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Posts Tagged ‘Dementia’

Quite beautiful images that open your heart- by Isa Leshko

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/she-photographs-elderly-animal.html

If your reading my blog, that’s all I can ask or would want…keep your heart open.

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A Lotus Grows in Mud

This month marks the third year I have been living with my parents. I cannot believe that three years have gone by. Fast and slow. Up and down. Tired and glad. Sad and grateful. Emotional and blessed. FULL BEYOND MEASURE. Upon reflection of these years, I think of what my friend Chris recently pointed out about the miraculous journey of the Lotus flower. The roots of the flower grow in the mud as the stems grow up through the water as the flower opens and lies above the water seeking the sunshine. Through my research on water plants, I found out that only the lotus, because of the strength of its stem will rise eight inches above the surface. In my more difficult moments of this eldercare journey, it helps to hear these kinds of metaphors for living. This metaphor in particular allows me to see the big picture of what kind of beauty I’d like to see and experience in the long run. It can be a struggle to find it sometimes. Since my parents and I have set down roots together, there has been plenty of muddy water – I never ever see clear to the bottom. Truthfully, I have remained pretty disengaged from literally setting roots down where we live even though I am staying with them 24/7 when I am not working or attempting to have a social life. I miss my freedom. But I will consistently look for the beauty of this arrangement; this is what keeps me sane. Both my parents have fallen in the last two weeks. Both survived their falls with no broken bones, just sore muscles and minor scrapes; I am so grateful. My dad is increasingly becoming depressed and angry which he often takes out on me through passive aggressive comments, followed by an apologetic statement. The ambivalence is often nonsensical. Not a behavior that was ever part of my Dad’s personality until these dementia years. My mom’s demeanor is softer although her first moments in the morning can be seriously crabby – I am grateful these older parents were not my younger parents. These were not their prevalent attitudes when I was growing up. The contrast is sharp. I appreciate the contrast in a way because I know different. Friends I know grew up with parents only knowing the latter personality from start to finish. My parent’s relationship, although somewhat dysfunctional in the realm of dementia is still very sweet to observe. I think it is their driving force in remaining alive and staying somewhat healthy. They are each other’s allies and often I am seen as the villain cuz’ I am handing out orders and restrictions – but that’s my part of my role and they “get it” on their better days. So the muddy waters I described above are currently at the base of this family unit. But, even while often standing shoulder high in mud, when I can keep myself looking for the good, the hope, and remember to see what lovingly remains in them, in me, in us – I see the beautiful lotus blooming on the surface.

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I have frequently blogged about finding movies that are appropriate for my parents to watch. When I am not the source of their entertainment, or food,… thankfully there are movies. So the other day I rented “Tuesdays with Morrie,” based on the book by Mitch Albom. I had remembered seeing it before and liking it. I was going to start the DVD of it for my parents and leave for a bit, but something compelled me to stay and watch it with them . As I sat in the darkness in the background of where my parent’s chairs sit, the movie caught my heart for the second time. I had forgotten how real the storyline is, how much the theme revolved around death and dying and appreciating life along the way. Watching my parents age and suffer from dementia over the last almost 3 years made viewing this movie more emotional for me. I’d forgotten what I felt the first time watching that movie years ago; a time when I lived alone and my Parents were healthier and living on their own. But surely it did not create the same impact as now. My Mom enjoyed the storyline; my Dad just made jokes after it was over – just a defense, I think, as to not wanting to be too emotional and be led to examine his own last chapter in life. There is a rawness in being that vulnerable. A vulnerability I have been doing my best to embrace throughout this challenging time of living with my parents. I am convinced that being vulnerable is the only way to live and still be in the present. I happened to find a wonderful TED TALK on the subject (see link below) that is quite profound and humorous too. The speaker has to be vulnerable in order to bear witness to this subject; hence the humor.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about being in that mental space and observing it in others. It’s not easy. It is a state of mind that can feel like both grace and pain intertwined at times. But it can set me free as well. To watch Morrie (the main character) die while teaching others to be and stay vulnerable allowed me to wipe my free flowing tears in the darkness and know that somewhere deep inside I picked this movie this time, not for my parents so much as for me.

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See last Post. Hallmark’s CEO’s sent my letter to their “Consumer care Division” who in turn sent me a “form letter”! Bottom line was that they franchise their name out to their retailers and they cannot interfere with their business practices. They’ll send my comments along to the owner of the store through a sales rep. The letter to me was not hand signed, did not address the issues, and pretty much passed the buck. Well, my buck will not go back into their products. They need to read the text of some of their cards over to see what they said their company was about.

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February 12
Say the word HALLMARK, and I would imagine most people, after they think of cards, would associate their products with words like warmth, caring, love, compassion, kindness, friendship, humanity, and love. And, depending on how old they are, they might think of Hallmark as a company with not only a long history of carrying quality products, but also a long history of knowing and honoring their customers.
Well history was cut short today. I am both seething and crying as I write this blog. I took my 86-year-old parents out to breakfast today. My Dad asked if we could stop at the Hallmark store afterwards to pick up a long list of cards he wanted to get to send out in time for my siblings birthdays, plus an anniversary card for my Mom, whom, on Valentine’s Day he would be celebrating a 64th wedding anniversary, and a couple of other misc. cards he wanted to send out to grandchildren. He gave half the “assignment” of finding particular cards to my Mom and he took the other half of the list and down the aisles they went. At an average price of $3-4 a card – the total purchase price for the number of cards on their combined list would be about $45.00 – a cost I’m sure that could be easily multiplied 3 times for the number of times over a year they repeat this process. I went off down an aisle of my own trying to find the perfect “Anniversary wish from Daughter,” card, when moments later, I heard my Dad talking with the sales clerk near the register. He is almost deaf and so he can’t hear how loud his voice is, so his whisper is a shout. He is asking the clerk if there is a restroom. The sales clerk says “no, we don’t have a public restroom, you can go to the restaurant next door – they have a restroom you can use.” Then I hear my Dad pleading…”I have to go really bad.” The clerk repeats, “I’m sorry we don’t have a public restroom. You’ll have to go next door.” My Dad is now panicked and repeating,”I have to go really bad,” as I am moving quickly to get to him and get him out of there so he doesn’t have an accident in the store. I am so angry at this point, and so stunned, shaken, indignant, and heartbroken for my Dad all at the same time. I grab his arm, the clerk grabs the cards out of both our hands as I motion my Dad toward the front door so we can get him next door quickly. As we are walking, I turn around and shout out my disbelief that someone would treat my Dad with such inhumane disrespect…”I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD NOT LET MY DAD USE YOUR RESTROOM!” My mother remains in the store, just coming up towards the register as I am motioning to her I’ll be back in a moment. Thankfully, especially for my Dad, he makes it to the “public restroom” without wetting/soiling his pants. No need for extra humiliation to top the exchange that has just occurred. I walk him back to the car – my Dad is apologizing, of all things to me, saying – “I’m sorry, will you pick up the cards and tell your Mom I’m in the car waiting. I just don’t have any patience today to deal with that.” I tell him, “I don’t either” and “no need to be sorry” as I proceed back to the store. My Mother is finishing her card selection and she tells me that the clerks told her “we’re sorry, it’s just policy, and the path to the restroom in the back is hard to get through for someone who has a cane and all,” or some jibberish along this line. My Mom is finished shopping, and I go up to the front to pay. I am so angry I cannot even look at the clerks and they cannot look at me as well. Oh yes, I can tell the one is feeling a bit guilty because her voice is full of syrup and sweetness offering me extra coupons, blah, blah, blah. But they missed their cues. Their opportunity to be decent and humane and have a customer be a returning customer was over. They couldn’t see their customer as potentially their own Dad, or Mother or loved one…heck, just a human being who needed them to get past their rules and respond appropriately. I’m not sure I can ever go back into that store again. Part of me would like to go back and ask those clerks if they’ve reflected back on that incident. And, if they did, would they have made a different choice? Would they have personally taken my Dad’s arm and walked him back through their unruly, hazardous path to allow him to use the restroom? Would they have wished that they would have treated my Dad with more respect and humanity? Have they thought about the fact that my parent’s generation is a huge segment of their customer base who continues to buy cards, thus, keeps them employed? I’m going to let some time pass and see if i can have some compassion for those clerks. I may or may not go back into a Hallmark store. But, for sure, I’ll not be taking my parents to another one. A drugstore/grocery with a greeting card aisle and a restroom open and available, not to be denied access to, will be much more honoring.
To feel honored while being a customer is THE HALLMARK of any good business.

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Just an Observation

You know that you are living with elderly folks when glucose tablets and bottles of Ensure are offered as snacks and refreshment vs. candy or wine.

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Michigan has many movie makers taking advantage of the tax incentives available for making movies here in Michigan. I’m on an email list for “extra calls” – thought it would be fun to be an extra in a movie sometime. The emails for extras come at least once a week and one day an email came but with a specific “type” in mind. It read- – “WANTED – AN ELDERLY CAUSCASION WOMAN,” for a TV series being filmed in Detroit. I was at work and decided to call my Mom and ask her if she might be up for going to an audition to just see…
I woke her out of a nap and when I asked her whether she might be interested in trying out for this part – she answered, “sure.” I was a bit surprised, but happily so. I just thought it would be a fun thing for her to try. I emailed the casting gal back and sent in a photo of my Mom. Within five minutes, the casting agency called me and asked if it was possible to bring my Mom downtown for an interview with the director. I agreed and proceeded to call my Mom to let her know that she had to be ready by a certain time so that we could get to Detroit on time. When I came home to pick her up, she was dressed beautifully, lipstick on, and hair all shiny and styled. When she asked if I was going to change before we left, I told her I didn’t need to since this was her interview not mine. When I said that she looked up surprised and said – “I thought this was for you and I was just coming along.” “No Mom, – they need an elderly woman for this part – this is for you!” My Mom was a bit startled, but still ready and willing to go on this adventure. We headed to downtown Detroit and found the location where we were met by a young man who told us that the director would be meeting us in a bar around the corner and that they would take us there by van. The van circled
around and it became obvious that this film crew was not used to addressing the needs of the elderly…the step up to the back seat was about two feet up. Okay – my Mom walks with a cane and the other two ladies who were also in the running for the part had walkers!
With some crew assistance and my shoulder, my Mom managed to get in the van along with the other folks and we were driven to the nearby bar where we proceeded to wait for at least 45 minutes for the director to show up and do his interview. While we waited, my Mom chatted with one of the ladies who was one year younger than she – they reminisced about how Detroit looked so different when they were young girls. That they felt bad about how run down it looked, so pitiful and poverty stricken. As the older ladies had a pleasant chat, unfortunately, I sat next to one of the daughters who clearly by her non-stop talking was more interested in her mother getting the part than her mother was. And, just as I was feeling drained by this energy vampire, a member of the film crew came in and announced that there had been “a change in plan.” The director needed us to get back in the van and come to another location – I’m thinking’ jeez louise – what are they thinking?! Making three elderly ladies wait in a rundown bar, asking them, once again to pile into a van with no handicapped access on an 85 degree day in the Motor City- what are these people thinking? Not thinking obviously. But pile in we do, we must – after all, we don’t have our cars handy. The driver takes us to the abandoned Train Station where we sit outside waiting once again while the driver listens/talks by cell phone waiting to hear what the plan is. Twenty minutes later, the director finally shows up and has us all once again pile out of the van. He sees the one  elderly lady’s walker and asks her if he can borrow it. He wants each lady to walk with the walker and then answer a question at the end of “their audition.” My Mom looks 10 years younger than the other ladies, is more flexible and alert – and she took direction very well. After each one had done the walk/talk – he says – “okay, I’ll email you all this evening and let you know which one of you got the job.” So after this 5 minute audition – its one more time back into the van to get to our cars to go home. It has now been 3 ½ hours since we left my Dad by himself. My Mom asks me to call him on my cell phone, but he’s not answering and my guess which was correct is that he’s not near the phone and he can’t hear it anyways. My Mom is a bit upset that we can’t reach him so I am rethinking whether this whole movie shooting thing the next day is such a good idea….
“Mom,” I say – “considering how much waiting around you did today and from what I hear about being in the movies, that is pretty typical of what you’d be doing tomorrow if you get this job – will you be comfortable being away from Dad for a good portion of the day?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want your Dad alone all day, and I don’t want a female care person to stay with him either.”
“Well then – I think we ought to pull your name out of the hat tonight then, so that they can pick someone else. But you know Mom, I think this was a really great experience – you looked 10 years younger than the other two ladies. You were more flexible and more alert than they were and…besides that you made $25 today just for showing up!”
“I did,?” she asked gleefully.
“Yes you did Mom.”
She was so excited about that and seemed to take in all of what I said and seemed pretty pleased with the situation.
My Mom agreed to take her name out of the running and as much I thought she was a shoe-in for the part- I called and cancelled her out of the running.
When we got home, my Dad was sitting on the couch waiting for us – ready to take us out for an impromtu dinner – he greeted my Mom with a smile and said…”Well- how is my leading lady? How is the star?”
This greeting tickled my Mom. She loved the attention and his adoring looks.
Before she went to bed that night she came up to me and thanked me for taking her to the audition. She said, “it made me feel like I could still do something!”
This ending scene didn’t show up on any TV or movie screen, but the part my Mom got to play that day was priceless.

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