Caring For An Elderly Parent: Simple Words, Not So Simple

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

So I’m still thinking about getting something for Mom to exercise her brain. I haven’t decided whether or not a tablet is the right tool yet but I’m still going to go look at a few to get a better idea. Someone suggested getting a child’s tablet, but when I researched that online I could only find ones that had very juvenile games. I’m not looking for kids games actually, but more like memory games, quizzes, math challenges – that sort of thing.

I’ve notice more and more lately that my mom is having a hard time with simple words. I can tell it’s frustrating for her because she knows what she’s looking at when she’s talking about it but can’t get the name of it to come to her. For example, when I went over last night she said, “I can’t find my _______.” Of course my first reaction was, “Can’t find your what?” I could see that she was struggling with trying to find the word but it just wouldn’t come to her. Then the hand signals started (I’m terrible at Charades!) and I could see she was getting frustrated. And then she looks at me as if I should know what she’s talking about and says, “You know, my thingy, my ______.  Blog - Pic 123

Well I did finally figure out that she was talking about her cell phone. My first thought was that she flushed it down the toilet (again) but then she mentioned she heard it drop by her sofa. I did the usual first attempt at finding a lost cell phone – I called it using my cell phone. Well I didn’t hear her toilet ringing, so that was a good thing, but I couldn’t hear it ringing anywhere, which means she probably turned the volume down accidentally, as she often does. 

After looking under, over, and around things, I did finally find it – so all is good! I wonder if playing ‘brain games’ will help at this stage of my mom’s life?

What I Learned: I can finally tell my husband that playing games online all these years is good for me! 🙂

Caring For An Elderly Parent: Day or Night, Night or Day?

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

Mom’s routine with the caregiver and my routine with Mom have been working out quite well so far, although Mom is having trouble distinguishing between night and day. Blog - Pic 122A lot of that has to do with Mom keeping the blinds closed all day so she doesn’t see what’s going on outside – she doesn’t know if the sun is out or the stars are out. Believe me, I (and many others) have tried to get her to open up the blinds – I try telling her it’s not good for her to be cooped up with no light of day coming through. No wonder she’s confused over day and night.

She seems to realize the mornings more so than the nights. I’m guessing it’s because I go over every morning and wake her up with a big “Good Morning Mom.” (that’s a sure sign that it’s morning), and then hand her her medication. She only takes medication in the morning – another sure sign. When I go over in the evenings, most times she is asleep when I walk in, so when she wakes up she must think it’s morning.  And even after I explain to her that it’s night time, she’ll still say something later on referring to the morning. This is when I have to be very adamant about it being night time because if she thinks it’s morning she will undoubtedly call me in the middle of the night thinking it’s day time. And yes, that does happen.

I’ve seriously been thinking about getting Mom a tablet so she can play some ‘brain games’. I took my tablet over there the other night and showed her some games that I play and she actually enjoyed it. Coming from someone who doesn’t like games, I was quite surprised. She played a simple math game and answered all the questions correctly – I have to admit, I didn’t think she’d remember how to do math. We played a few other games as well and she really did seem to enjoy it. She told me she would like to get a tablet so she can play more games. I’ve been looking into different tablets but I’m not sure if it would be too confusing for her. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to navigate around the tablet without supervision. And would I just be opening up a can of worms by getting her a piece of technology that would confuse her? And would she be calling me all the time because she can’t get the tablet to work? Hmmm…. I better give this a lot of thought.

It’s interesting how the mind works as we age. I know not everyone ages the same way, and having Mom so close to us now makes me realize that we need to really work on keeping our minds active and exercise our brains. And don’t keep the blinds closed – it’s not good for the psyche!

What I Learned: Learn from our elders – not only things TO do, but things NOT to do.


Caring For An Elderly Person: Mom Wants To Party!

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

One of the biggest things I have learned while caring for my mom is that she just doesn’t want to be left out of anything – no matter what it is. I can never figure out why she doesn’t understand that I really do want to spent time alone with my husband and do things with him that don’t include other members of my family. She always asks if she can go with us everywhere and makes me feel bad when I say no. She gives me that look like I never want to include her.Blog - Pic 120

Honestly, does she really think we want to (or should) take her to a party at friends houses? Or take her to a get together with friends at a pub? I don’t remember “hanging out” with my parents when they went to parties…. nope, I wasn’t invited.

The dilemma: What do I tell my mom when  my husband and I want to get away together. I know, I shouldn’t have to tell her anything. I’m a grown woman with my own life, and it’s normal to do things that don’t include Mom. It’s just hard to explain that to her. And telling her the truth means I have to deal with the guilt trip she lays on me, not to mention the stress it puts on my mom too. 

So, after countless attempts to enjoy a night out with my husband and dealing with the backlash from my mom, I figured out the best way to handle this situation… lie! Actually, I don’t look at it as a lie, I look at it as a way to have less stress in my life (and my husbands) and less stress for my mom. And when I tell her “it’s work related”, it’s not really a lie – I honestly do something work related whenever I’m with my husband. After all, we do run a business together. 🙂

What I Learned: Enjoy the party while you can! 


Caring For An Elderly Person: Merry Christmas!

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

Christmas is my favorite time of year! Everyone seems happier and friendlier – this time of year jBlog - Pic 117ust seems to bring out the best in people. I love the feeling I get when I see decorations go up and people wishing me a Merry Christmas, and thinking of  what surprises I can get for my loved ones.

We always go out for Christmas dinner and Mom loves to get dressed up in her finest with her nice red bow in her  hair. This morning when I went over for my daily routine Mom didn’t even remember it was Christmas day – even though we had Christmas Eve dinner out last night. She seemed tired and sluggish, but as soon as I mentioned Christmas dinner she perked right up and jumped out of bed to start getting ready – well, she didn’t actually ‘jump’ out of bed but it was the spryest I have seen her in a long time.

I never really know what to get my mom for Christmas – she doesn’t ‘need’ anything and doesn’t seem to want anything either. One thing she always mentions though is a picture of my dad in 1945 standing in front of a store with his Air Force uniform on. She loves that picture of him but he’s standing with a friend of his and Mom would have rather just had my dad in the pic. So a week or so ago I sneaked into my mom’s house and borrowed the picture (she didn’t realize it was missing) and took it to a photo shop to see if they could crop it and blow it up. They could and it turned out great!  I must say, Mom was moved.

And as always, we had a wonderful Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Oh… and Mimosas!



Caring For An Elderly Parent: Don’t Eat The Gingerbread House!

Blog - Pic 116“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

‘Tis the season to be jolly! Yes, the holidays are upon us and the decorations are going up! Mom has two little Christmas trees that she’s had forever – one that is “her’s” with decorations that relate to her years of travel with my dad, and one that is “his” (my dad’s) with decorations that relate to him from their travels. There are some really cool items on those trees, that’s for sure.

I got the trees out and placed them in her living room for her to enjoy. She asked me how they got so small  (what?) and wondered where all the ornaments went (what?).  I guess for some reason she thinks someone stole some ornaments – possibly during the move?  During my research on the elderly I’ve read that thinking things are missing or being stolen is a common occurrence. It’s really difficult to trying to explain to my mom that nothing is missing – she just doesn’t believe me. She also thinks the caregivers are taking her pencils – I’m not sure how she’d think that considering she has a million pencils lying around all over the house.

So the other day our son stops by my mom’s to bring her some gingerbread creations that he had made for her – a gingerbread Christmas tree and four gingerbread houses.  He sets them down on her cabinet beside her tree and arranges them like a little town for her (he’s so sweet!). She is so happy to have them and gives our son a big hug. Then she asks him, “When can we eat them?”  We explained that they are just decoration and not edible. She seemed disappointed but still appreciative.

Later that night when I went over to check on her before bed she was still going on about how great the gingerbread ornaments are and how wonderful her grandson is. We chatted for a bit and I did my usual routine of checking to make sure she was situated for the night. On my way out she calls to me and asks, “When were we going to eat the gingerbread house again?”

I’m afraid when I go over there tomorrow the gingerbread tree and houses will be gone! Uh oh!

What I Learned: Be careful what you bring into the house – you can’t be sure what the mind is thinking.





Caring For An Elderly Parent: Dealing With Caregiver #2

Blog - Pic 106“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

We all know that I am Mom’s primary caregiver, but like all jobs, we could all use a little help. Enter Caregiver #2 – Alameda.  We started having Alameda come seven days a week from 9 AM until 5 PM – seemed like normal working hours. Well I quickly realized that those hours weren’t working for me because of my routine with Mom and because of the working hours my husband and I keep.

You see, my daily routine consists of the following: up at 9 AM (there about… I know, bankers hours), put the coffee on, go next door to give Mom her medication, read Mom’s notepad to get a feel for what she’s been doing, refill her juice glasses she keeps in the fridge, check her thermostat, and put out her garbage if needed. Head back home, get our breakfast ready while my husband takes care of business on the phone, discuss our schedule for the day while we eat breakfast and then I head back over to Mom’s to check on her and see if she needs help with her breakfast, and whatever else she may need help with. Then my husband and I would get on with our day, which usually had us travelling and not returning home sometimes until after 5 PM. Well that just didn’t work! My mom is extremely uneasy when she is left alone – especially when it gets dark and she knows no one is on the property.

So I realized that having a caregiver there during the morning routine was very stressful for my mom, as well as not having a caregiver there later than 5 PM. It was also stressful for me. So realizing that, I had to rethink the schedule, talk it over with my husband, and put the changes into play.

The new schedule is now in place with Alameda coming from 11 AM to 7 PM. This has been working out quite well for my mom and me, so I feel good about accomplishing what we intended to do – that is, have a schedule that works for all of us.

What I Learned: Schedules are meant to be changed if it benefits everyone.

Caring For An Elderly Parent: Finding A Second Caregiver and What To Do With Them

Blog - Pic7
Deciding on a caregiver was quite stressful for me. I just had so much going through my mind about it that I couldn’t think about much else. I knew Mom needed someone to help with her daily routine but I had trouble figuring out a schedule – after all, this is the first time I’ve done this.

So… after talking it through with my husband and really giving it a lot of thought about what would work best for all of us, we decided to try having someone come in during the day while my husband and I are the busiest.  Now all we had to do was figure out who to call to find the right person.

I talked with my mom’s primary doctor to see if he had any suggestions; I talked with a gentleman we know who runs  two assisted living houses; I called numerous agencies to get information on the who, what, when and how much; and I talked with a caregiver we had when my husband and I went away. One thing I did learn is that it was going to be expensive having someone come in eight hours a day, seven days a week – most agencies charge between $18.00 – $26.00 per hour.

After more talks with my husband, we decided to give the caregiver we had when we went away a try – her name is Sue. Sue has been working in the caregiving industry for many years and has about five caregivers working with her as well. So Mom will have one main caregiver and others that fill in at times.

OK, so we’ve figured out the who, the when and the how much, now we have to figure out the what… meaning what do we need the caregiver to do to help with Mom’s daily routine? My mom is so particular about everything and she has a real problem having strangers in her life. She’s never be very sociable and definitely has some OCD going on, which is going to make things a bit touchy having a strange person in her life who wants to “help”.

So we’re going to “ease” Mom into this new situation. She was not a happy camper about the whole thing but considering all her options would be uncomfortable, this is the best uncomfortable option we have.

What I Learned:  Dealing with an ageing parent is not easy; especially when it comes to handing them over to someone else.

Caring For An Elderly Parent: I Fell Into A Black Hole…. Sorry! :(

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”


Blog - Pic 115It’s funny how life gets in the way. There I was writing this blog every night, then POW! Our son decides he has this great business idea and wants us to help him get started. Well, my husband and I are suckers for creativity and we love start-up businesses, so of course we had to get involved.  Anyway…. that’s another story (which is going very well for our son) but now I want to get back to sharing my journey about caring for my mom.

It’s been a crazy few months since I last blogged. We’ve made some changes which have really benefited Mom… as well as us. As you know, Mom has been struggling with dementia which has made things difficult for my husband and I to deal with. Mainly because Mom would call us at all hours of the day and night not knowing what to do – very confused with night and day as well as hearing and seeing things that weren’t there.

My husband and I struggled with how we could make things easier for Mom. Should we hire a caregiver? What about moving her to an assisted living facility? So over the past few months (in between working with our son on his new venture) we explored our options. I did tons of research and talked with different care giving agencies and assisted living facilities – so much to process!

We finally decided on hiring a caregiver to come in during the day to help Mom out. It has been difficult getting used to having someone in our lives taking over the daily routine that I have been doing for 2 years. Not only that, now I have someone else I have to keep an eye on. It’s weird really, but I have to admit that it has made a world of difference – not only for Mom, but for my husband and me as well.

What I Learned: There’s a time when you just need to accept help from other people.


Caring For An Elderly Parent: Sleep Deprivation = A Whole Lot of Stress For Me

Yawning Smiley“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

I think I may have figured out why my mom goes completely berserk when there are people working in her house – sleep deprivation.  And not only that, it probably has a lot to do with her OCD – her routine is completely out of whack. The last few times that we’ve had work done on the house my mom has been so out of sorts. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with her, but now I do.

If you remember my previous posts about how my mom was acting when the workmen were here, you’ll remember how bizarre it was. Well this time wasn’t any different – maybe a little more bizarre. Not only did Mom keep locking the door on them again, but this time she was hearing people knocking in her bedroom and she kept unplugging their power cord.

Not only does Mom hear and do strange things, she just seems to get really wiggy about everything. She calls my cell all day long, she keeps thinking she hears me outside her door when it’s actually the workmen talking (I guess I sound like a male Mexican), she asks about going out to eat every time I talk to her and keeps asking about it even when I tell her we won’t be going out, and then she asks me why I never tell her anything – when I actually have.

The only thing that changes when the workmen are here is the fact that she doesn’t sleep. Her normal routine is to basically sleep on and off all day – lately it’s been mostly on. I can tell that Mom is tired, and even when I try to persuade her to nap she refuses to believe that she is tired. I know if she sleeps she’ll feel so much better.

Well my theory was proved right. Today Mom slept while the workmen were here and she seems so much better. She even said to me that she feels better when she sleeps. I hate to say I told you so, but…..

What I Learned: I’m learning how to “read” Mom’s signs and figuring out a way to deal with them.


Caring For An Elderly Parent: Call The Police – There’s Nobody There!

“This is supposed to be the time of my life – the nest is empty; but now Mom needs me.”

Three-thirty AM…. ring, ring. “Angel, there’s people at my door…. bring the gang down the street.” I didn’t think much about what Mom was saying at the time – my husband and I just bolted out of bed and ran next door. We were pretty sure it was another one of Mom’s hallucinations but you just never know. I’d feel terrible if there really was someone out there and I ignored it.

My husband took off around the front of the house and I headed inside to see Mom. She was lying on her sofa, not looking very upsetBlog - Pic 112 at all. I asked if she could still hear them and she said yes. I could not. Then Mom asked when the police would arrive. I told her the police were not called. She looked at me as if I were crazy and said, “I told you to bring the gang down the street.” Oh, now I get it. The “gang’ down the street is the police – the police department is just down the street from our house.

My husband came inside and told us there was nobody around and no one on the street in either direction. We both knew it was another hallucination but there was no way we could tell Mom that – she was positive she heard them. It was hard for me to explain to her why we weren’t calling the police without telling her she was hearing things again. I tried a bunch of different tactics, none of which seemed to really help.

Unfortunately, the only thing that got Mom to calm down was me telling her that maybe we’d have to find her a different place to live if she wasn’t feeling safe and secure in the house – somewhere that had 24 hour security and people around all the time. She knew exactly what I was talking about, and although I wasn’t trying to make it sound like a threat, she was probably thinking that a home for the elderly was the last place she wanted to be.

So I spent some time comforting Mom and she seemed to calm down after a bit. She got to sleep finally – I did not.

My mind was whirling around trying to figure out what I can do with these late night calls about nothing. At least it’s not happening often. My husband and I will need to talk about this situation again – what are we going to do if it continues and becomes too difficult for us to handle?

 What I Learned: Taking care of my mom may get more and more difficult for me to handle as she continues to age – I may have to make a change in the near future.