Friday, September 26, 2014

Eighth Graders Learn About Alzheimer's From a Classmate

Picture of me and my husband on lanyard
It was the 23rd of September several days ago. Three months ago my husband had died (June 23). I choose to wear black that day and had a small picture of us on my lanyard with my Kelly substitute badge. I told the students the day marked three months since my husband had died. One student made me this thoughtful tribute that said, "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but happiness leaves memories no one can steal!"

It also was an unexpected day in sixth period with one more period to go. I was with another teacher in a fused class. (I worked with her in her class 2nd and 6th periods.) An announcement came on the intercom:
"Modified Lockdown" we heard.

As a substitute I did not know the procedure. The regular teacher covered the door window and put a sign on the bottom that said "safe". She started a discussion that included car accidents and life and death and reputations. She made the eighth graders think about eulogies and what they might want others to think about them when they die. Another announcement came on the intercom.

"Full Lockdown." We would not go on to seventh 
period but stay in 6th period for safety. 

We would have a lot of time with the students. I told the story of my crash with my late husband and how grateful I was that I had more time with him and he wasn't killed; I mentioned briefly his Alzheimer's. The students sat quietly and I looked out the window from the second story. I saw a security officer in the parking lot with the buses lined up ready to take the students home. Overhead a helicopter was circling the school. We let students who had cell phones text their parents to say they were okay and would be home late. 

Rita (not her real name) raised her hand high and wanted to tell the story of her grandmother who took care of her when she was a preschooler.  Rita was the youngest in her family and her mother worked. That grandmother was fun and loved people--her siblings and cousins and all family members.  

One day when Rita was four she was driving in the car with her grandmother and they had a crash. Her grandmother ended up in the hospital and after that crash went down hill steadily, as the granddaughter tells it. When Rita then went to elementary school, the grandmother would call any young girl "Rita", but did not recognize the real Rita, her own granddaughter who was so attached to her. Eventually the grandmother went to live in a facility, not able to walk and take care of herself.  The grandmother died when Rita was eleven and sometimes she and her mother visit the grave. She was not ashamed to cry in the classroom and the students listened attentively to her story.

That day the reality of Alzheimer's
came to 13 and 14 year olds 
from their classmate Rita. 

There had been a rumor that someone had brought a gun to the school. After the school had been searched, several security officers unlocked our door and we were able to leave about 5 PM.  Security lined the halls as the students walked out of the building to the buses. Even when I walked to my car there were security along the way—I suppose in case someone would open up and fire a weapon -- then that security could restrain him/her. Two TV channels had their vans outside the school and this incident was on the local news. 

Security lined my path to my car at the end of that  day. 
As for me, I reflected on Rita's poignant story of her grandmother, and was grateful no incident had happened at the school. After a quick supper I went on to my evening grief support group. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Returning to Substitute Teaching


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

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

Kelly Services Now Handling Substitutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 15, 2014

Aha Moments in My Caregiving

Not to sound like a braggadocio, but my hubby was great and knew he had a problem. I had to change and learned to take those changes in stride. asked for seven caregiving moments. I actually took the time to read through a lot of this blog. 

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

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

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

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

 Dealing with Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and incontinence.

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Senior Health: Take Time for Checkups

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Recognition Near the End of My Husband's Life

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

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

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

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

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