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A Peek at Dementia

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A Peek at Dementia

Her mind is a jumble of thoughts that misfire and get hung up midway. She’ll start a task and forget what she was doing somewhere in the process. The other day I came in and she had all the ingredients spread out on the counter, she just didn’t have any idea how to put them together. She wanted to make a sandwich for her husband of 67 years. She’s probably made a thousand over the course of their marriage, this day the how-to’s of assembly escaped her.

She’s highly sensitive, aware of changes in the moods of those around her. Her feelings are easily hurt and she isn’t shy about expressing herself. I visit with her several times a week including one evening when the goal is to get her fed and dressed for bed. Getting dressed is a long process. It’s a series of repetitive steps that have to be done in a certain order. She can usually stay on task but there have been exceptions.

One day last week she insisted that she had to take her pants off over her sneakers. I had to explain why that would not work, she remained stubborn about it. Then it clicked for me, she must have been afraid of something. Fear is usually the root cause of her resistance. Earlier that week, her husband commented that he couldn’t tie her shoes any more, he was physically not able to do it. This is why she wanted to take her pants off over her sneakers, she was afraid of being shoe-less. Once I explained that I would put her sneakers back on, she complied.

She has dementia, a moderate case. The thing about dementia is that it only gets worse, never better. Sure there are days when she is more lucid but her baseline status will only descend from here. Any major change such as the death of her husband or a move at this stage will hasten the spiral and she’s one of the lucky ones.

Her family is engaged and loving. She sees a relative at least five times a week and speaks with them a minimum of three times a day for medication reminders. Companions like me visit her each weekday. She has a small army of compassionate caregivers and she still lives with her husband. There are millions of people facing this condition without these benefits, what will happen to them?

https://www.dementiasociety.org/

It’s estimated that 9 million Americans are living with some form of dementia. They don’t all have the financial and familial resources to remain safe and comfortable. Families are stretched thin trying to triage caregiving while managing their own lives including; children, careers, personal illnesses and a home.

https://www.alz.org/facts/

This situation will overwhelm our healthcare system within the next decade and beyond. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, effects one in nine people after age 65 and that rate increases with age. People 85 and older have somewhere between a 30 – 50% chance of acquiring some form of dementia. This condition is impacting more people as life expectancy increases.

What can you do to prepare for this? I suggest having direct conversations with aging loved ones while they are well. Discuss specifics of financial resources, care preferences and have an Advanced Medical Directive and a Will. All adults should have these preferences documented.

https://www.medicinenet.com/advance_medical_directives/article.htm#advance_medical_directive_facts

If someone has been diagnosed, you may want to tour some facilities that specialize or have a wing dedicated to memory care. If you have a male loved that will need these services, get them on a waiting list as soon as it is reasonable. Many facilities have beds that are assigned male or female. Since women tend to outlive men, they have historically had more beds available to them. It can take years for a male patient to get into his desired facility due to a lack of available beds.

Many people opt to care for loved ones at home due to financial, emotional or other reasons. It’s wonderful if you can find a caregiver within the family. At some point that person will need assistance as well. AARP has put together a thoughtful list of resources for caregivers.

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/local/info-2017/important-resources-for-caregivers.html

To all the caregivers reading this, you are not alone. Please take a moment for yourself to find support. When you need help, ask for it from those that can assist. That may be an individual, an agency or a non-profit organization. When you don’t need help, prepare for when you do, your work is so important. Self-care is not indulgent, it is a necessity.

 

Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_victor69′>victor69 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

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Basic @sshole

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Basic @sshole

We walked into the cafe in the middle of the lunch rush. It had that industrial-rustic-chic decor that has taken over the US in the past 15 years. Am I in a country store or an abandoned warehouse, I’m not sure. All these places look alike – exposed HVAC duct work, “distressed” wood floors and tables with some metal accents, large chalk board and minimalist light fixtures. I’m sure this decor is described in the first chapter of the Gentrification 101 Handbook. To be fair, I liked this look the first 15,294 times that I saw it.

Unfamiliar with the particulars of this cafe, we grabbed a menu and got in the 10 people deep line. By the time we got to the register we were just about ready to order. The part of BA (Basic @sshole) will be played by the cashier.

Me: Hi, how big are the sandwiches here? We’re thinking of sharing.

BA: (audible eye roll) They’re….(hesitation, he wanted to say basic, I know he did)…Uh, normal.

Me: OK, we’ll get the chicken salad sandwich with a side salad and a bag of chips. I’ll take a coffee as well.

Friend: Do you have any fountain drinks?

BA: (gasp, with momentary look of horror) Noooo

Friend: Um, OK I’ll get a water.

BA: Take this number and put it on your table, hands me my coffee.

I begin to pay with a credit card. Of course they have the Apple register here, required apparatus (it’s in the Handbook). BA can’t wait for me to finish signing my name on the display and huffs over to the other register to start the next order, clearly annoyed that I haven’t moved on yet.

My friend and I look at each other like “WTF was that about” and search for seating. We had to settle for one of those community style tables (check that off the requirements list, it’s in the Handbook).

I got up to fix my coffee and grab a a few napkins. That’s when I realized that BA was simply towing the corporate line because I saw this above the napkins:

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Aggressively pro-environment and condescending. (Chapter 2 of the Handbook)

I looked around and realized the median age was probably 23 and my friend and I were not the desired demographic. Then I noticed the chalkboard, it took over an entire wall. And then I smiled a little because it wasn’t current. I suspect they ran out of sustainably farmed chalk, that’s the only viable explanation.

ROSTE…Dover & Canterbury (Part III)

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ROSTE…Dover & Canterbury (Part III)

On our third day we were determined to get up early and see some more sites. We left Ben in charge and he did not disappoint. We stumbled onto a lovely beach at St. Margaret’s Bay which was surrounded by the white cliffs of Dover.

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We had a small snack at the beach from a stand which was carefully attended to by a agreeable chap named Geeves (totally made up name). Geeves was wearing a tie to flip burgers and make coffee.  This would not happen in the USA. Sure you may get a charmer but a tie, not likely. The food was good, reasonably priced and the whole scene was refreshing.

 

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The beach at St. Margaret’s Bay

After about an hour we were back on the road, this time to Canterbury. It was a little tricky finding a parking place but we persevered and eventually found a spot. Canterbury was charming. It had a gorgeous cathedral and a lively town atmosphere among cobblestone walkways.

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There is a ducking stool perched above the boats in the background of this photo. The ducking stool served as punishment for ‘scolds” (women who dissatisfied their husbands or gossiped. Uh-oh). It was also used to determine if someone was a witch. The suspect would be fastened to the chair and dunked in the river for several minutes. If they died they were deemed a non-witch and a letter clearing their name would be sent (Who doesn’t love getting a hand written note in the mail. It’s always bills, bills, bills oh look, Auntie Mary wasn’t a witch. Damn now I feel bad for missing her funeral). Those with the misfortune to live were considered witches and likely died in another heinous manner such as burning.

We wandered around the town darting into different shops and sites along the way. I’m not a big shopper but I couldn’t resist this –

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Dashboard Jesus. He’s already helped me negotiate a lesser fine for a speeding ticket.

 

We did spend some time in the Cathedral of Canterbury. A curious person could spend six months in there. The new section is circa 1200, the new section.

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The “new” section at Canterbury Cathedral.

Thomas Becket gets a lot of attention in these parts. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170 when *spoiler alert* he was brutally murdered in the cathedral. Things turned sour between Archbishop Becket and King Henry II over power. The King wanted more power over the church and Becket was opposed.

Four knights turned up in Canterbury to take Becket as a prisoner. The Archbishop sought solace in the cathedral and the knights went in after him. Soon after four knights emerged with bits of Becket’s brain on their swords, a gruesome killing.

Here is a great recount of the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas Becket. It’s somewhat tricky to determine who the bad guy is but Becket was canonized in 1173 and is considered a martyr. It does seem that Thomas Becket underwent an incredible personal change once he became Archbishop of Canterbury. You can get into the weeds about it here –

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-unholy-feud-that-killed-thomas-becket/

The cathedral itself is amazing so if you find yourself in that part of the world, I highly recommend a visit.

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Half of England was getting a face lift while we were there. Stone is gorgeous but the upkeep, oh my. Canterbury Cathedral.

We made our way back to our last night in Rye. Our cuisine for the evening was local fish & chips from Marino’s Fish Bar. American friends, chips here are french fries and our chips are called crisps, either way a potato or two get sacrificed.

Next stop, London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

Ethel

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Ethel

I was inspired to start writing a book a few weeks ago, I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. It’s like falling in love or making a new best friend…you want to pour all of your time and energy into it. Of course this doesn’t happen without a little slippage in other areas. There are still just 24 hours in a day, the creative Gods can’t give you more. This turns you into a criminal as you steal time from other parts of  your life.

Time communicating with loved ones gets curtailed, the laundry and dirty dishes pile up and you resent any intrusions. Even the dog gets annoying with her whining about whatever dog woes she’s experiencing. Sorry Fluffy, I don’t have time to deal with your existential crisis right now…5 more pages and I’ll rub your belly. She just grunted at me as she plopped her large dog body onto her bed next to my desk.

It’s been a roller coaster these past few weeks. The peaks of creative spontaneity hammered down by the crushing blows of self doubt. Self doubt is the monster that lives in your head and tells you how terrible you are at everything. My self doubt has migrated from a tap on my shoulder to a hand around my throat and she’s squeezing pretty hard. I keep shaking her off and she comes back over an over again like the protagonist in a bad horror movie.

I went to a writer conference last August and attended a session on self doubt. The facilitator was Danny Gregory and he spoke about his book – Shut Your Monkey. https://dannygregorysblog.com/category/books/shut-your-monkey/ – Instead of a monkey, my take away from that day was to envision my self doubt as an elderly prairie dog named Ethel.

Ethel usually dons granny glasses and a knitted sweater vest. Sometimes she’s cute but lately she’s gotten more critical and suddenly she’s wearing a hockey mask and carrying a long sharp knife like Jason from Friday the 13th. She’s starting to scare me. I’d love to draw her for you but as Ethel as already reminded me several times today, I can’t draw for shit.

The worst part about this recent internal war is that I feel like I’m taking innocent people with me along for the ride. I have an illustrator that I’m working with and a handful of friends that are giving me feedback on my progress. Self doubt was bad enough when it was a solo act, now it feels indulgent. I mean it’s bad enough to spend time frivolously writing the hours away, now you want people to read it and comment. And dear Gawd that poor illustrator, she has a family and clients that pay her…real money.

Ethel: You can’t do this to people. It’s bad enough you waste your own time on this “hobby”. Now you are dragging your friends into this nonsense.

Me: Shut up Ethel you aren’t helping.

Ethel: It’s not like you’re even writing anything meaningful. Humor, who are you to write humor. What makes you think…..

….and that’s when I put a stick of Acme dynamite up Ethel’s ass and blew her up Wile E. Coyote style.

 

 

 

Dementia

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Dementia

Dementia is a beast. I have a client that I visit a couple of times a week, she has moderate dementia. I’ve been visiting her and her husband for almost a year and we’ve gotten very close. She’s a bit feisty and I like to tap into that side of her personality, she seems happy there.

Last week we were walking in the hallway (“airing out” as we call it) when I had a brilliant, awful idea. The residents put a lot of thought into the decor around their front doors. Wreaths, plaques, photos and other seasonal tchotchkes line the narrow shelves that flank the apartment doors. I suggested that we switch a few of the wreaths around and watch to see what the residents would do. She thought it was the best idea ever. Of course we didn’t do it, we only dream of being that rotten, but it made her laugh.

She turned 80 this past weekend. My friend celebrated with her extended family and she sounded happy when I called her. I was surprised she picked up the phone. She is very picky about which calls she takes and I didn’t think she would recognize my name on the Caller ID. I suspect her family urged her to answer.

That’s the awful part about dementia. You forget – people, places, names, events….where the bathroom is, what’s a brush, how to read. My friend still recognizes that my face is a friendly one and she enjoys our time together. She just can’t connect all the dots.

Today she asked me if I liked any boys. I told her I still liked my husband, she chuckled. She asked again a few minutes later and I simply said “not really.” I never press a person with dementia or try to explain complicated situations. I’ll distract them to try to calm them but I avoid correction. Any change gets her antsy. It could be a different pill container or a blue cup instead of a red one, change is hard.

Last week I was straightening up the apartment and I noticed a pat of butter in a dose cup. The kind of cup that cradles the lid of cough medicine. There sitting on the bathroom vanity was a pat of butter in a dose cup. That’s what dementia looks like. You try to make sense of it but it in the end rational thought does not prevail. You just find the logic where you can and hope to ease the stress and anxiety with some laughs along the way.

My friend wrote a note to me on Tuesday. She wrote in on a napkin, her way of making me promise I would be back soon. This is what she wrote:

 

“I will come

on Friday.

Hurry Up or Else!

Keep this.

Love, Helen”

 

 

I’m Just Happy To Be Here

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I’m Just Happy To Be Here

Hi my name is Bryce and I’m a recovering SAHM with an acute (not a cute) case of Imposter Syndrome. You all enthusiastically say, “Hi Bryce, welcome”. I spent a decade as a SAHM and wouldn’t even spring for a good haircut let alone a conference. I didn’t spend family money on frivolous things. Traveling to a conference for a “hobby” seemed excessive and not something I would have done two years ago. I am happy to report that times have changed for me.

A few years ago I started to consciously carve out a niche for myself. I had been a SAHM so long that I got lost in the daily tasks of managing a family. When both kids got to middle school I determined to change a few things. The first thing I took aim at was finding a job. That seemed impossible given that my last job involved proprietary medical software which doesn’t age well. If you’re out a week things change, you can’t play catch up on a decade long absence.

With no employment prospects, I decided to start a small business. I fill in the gaps for families that need a helping hand. Most of my clients are elderly and their loved ones just want someone to check in on them during the day. It’s great, the work is meaningful and I have autonomy over my schedule. I can also pay my way for the conference.

This year I turn the big 5-OH so I am more aware that there is less sand in the top portion of my life’s hourglass. I’m also making an effort to take my writing from a cathartic hobby to something that can earn money. I’m currently writing a book which I will shamelessly promote to all of you once it is done (I’m so excited about it!).

I wouldn’t be registered if it weren’t (weren’t or wasn’t; imposter isn’t sure) for my good friend, Leah Vidal. Leah was the one who inspired me to start a blog and she told me about the EBWW. In fact, she registered me for the event. I had to work the day that registration opened and I couldn’t log in. So if I accidentally burn the place down or I become ground zero for a new plague that spreads at the workshop, it’s Leah’s fault.

In a not so surprising twist, last week I realized that the conference conflicts with a variety show fundraiser that I started three years ago. I was sitting in a meeting for the non-profit looking at an event flyer and wondering why April 7th sounded familiar. Then I had my “oh sh*t” moment of realization and I immediately told the attendees I would be out of town. I will not be deterred.

 

This post was in response to Gina Valley’s EBWW writing prompt. PROMPT: In 300-800 words talk about signing up for the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Sex Bomb

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Sex Bomb

I had a visit with an elderly couple today. I see them twice a week. I make them lunch, do some laundry but my main job is to socialize with the wife. Helen tends to get a bit down sometimes and dementia is causing her to become forgetful. Her husband, Ralph, wasn’t feeling good today and I wanted to lighten the mood a bit.

One of the grandkids got them an Echo Dot for Christmas. I thought some music might make my friend smile a little so I had Alexa play some Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra, The Doobie Brothers (I was hopeful, she didn’t like them) and finally some Tom Jones.

The first Tom Jones song to come on was “It’s Not Unusual” and she loved it so we kept Mr. Jones on. The next song was one I never heard of – “Sex Bomb”. My ears did a double take and I instantly thought….Houston we have a problem. I looked over at my octogenarian friend and she was dancing. Here’s the chorus in case you aren’t familiar –

Sex bomb, sex bomb you’re my sex bomb –  You can give it to me when I need to come along (Give it to me) – Sex bomb sex bomb you’re my sex bomb – And baby you can turn me on (Baby you can turn me on)

Enjoy!

Check It Out

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Check It Out

I’m a bit of an @sshole when it comes to bagging my own groceries. I don’t have too many OCD tendencies except for this particular task. I prefer to use my own bags (when I remember them) and I have very specific ideas of what should and shouldn’t be bagged together. These are basically common sense notions except somewhere down the line common sense got his @ss kicked and now he’s afraid to leave the house.

I don’t think I’m too exotic with my grocery bag wishes. Put heavy stuff on the bottom of the bag so the “delicates” (Oreos, chips, the good stuff) don’t get crushed. Keep the cold stuff together (that’s right the warm roasted chicken should not coexist in the same bag as the ice cream). Put more than three things in a bag. I’m one of those “one trip” people. To finish things off, I like to play grocery store Tetris. Basically I get a small cart, load a large carts worth of groceries into it and then see if I can get them back in, good times. I always intend to go in for 4 things and come out with about 37 things, so there’s that.

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My bagging preferences have not gone unnoticed by the workers. Just the other day my son and I were checking out with the three things we went in for (plus the additional 34 items we didn’t need). It played out like this –

Cashier: “Do you want a plastic bag for the meat?”

Me: “No thanks.”

4 seconds later….cashier reaches for the plastic bag with her left hand, meat is in the right hand.

Me: “It’s OK, I don’t need a plastic bag for that.”

Cashier continues to place the meat in the plastic bag. At which point I give the WTF is happening here look. She sees the look and continues…

Cashier:”I just think it’s better if the meat is in plastic…you don’t want sausage flavored lasagna.”

Me: “Interesting you should point that out, Susan. I do in fact want sausage favored lasagna.”

The next 2 minutes continued in an awkward exchange of the cashier explaining all the reasons why I should have this bag. I spent the time saying “OK” and fighting the urge to laugh and smack her…I was torn between the urges. I saw the ridiculousness of the situation for what it was and yet I was still pissed at her blatant disregard for my very clear instructions. Basically I went into pick your battles mode and did not escalate the situation. My son and I laughed about it on the way out.

This isn’t the only time I’ve encountered a bagging “situation” at this store. A while back I was checking out in a lane which had an overly aggressive bagger. This woman gets visibly pissed if you want to bag your own groceries. Here’s the tricky part, she has special needs. So I’m an instant @sshole for having any kind of an issue with her. Last year she threw my own tomato at me, I sh*t you not. I know she takes her job very seriously so I am mindful of the words I chose when we we interact. Here’s how it went down –

Me: “Regina, can you pass me that tomato, I want to keep the produce together?”

Regina then threw the tomato in my general direction with an angry scowl on her face.

Me: “Alright, then.”

Regina: “Sorry.”

So now I have one cashier and a bagger that I need to avoid when shopping. Does this happen to anyone else?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moms Don’t Get Sick (Yes we f*cking do)

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Moms Don’t Get Sick (Yes we f*cking do)

I’m going to throat punch the next person that says “Mom’s don’t get sick” to me. Right after I cough and sneeze directly into their left eye. I know, I’m cranky it’s the Advil Cold & Sinus talking and no they didn’t pay me to type that. Actually that is the only thing that helps (still waiting for payment, ah-Choo). Here’s that annoying commercial from Dayquil. I know I’m mixing shit up it’s the headache, lack of sleep and difficulty breathing.

Anyway, I know I’m “#blessed” because this is only a shitty cold and not some disease that wants to take me down one deteriorating cell at a time. I just suck at being sick. Forcing myself to rest is difficult. I called out of work today and I felt bad about it. My client is an 80 year old woman and I know she really looks forward to our visits. The risk of getting her or her husband sick outweighed the guilt.

Another fortunate thing for me is my kids are older. Moms and Dads of littles that get sick are really screwed. Scratch that anyone who is the primary caregiver that gets sick is royally screwed when they, themselves get sick. It’s not just parents of littles, it’s spouses of  the chronically ill, caretakers of people with special needs , adult children caring for parents. I see you and I hope you feel better and get the rest you need to take it all on again. As for me, this Momma is taking a sick day.