them to your sports event as my husband's granddaughter did for her gymnastics event. Enjoy their smiles. Take pictures with them.  When my husband's ex-brother-in-law mows our lawn, we take him to eat or we have a meal with him at our home. This provides happy times for my husband.

Outings and special chairs.  My husband has favorite chairs everywhere he goes. He has a place he sits at the grocery store and knows he can call me on my cell if he feels I am taking too long. He has a comfortable chair at church that everyone knows is HIS chair. He has a chair at Toastmasters when we go there and my Toastmaster group allows him to be a permanent visitor. As the disease progresses, the grandparent will not be able to enjoy outings, so as a grandchild you need to plan now what to do with that grandparent before that disease progresses and how he/she will be comfortable on the outing.

Do not write off the old person. Years ago I was in a hospital room when a granddaughter broke down at the deathbed of her grandmother. She had to leave the room to cry saying she wished she had spent more time with this loved one as she had wanted. I grieved with her. As the sign above says, "Do something today that your future self will thank you for."

Send them notes. When they give you a gift, they are part of the older generation that expects thank you notes. They may have a fixed income, and plan for your gift. They may not text or receive email anymore for those gift acknowledgments. Receiving a note they can see again and again goes a long way. 

I absolutely loved being a granddaughter and as the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family have many memories that I included in my book, Getting Off the Niceness Treadmill, for the next generation.  After that book was published my cousins contacted me with more stories of our grandparents. Years later a letter I mailed my grandmother when I was a child was returned to me after that grandmother died.  Apparently she treasured that letter.

As a caregiver for my husband who has mixed dementia, I also am privileged to have family care about me. Thank you all so much. I do very much appreciate your care for me, the step-grandmother, and love giver for my care receiver husband. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tentative Thyroid Results

I have been anxious about my biopsy, and then I just realized that if it were serious, probably this would not have taken so long. Or else it might be a slow-growing cancer.

Nanci did my blood work on August 7th. I should have had more water the night before, because of the five vials or containers of blood, two had to come from my hand after the three from the crease in my elbow. We talked about the purpose of this test. She knew all the outcomes: cancer where you waited too long; cancer that was arrested; and finally just a cyst.

Usually I take a baby aspirin in the morning. No more for a week until the biopsy.

I have been so anxious about this day. This morning at 11 am I had that dreaded biopsy, but there was a distraction at first. I cut my finger on Chef's Envy while cutting onions for a crock pot dish for dinner. (I hope my blood didn't get in that crock pot because dark red blood was all over.) You are supposed to use a safety device when you use that Chef's Magic, but with a fresh, large onion, I just thought I can cut up half of it without a problem. Wrong and blood started to gush and gush and ooze and ooze. I couldn't stop it. I got ice, a towel and worked to get ready to go.

Hubby was very concerned about my finger and wanted to know who we could get to drive us to urgent care and whom he could call. He called Jake and Sally's home, but their mailbox was full.  Jake didn't answer his cell phone and neither did Sally answer hers. We were out of the house on on the road by then and he decided to not call our neighbor Kenny. We thought we could just make it to the Plant City Urgent Care by the hospital.

With school starting, the Plant City Urgent Care was full. Students were getting their shots for school. We went on to Brandon on HWY 60 where my biopsy was. I didn't want to take I-4 with all of the commuters since I was driving with one hand. I nursed my finger in a bag of ice which a towel wrapped around it while I drove. My jeans started to get wet. On the way hubby called K. D. from church who put out an email prayer request while I was driving us to Brandon.

As we approached the Brandon Hospital area where my appointment was,  I saw a sign for MedExpress on E. Brandon Boulevard and we stopped. Lots of students and their parents there.  They said they take people with blood first. I handed them my Preferred Care Card and my driver's license but they didn't take my card!

"However, we can take you right away for [around $200]," the woman at the desk said. I decided against that amount. At the end of summer we are on a strict budget and I do not want to charge anything anymore if I can help it. (Got to get another insurance by January for hubby and now for me as well.)

Doctoring that finger
Hubby needed help recognizing which key to open the car for me. He was very concerned as we drove off.  It was 10 am and as we drove toward my 11 am biopsy we found Family Medical Express who for $25 took a look at my finger and re-bandaged it. I took a picture with my iPhone and put it on the Facebook LIKE page. The ice had worked and the new bandage was reassuring.

A half an hour later we were at the doctor for my biopsy. We were early for the 11 am appointment. Thanks to you who prayed when you saw the email! While waiting I texted my sister-in-law who wrote back, "Having problems, aren't you!" She kept me busy texting until the nurse called me.

Hubby was not allowed in the room although I had wanted him to hold my hand while I endured a biopsy. The endocrinologist had two attendants. This doctor efficiently got to work and stuck me with two shots of lidocaine 1% to numb my neck. No,  I didn't have pictures taken, but I did tell them this  day was a undoubtedly a blogging post.

"Do not move, cough, sneeze or breathe heavily," I was told. I could put a finger up if I needed to do any of those actions and they would stop.

Five needles dug into one thyroid nodule, and four went into another nodule. It actually wasn't as bad as my cut finger, but sort of weird to have a grinding in my neck as I tried to count all of the jabs.

With great sympathy for my anxiety (I think), the doctor told me that there is liquid in my thyroid, it is soft, and probably not cancer.  He would officially tell me about the biopsy and my carotid artery ultra sound when I saw him at the beginning of September.

It was over. I was told I might rest ten minutes before driving. On the way home we stopped to get Advil because my finger hurt and my neck felt strange.

Late afternoon hubby asked about my finger, "When did you do that?" After I told him he quipped, "Ziggy, we can't let her out of our sight!"

I reminded him that we did have excitement today with our trip to Brandon.

"But Ziggy needs a little excitement now." (Me thinks that hubby does also because he doesn't remember this morning's excitement.)

We decided to go deliver two birthday gifts with Ziggy and then will come home to enjoy the dinner I started this morning.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Yes, for a six year old dog. No, for a hubby with Alzheimer's.

In our 13 years of marriage, we have always had a Maltese male dog. The first was Woofii. After Woofii had to be put to sleep, I googled Florida Maltese breeders and five days later we got Ziggy when he was a young puppy. Dogs are so good for anyone, especially for family with Alzheimer's. Ziggy is so attentive to hubby.

Several months ago I moved a chair to the bedroom that used to be in the living room for safety since hubby had fallen out of bed one morning. When it was in the living room,  Woofii used that chair to jump up on the parson's table by the front window. When we first had Ziggy, he would do that also according to HERE. But hubby is concerned that Ziggy needs to do that more now as Woofii used to do so that when we go out Ziggy will be waiting at the window when we come home like Woofii did. We apparently can't keep this chair in the master bedroom.

Now back in
living room
So upon hubby's insistence we had to move the same chair back to the living room. That chair is now by the front window so Ziggy can jump up on the front table as in hubby's long-term memory. With a little bit of reinforcement six year old Ziggy again jumps up on that parson's table by the front window. For hubby's safety, another chair is now by his side on that bed.

Seventy-five year old husbands with Alzheimer's are not so easily trained. Even the long-term memory becomes distorted. Jake and hubby have all sorts of "memories" that Sally and I cannot confirm. Hubby will often check on his memories, however, and then he innocently says to me, "Oh that's right!" (Not that I even remember everything on this blog. I had to go back to 3/21/09 to read that Ziggy once did jump up on that parson's table by himself.)

Short-term memory. Ever since 2000 when I married my husband and came to love his church and his dog Woofii,  there has been a search for the perfect property for our church and the seminary connected with it.  Every time our pastor would announce we had a possible site, land or building to purchase, hubby and I would go there to check it out. I would take pictures and often send them around by email to church members. New property for our church was one of our interests. Finally, it looks like we have that property and hubby and I have been there three times. The last time was yesterday because he had not remembered the two other times. We were actually able to go inside of the building yesterday. I took digital pictures and two of them have hubby in them.

When we came home last night, alas! Hubby had forgotten that he had been by that property yesterday. I created a slide show on my wonderful new Apple computer to show him pictures. His short-term memory is indeed leaving him.

Not to insult my hubby, 
but you can train a dog easier than a hubby. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Clutter at the Source

For almost a year I have been going through the book, The House That Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark, one room at a time. This has been a humbling experience, because, Mindy sent me 15 copies of the first edition that I mailed to 15 of you who requested them. Some of you are in a Facebook group, The House That Cleans Itself, where we share our messes and successes. After a year you would think that I have it altogether. NO. I DO NOT, BUT AM KEEPING ON IT, FOLKS.

Although I am on the front and back yard officially, I have backed up to work on other areas in the house. Recently I wrote about the rug, and getting help to clean it. Such a relief!

It occurred to me that rooms in my home reflect "clutter at the source". I collect too many magazines, too much material and craft supplies and have too many clothes. There is too much mail in the house that maybe I can eliminate receiving. I need to deal with clutter at the source before it keeps invading our home.

From covers of magazines
Last week I have been tackling the magazines. I laugh as I saw all the magazine covers that promise you YOU CAN DE-CLUTTER or YOU CAN ORGANIZE. We think that we will read these magazines and so they pile up. Some of those subscriptions were "deals" when I bought something and keep coming because they are charged to a credit card. What a bummer! It is no great "deal" to bring magazines in my home that I will rarely read, even if they deal with clutter!

I was so proud of the recycled magazines I put out by the curb on Saturday.

I go through the whole Bible each year with a podcast called The Daily Audio Bible.
This morning I listened to and read along about Nehemiah's depression in Nehemiah 2:4. Like my concerns about our house, Nehemiah was depressed about the walls of Jerusalem. He went back to rebuilt and Scripture takes time to record each section of that famous wall being rebuilt.

I cannot control my husband's dementia, but I can take care of our home, one step at a time. Monday I am mailing letters to some of these magazines to stop them when the subscription runs out IF NOT BEFORE!  


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Interview With Jean Milsop, Caregiver

I met Jean this summer in a class. This energetic 83 year old buried her husband Jim of 64 years last March. They had a wonderful marriage, raised a boy and girl together, enjoyed grandchildren, but the last 20 years saw his decline from Parkinson's Disease, a form of dementia with its unique characteristics where the muscles deteriorate. Why I wanted to interview Jean became evident. Here is a vibrant woman who survived and has much wisdom to impart. I was privileged to review her book, Taking Care and Letting Go: When Your Loved One Must Move to a Nursing Home. It may be out later this year. Today we had lunch at Reececliff, a famous Lakeland, Florida Restaurant.  My interview went like this.

Carol: I can so identify with the Pity Party that you write about in your book. For me this pity party has taken the form of emotional eating. How did you deal with the pity party? 

Jean:  I let myself have one, but only one. I am glad you liked that chapter.

Carol: Give me examples of how you learned to be patient.

Jean: During my morning walk I cleared my head and asked God to get me through the day.

Carol: How many years did you care for Jim at home?  

Jean: In February of 2008 he went to the facility so I believe it was sixteen years that he was manageable at home.

Carol: Were you in a support group or did you have people who came alongside of you during this journey?

Jean: No. I did briefly join a grief group after he passed away. Now I do meet with two friends whose husbands have beginning Alzheimer’s to encourage them on their journey.

Carol: Just as you are doing encouraging us all with this interview. What was the process of choosing a nursing home? 

Jean: I interviewed three. I was able to choose one that was close to my home that had good ratings.

Carol: How were you able to cover the huge expenses of a facility without losing your shirt so to speak?

Jean: Jim had been in the hospital for three nights and the hospital social worker got him into the facility. Insurance covered the first month. He was then evaluated and approved for long-term care through Medicare.   

Carol: How did you handle moving "home" to that facility? What did you bring there?

Jean: We just moved clothes, his TV and his radio. I got him new clothes such as pants with elastic waists. Every night I would then put out his clothes for the next day before I left the facility to go home. The certified nursing assistants (CNAs), he told me, always said how nice he looked. This made him smile. 

Carol: Did Jim go downhill after he was moved there as some of us fear?

Jean: No. He actually improved for a few months because of the daily physical therapy he received there.

Carol: You speak in your book about "being an advocate". What are specific examples of times you needed to intercede for Jim at the facility and how did the staff handle your possible "interference"?

Jean: They were very cooperative. One time we couldn’t get the baseball channel he wanted and I went right to the administrator and complained. It took three months, but he finally got his channel! Quarterly they had Care Plan Meeting with me to discuss his care, progress, decline or whatever my concerns were.

Carol: I would feel so guilty if or when I might have to place my husband in a facility. I want him home with me all his days. How did you cope? You obviously believed "'til death do us part" as I do. Did Jim object to leaving your actual home? 

Jean: In the beginning he was miserable, but after a while he adjusted. When I had to take him to the doctor, he was confused until he could get back to his room and his routine.

Carol: You were so limited when he was at home. Was part of the guilt suddenly having time for activities away from him while he was in the facility? 

Jean: Finally I could get a good night’s sleep.

Carol: You have a chapter on receiving support from family. I have had that support with a respite cruise last year, and the Alzheimer's Association has offered respite to my friend Sally. Did your children come along side of you in this caregiving of their father? 

Jean: They live out of state and have their own lives and family. We always love when they came to visit. My son is flying into town next week and of course it will be great to see him.

Carol: He needs to give you a big hug for how you have handled these past 20 years of your life. You are such an inspiration! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sweating at Last for the Yard

Time to sweat. My forehead is healed from its eyebrow permanent makeup. Time to learn to use a new-to-me garden tool.

Wayne is such a gentleman. When he mows our yard (for free) we take him to dinner usually. This morning it was breakfast at Buddy Freddy's, a Plant City landmark. I just love his T-shirt that says "If I can't build it, fix it, or mow it, it must not be important."

After breakfast (really brunch), we came back to the house and Wayne mowed our front and back yards and gave me a lesson on the trimmer we have. You have to string it up. You have to mix gas with Type Two something. (Gonna have to buy this at Home Depot and I will find out the name of it.)

Wayne told me you have to dress for the part because even poisonous stuff can hit your legs and arms and you can get a rash.  This increases the sweat. I wore large sun glasses also. You also have to not get too close to fences. I got too close to a chord and almost took out the phone line. I stopped and Wayne got that chord off the machine. Thanks to Wayne for coming to my rescue!

Me with the John Deere Trimmer

You may be able to see the vines growing up by the side of the house. Got to get to those my hand, but not with this edger.

So this morning at Buddy Freddy's at the next table there was a group of four dudes with tattoos. Now I am not shy. I noticed that one of the four was not on a cell phone.

I quipped, "I guess your friends don't want to talk with you, " to the young man not texting. Then I embarrassed myself and said that I rap and have a YouTube channel. "Do you want me to do my Cell Phones rap for you?"

"No thanks," said one man on a cell whom I found out owns a tattoo parlor. I did manage to say (much to hubby and Wayne's disgust) that I have two tattoos (really permanent makeup)  on my forehead.  The tattoo artist said that he doesn't do those kind. They did take my rapper name for YouTube, however, but of course didn't want to hear a cell phone rap because they were so busy on their cell phones. These dudes were polite and I am sure they think I am a strange old biddy. Oh well!

Getting ready to speak tonight on "The Accidental Rapper" at Toastmasters and enjoying getting something done in the yard again today--at least before it rains again. I like the rain, however, because it makes pulling weeds easier and I don't have to water the grass and flowers.