My experiences while living with my mother and her Alzheimer's Disease.(her birthdate = January 2, 1925)

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

It is 8:40 and Mama just wandered in to fuss at me for not being in bed. Thank goodness she was just sleeping and all is well.

When I stumbled out of bed this morning, I felt like I had stepped into a fairy tale--Hansel and Gretel. Penny had gifted us with some yummy homemade cupcakes. I guess sometime yesterday Mama had picked up two of the cupcakes to carry around. She left a trail of crumbs along with pieces of icing everywhere she went. My bare feet hit the first bunch right beside my bed. I guess when she had come in to kiss me good morning and order me to open the front door, she dropped a handful. I stumbled upon more in the hallway, in her bedroom, in the living room, by the front door, by the refrigerator, and by her chair in the dining room. I was finding and sweeping up crumbs a good deal of the morning!! I am just thankful she didn’t take more cupcakes or we might have been buried in those crumbs!

She went to bed around 5:00 this afternoon. I don’t want to wake her up, but she usually wanders through several times before this time of night and I haven’t seen her since she went to lie down. Guess I had better go make sure all is well in Mama’s world!


I haven't seen or smelled the skunk lately. Hope he/she is long gone. Penny called on the cell phone right after she left with Mama and said she had seen a coyote run into our field. She wanted to let me know why Bandit was probably barking. Guess our neighborhood is just heading for the Wild Side!

Mama once again had two Saturdays. The second time she woke up and got dressed I had to convince her that it was still Saturday. She then made cookies to take to the "lady that talks" (our preacher) and "the man" (one of two men in our church). She was up and ready for church by 7:30 Sunday morning. I held her off until 9:00 before I gave up and took her to church. We got there way early and she had finished the lesson BEFORE any other classes began. I was the only one in her class since Dan broke his leg and can't come for a while. He has diabetes and we are all worried about this complication!

Mama didn't go to the Baptist Church Sunday night. She went to bed around 5:00 in the afternoon. I tried to tell her it was too early to go to bed, but she never believes me so I just let her go and hope she will sleep through the night. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn't. Last night she went to bed around 5:30 P.M. and was up two or three times fussing at me for still being up--I finally gave up around 8:30 and soaked in the tub. She got up when I was finished with my bath and tucked the covers around me. I had to wait for her to leave the room to kick them off. She can't understand that someone could sleep without covers up to the chin!

At 5:00 A.M. she was up getting ready for the day. I talked her into going back to bed for a little while. Luckily I caught her before she was dressed for the day, or it would have been a losing battle on my part. She stayed in her room until a little after 7:00 which was not great, but much better than 5:00!!!

I guess our summer routine will be Penny taking Mama to her house in the morning; then she will bring her back here for lunch. I will try to be gone in the afternoon so Mama won't be so confused. I am thinking of checking into joining a gym as I can't afford to go shopping EVERY day! Plus I don't have room to put anything else. It seems like as soon as I take stuff to the Salvation Army or Women's Crisis Center, I bring in double. Anyway, I will find somewhere to go.

Thursday and Friday I will be going to workshops for school. We have Waiver Days built into the calendar which give us a chance to go to workshops in the summer to replace working on these days during the school year. It keeps the school from having to come up with a workshop, and gives us an additional break during the school term. Think this year it will give us the entire week at Thanksgiving. That will be nice.

Need to go fold clothes.

Hugs to all,

Monday, June 02, 2003

Mama’s Checkup--January 23-25, 2003 It took me a while, but I finally finished this.

Back in January 2003, my brothers, sister-in-law, Penny (the lady that stays with Mama during the day), and I were all a bit concerned about Mama’s health. She was favoring her left side, holding her stomach every time she tried to get out of her chair, and her undies were not smelling too terrific! Penny made an appointment with Dr. Griffith. We had all discussed it, and we figured that he would probably have to sedate her in order to run any tests, but we were worried enough to give it a try.

I met them at the doctor’s office for the appointment on January 23. It took her a minute, but Mama did recognize me. We went in and she refused to get up on the exam table. We let her sit in a chair. The nurse tried to take her blood pressure. It took Penny and me both to help hold her still for this reading. Mama kept saying, “You’re hurting me! Don’t do that!”

While we waited on Dr. Griffith, Mama kept telling us it was time to go now. We kept saying, “Not yet, you need to see the man.” (We couldn’t say doctor because she had told us she would NEVER go back to the doctor. That word she remembers!!) She would wait about thirty seconds, and say, “I think we can go now.” This went on until he finally came into the room. She reached out and grabbed him. Bless his heart; he let her give him a hug and a peck on the cheek.

After chatting with us about our concerns, he tried to examine her. She pushed him away. He tried to examine her; she grabbed his hand. He tried to examine her; she tried to get up and leave. By this time we were all laughing and huffing and puffing from trying to get her to stay still.

He finally decided to admit her to the hospital for tests. He wrote up the orders, and we walked her across the road to check her in. She was NOT a happy camper! We finally got her settled into her room. We tried to get her into a hospital gown. It took both Penny and me to get her clothes off. We would pull up her dress. She would pull it down. We would get one arm free; she would grab the other side. We finally got the dress off. Then we worked at taking off her slip. Every time we would almost succeed, she would grab another part of the slip and hang on for dear life. I thought we would NEVER get her out of her clothes. Talk about an exercise program! Then we had to convince her to put on a gown that did not close in the back!! The whole time she was telling us that she wanted to go home.

We finally got her settled into bed wearing the hospital gown plus a sweater. The nurse and aide came in to take her vital signs. “Stop that! You’re hurting me! Don’t do that!” rang out from room 203. You would have thought they were performing surgery without anesthesia instead of a simple blood pressure check.

When they saw how she was reacting, the nurse’s aid nervously asked if one of us was planning to spend the night. I said that I would stay, but I needed to go home and get a few things. I asked if any tests would be done that day. He said he didn’t think so. Penny offered to Mama-sit while I rushed home to feed my dog, Bandit, and gather up things for us to spend the night.

I called family members and my boss to update them on the situation as I threw stuff in a bag to take for our overnight excursion. When I got back to the hospital, Penny said that they had already taken stomach x-rays—twice. The first time, Mama had her purse clutched under the covers. I can just imagine the look on the person’s face as he or she tried to “read” the x-ray. I mean no wonder this woman was admitted to the hospital; she had keys, coins, and bunches of junk in her tummy!

Mama and I did not sleep a whole lot that Thursday night. I sat up and read for a while. Mama dozed; then woke up to go to the bathroom; then dozed; then was awakened to have her vitals checked which caused a wrestling match EVERY time. Of course nothing could be done until after the mandatory hug and kiss on the cheek for everyone in the room—including me. By 5:00 A.M. she would start with, “Stop, you are hurting me!” before they even touched her. They ended up taking her blood pressure on her leg. In order to do this, I had to lie on the bed and hold her legs still—or try to anyway--while she told them how much it hurt and tried to kick me off. The only way to get an accurate reading was to hold her very still. Am not sure they ever got a true reading, but we certainly gave it our best every time. The next item on the agenda of taking vital signs was to take her temperature. She wouldn’t put the thermometer in her mouth so we had to put the thermometer under her arm. She had on the lovely hospital gown and her fleece bathrobe under a sheet and a couple of blankets, which were held very tightly up to her neck. It took everyone in the room to get that thermometer in place (thankfully we didn’t have to get to the “other place” for taking temperature!!). With all those covers, am surprised the thermometer didn’t explode. This caused another aerobic workout—maybe I could make my own exercise video except I don’t think Mama would go for being loaned out as “equipment” for the workout.

A bit of time has passed since I last worked on this story so the order of events might be slightly mixed-up. I will try to keep it as close to what actually happened.

Around 6:00 A.M. Friday morning Dr. Griffith came in bringing the news that all x-rays and blood and urine work were better than normal. In fact, he said her blood and urine were probably better than his and mine were. He had to say it more than once, since in my sleep-deprived head, I thought I must have been hallucinating!

He decided to order a brain x-ray to see if she had suffered a stroke. I couldn’t wait for that experience since she would have to go into a closed tube for this one. What would we do with her purse????

Penny came to assist me. Am sure they took Mama’s vitals again, but it is getting a bit fuzzy as to when and how many times those dad-burned vitals were taken.

The aide showed up to give Mama a shower. Now, Mama has not taken many showers in her lifetime. She is a bath person. It took Penny, the aide, and me to get her undressed. We had worked up enough of a sweat that we needed a bath by the time we had her ready for hers. She wouldn’t go into the shower stall. The aide tried to give her a sponge bath. Mama kept grabbing her hand and telling her not to do that! We finally gave Mama the washrag and let her do her thing. Then we tried to redress her. By this time we were giggling and sweating up a storm.

Then it was time for breakfast. Mama didn’t want to eat because she wanted to eat at home. We finally persuaded her to munch on her delightful repast.

We had to dress Mama in a hospital gown without any metal on it for the MRI of her brain. That was another battle. Luckily her robe didn’t have any metal on it so she could leave that on during the process. We got her into a wheelchair bundled up in her fleece robe and her woolen blanket clutching her purse and dragging her feet. We fought to get her to lift her feet onto the foot-rests, but she fought right back. We finally pulled the chair backward so her feet wouldn’t act as brakes. We arrived at the elevator winded with Mama fussing the whole way.

Downstairs we discovered that the x-ray machine was in a room separate from the hospital’s main building. Oh joy, more fun! There was restroom in the main building so we had Mama use it before we took her out into the cold open air. She took her time, as usual, and finally got back into the wheelchair. We got her to the room, and began to prepare her to slide into the tunnel. She was not pleased.

I had brought Mama’s sleep mask thinking that if she had that on, she would think it was naptime. I held Mama’s hand while the technician readied her for the journey into the tube. She would not let go of her purse. The technician said it was okay since she was taking pictures of her head (not her tummy) this time. Mama started getting restless so Penny went to stand at the head end of the tunnel. She talked to Mama to calm her down. My presence seemed to agitate her so I stayed in the other room until Mama started calling for me. Turns out she needed to go to the bathroom. She was squirming around so that the tech couldn’t get a clear picture so she told us to go ahead and take her. We went trucking across to the main building to the restroom. She went back into the tube without too much fuss but she started fidgeting really quickly. The tech asked me to hold her hand and talk to her. In order to do this, I had to bend over and lean into the tunnel so I could reach her hand. This seemed to calm Mama down, but my back was screaming after just a few minutes in this position. I kept praying that it would end, and the tech kept saying she just needed a few more minutes to get a clear picture. After what seemed like an eternity of my back was screaming for relief, I managed to switch hands and turn so my back was to Mama. How I managed to do this without losing contact with Mama’s hand is a mystery, but she was fine and my back was less stressed. Finally, thank goodness, the technician said she was finished.

We took Mama back upstairs with her fussing at me to take her home. Linda, my sister-in-law from The Woodlands, came in shortly after this little trip. By now it was lunchtime. I think Linda went for food, but am not even sure about that.

We had been very concerned about the smell coming from Mama’s panties. Since a bladder infection had been ruled out, Dr. G. decided it was time to do a pelvic exam—oh joy! We took Mama down to Exam Room One (or whatever!). It was a challenge to get her up on the exam table. It took all of us coaxing and prodding and lifting her to get her up there. We had her in Depends Disposable Undies by this time, so Penny and the nurse ripped them so we could get them off. Have I mentioned how strong my mama is? Linda was on her left hand side, I was on her right hand side. Penny got the left leg, and the nurse had the right leg. (We didn’t choose our places; we just stayed where we ended up after getting her in exam position.) Mama was fighting the whole time. She was saying, “Don’t do that. Don’t do THAT!” I decided she was just saying out loud what we are all thinking when we get one of those exams! She was wiggling around and even managed to grab her sweater and slide the sleeve down to try to cover herself up. There was a light or something overhead, and the nurse kept thinking I was going to bang my head on it. Turns out it was Dr. G. who bonked his head. He decided since we had her down he would examine her breasts too. She was very verbal in her thoughts about this lovely examination!

Dr. Griffith decided Mama needed to stay another night in the hospital. We sent Penny home, and Linda and I waited to speak with the neurologist. When he finally came in, that pelvic exam kept popping into my head, and I couldn’t remember why we needed to talk with him. He flipped through the chart and read that we were concerned about her favoring her left side. I replied, “Oh, yeah, right, I forgot about that since she fought equally with both her right and left hands when she didn’t want us doing something to her.” He said the MRI showed atrophy, but no stroke. That was a relief.

I went home and Linda stayed with Mama for the night. I was back at the hospital early so I could chat with Dr. G. He said the neurologist’s notes showed no stroke. I told him about forgetting why I needed to talk with the neurologist because that pelvic exam was so vivid in my mind. He started laughing and said he had come in asking if anyone had seen his stethoscope. He told them he lost it during “the fight” the day before. Don’t think he will ever forget that pelvic exam either!!

He said that all those tests were normal for her age. I asked about the smell. Linda said she had gotten up each time Mama went to the bathroom and had noticed that even though she would urinate in the toilet, she would “dribble” on her panties some, too. She remembered the smell of a diaper pail when her kids were little. We came to the conclusion that that must be Mama’s problem. Dr. G. talked about keeping Mama in the hospital over the weekend, but I begged him to let me take her home; thankfully he agreed to release her. He made some adjustments to her medications, and turned us loose. Mama almost knocked us over getting out of that room. She didn’t want to take any chances that anyone might change their mind.

I hated to put her through all those tests, but I now feel better about her health. I would have hated to find out later that something was wrong that we could have fixed. I needed to be reassured that she was okay.

Mama was so happy to be home that I really kind of expected her to kiss the ground. She didn’t. She just fussed at me for keeping her away from home for so long!! She has forgiven me, and thus ends this tale until next time…..