Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Day Care Dilemma

        What you may think is a good idea, doesn't always turn out that way. Sometimes caregiving is all about trial and error. I thought it would've been a good idea for Mama to get out of the nursing home a few times a week. But boy, was I wrong...

        An excerpt from our book "Dementia-Mama-Drama" now on Amazon Books.

        I finally knew what it must have felt like for Mama to let go of her fat little crying boy and send him off to kindergarten. I had the same anxious feeling when I sent Mama to senior day care.

  I thought it would have been a good change for Mama to get out of the nursing home a few times a week. She'd have a scenic ride in a van, be in a different environment, make new friends and engage in activities. These were things that she missed and complained about not having at the nursing home. I thought the perfect solution would be senior day care! Of course she took center stage and sang a song on her first day, just like I did on my first day of kindergaraten singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” But that didn't last long, she gradually turned into the child I was in kindergarten. She would often get combative, refusing to go back to "school". The nursing home called me often to coax her into going since the van was waiting for her. This “perfect solution” was not working out so well and it was expensive. 

I tried reasoning with her repeatedly, but as time went by I realized that the bottom line was Mama needed her routine. She didn't like change, even though the nursing home was less than perfect. She complained that “there’s no life here and there’s nothing to do in this damn joint". It was easier for her to be there and complain, it was her comfort zone. 

After a few months, I gave in to Mama just like she always gave into me as a child. I told her that she didn't have to go to day care again if she didn’t want to go back. When I said that, she seemed just as happy as I did when she told me I could miss a day from school. We spoiled each other. We were two of a kind and it came around full circle. 

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Friday, June 12, 2020

So Happy Together

Here's an excerpt from our book "Dementia-Mama-Drama" now available on Amazon Books.

Mama's Nursing Home was quarantined for nine days due to a flu virus outbreak. It was nine loooong daze! The few activities that had been  scheduled stopped altogether. It left Mama with even MORE time on her hands and even LESS time being around others. This did not stop Douglass and me from visiting, even though visitors were "strongly discouraged.” We wore masks, just like the staff and residents. It looked and felt odd and Mama hated every minute of wearing a mask. 

Mama: I had a crazy dream last night.
Douglass: What did you dream about?

Mama: I dreamt you got married.

Vin: Really? How was the wedding?

Mama: I said to you in my dream, what the hell are you getting married for? The three of us 
are already so happy together.

Under my breath I said to Douglass “we told her we’re married, she must’ve forgot.”

Vin: Oh so now you're saying you're HAPPY? You
never say you’re happy, that's a first.

Mama: Yeah I'll be HAPPY when I can go home! 

Mama always talked about going home. Like many with Alzheimer's, she’d repeatedly say “I wanna go home, I wanna go home.” I'd tell her she sounded like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz,” she'd laugh and change the subject. I was never sure what she meant by home. Was it where she was born, her last apartment or New York? I always got a different answer, so I never knew.

Douglass: So you’re not happy?

Mama: Well I’ll be happy when I can at least take this damn mask off and hear everything that you're saying. Everything is muffled and I can’t breathe. Everybody is wearing masks in this place, it’s crazy. I can’t take this anymore. Do me a favor, take this damn mask off me already and hand me my lipstick.

Ahhh yes, "sooo happy together"...

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mama, You're Such an Actress!

I didn't realize it growing up but Mama always needed an audience. It became more obvious once she was in a nursing home. She would sing a song or tell a joke at the drop of a hat as long as someone was listening, and she made sure someone always was...

Here's an excerpt from our book "Dementia-Mama-Drama" now on Amazon Books.

Ever since I can remember Mama was an actress. Well let's put it this way - she always gave me drama. From early on in life, her dream was to be an actress and a singer. The ironic thing is that
Mama was always an actress... she 
just didn't know it. And as far as singing, you couldn't shut her up once she started.

Her audience changed over the years. First it was just family and friends, but as time went on anyone that met her became her audience. In her later years her fans were the nursing home staff, the residents and of course the readers of our blog.

When people ask me if Mama was an actress, I gotta say yes. She was the one who taught me "never share a spotlight or a microphone". My mother the actress who was always ready for her close up and her audience.

One night as Douglass and I arrived at the nursing home we heard someone ranting rather loudly from down the hall, it was Mama! She was as I liked to call it “Anna-mated". Sometimes we knew what to expect when visiting and decided to play along joining the “Anna with a Z" show, after all she was the star.

Vin: What are you doing? Are you an actress?

Mama: Of course, I'm a CAREER actress!

Vin: You're a career actress? Since when?

Mama: Since I’ve been in this damn place. Ya gotta be an actress in here.

Vin: What do you mean by that?

Mama: Ya gotta be an actress here to get what you want, if you wanna get ANYTHING.

Vin: Why do you say that?

Mama: They'd ignore you otherwise, so I scream and carry on. I’m a diva, damn it, I give drama! They should give me an award for the best actress.

I couldn't have said it better myself. "And the Oscar goes to ..."

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Grief Groups And Moving On

I never thought I'd be one of those people who went to a grief group. I'm all for therapy, but didn't really get the need to be in a group to discuss a loss. Perhaps I didn't know enough about them, but I felt it was just another way of holding on and not moving on.

I know I needed a form of grief therapy after Mama passed and went to a one on one with open arms and bleeding heart. The next step was group therapy, but I was still hesitant about it... nevertheless a new experience. I needed closure and knew that I wasn't alone. I was totally cynical about "group" therapy.  I pushed to join the first available group meeting because I wanted to feel better and move on! There was a wait list for the group... are you kidding me? That made me even more determined to get into the next group. Being relentless, I got into the group.

During the first meeting I was overly emotional almost from the start which surprised Mr Cynical. The weekly group meetings became a ritual and not alienating (as I had thought) but bringing a group of unlikely people together. Some were unprepared for their loved ones deaths, I was lucky that I knew it was coming. My yoga roots and experience were revisited in a different way by helping bring the group together through meditation and centering. I was surprised how I was able to return to Yoga after being away from it for a while, but then again I was moving on. After all Yoga is mind, body and spirit but I never thought I'd be using it as a tool while grieving.

Well like Mama would say "live and learn". I was an important part of a grief group and my preconceived ideas of  it all had all changed. I'm lucky that I've maintained a few close relationships from the group over the years. It was an important experience I didn't think I needed but I'd recommend it to anyone who has gone through a loss. Keep an open mind and "try it you may like it", it's all part of moving on.

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