Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Names Were Larry, Moe, and Curly

She was signing herself in for a chiropractor's visit, and Sissy and I were with her. We all three see Dr. Benjamin at eight in the morning every Tuesday and Thursday. We spend the morning making Momma laugh with our silliness while we wait. However, the signing in procedure that morning was no laughing matter.While standing at the sign­-in sheet, Sissy said "Momma sign us all three in”.  Momma signed herself in and started signing our names. She wrote "Sissy", and then paused. She whispered to me as I stood beside her, "Carol, I can't remember her last name." She was disturbed by this lapse in her memory. Sissy and I both felt sick. 
Folks, if you have been reading my blogs, or read my book, or heard me present to groups, you would probably agree I have a fairly good handle on dementia, Alzheimer's and caregiving. However, on this particular morning, my knowledge, education and understanding of dementia did not keep me from being so very sad. 

I realized Momma had forgotten the last names of her children. This was not news that was easy to take, but at least I understood the "why" of the situation. Nonetheless, Sissy and I both felt really sad that morning. 

"That's OK, Momma. Just sign us in as Larry, Moe, and Curly," I said. I could have made a big deal of her memory loss, but that wouldn't have changed or helped the situation in any way. Laughing off the issue, and going on with the day as if nothing had happened, proved to be a good way to handle the sadness we all three felt. 

Life is full of challenges no matter what disabilities, illnesses, or challenges we face. It has been proven repeatedly that laughter is truly good medicine. When someone has dementia, laughter is essential. Momma is a happier person when we are silly. Honestly, there are times it makes us tired to be so very UP all the time, but having dementia is making HER tired, also. We will continue to do our part to make her life happy. You see, her smile brings tons of joy to our day.
Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh

Monday, June 8, 2015

Creative Caregiving

Yes, that is a picture of a man atop a very high structure with an umbrella to protect him from the sun. I absolutely had to stop and take a picture. "There is a story in that picture," I thought, and I was correct. Here is the story.
Life is crazy, and sometimes you find yourself in situations that are not comfortable. I think the guy working on the metal structure for the new restaurant in town certainly found himself in an uncomfortable situation, and he found a way to deal with the sun in a creative way. I admire his ingenuity.
When dementia caregiving, there are innumerable opportunities to be creative in response to difficult or uncomfortable situations. In thinking of this, Mrs. Betty comes to mind. Recently we were having private music with her, and things went "crooked". Yes, crooked.
Mrs. Betty has very advanced dementia. She screams, yells, spits, and curses for no apparent reason. Food will often calm her agitation, but there are times when nothing brings her peace. On one particular day, Mrs. Betty was highly (and I do mean HIGHLY) agitated. When Sissy, my Director of Hospice Music, began to sing for her, Mrs. Betty seemed to calm a bit, so Sissy reached for her hand. That was when Mrs. Betty grabbed Sissy's little finger and pulled it opposite of the way God intended that figure to be. A crooked finger was the result. Sissy was in great pain, the staff reacted with much commotion (which actually made Mrs. Betty more agitated and upset), and the situation escalated out of control.
Fast forward two weeks, and it was time to visit Mrs. Betty again. Sissy and I were a bit anxious about the visit. Mrs. Betty was loud when we arrived, but she did not seem as agitated. We had decided to place noise canceling headphones on her as a test. Approaching quietly, and placing the headphones on her head, we played an easy piano version of "Jesus Loves Me". Mrs. Betty instantly became quiet and still. She closed her eyes, moved her head to the music, and obviously enjoyed the sound she was experiencing.
At one point the headphones became disconnected from the iPad, and Mrs. Betty, once again, became loud. Reconnecting quickly, the sound returned and Mrs. Betty said, "one, no maybe two". We suppose she was talking about the music, but we were positive she was enjoying the music.
Finding a creative solution to a difficult situation can be challenging, but thinking outside the box can bring about unexpected results. I hope your results bring as much comfort as the umbrella brought the man on the tall structure in the picture and the headphones brought Mrs. Betty. I also hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh