Why Thanksgiving dinner was late

“Dinner will be in another hour or so,” my sister Diane greets us as we walk in the door.

“Oh! Are we early?” I ask, checking my watch.  I’m the drum major,  leading the parade into her kitchen.

Diane faces me, smiling.  Ginger Rogers-style, I take three steps backward, out of the conversation circle. Diane is Fred Astaire, stepping forward in time with me.

Diane whispers through her smile. “At some point today, Mom turned the oven off, with the turkey roasting in it.  We think it was around noon.” Diane smiles and shrugs lightheartedly.  “She was helping.”

I smile nervously and give Diane a hug.

“Our best guess is that an extra hour is enough to thoroughly roast the turkey,” she continues.  “We just need to be flexible on the actual dinnertime, OK?”  I marvel again at my sister’s calm.

I step into the living room to find Mom sulking, having been asked to excuse herself from the  dinner preparation. Dad is pacing back and forth, brow furrowed.  I take a deep breath.

“Looks like we have time for a game before dinner!” I say with enthusiasm. “What’s it going to be?”

Since our lives are simple compared to what each day as a Caregiver asks of our Dad, my sister and I were able to take a breath, chose a calm response, and flavor our response to this twist with humor.  What we found is that this approach opened up possibilities for us to love-each-other-through-it-all.  

Think about it.  You could give your Caregiver a precious gift by reminding them that a response like this is available for them to use too.   One good demonstration from you could be enough to show your Caregiver how they might approach some of the surprises that come their way each day.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Friend on the Journey,

Barbara

Mother’s Day Joy

“A-ha!” Mom exclaims as she gives the Mylar smiley-face balloon a poke. Back it floats, as she lets out a triumphant chuckle.

Up he comes again. “Umph!” she says, poking him away.  She shakes her head and grins as Smiley floats back into her reach.

Dad is sitting across from us.  His smile is the biggest I’ve seen in years. 

“Take that!” Mom gives Smiley another playful poke. Her grin erupts into a smile as he returns, as if asking her to keep the game going.

By now, Dad is laughing out loud.  Mom obliges him, and for his amusement she keeps Smiley dancing.

I hand Dad my phone and give him a brief camera lesson.  He fiddles with it, while Mom and I give Smiley a real workout.

Click.

I exhale and smile.  Today, this one time,  I chose the perfect Mother’s Day gift.  Perfect for my Mom.  Perfect for how she is today. Perfect for Mom’s first Mother’s Day in the Memory Cottage.

I find myself feeling thankful for creating this moment of joy for all of us.  I lean in and give Mom a kiss.

Click.

Life with an Alzheimer’s Loved One brings so many moments.  When you are blessed with a great one, try to remember to pause, notice and give thanks.

If you are struggling for a gift idea for your Alzheimer’s Loved One, consider bringing something playful and fun.  A good laugh can work miracles.   Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia by Jolene Brackey is super resource for ideas.

Accepting an Alzheimer’s-friendly holiday

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND NEW REALITIES


Will Dad ever concede? 

These days Dad is a sapling in an ice storm, twig-thin and stooped under his burdens.  Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s has appropriated Mom’s remaining joys.  

For five grueling days at Thanksgiving, Mom’s adult day program closes for the holidays.  On our call,  Dad sounds close to surrender.

To clear his head, Dad takes Mom for a walk in the backyard.  Mom trips, falls and sprains her knee.   The strain of loading a confused and hurting Mom into the car, coaxing her through a medical exam, and pleading with her to wear the knee brace is like a garden hose to the face.

Dad begins Mom’s application to a Memory Unit.  

A true romantic, Dad schedules Mom’s admission for January 15th, imagining a final family Christmas.  The dream passes quickly, and Dad awakens to the truth:  This Christmas is unique from all Christmases past.

Mom, to her credit, has done everything she can to help us see what suits her Christmas celebration best, given her advancing Alzheimer’s.  Mom wants to be home. Mom prefers quiet.  Mom’s is calmest in her routine.

After so many years of resistance, Dad surrenders.  We plan Christmas around what is best for Mom.   Dad decides they will stay at their home, in NC.  House guests being more than either can manage, Dad confides that my company, in small doses only, would be welcome.  Randy and I tally our hotel points and book a room nearby.      

Dad insists that the grandchildren enjoy Christmas at their own house ninety miles away.  My sister Diane invites my husband’s parents to join them.

And like that, the Acceptance Christmas plans are settled.

Up the mountain in NC with my parents, we take a fresh approach to Christmas. Dad, Randy and I calibrate all Christmas activities to Mom.  Christmas eve at home.  A duet of carols, my part with words, Mom’s part a hum.

It is a very merry Christmas.  Calm and bright. 

Can clothing choices can impact a Loved One’s health?

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR CLOTHES


Mom walks out of my guest room dressed for Christmas Eve service.  She’s wearing a big smile.  And her favorite red summer dress.  It’s 30 degrees outside.

“Who made this wardrobe choice?” I wonder.  Dad says that Mom chose the dress herself. 

During the service, the church heat kicks on, and the temperature rises to beach conditions. As I fan myself, the congregation stands for prayer.  Suddenly, Mom leans on me.  Heavily.  Then she crumples. Mom? Mom! What is happening?  My heart stops.

As I panic a young man from the congregation rushes over to help.  He’s a paramedic he tells me, and before I know it, he revives Mom.  Mom is perspiring heavily, so the paramedic and I each take an arm and walk her into the narthex.  Together we help Mom out of the linen jacket of her dress.  I search for something else that I can to remove to cool her off.  Then I see the insulated undershirt I gave her four years ago.  Mom is wearing it under her summer dress.  I guess this wardrobe choice was Mom’s, too.

It occurs to me that my Dad has yet to ever dress a woman for Christmas Eve church service.  Even if he had, he is impervious to weather –  cold, heat, rain, snow it is all the same to him..  I remember Dad getting in the car for church when I was a child.  Snow a foot high. Me shivering in the back seat, watching my breath.  Dad wearing just his Sunday suit.  I wonder, does Dad even know that women have different summer and winter wardrobes?  Can he tell the difference between a summer dress and a winter dress?  Has he ever heard of “layering”?

Before bed, I consider what I can do to help.  Maybe I just need to rotate Mom’s clothes twice a year like I do mine.  I can make sure that her closet only has clothes that fit, are in good condition and are the right weight for the season.  This way, whoever makes the wardrobe choices, chances are good Mom will be wearing something seasonally appropriate.

What wardrobe or fashion challenges has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver experienced with your Alzheimer’s Loved One?  What suggestions do you have for helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers make appropriate clothing choices?