Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dementia

Enrolled mom in a study to help her memory. Talked to the researcher yesterday and it seems okay to proceed, as it will give her something to do. 

What surprised me was that she has been evaluated on the GDS-FAST (Global Deterioration Scale - Functional Assessment Staging) and she is at a 3.8 level. A "3" is "Early confusional/incipient dementia of Alzheimer's type) and a "4" is "Late Confusional/Mild DAT." This includes memory deficit (which she is definitely showing) and decreased deficit in memory of one's personal history; decreased ability to travel, and needing assistance in complex tasks (which has been going on for quite awhile). She is also showing some of the things in level 5 (patient can no longer survive without assistance, unable to recall a major relevant aspect of their current lives; some disorientation to time and place or able to retain knowledge of major facts regarding themselves and others (this is spotty). She can definitely choose her own clothing, though :-), so we're not quite to the end of level 5.

I have never thought of my mother as having dementia. I have always assumed that dementia is a blatant event that hits you between the eyes - where the person is definitely unknowing. It is obviously a lot more sneaky in its presentation. There is a strong family history of dementia on Grandpa G's side, with her great aunt and uncles experiencing it, along with her grandmother. The stories that have been passed down to me, however, paint the relatives as being totally out of it and being a lot more mean. Hopefully the mean side will hold off. It shows up every now and then and I can talk her down out of it. 

My uncle passed away today (mom's sister's husband). I'm not sure what exactly happened. Death is striking closer to home with each month's passage.

On a high note, we are going on vacation week after next. It's the first time since 2005 since the two of us have gone anywhere out of town together. Damned job has finally been put on the back burner. Hope nothing occurs to mess this up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Moving Great-Grandma

My mom, your great grandmother, got sick in February, 2011. She had a clot on her right lung. She has been frail for the last two years. She entered the rehab unit at a nice local nursing home. Unfortunately, she has to stay there full time now, as my sister, your great aunt, and I can no longer trust that she will be okay living alone.

It has been very difficult for the two of us to watch my mom get weaker and weaker over the last ten years. She was fiercely independent once she learned to drive in 1962. After she and my dad, your great grandfather, were divorced in 1966, she drove all over the northeast with one of her jobs selling recipe books to small town organizations. She enjoyed her freedom and loved to drive. Mom was a good driver and never had an accident that I remember. She would pick up little things for her grandkids on her travels (including lots of candy) and she seemed to enjoy herself immensely.

In 1977 she moved back to this area and went to work for a large local grocery store chain in their corporate offices. I think she enjoyed the DSD department (direct store delivery) more than she would let on, as she got to meet many of the vendors. She came home with Coke glasses, ice cream, Pepsi trays, and Keebler cookie jars. She retired in 1986, but went on to do price checking for them on a part time basis until the early 90's, when she could no longer manage the walking due to her arthritis.

Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1995. This was a particularly bad year for our family, as mom was sick and your grandpa's mother had a stroke that landed her in a nursing facility. Mom's health, while never robust, started to slowly get worse. In 2000, her landlord sold her duplex and I scrambled to find her somewhere to live that was affordable. The Lakewoods had just opened in the old Maumee Valley Hospital building. It had been completely renovated after standing empty for 20 years. The rent was a bit steep but we figured out how to help her out financially and she moved in the first week in October, 2000.

The stress of the move put her in the hospital with a serious urinary tract infection and she started her first rehab stay over Christmas that year. After about three weeks she came home to her apartment.

She was walking with a cane for awhile, then a walker. She was able to shop for groceries until about five years ago or so, when she just couldn't make it through the store. She ended up seeing doctors more often. Her glucose levels were pretty stable, but the disease was starting to take its toll.

In 2008 one of her best friends died. I think that had a devastating effect on her health. She broke out in shingles, and then, a month or so later, ended up in the hospital (again) with an attack of ischemic bowel. The prep for the diagnosis wiped her out, and she went home exhausted that May. I was staying overnight with her the first night, when she got up out of her chair, lost her balance, and fell backwards and hit her head on the wall. She seemed all right at the time (nothing broken).

In late July, she started saying some odd things and became disoriented. I called her doctor and they advised taking her to the ER for CT scanning. She had had a slow brain bleed, to the point that she ended up with a 6 mm midline shift. After a 5 day stay in ICU to wean her off of aspirin therapy she underwent surgery to relieve the pressure in her brain. She got through the surgery pretty well and went to the rehab unit. Less than a week after she got to rehab, she became unable to speak or write so that anyone could understand her. She ended up with another surgery to remove another clot. I was never so happy to hear anyone talk again - it was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.

Since the surgeries in 2008, she has gone through more anguish. A malignant growth was removed from her larynx in October, 2009. It was "only" outpatient surgery; however, the anesthesia caused her to get sick and dehydrated, which caused another urinary tract infection, another hospital stay, and a month in rehab. Remarkably, she was able to go home after that stay right before Thanksgiving of 2009. At Christmas of that year she fell again. While nothing got broken, the fall did something to her leg that made it painful for her to walk very far.

She has had home health aides help her for two hours every day since July of 2008. I truly believe that enabled her to stay at home for as long as she did. Unfortunately, the program (run by the state) is in the line of sight to be cut from the state budget. This will be a sad thing for all of the people who are able to stay in their homes only because of its existence.

While 2010 was uneventful health-wise, mom became very immobile. We noticed that her walking was shakier and we fielded a handful of calls from her on Lifeline. We were both having a lot of doubts as to her ability to stay by herself, but she was adamant that she was okay. Unfortunately, it became wishful thinking.

Right now she is doing pretty well. There has been no recurrence of the malignancy, she is eating three meals a day, getting dressed every day, and tooling around with her feet while sitting in a wheel chair. We took some of her photos, greeting cards, and things out to her to go through and she has started delving into things that have been put away for years.

I am very thankful that my mom is able to be in a nice facility and have people take care of her. I was scared to death she would fall at home when she was alone. It has been hard on her to leave her apartment but, surprisingly, not as hard as when she was in rehab the last time. She absolutely did NOT want to stay there permanently last time, even though they offered to let her remain. She seems more accepting of the fact that she needs more help. She will be 90 in October. I still do not think of my mother as being this old.

Barb and I spent about ten days sorting through all of her things - organizing and reorganizing to keep the things she really wanted to keep. Her furniture has gone to family members, so I am pleased about that.

One of the social workers at the nursing home emphasized a point that had never occurred to me, the medical "handler" for the prescriptions, the crises, the doctor's visit: if she stayed at the home permanently, her daughters could then become her daughters again. I had looked at my mother as a problem to be solved. A lot of those feelings are now going away, and I am anxious to be a daughter again.

Being old is not for the faint of heart. I can only hope that I have as much courage and stamina as my mother. When you boys get old enough to read this and understand it I will probably be in my 70's. I hope I will still be here and in good health. This has been a life changing experience for all of us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A dull day

Today was a dull day. However, not every day is exciting so this is what went on.

I got up fairly early, for me, to get to the Scion dealership by 11:00 a.m. to get the oil changed. This 6 month/5000 mile service was included in the purchase price of my car, and I thought I'd better get this taken care of while I was thinking about it. The appointment was easily booked online late on the evening before (imagine that 15 years ago) and I was out of there before noon.

A trip to K-Mart for a look around and picking up essentials like fabric softener took up an hour or so. They have good bargains and today was no exception. Katie has been looking for something from which to make Oliver's "peanut butter" Halloween costume. I found some brown sweat pants and matching brown sweatshirt with a logo that can be covered up by the $2.99 plain bright orange T-Shirt I found. Katie was thinking of buying some puffy paint to put on some sort of "peanut butter" theme. Oliver's stock answer is "peanut butter" whenever he doesn't know the answer. This has evolved into the costume itself being "peanut butter." She will be in charge of the decorations!

After a bite to eat at McDonald's I went to the post office to mail a book from a request made by a Paperback Swap member. This one traveled to Jacksonville, Florida. As soon as she receives it I will get another free book credit for the cost of media mailing a book ($2.77 plus the cost of the envelope).

Went home after all of this exhausting shopping and driving ;-) and actually folded clothes while I watched an episode of "Hoarders" on DVR. Watching this show has helped me to realize that keeping everything is NOT a good idea. I've never been a hoarder, but I've always been a bit cluttery. Seeing people who have taken it to the nth degree is quite illuminating and sad.

Since I hadn't made any dinner plans I decided to make chile at 4 p.m. I had to get something brewing and that is an easy choice. It turned out quite well, actually and I hope I remember how I made it for next time.

Grandpa is snoozing on the couch and I am now catching up on my blogging. We saw Oliver and Miles last night. Katie came for dinner while Neal was in BG. I did chicken in the oven last night so there are lots of leftovers for a couple of days.

Work tomorrow. Life moves on.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sitting around with my grandsons today

We were going to go to the library today. However, I didn't get up till 10 a.m. and didn't get over to Katie's till 11:30 a.m. Miles was spitty-uppy and Katie was sleep deprived. Miles wanted to eat (again) and we finally decided to bag the library trip for another day.

After Katie went up for a much needed snooze, I held Miles for a bit and then put him in the bouncy chair with his binky. He finally dropped off for a much needed nap. I put the chair down by my foot and sat with Oliver on the couch. If Miles fussed, I bounced the chair with my toe and he proceeded to slumber away. He did smile at me a bit today, but had been up all morning, so I was glad he could settle down for awhile.

Oliver, in the meantime, was busy with letters and spelling. He loves his magnetic letters, which he carries around in a metal bucket, and differentiates between lower case and upper case with Oliver-like specificity. You cannot ever substitute a lower for an upper case. He just won't have it. He has in his mind what he wants to create and nothing will sway him. Ever since he has started watching Word World on PBS Kids he has soaked up verbiage and spelling like the proverbial child-like sponge. Katie bought him a new computerized spelling type electronic toy that has words and spelling games in both English and Spanish. He knows the latter alphabet quite well and seems to understand some of the Spanish words on the toy (which grandma does not, unfortunately). The words they threw out to spell were somewhat astonishing (the toy is listed as for kids 3+ years of age). Katie and I cracked up at the words ogre and windsurf and yacht. Who decides on the words in these databases anyway?? How many adults can spell ogre?

After I switched off the kids' shows for a cooking show respite, Oliver went to work with his magnetic letters in earnest. He was insistent on upper case letters. After awhile he laid out what he was looking for: W G T E. This is the station's call letters that we were watching. I am quite impressed with his attention to detail.

We also played a counting game where I would lightly take his wrist and pat it on a pillow while counting to 100. Sometimes I would count slow, fast loud or soft. His anticipation of what might come next led him to laugh and giggle. Once we got to 100 he said, "Go to 100 again Gamma?" which of course we did.

I thoroughly enjoy our grandchildren and can't think of any better way to spend my afternoon. Thank you, Katie, for having me over. You can take a nap anytime :-).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Smoke!

Unfortunately, another former smoker in the family has developed lung cancer. My cousin, (her dad is my mom's brother) had her right middle lobe removed today. She quit about ten years ago. However, her 2-3 pack-a-day habit caught up with her. The surgeon has said they got it all and she shouldn't have to have either chemo or radiation. I hope that is the case and I wish her the best.

There is, unfortunately, a long line of lung cancer on your grandpa's side of the family. Your great grandfather had small cell carcinoma, and died in early 1992. His sister had part of a lung removed years ago. She is gone now, but not from the lung cancer. His other sister also had lung cancer, and her daughter had throat cancer. My grandfather had bladder cancer (he was a life-long tobacco user, and died at age 92). My mother had a malignant growth removed from her larynx in 2009. As of today, when she visited her ENT doc, nothing has reappeared. All of these relatives smoked.

Cigarettes are NOT cool and they are NOT healthy. I hope neither of my grandsons smoke, and I am very thankful my daughter or my husband no longer do so.

Apparently, when I was four years old, I was curious about my parents' cigarettes. Back in the 1950's, most adults smoked, having gotten addicted during World War II, when the government gave the soldiers cigarettes in their rations. I guess she let me take a puff. I sucked in so hard I got tobacco in my mouth and throat. That did it for me. It was NOT cool. I don't remember the specific incident but I do remember thinking, at an early age, that it seemed stupid to just burn up money on them. I remember telling my mother that I would never go and buy her cigarettes nor would I ever loan her money for cigarettes. She was fine with that. Back then, you could send your kids to the drug store to buy them for you. It seems pretty incredible nowadays. The drug store also ran a tab for my parents and they paid them by the month. I can't imagine that happening nowadays either.

So, let's review: smoking is a dumb thing to do! The smokers in the family seem to develop problems that unfortunately can become fatal.

Addendum: Turns out my cousin's tumor is a carcinoid tumor. That means it was NOT caused by smoking, which is good news for her. Carcinoids are a different type of tumor altogether. Surgical removal is the treatment of choice. Chemotherapy does nothing for carcinoids. I am very happy for my cousin!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Miles has joined the family

On August 7, 2010, Miles Robert joined the family. He was 6 pounds, 14 ounces, but now (Sept. 12, 2010) he is up over eight pounds. Miles is a sweetheart - very content to have his bottle and loves to be held almost constantly. He is not yet sleeping through the night, but is up to four ounces of formula at a feeding and is pretty much on schedule to wake at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. I don't think it will be long before he is sleeping through the night.

Oliver is learning at a lightning fast pace. He will be four on Nov. 15. He knows all his letters (upper AND lower case), and all his numbers, shapes, and colors. Since he has started watching "Word World" on PBS, he is spelling lots of words with his magnetic letters (carried around in a bucket). I'm told he insists on "little case" letters sometimes and won't take upper case substitutes. He can print his name so it is recognizable. He still loves Maisy books and doesn't sit still very long. He figured out the potty in late July and has proceeded well with no accidents for the past month. He is tall for his age and most people think he is older than he is. If you ask him something for which he doesn't know the answer, his reply is "peanut butter." He likes making jokes with the "peanut butter" phrase thrown in and he knows when he is saying silly things and enjoys it quite well.

I cannot begin to express how much I enjoy being around both my grandsons. It is so exciting to see them grow up and learn.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the eve of your third birthday

Ah, Oliver, what do I say to you on the eve of your third birthday? There is so much happening in the family, in the news, in the world. I don't know where to begin.

You, my dear boy, are an absolute sweetheart. You are talking more, and we're beginning to know what is inside that little head of yours. Your favorite show is still the "Wonder Pets" and you love to play with the fly boat toy at our house. There will be a couple of surprises here next time you visit!

More important than television and toys, however, is the blossoming of your intelligence. You know all your letters and are beginning to spell words. You count things (even the bubbles in your drink, according to your day care teacher). You are learning shapes, apparently saying "octagon" when you see a stop sign. You love to dance to music. You eat to live, and don't live to eat, so mealtime can be trying to everyone but you. All in all, you are an absolute joy to be around and I love you so very much.

Your mom is almost done with her nurse's training and will be pinned on Dec. 5, 2009. There is still the hurdle of her final national board test, but you will always see her, in your mind, as a nurse, and will not remember the hard work your mom is going through to graduate. All of us are extremely proud of what your mom has accomplished, and she will be working in a tough but rewarding profession. I'm sure there will be some days when she comes home exhausted from her job in the future. You will be proud of her, I am sure of it. She will show you a fine example of a hard working woman who loves her family.

The country is trying to survive hard economic times. You will not have to worry about such things until you are older, thank goodness. Suffice it to say that your generation will not have an easy time of it in 20 years. Toledo has changed a lot since I was your age. I cannot even imagine how it will change in your lifetime.

I made a cake for your birthday tomorrow. I'll take a picture of it for you so you will remember the nice birthday party you had with your grandmas, grandpas, parents, and uncle. We all love you very very much.

Happy third birthday to my wonderful grandson!

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