2016 is Coming to an End

confetti

As 2016 comes to a close, I find myself excited to see this turbulent year come to an end.

This year has not been all bad, as a matter of fact a lot of good things happened in 2016. My oldest child graduated from college and has a wonderful job as a first grade teacher. My second child found happiness at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) and my twins are having a successful last year in junior high school. My husband and I have had some wonderful trip and are planning for a few more in 2017. All in all it has been a good year.

But I am ready to celebrate the end of 2016! My sister and I have learned a lot about elder care . . . more than we probably care to know! We have seen many of our friends move their parents out of houses and into retirement communities. We have answered their questions about how to find the right living community for aging parents and how to navigate the health care community. The questions seem never-ending and the information “out there” can be overwhelming.

So as I say good-bye to 2016, I think back on some of the most valuable pieces of information that I have uncovered this year.

First, your team is the most important part of caring for aging parents. I cannot imagine doing this journey without my sister. She is my partner and therapist! We have become excellent “texters”; our children would be proud! I think I can even blindly text “Calgon take me away” as I listen to my mom complain about a fill in sitter!

As a team, we are able to schedule 28 (yes – 28)  sitting jobs a week! We can use Shipt to deliver groceries at a moments notice. We can play “good daughter, bad daughter” with the nursing staff in the rehabilitation center. We can order food to settle down the staff and have it delivered in time to cover the day shift AND the night shift!

Your team is very important! Build your team wisely.

Second, we have learned to scour our community for services that will aid our parents and make our life easier. For example, I did not know that you could rent a transportation vehicle to carry a person in a wheelchair to your house on Christmas day! It was wonderful! They picked up my parents and delivered them safely to my door. However, these services are not without their flaws. We scheduled pick up at 3 pm on Christmas day to return my mom to the center where she is staying while she learns to get around with two bum legs! The ride did not arrive until 4:10 and at this point her oxygen tank had been empty for at least an hour and my nerves were SHOT! I owe a tip and an apology to the transportation company. I was such a wreck by the time the drop off was complete I never thought of tipping the gentleman . . . my dad taught me better than that! Always tip.

In 2017, we will be looking to sell my parents’ car and purchase our own vehicle that will transport my mom in her wheelchair. I hope the vehicle comes with a lot of instructions. If you see us driving down the road, stay back, just in case a wheelchair rolls out the back door at a red light!

I need to thank all my friends that have told me how to seek out the best vehicle for my mom. I had no idea there were so many options and I am thankful for those that traveled this road before me.

I have learned that you cannot rely solely on other people’s experience with rehab. You have to visit many facilities and pick the one that you feel best about. Trust your gut. We did and so far so good.

The saving grace in 2016 is Encore and the wonderful friends I have made through the support group for people caring for loved ones with dementia. My dad calls Encore “school” and so that is how we refer to it as well. School is the best gift we have been given in 2016. Dad goes to school twice a week. It is a welcome break for us and the caregivers and best of all, it is often the bright spot in Dad’s day. We love school and we cannot wait for it to start back next week!

I love my many new friends from the support group at Canterbury. We are all on this dementia journey together. When I talk to one of these friends, I know that they can relate to my situation. I know that when I run into Sally at Smith’s in the village that she too is glad that Thanksgiving is over! I know that she also measures a successful day in the same way that I measure a successful day with a parent with dementia.

My new friends are a safe place. We laugh and we cry and know that our loved ones are still there and they are not defined by their disease. We are happy to share our experiences with anyone that asks and we are quick to give a hug because we know that is all you could do at times.

Hugs are important. My team is important. My community is important and 2016 is almost over.

So what will 2017 bring?

God only knows the answer to this but here is what I hope it brings:

I hope that someone finds a cure for cancer and dementia. I hope that those people who are looking for their “team” ask me to join them. I hope that more people like my dad can find a “school” to make them feel important. I hope that my children are healthy and happy.

I hope that we enjoy 2017. I hope that we look for the good things and do not get stuck on the difficult things. I hope that we learn from those difficult moments and help others avoid the same mistakes.

I hope we continue to focus on the person and not the disease.

I have hope for 2017.

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My Plate is Full

christmas-cookies-images-1I have wanted to write but I have not had time. I have wanted to rest but I have not had time. I want to enjoy the Christmas season . . . but I don’t have time.

I am not complaining. Ok. I am complaining a little bit. Everyone is bustling about this time of year. Everyone has a full plate and my plate is no fuller than anyone elses plate. But MAN IS MY PLATE FULL!

Life turned upside down a little over a week ago when my mom broke her foot. Two surgeries later she is still in the hospital trying to get to rehab. Dad is being carted to and from the hospital and we are employing sitters for both parents in two locations.

Consistency. We are looking for familiar faces. It is so important that Dad’s world NOT be turned upside down. This means that he gets the familiar sitters and when we have to fill in with outsiders, Mom gets potluck!

While trying to keep Dad’s life normal, I realize all the things that Mom has been doing while we were not looking.

While running between the hospital and Brookdale, I have started checking their mail. Unfortunately mail runs late this time of year and I cannot get by their daily. I learned today that Dad gets the mail and throws it away. All of it! Christmas cards. Personal letters. Catalogs. Bills. Everything!

Solution: Sitters go thru the mail with him and my sister gets a key so that she can check the mail when I cannot. Problem solved. I hope!

Dad has started fixating on things. If he is missing his driver’s licence (and he was) he goes over and over it trying to imagine where it might be. Even when we tell him why it was taken out of his wallet he does not grasp the reason. When the license is returned to him he continues to wonder where it has been. He talks about it constantly until you are ready to SCREAM! Finally he moves on . . . and fixates on something else . . . like the small yellow question mark in the right hand corner of the hospital monitor hooked up to my mother. It never ends.

I joined Dad at a doctor’s appointment today. It was a routine visit with his audiologist. As luck would have it their computer was down and we had to rehash dad’s medical history. This was challenging for him and for me. When in doubt, wing it! I need to pay closer attention to his medical needs so that I can confidently answer the questions that he cannot.

I have learned a lot about hearing aids. I know how to change those tiny tiny batteries and I even know how to put them in. I hope someone reminds me of these skills when I need a hearing aid!

I travel with a list of both parents’ medications. This is one of the most important things you can do for your parents. I am willing to guess on how long my dad has had a hearing problem, or how tall he is or even when he last had his hearing tested but I will not risk messing up on his medication. If you do not know the medication your parents take . . . find out and make a list!

So that is what I did between 11 and 5 today.

Not really. But it feels like I have accomplished a lot today and my list is no shorter than it was when I woke up.

My plate is full. So is yours. But life goes on and Christmas will still be here in 18 days. It will come even if the house is not decorated . . . thank you to my family for taking care of most of that. Christmas will come even if the Christmas cards are not done. I am so thankful I took care of that around Halloween.

My plate is full and so is my heart.

And so is my glass of wine.